Advertising Disclosure Email Disclosure

Third Circuit reasons, in considering whether to discredit an employer’s proffered reason for an adverse act, the factual question is whether discriminatory animus motivated the employer, not whether the employer’s decision may have been the best one.

January 1, 2019
Rhoden v. Children’s Hosp. of Pittsburgh of the UPMC Health Sys., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 29184 (3d. Cir. Oct. 17, 2018)

The plaintiff alleged racial and national origin discrimination and retaliation under Title VII and related state law claims. The plaintiff is an African American woman who worked as a pharmacist at Children’s Hospital Pittsburgh from 1990 until 2013. Between 2010 and 2013, she received progressive disciplinary warnings, ending in her termination. She received a verbal warning in May 2010 for disparaging language, had a verbal altercation with a co-worker in May 2012, received a written warning in June 2012 as a result of these two incidents, and received a final written warning in August 2013 after using her personal phone at work. In October 2013, the plaintiff and a Caucasian pharmacist were terminated after they refused to take a call from the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The District Court granted summary judgment, finding the plaintiff could not show that the reason given for her termination was pretext for discrimination and she did not demonstrate a causal connection between her filing of an EEOC charge and her termination to state a claim for retaliation. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting the plaintiff and the Caucasian pharmacist terminated at the same time were treated similarly. The court reasoned that the plaintiff’s assertion that her supervisor had told her to defer phone calls to other pharmacists when she had a backlog of work would not allow a fact finder to conclude the reason for her termination was a fabrication or motivated by discriminatory animus. The court explained that to discredit an employer’s proffered reason for an adverse action, a plaintiff cannot simply show that the employer’s decision was wrong or mistaken since the factual dispute at issue is whether discriminatory animus motivated the employer, not whether the employer’s decision may have been the best one. In addition, the plaintiff’s retaliation claim failed because the gap of 12 months between her filing of an EEOC complaint and her termination was insufficient to be unduly suggestive of retaliation. 


Case Law Alerts, 1st Quarter, January 2019

Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2019 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.

Affiliated Attorney

Practice Areas

Before you send this email please note:

You are attempting to send email, through a link on our website, to an attorney of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin or an employee in our firm. Please note that your email may not be treated as confidential and does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should not rely upon the transmission of an email through this website if you are seeking to enter into such a relationship. Until such time as we have agreed to represent you, no information in your email will be treated as confidential. Please contact us directly by telephone at 1.800.220.3308 if it is your intent to seek legal counsel with our firm or convey confidential information.

If it is still your intent to send this email, knowing that it may not be treated as confidential, you may accept our terms of agreement by pressing "OK". If you choose not to accept these terms of agreement you may navigate away from this page by pressing "Cancel."