A dentist claiming she was fired because of her age has lost her appeal seeking to reinstate her age discrimination case against Penn Dental Medicine.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a Philadelphia federal judge’s dismissal of Dr. Mikele Boyle’s case. Boyle, 61, filed her claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Third Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ambro wrote in the court’s opinion that Penn fired Boyle for concerns over the quality of her work, and the court subsequently sided with Penn.
“While it is not obvious that Boyle has even established a prima facie case, Penn Dental has offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for firing her, and she has failed to show it was pretextual,” Ambro said. “Consequently, we shall affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment on that basis.”
Boyle worked at Penn Dental from 1999 to 2013. In 2012, according to Ambro, several colleagues reported concerns about Boyle’s clinical work to Dr. Alisa Kauffman, Penn Dental’s clinical director, who oversees the quality of dental care and minimizing costs.
“Kauffman herself had previously noticed ‘sloppy’ treatment preauthorization requests and poor treatment outcomes, so she performed her own quality assurance audit of Boyle’s work,” Ambro said.
Kauffman had a meeting with the dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Denis Kinane, to raise her concerns and urge that he convene Penn Dental’s quality committee. Penn officials met with Boyle and asked her to resign, but she refused, according to the decision.
Boyle was eventually put on paid suspension, but in her absence, her patients’ complaints about her work persisted, and the quality committee intensified its review, Ambro said.
The committee met with other dentists who had complained about Boyle—and, ultimately, its members agreed unanimously that Boyle was not meeting Penn Dental’s minimum standards. Boyle was fired in November 2013.
To Ambro, the reason for dismissal was clear.
“Boyle produced no direct evidence of discrimination. She admits that no one at Penn Dental ever mentioned her age during her review and eventual termination; that she has no reason to believe the quality committee was aware of or considered her age when it made its findings; that, to her knowledge, none of the dentists who initially raised concerns about the quality of her work had any bias against her; and that, while she suspected Kauffman had a grudge against her, the latter never did or said anything that would lead Boyle to believe there was a bias against older dentists,” Ambro said.
Michael Banks of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius represents Penn Dental. Banks did not provide a comment on the ruling.
Glenn Weiner of Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg represents Boyle and did not respond to a request for comment.