United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jill Grewcock worked as a “clinical bed manager”
for defendant Yale-New Haven Health Services Corporation.
Plaintiff was also a nursing mother, and she needed to
express or pump breast milk for her child during working
hours. She was fired from her job after several months of
conflict with her supervisors about whether she must use a
designated lactation room to engage in pumping activity.
has filed this action alleging that she was the victim of
discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the cognate provisions of
the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act. Defendant has
now moved for summary judgment, contending in large part that
plaintiff was fired for reasons having nothing to do with her
nursing mother activities but because she improperly accessed
the medical records of a relative of one of plaintiff's
conclude that a nursing mother's ability to engage in
nursing-related activity like expressing breast milk is
subject to protection from discrimination under both Title
VII and CFEPA. I further conclude that genuine fact issues
remain to support plaintiff's discrimination and related
retaliation claims. Accordingly, I will largely deny
defendant's motion for summary judgment.
following facts are either not disputed or, where disputed,
are presented in the light most favorable to plaintiff as the
non-moving party. Plaintiff started working for defendant in
February 2011 as a Clinical Bed Manager. Doc. #17-4 at 1;
Doc. #1 at 2 (¶ 7). According to the position
description, a Clinical Bed Manager “is responsible for
oversight of all patient admission, discharges and transfer
activity” as well as “facilitating continuous
throughput of patients from all points of entry . . .
.” Doc. #22-7 at 2. During her time in the position,
plaintiff generally received positive evaluations. Doc. #22-6
gave birth to a child in October 2013. Doc. #22-4 at 3. Two
months later she returned to work from maternity leave. Doc.
#17-2 at 6. After she returned to work, plaintiff expressed
breast milk during the day when she was away from her child,
and she used the office she shared with a colleague to do so.
Id. at 7. Plaintiff discussed the matter with her
direct supervisor, Piper Brien, who stated that she had no
problem with plaintiff expressing milk; on occasion, Brien
permitted plaintiff to express milk in her own office when
plaintiff's office was occupied. Id. at 8. Over
the course of the following year, plaintiff carried out her
duties as normal and expressed milk at work without incident.
a year after plaintiff's return to work, defendant
decided to require that plaintiff use a designated lactation
room for her expressing activity. On December 1, 2014, Beth
Ciotti, who had taken over from Brien as plaintiff's
supervisor, forwarded to department employees an e-mail from
Peggy Beley, the director of Patient Finance and Admitting
Services, indicating that all nursing mothers should use the
hospital's private lactation rooms. Doc. #17-4 at 2; Doc.
#22-7 at 28. The e-mail explained that “[t]his is not
an option, as it makes surrounding staff
uncomfortable.” Ibid. Plaintiff was the only
nursing mother in her department at that time. Doc. #17-2 at
approached Ciotti to state her concern about the email.
Id. at 13. Ciotti explained that someone had
complained and that she really could not argue with it from a
corporate standpoint. Ibid. Plaintiff asked Ciotti
if she could use Ciotti's office if needed, but Ciotti
said that she was not obligated to do that. Ibid.
that day, plaintiff raised the matter with Brien, who told
plaintiff not to worry about it and that she would arrange
for a clerical worker to cover plaintiff's calls while
she was away from her desk in a lactation room. Id.
at 13-14. Plaintiff replied that clerical staff lacked the
ability to cover her duties, and this would compromise
patient safety if she were away from her office. Id.
started using the hospital's lactation rooms at times but
she had difficulty finding rooms that were not already
occupied, and her absences took a toll on plaintiff's
workflow. Doc. #17-2 at 8, 9. Certain staff members refused
to leave messages with the clerical staff. Doc. #22-7 at 26.
Others would call and refuse to identify themselves.
Ibid. On another occasion, plaintiff was unable to
fully address a situation involving the arrival of a Life
Star Helicopter. Doc. #17-2 at 9.
with the situation, plaintiff wrote an e-mail on December 5
to David Wurcel, who was Vice-President of Corporate Business
and Beley's supervisor. Doc. #17-2 at 33. In the e-mail
plaintiff stated that she wished to formally invoke the
grievance process “due to my department's refusal
to allow me to express breast milk in the privacy of the
clinical bed manager's officer, or an adjacent vacant
office, ” and she alleged that “my department is
willing to compromise patient safety by allowing clerical
workers to take messages of an emergent nature in my
absence.” Ibid. Plaintiff was then contacted
by Patricia Burke, Executive Director of Human Resources, on
Wurcel's behalf, who told her that her complaint did not
fall within the scope of matters that could be grieved. Doc.
#17-4 at 3.
followed up with Wurcel on December 8 with an
“addendum” email to stress her dissatisfaction
with the policy, to request to meet with him, and to state
her concern about Burke's “bias” in the
handling of the issue, because Burke had told plaintiff that
she had been “‘accommodated with breast feeding
long enough and it's time to return to business as
usual.'” Doc. #17-2 at 31-32. Wurcel then responded
on December 9 that he “would be happy to meet with you,
” but that he did not think the meeting was necessary,
that “the organization has facilities available to meet
your needs, ” and that “I would very much like
you not [to] be angry about this decision but understand that
we need to consider others needs on your team as well.”
Id. at 31. Plaintiff responded that she would
“continue to use the [lactation rooms in the] West
Pavill[i]on as desired.” Id. at 31.
meantime, plaintiff did not always use a lactation room, and
this upset her supervisors. On December 2, plaintiff was
expressing milk in the office that she shared with her
co-worker Linda Konet, who was supportive of plaintiff's
position regarding the lactation policy. Doc. #17-2 at 9, 18;
Doc. #22-4 at 4. Brien entered the office and
“yelled” at plaintiff “in a loud angry
tone.” Konet and Brien proceeded to engage in a
shouting match, and Brien slammed the door. Doc. #17-2 at 18;
Doc. #22-4 at 4.
continued to feel harassed by Ciotti and Brien. According to
plaintiff, Ciotti and Brien frequently entered
plaintiff's office without knocking. Doc. #17-2 at 17.
When plaintiff had meetings with a co-worker in her office,
Brien and Ciotti entered the office and said “You
better not be pumping in here.” Ibid. If
plaintiff had her breast pump within view, she was questioned
about its presence, even if she had not been expressing milk
in the office. Ibid. For her part, Beley became
“hostile” toward plaintiff after she had filed
the grievance with Wurcel. Doc. #17-2 at 23.
meeting was held on December 23, 2014, to address issues
plaintiff was facing. Doc. #17-4 at 5; Doc. #17-2 at 34. At
that meeting, Beley reiterated the policy that staff members
who choose to express milk must utilize one of the lactation
rooms. Doc. #17-2 at 34. Around the same time, plaintiff was
told by Burke that she was not facing a disciplinary
“write-up” for recently expressing milk in her
office. Id. at 18, 34.
one month later, on January 23, 2015, plaintiff had a
particularly urgent need to express milk and she resorted to
using the bathroom. Id. at 16. On that occasion,
Brien entered the bathroom, peered through the cracks of the
stall, asked plaintiff if she was expressing milk inside the
bathroom stall, reiterated that she was not allowed to do so,
and ordered her out of the stall. Ibid. When
plaintiff did not ...