Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Apo-Owusu v. University of Colorado Hospital Authority

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 1, 2017

IRENE APO-OWUSU, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO HOSPITAL AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Defendant University of Colorado Hospital Authority (“UCHA”) seeks summary judgment on all of Plaintiff Irene Apo-Owusu's claims which arise out of allegedly discriminatory treatment of Ms. Apo-Owusu while she was employed as a Certified Nurse Aide (“CNA”) at UCHA. The Court grants UCHA summary judgment on Ms. Apo-Owusu's third claim for retaliatory discharge, as well as her claim based on the February 2016 suspension, because those claims were not administratively exhausted. The Court also grants summary judgment on Ms. Apo-Owusu's supervisor hostile workplace claim. The Court denies summary judgment on Ms. Apo-Owusu's racial and ethnic discriminatory termination claim and coworker hostile workplace claim.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Procedural History

         Ms. Apo-Owusu filed the operative Amended Complaint on September 2, 2016. Am. Compl., ECF No. 8. Ms. Apo-Owusu brings three claims for relief: (1) racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), (2) ethnic discrimination in violation of Title VII, and (3) retaliation for making discrimination complaints in violation of Title VII. Id. ¶¶ 57-71. On October 14, 2016, UCHA filed an Answer to the Amended Complaint. Answer, ECF No. 14.

         After the parties completed discovery, UCHA filed this motion seeking summary judgment on all claims. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 29. UCHA argues summary judgment is warranted on Ms. Apo-Owusu's retaliation claim, any claim based on the February 2016 suspension, and incidents of harassment which occurred before October 15, 2015, because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies for those claims. Id. at 11-12. UCHA then asserts that summary judgment is proper on Ms. Apo-Owusu's Title VII discrimination claim, because she cannot make a prima facie case of discrimination and because she cannot offer evidence that UCHA's proffered nondiscriminatory reasons for her termination were pretext. Id. at 12-13. Finally, UCHA argues summary judgment is warranted on Ms. Apo-Owusu's coworker and supervisor hostile workplace claims. Id. at 17-20. Ms. Apo-Owusu responded to UCHA's motion on July 27, 2017. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 32. UCHA replied on August 10, 2017. Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 33.

         II. Findings of Fact

         The Court notes the following undisputed material facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Ms. Apo-Owusu, who is the non-moving party in this matter.

         1. Ms. Apo-Owusu was born in Ghana and immigrated to the United States in 2000. Pl.'s Resp. 9; Def.'s Reply 3.

         2. Ms. Apo-Owusu began working for UCHA in 2008. From February 8, 2009, until her termination, Ms. Apo-Owusu was a CNA in the Anschutz Outpatient Pavilion. Pl.'s Resp.

         9; Def.'s Reply 3.

         3. Under UCHA's written policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of, inter alia, race or national origin, if an employee witnesses or is subjected to prohibited discrimination, the employee must report that discrimination to a supervisor, Human Resources, or a discrimination compliance hotline. Def.'s Mot. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Resp. 2; ECF No. 29-12 at 1.

         4. If a supervisor receives a report of prohibited discrimination, the UCHA policy requires the supervisor to report that conduct to Human Resources. ECF No. 29-12 at 1.

         5. Ms. Apo-Owusu's direct supervisor was Nurse Manager Christine Woodman. Def.'s Mot. ¶ 8; Pl.'s Resp. 10; Def.'s Reply 3.

         6. Ms. Woodman had the authority to recommend terminating an employee, but that decision had to be approved by UCHA Chief Human Resources Officer Dallis Howard-Crow.[1] D e f . ' s Mot. ¶ 9; Decl. of Dallis Howard-Crow (“Howard-Crow decl.”) ¶ 3, ECF No. 29-6.

         7. Matthew Cangeleri was a Charge Nurse at UCHA in March 2015. Def.'s Mot. ¶ 23; Pl.'s Resp. 4. Cathee Eriza and Anne Kilgore were Registered Nurses at UCHA. Occasionally, Ms. Eriza would perform the duties of a Charge Nurse. Def.'s Mot. ¶ 12.

         8. Charge Nurses have some supervisory capacity over other employees but lack authority to hire, fire, discipline, or promote. Def.'s Mot. ¶ 11; Pl.'s Resp. 10; Def.'s Reply 3.

         9. In 2013, Ms. Apo-Owusu heard Ms. Eriza ask, “Where is our slave?” Def.'s Mot. ¶ 22; Pl.'s Resp. 4.

         10. In March 2015, Ms. Apo-Owusu was emptying linens when she heard Mr. Cangeleri say, “Where is that nigger at?” Def.'s Mot. ¶ 23; Pl.'s Resp. 4.

         11. Ms. Apo-Owusu asked Mr. Cangeleri if he was speaking to her. In response, Mr. Cangeleri gave Ms. Apo-Owusu a dirty stare and walked away. Pl.'s Resp. 10; Def.'s Reply 3.

         12. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Apo-Owusu heard Ms. Eriza ask, “Where is the nigger at?” Ms. Apo-Owusu confronted Ms. Eriza about her use of the word, and Ms. Eriza did not use the word again. Def.'s Mot. ¶ 24; Pl.'s Resp. 4.

         13. Sometime before October 2015, Ms. Apo-Owusu heard Ms. Kilgore ask, “Where is our slave?” Def.'s Mot. ¶ 29; Pl.'s Resp. 5.

         14. In October 2015, Ms. Apo-Owusu heard Mr. Cangeleri say, “Where is that slave? I cannot wait to get rid of her.” Def.'s Mot. ¶ 30; Pl.'s Resp. 4.

         15. In addition to the instances discussed above, Ms. Apo-Owusu heard Mr. Cangeleri use the word “nigger” at least two times in 2015 and eight times in 2016. Def.'s Mot. ¶¶ 25-26; Pl.'s Resp. 4-5.

         16. Ms. Apo-Owusu claims she reported these racial slurs to Ms. Woodman. Pl.'s Resp. 10; Dep. of Irene Apo-Owusu, Apr. 5-6, 2017 (“Apo-Owusu dep.”), 139:11-40:22, 254:3-58:13, ECF No. 29-1.

         17. UCHA disputes that Ms. Apo-Owusu reported these comments to Ms. Woodman. Ms. Woodman states Ms. Apo-Owusu only complained “that she believed her coworkers were talking about her behind her back.” Def.'s Mot. ¶ 27; Decl. of Christine Woodman (“Woodman decl.”) ¶ 10, ECF No. 29-5 (“Ms. Apo-Owusu complained several times that she believed her coworkers were talking about her behind her back. She never complained that her coworkers made racist comments about her or any other employee or that she was treated differently because of her race or national origin.”).

         18. Regardless of the nature of the reports Ms. Apo-Owusu made to Ms. Woodman, the parties agree Ms. Woodman did not report any use of racial slurs to her superiors. Dep. of Michael Kalisher (“Kalisher dep.”), May 23, 2017, 37:7-:17, ECF No. 32-3.

         19. On January 14, 2016, Ms. Woodman placed Ms. Apo-Owusu on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”). Ms. Woodman designed the PIP to address specific areas of Ms. Apo-Owusu's employment in which Ms. Woodman wanted her to improve. Def.'s Mot. ¶¶ 40-41; Pl.'s Resp. 6.

         20. On January 31, 2016, Ms. Apo-Owusu's CNA license lapsed.[2] The next day, Ms. Woodman suspended Ms. Apo-Owusu without pay until she had a valid license. Def's Mot. ¶¶ 45-46; Pl.'s Resp. 7.

         21. Ms. Apo-Owusu appealed the suspension, and UCHA denied the appeal on March 18, 2016. Def.'s Mot. ¶ 53; Pl.'s Resp. 8; ECF No. 29-13 at 37.

         22. During the week of March 21, 2016, UCHA found Ms. Apo-Owusu's performance had improved sufficiently to remove her from the PIP. However, UCHA reinstituted the PIP later that same week after her performance subsequently deteriorated. Def's Mot. ¶¶ 57-58; Pl.'s Resp. 8; ECF No. 29-13 at 23.

         23. On April 1, 2016, Ms. Woodman recommended UCHA terminate Ms. Apo-Owusu's employment. Def.'s Mot. ¶ 62; Pl.'s Resp. 8.

         24. On April 8, 2016, Mr. Howard-Crow reviewed and approved Ms. Woodman's recommendation. Def.'s Mot. ¶ 63; Pl.'s Resp. 9.

         25. UCHA terminated Ms. Apo-Owusu's employment on April 14, 2016. Def.'s ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.