United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Nami Bayan (“Plaintiff”), a former participant in
the Geriatric Fellowship Program at the University of
Connecticut Health Center (“GFP”), initiated this
one-count lawsuit against his former supervisor, Dr. Gail M.
Sullivan (“Defendant”), Program Director for the
GFP. Compl., ECF No. 1. Dr. Bayan claims that Dr. Sullivan
discriminated against him and terminated his employment with
GFP based on his national origin and religion in violation of
his right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment
of the U.S. Constitution. Id.
Sullivan has moved for summary judgment, arguing that (1) Dr.
Bayan's performance deficiencies, not his national
origin, caused his discipline and eventual termination; (2)
Dr. Sullivan was not the ultimate decision-maker regarding
Dr. Bayan's discipline and termination; and (3) Dr.
Sullivan is entitled to qualified immunity because her
actions were objectively reasonable. Def. Mot. in Supp., ECF
reasons set forth below, Dr. Sullivan's motion for
summary judgment is GRANTED.
record reflects the following undisputed facts.
Bayan was employed as a Fellow with the University of
Connecticut Geriatric Fellowship Program ("GFP”)
from July 2010 until June 10, 2011. L.R. 56(a)(1)
¶¶ 1-2. At the time of his application to the GFP,
Dr. Bayan's references from prior employers were largely
positive, though they noted that Dr. Bayan had struggled with
some “interpersonal difficulties” and had
challenges with “complex patients, ” and his
record included a period of academic probation. Sullivan Aff.
4, ECF No. 26-3; Bayan Applic. Materials 3-4, 6, Def. Ex. 1,
ECF No. 26-3. Dr. Bayan was hired for the GFP in July 2010.
L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶ 2.
fellowship involved doing clinical rotations at various
different health centers. Id. at ¶ 4. Dr. Bayan
began to receive negative reviews during his first clinical
rotation, which was at the Hebrew Home and Hospital, in July
of 2010. Id. at ¶ 5. Dr. Maureen Dana, the
director of that site, noted in her evaluations that Dr.
Bayan needed “improvement in receiving feedback.”
Sullivan Aff. ¶ 8; Hebrew Home Eval. 5, Def. Ex. 3, ECF
No. 26-3. In and around October 2010, similar concerns were
echoed by another supervisor at that site, Dr. Sharon Farber,
who noted that Dr. Bayan “continues to have difficulty
receiving and learning from criticism.” L.R. 56(a)(1)
¶¶ 6-7; Farber Eval., Def. Ex. 4, ECF No. 26-3.
this time frame, a concern arose about some of Dr.
Bayan's practices when diagnosing patients. L.R. 56(a)(1)
¶ 7. In response, the GFP's Clinical Competency
Committee (“Ed Committee”) recommended a training
exercise to help Dr. Bayan improve in this area.
Id.; Sullivan E-mail 11/19/2010, Def. Ex. 5, ECF No.
26-3. For multiple months following this recommendation, Dr.
Bayan resisted participating in the training exercise.
Id. In light of the issues surrounding Dr.
Bayan's performance and his responses to feedback, the Ed
Committee drafted a remediation plan, issued November 30,
2010, recommending in part that Dr. Bayan participate in a
“standardized patient clinical skills assessment”
and “relax [his] defensive posture.” Remediation
Plan, Def. Ex. 6, ECF No. 26-3.
a different rotation at the St. Francis Palliative Care
Center, Dr. Bayan's supervisor and care team members
indicated similar problems with his performance and his
interpersonal interactions, including some concerns about his
“difficulty relating to women or staff of 'lower
status, '” his perceived inattentiveness and lack
of interest, and “difficulty developing a plan of
care” within the standards of the program. L.R.
56(a)(1) ¶ 9; Rowland E-mail 11/30/2010, Def. Ex. 7, ECF
No. 26-3; St. Francis Eval., Def. Ex. 11, ECF No 26-3. In
December 2010, Dr. Bayan communicated via e-mail with Dr.
Sullivan and his clinical preceptor Dr. Kuchiel, criticizing
Dr. Sullivan and others for evaluating him negatively in the
remediation plan. Bayan E-mail 12/02/2010, Def. Ex. 8, ECF
January 26, 2011, during his rotation at a Veteran Affairs
facility, Dr. Bayan failed to attend a scheduled osteoporosis
clinic without following the proper procedures for reporting
his absence. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶ 15. Following this
incident, Dr. Sullivan recommended to the Ed Committee that a
Letter of Deficiency be issued to Dr. Bayan. Id. at
¶ 16; Sullivan E-mail 2/1/2011, Def. Ex. 13, ECF No.
26-3. Two weeks after this absence, on February 13, 2011, Dr.
Bayan reported to Dr. Rathier that he had fallen on ice and
suffered an injury, and he took several weeks off of work as
a result. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶¶ 19-22. His treating
physician indicated that he would be able to return to light
work on March 14, 2011. Id. at ¶ 22; Physician
Letters, Def. Ex. 19, ECF No. 26-3. However, on March 16,
2011, Dr. Bayan failed to appear at a scheduled rheumatology
clinic, and although he did notify one of the doctors at the
clinic of his absence, he did not notify all of the proper
individuals. Id. at ¶ 24; Sullivan E-mail
3/18/2011, Def Ex. 21, ECF No. 26-3. At Dr. Sullivan's
recommendation, the Ed Committee approved and issued a Letter
of Deficiency on March 18, 2011. Mar. 2011 Ltr. of
Deficiency, Def. Ex. 22, ECF No. 26-3. Dr. Bayan refused to
sign the letter. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶ 38; Bayan E-mail
4/19/2011, Def. Ex. 35, ECF No. 26-3.
this letter was issued, Dr. Bayan wrote multiple e-mails to
Dr. Sullivan and others denying the accuracy of the negative
evaluations, stating that Dr. Sullivan had “impaired
judgment, ” and reiterating that he did not find the
Letter of Deficiency to be acceptable. L.R. 56(a)(1)
¶¶ 27-31; Def. Ex. 36; Bayan E-mail 4/11/11, Def.
Ex. 27, ECF No. 26-3; Bayan E-mail 4/11/11, Def. Ex. 28, ECF
No. 26-3. These communications resulted in an Ed Committee
meeting in April 2011, during which the Ed Committee approved
a draft Addendum to Dr. Bayan's Letter of Deficiency,
which required weekly performance evaluations and detailed
increased concerns about Dr. Bayan's professionalism and
interpersonal communications. Addendum, Def. Ex. 29, ECF No.
26-3. Following the receipt of the Addendum, Dr. Bayan
continued sending e-mails to Dr. Sullivan and others
objecting to the negative evaluations. L.R. 56(a)(1)
of 2011, the Ed Committee met and decided to extend Dr.
Bayan's first year in the program from July 2011 through
August 2011. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶¶ 42-43. Dr. Bayan
responded with e-mails to Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Kuchiel
objecting to the Ed Committee's decision. Id. at
¶¶ 46-49. In these e-mails, Dr. Bayan described Dr.
Sullivan as needing a “psychiatry evaluation” and
as having a “poor fund of knowledge.” Bayan
E-mail 5/29/11, Def. Ex. 46, ECF No. 26-3; Bayan E-mail
5/27/11, Def. Ex. 43, ECF No. 26-3. The Ed Committee met
again and decided to suspend Dr. Bayan from the program,
citing concerns regarding Dr. Bayan's
“professionalism and communication skills, ” and
they also recommended that Dr. Bayan undergo a Fitness for
Duty evaluation. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶ 58; Suspension Letter
5/31/11, Def. Ex. 54, ECF No. 26-3.
receiving the suspension letter, Dr. Bayan sent an e-mail
referring to Dr. Sullivan as a “big fraud.” L.R.
56(a)(1) ¶ 59; Bayan E-mail 5/31/11, Def. Ex. 56, ECF
No. 26-3. In June 2011, the Ed Committee met and determined
that Dr. Bayan would be terminated from the program if he
refused to participate in the Fitness for Duty evaluation.
L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶ 61. In the meantime, Dr. Bayan agreed to
meet with a counselor through the GFP's Employee
Assistance Program (“EAP”), and he eventually
agreed to participate in the Fitness for Duty evaluation.
Id. at ¶¶ 60-62. The evaluation ultimately
determined that Dr. Bayan was fit for duty, but the evaluator
noted that Dr. Bayan “paints himself as the
victim” and expressed concern that Dr. Bayan's
conduct suggested a personality disorder. Id. at
¶ 63. In June 2011, the Ed. Committee decided to