United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
A. Bolden United States District Judge
Margareta Bispham, brought this action in Connecticut
Superior Court against Hartford Hospital, her former
employer, asserting claims under the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act (“ADEA”), Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act (“Title VII”), the Connecticut Fair
Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), and negligent
infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction
of emotional distress under Connecticut state law. ECF No.
1-1. Defendant, Hartford Hospital, removed the case to this
Court, ECF No. 1, and now moves for summary judgment on all
counts of the Plaintiff's complaint. ECF No. 24.
reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS summary judgment in
favor of Hartford Hospital on all of Ms. Bispham's
federal claims. The Court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over her remaining state law claims, and
therefore REMANDS those claims to the Connecticut Superior
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Bispham was hired by Hartford Hospital on July 24, 1995 for a
24 hour per week Patient Care Associate (“PCA”)
position on the general surgery floor. Def.'s Local Rule
56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 1, ECF No. 26. As of the date
this lawsuit was filed in 2014, Ms. Bispham was 52 years old.
Compl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 1-1. Ms. Bispham became a full-time
40 hour per week PCA on the general surgery floor on August
27, 1995. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 2.
On May 27, 2001, she applied for and received a transfer to a
full-time PCA position on the Neuro/Trauma Intensive Care
Unit (“ICU”) at Hartford Hospital. Id.
¶ 3. Ms. Bispham worked the 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM shift
(“night shift”) in the ICU. Id. ¶
5. Ms. Bispham was notified of her termination during a
meeting on November 16, 2012. Ruszczyk Decl. ¶ 35, ECF
and 2012, Kathryn Ruszczyk was the Nurse Manager assigned to
the ICU. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 7.
Ms. Ruszczyk was responsible for evaluating Ms. Bispham's
job performance during the period from 2010 to 2012.
Id. ¶¶ 8-10. Ms. Ruszczyk was 45 years old
in November 2012. Ruszczyk Decl. ¶ 34.
February 8, 2013, Ms. Bispham filed a complaint with the
Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
(“CHRO”) regarding the age and sex discrimination
allegations in this case. Compl. ¶ 4. On April 23, 2014,
the CHRO released jurisdiction. Id. The EEOC
released jurisdiction on May 21, 2014. Id. Ms.
Bispham filed the complaint in this case on July 16, 2014 in
Connecticut Superior Court, and Defendants removed the case
to this Court on August 4, 2014. Notice of Removal, ECF No.
Plaintiff's Sexual Harassment Allegations
the period that Ms. Bispham worked night shift in the ICU,
there was only one male PCA, J. King, who regularly worked
the same shift in the ICU. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1)
Statement ¶ 54. Ms. Ruszczyk was manager to both Mr.
King and Ms. Bispham. Id. ¶ 55. Hartford
Hospital has a Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy.
Sexual Harassment Policy, Nowakowski Dec. Ex. 1, ECF No.
2010, Ms. Bispham spoke to Ms. Ruszczyk and alleged that Mr.
King was sexually harassing her. Def.'s Local Rule
56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 56. Ms. Bispham had several
meetings with Ms. Ruszczyk and with William Bell, the Human
Resources Consultant then assigned to the ICU, regarding her
allegations against Mr. King. Id. ¶ 60-63;
Bispham Dep. 32:13-20, ECF No. 26-2. Mr. Bell and Ms.
Ruszczyk also met with Mr. King to discuss the allegations,
and Mr. King “became visibly and emotionally upset,
” “assured [them] that he never harassed Ms.
Bispham, ” and “swore to [them] on the life of
his still living mother that he would never do anything of
that sort.” Ruszczyk Decl. ¶¶ 45-46.
Ms. Bispham first spoke to Ms. Ruszczyk to allege that Mr.
King was sexually harassing her, Ms. Ruszczyk thought Ms.
Bispham's report “was very general” and that
she failed to “provide any special details, names of
witnesses, or other evidence to support her
allegations.” Ruszczyk Decl. ¶ 40. Ms. Ruszczyk
had never before received complaints from any other ICU staff
member alleging that Mr. King had sexually harassed or
behaved inappropriately towards them. Id. ¶ 41.
In Ms. Ruszczyk's experience, the ICU's female staff
“uniformly regarded” him as an
“appropriately collegial and hardworking PCA who was a
collaborative and helpful [team] member.” Id.
¶ 42. As part of her investigation, Ms. Ruszczyk spoke
to other members of the ICU staff, and “none of them
supported Ms. Bispham's allegation, ” and one
employee even “reported that Ms. Bispham would
regularly swear and use other inappropriate language in the
department.” Id. ¶ 47. Thus, Mr. Bell and
Ms. Ruszczyk concluded that they could not substantiate Ms.
Bispham's sexual harassment complaint. Id.
being unable to substantiate Ms. Bispham's allegations,
Mr. Bell and Ms. Ruszczyk suggested that Mr. King
“apologize to Ms. Bispham for having done anything that
might have made her feel uncomfortable, ” in an effort
to resolve the situation. Ruszczyk Decl. ¶ 49. Ms.
Ruszczyk also told Ms. Bispham that Human Resources
(“HR”) had spoken to Mr. King regarding her
allegations, but that the discussion between Mr. King and HR
“was a confidential personnel matter” between Mr.
King and HR. Id. ¶ 50. Finally, Ms. Ruszczyk
also told Ms. Bispham to address any further complaints or
concerns to Mr. Bell. Id. ¶ 51.
the period when Ms. Bispham raised her sexual harassment
complaints in July 2010 and the date when Mr. King retired on
May 27, 2011, Ms. Bispham did not make any additional sexual
harassment complaints. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1)
Statement ¶ 72. During this period, Ms. Ruszczyk also
did not receive complaints from any other staff member
alleging that Mr. King sexually harassed or behaved
inappropriately towards them. Id. ¶ 73.
Plaintiff's Other Allegations
Bispham has testified that her age discrimination claim is
based on two incidents where she was denied time off to
facilitate her attendance at the co-worker's funeral and
the ICU department picnic. Bispham Dep. 81:7-16. In addition
to these incidents, Ms. Bispham also alleges that her
termination was based on her age because she was “one
of the oldest PCAs on the unit.” Id. 81:17-22.
2011, Ms. Bispham requested time off to attend a
co-worker's funeral. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1)
Statement ¶ 75. The funeral was not, however, scheduled
to occur during Ms. Bispham's 11:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M.
shift. Id. ¶ 77. Ms. Bispham's testimony
acknowledges that the scheduled time for the funeral did not
overlap with her shift. Bispham Dep. 85:21-86:6. Ms.
Bispham's request for time off to attend the funeral was
denied. Id. ¶ 76.
August 2011, Ms. Bispham requested time off to attend the ICU
department's picnic. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1)
Statement ¶ 78. The picnic was not, however, scheduled
to occur during Ms. Bispham's 11:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M.
shift. Id. ¶ 79. Although there was no
scheduling conflict between Ms. Bispham's shift and the
picnic, Ms. Bispham testified that after working the night
shift the previous night and attending the picnic the next
day, she would be “too tired to come back in and do the
night shift.” Bispham Dep. 83:16-22. Ms. Bispham's
request for time off to attend the picnic was denied.
Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 80.
Plaintiff's Performance Evaluations
Ruszczyk conducted Ms. Bispham's performance review for
2010 to 2011 and gave her several ratings of “below
expectations.” Ruszczyk Decl. ¶ 5. These
“below expectations” ratings gave Ms. Bispham
some indication that, based on feedback from the other ICU
nurses, Ms. Ruszczyk had concerns about Ms. Bispham's
“interactions with the [other] nurses” and her
being “difficult” with regards to “task
completion and assistance with patient care.” Bispham
Dep. 51:11-23. In February 2012, Ms. Ruszczyk gave Ms.
Bispham verbal counseling based on complaints from other ICU
nurses regarding Ms. Bispham's job performance. Ruszczyk
Decl. ¶ 6. Ms. Bispham recalls that, during this
meeting, Ms. Ruszczyk discussed “continuing concerns
about [her] refusing to assist team members with patient care
when asked” and gave Ms. Bispham a verbal warning about
these concerns. Bispham Dep. 52:9-19.
2, 2012, Ms. Ruszczyk issued Ms. Bispham a written warning.
Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 10; Written
Warning, Ruszczyk Decl. Ex. 1. The written warning indicated
that Ms. Bispham demonstrated several ongoing insubordinate
behaviors including a “[f]ailure to complete delegated
tasks as requested” by other nurses,  “[f]ailure
to communicate/appropriately acknowledge team members when
asked to assist with patient care task(s), ” and a
“failure to report work related injury to Resource
Nurse and Nurse Manager at time of injury.” Written
Warning, Ruszczyk Decl. Ex. 1. The written warning
notes that Ms. Bispham had been counseled multiple times with
regards to these problems, most recently with the verbal
counseling and warning in February 2012 and that, since then,
Ms. Bispham “continue[d] to fail to assist her team
members when asked to complete tasks appropriate and expected
of her role.” Id. Ms. Bispham testifies that
the complaints from the other nurses were inaccurate and that
the other nurses were lying. Bispham Dep. 56:12-15.
Ms. Bispham received the written warning, Ms. Ruszczyk
decided to move Ms. Bispham to an earlier shift so that Ms.
Ruszczyk could provide more oversight and support to her.
Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 13. The
written warning gave Ms. Bispham 30 days notice of her
“[r]emoval from the [n]ight shift.” Written
Warning, Ruszczyk Decl. Ex. 1. Ms. Ruszczyk
originally asked Ms. Bispham to transfer to the 7:00 A.M. to
3:00 P.M. shift (the “day shift”), Ms.
Ruszczyk's shift. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1)
Statement ¶ 15. Ms. Bispham told Ms. Ruszczyk that she
could not work the day shift because she had another job that
conflicted with it. Bispham Dep. 59:8-14. Instead, Ms.
Ruszczyk agreed to transfer Ms. Bispham to the 3:00 P.M. to
11:00 P.M. shift (the “second shift”) instead,
beginning the week of August 5, 2012. Def.'s Local Rule
56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 17; Bispham Dep. 59:15-19. Ms.
Ruszczyk informed Ms. Bispham by email that this
“transition [was] based on her sustained performance
which [would] be re-evaluated periodically over the next 6
months.” Email, Ruszczyk Decl. Ex. 2.
receiving the written warning, Ms. Bispham met with Cherly
Ficara, the Vice President of Patient Care Services at
Hartford Hospital, to discuss the warning, her disagreement
with it, and the other nurses' complaints. Def.'s
Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 19; Bispham Dep.
62:3-23. In 2012, Ms. Ficara was age 51. Def.'s Local
Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 21.
30, 2012, Ms. Bispham met with Beverly Sherbondy, the
Director of Human Resources at Hartford Hospital at that
time. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 22.
During the meeting, Ms. Bispham discussed her disagreement
with the written warning and the other nurses'
complaints. Bispham Dep. 66:7-11. Ms. Bispham requested an
opportunity to meet with Ms. Ruszczyk, the nurses who had
complained to Ms. Ruszczyk, and Ms. Sherbondy to discuss the
written warning and the complaints. Id. 66:12-15.
Ms. Sherbondy later told Ms. Bispham that she discussed this
possible meeting with Ms. Ruszczyk, but Ms. Ruszczyk had
explained that the meeting was unnecessary because she
already had “all the paperwork to substantiate what was
said, ” so no such meeting occurred. Id.
66:20-24. In 2012, Ms. Sherbondy was age 59. Def.'s Local
Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 23.
September 2012, Ms. Bispham met with Peter Fraser, the Vice
President of Human Resources at Hartford Hospital, again to
discuss the written warning. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)(1)
Statement ¶ 26. During the meeting, Mr. Fraser showed
Ms. Bispham redacted copies of some of the other nurses'
complaints, which were contained in emails to Ms. Ruszczyk.