Photo: Shutterstock

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former hospice administrator who claimed her position was eliminated in a round of layoffs because she had taken leave for mental health reasons.

U.S. District Judge Malachy Mannion of the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted defendant Celtic Healthcare’s motion for summary judgment against plaintiff Lisa Conway’s allegations of retaliatory firing and disability discrimination.

Mannion said in his ruling that Conway, formerly a family bereavement coordinator, never raised the issue of discrimination internally with her supervisor, Kim Kranz, prior to being laid off.

“The plaintiff’s testimony reflects that she never complained to anyone at Celtic about alleged disability discrimination or retaliation, nor did she complain about interference or retaliation,” Mannion said. “Moreover, the plaintiff never complained to anyone at Celtic about Ms. Kranz. In fact, the plaintiff never lodged any complaint of any kind during her employment with Celtic.”

According to Mannion’s opinion, Conway had been on Family and Medical Leave Act leave for mental health issues from May 27, 2014, to June 2, 2014, which included an in-patient hospitalization. Conway returned late, on June 5, because she had been informed of two deaths in the family after leaving the hospital.

Conway had received a written warning from Kranz after she stepped out of a bereavement counseling session with a family to take a phone call and did not follow up with anyone to see if she missed important information, according to the decision.

After the layoffs, Conway sued. She claimed the 13 other individuals who were laid off received better treatment from Celtic.

“However, the plaintiff does not know whether any other employees have disabilities or whether they ever took FMLA leave,” Mannion said. “The plaintiff’s comparators had different job titles and performed job duties different from the plaintiff. Moreover, the plaintiff testified that she has no facts to support her contention that Ms. Kranz treated other employees differently than she treated the plaintiff, or that anyone at Celtic treated any other employees different than they treated her. None of the 13 other individuals impacted by the reduction in force were on medical leave when they were terminated.”

Mannion also said that Conway provided no proof that she faced retaliation under the FMLA.

“The plaintiff has presented no evidence from which a fact-finder could reasonably either disbelieve the reasons set forth by the defendants or believe that an invidious discriminatory reason was more likely than not a motivating or determinative cause of the defendant’s actions. In light of this, the defendants will be granted summary judgment as to the plaintiff’s FMLA retaliation claim,” Mannion said.

Conway’s lawyer, Wayne Ely of Kolman Ely, did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did Celtic’s lawyer, Catherine Ryan of Reed Smith.