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Aal v. Capella Healthcare, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 16, 2014

JENNIFER AAL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPELLA HEALTHCARE, INC., a Delaware Corporation, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Capella Healthcare, Inc., and Columbia Capital Medical Center Limited Partnership's (collectively "Capital Medical Center") motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 24) and Plaintiff Jennifer Aal's ("Aal") motion to remand (Dkt. 35). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants Capital Medical Center's motion for summary judgment and denies Aal's motion to remand for the reasons stated herein.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 21, 2013, Aal initiated a civil action against Capital Medical Center in Thurston County Superior Court for the State of Washington. Dkt. 1. Aal asserted claims for (a) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (b) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (c) violations of the disability provisions of Washington's Law Against Discrimination ("WLAD"), RCW Chapter 49.60 RCW; (d) retaliation under the WLAD; (e) retaliation for pursuing claimed union rights; and (f) retaliation for engaging in concerted activity claimed to be protected by RCW 49.32.020. Dkt. 1, Exh. 2.

On March 18, 2013, Capital Medical Center removed the matter to this Court. Dkt. 1.

On May 1, 2013, the Court granted Capital Medical Center's motion to dismiss Aal's claim for violations of RCW 49.32.020. Dkt. 11.

On February 12, 2014, Capital Medical Center filed a motion for summary judgment on Aal's remaining claims. Dkt. 24. Aal did not respond directly to the motion, but she did file seven declarations on March 4, 2014. Dkts. 28-34. On March 5, 2014, Aal filed a motion to remand. Dkt. 35. On March 7, 2014, Capital Medical Center replied to the declarations that Aal submitted. Dkt. 37. On March 24, 2014, Capital Medical Center responded to Aal's motion. Dkt. 39.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In October of 1992, Aal began working as a registered nurse at Capital Medical Center. Dkt. 28, Declaration of Jennifer Aal ("Aal Dec."), at 1. In 1998, Aal transferred to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit ("PACU") as a part-time nurse, and, in 2008, she became a full-time nurse in that unit. Id. at 2. In the fall of 2011, Aal took some time off for an elbow surgery. Id. at 3-4. During her absence, Nancy Boyle was promoted to the position of Aal's supervisor. Id. at 4. Aal claims that Ms. Boyle "developed a habit of focusing her attention and accusations on [Aal], and the two other racial minority nurses...." Id.

In June 2012, two employees reported that Aal appeared impaired at work. Dkt. 25, Thomas P. Holt, Exhs. N & O. On June 28, 2012, Lori Genson and Heather Morotti met with Aal to discuss these issues. Aal Dec. at 6. Ms. Genson and Ms. Morotti gave Aal a copy of Capital Medical Center's substance abuse policy and informed Aal that she would have to take a drug test if it was again reported that she appeared impaired at work. Id.; Dkt. 26, Declaration of Heather Morotti, ¶ 5.

On October 17, 2012, two employees reported that Aal appeared impaired at work. For example, a fellow nurse reported that Aal had misdiagnosed a patient having seizures. Holt Dec., Exh. U. Capital Medical Center responded to these reports by requesting that Aal submit to a "reasonable suspicion" drug test. Id., Exh. X. The test showed that Aal was above the screening cut-off for numerous drugs. Id., Exh. Z. On November 8, 2012, Aal attended a meeting at Capital Medical Center with her union representative. Id., Exh. BB. Capital Medical Center suspended Aal with cause for the reported incidents of her inability to safely care for patients, her failure to disclose medications that she was taking, and the results of her drug test. Id. As a condition of continued employment, Captial Medical Center required Aal to participate in and complete a substance abuse program and be subjected to scheduled and unscheduled drug tests for one year. Id.

On November 26, 2012, Aal responded to her suspension. She provided her explanation for the allegations that she was impaired on the job. Id., Exh. EE. Aal also submitted a reasonable accommodation request to be allowed to return to work while taking her prescribed medications. Id. In December 2012, Capital Medical Center terminated Aal's employment. Id., Exh. FF, ¶ 11.

III. ...


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