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Wolf v. Creighton University

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

June 12, 2015

FREDERIQUE WOLF, an individual, Plaintiff,
CREIGHTON UNIVERSITY, a Nebraska corporation, Defendant.


RICHARD G. KOPF, Senior District Judge.

This is an employment case in which the plaintiff, Frederique Wolf ("Wolf"), claims she was discriminated against and harassed and because of her sex and age, and also retaliated against for complaining of the alleged discrimination and harassment.[1] Her employer, the defendant, Creighton University ("Creighton"), has moved for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons discussed below, the motion for summary judgment will be granted and the case will be dismissed with prejudice.

I. Factual Background

In accordance with the requirements of our local rules, Creighton has included a separate statement of material facts in its supporting brief. See NECivR 56.1(a). Because Creighton's statement is supported by the referenced affidavits, pleadings, discovery responses, and deposition testimony, and is not controverted by Wolf, all facts stated are deemed admitted. See NECivR 56.1(b)(1). Those facts are:

1. Defendant Creighton University is a private, Catholic and Jesuit University engaged in providing undergraduate, graduate and professional higher-education services in Omaha, Nebraska. (Ex. B [Filing No. 29-2], Winters Aff., ¶ 2).
2. Creighton owns and operates The Cardiac Center of Creighton University (the "Cardiac Center"), which is engaged in cardiovascular research, clinical education, early detection and prevention of cardiovascular disease, and in pioneering the use of new cardiac procedures and therapies. ( Id. at ¶ 4).
3. Cardiac Center employees assist with a variety of services, including procedures performed on patients in the catheterization (Cath) lab and the electrophysiology (EP) lab. ( Id. at ¶ 6). Both labs are located within the Cardiac Center. ( Id. ).
4. Procedures performed in the Cath lab are invasive and involve the "plumbing" of the heart and include the implantation of stints and balloons. (Ex. C [Filing No. 30-1], Wolf Depo. 22:20-23:11). EP lab procedures are often less invasive, and address issues associated with the "electricity" of the heart including, ablations, or placement of a pacemaker or defibrillator in a patient to regulate a heartbeat. ( Id. ).
5. Plaintiff, Frederique Wolf, was hired as a Cardiovascular Technician (CVT) in the Cardiac Center's EP lab on November 5, 2009. (Ex. C, Wolf Depo. 32:10-22). Her direct supervisor was Jennifer McCashland, Nurse Manager. (Ex. B, Winters Aff., ¶ 18).
6. As a CVT in the EP lab, Wolf was responsible for operating certain lab equipment, preparing materials and equipment for various cardiac procedures and assisting cardiac physicians and nurses during cardiac procedures. (Ex. C, Wolf Depo. 21:14-22).
7. Throughout her tenure with Creighton, Wolf's performance was satisfactory. (Ex. B, Winters Aff., ¶ 24).
8. On April 3, 2012, Wolf submitted a written complaint to Dr. Tom Hee, Director of the Electrophysiology Laboratory regarding Dr. Kelley Airey, a female physician and assistant professor in the Cardiac Center. ( Id. at ¶ 32).
9. Specifically, Wolf alleged that Dr. Airey was "hostile" to female employees working in the Cardiac Center, but not to male employees. (Ex. B(3) [Filing No. 29-2, at CM/ECF pp. 10-12], p. 4). She also alleged she felt discriminated against by Dr. Airey due to her age, based on Dr. Airey's apparent preference for "younger" staff members. ( Id. ).
10. Creighton promptly investigated Wolf's complaint. Beginning on April 5, 2012, Heidi Winters, Human Resources Manager and Connie Mimick, Administrative Director for the Cardiac Center, began an investigation into Wolf's allegations by interviewing several Cardiac Center employees, including Wolf. (Ex. B, Winters Aff., ¶¶ 33, 34).
11. At the conclusion of its investigation on April 17, 2012, Creighton determined that Wolf's claims of gender and age-related discrimination and harassment could not be substantiated. (Ex. B, Winters Aff., ¶ 35).
12. Creighton did, however, identify several issues related to communication and procedures within both Cardiac Center labs that needed to be addressed. ( Id. at ¶ 36).
13. The Cardiac Center implemented a variety of changes and protocols following the investigation. ( Id. at ¶ 36). These included: (a) purchasing and implementing a microphone for the Lab to provide clearer communications between physicians and staff during ablation procedures and eliminate the need to yell or speak in a raised voice; (b) establishing a clearer definitions of assigned duties by appointing a Daily Coordinator whose job it was to assign staff roles so it was clear which staff members were responsible for which tasks in lab each day to eliminate confusion; and (3) creating a break schedule to clarify appropriate parameters for employee meal breaks. ( Id. ).
14. In an effort to further address the communication issues identified during the course of Creighton's investigation, Dr. Airey was also required to attend a leadership/management training to assist in improving her leadership and communication skills with her staff. ( Id. at ¶ 38).
15. Following the investigation, Winters and Mimick contacted Wolf to discuss their findings and recommended action plan. ( Id. at ¶ 39). An email was also circulated to the Cardiac Center Lab staff to address and resolve the issues that had been identified by Wolf and other staff members during the investigation. ( Id. ) (Ex. B(4) [Filing 29-2, at CM/ECF p. 13]).
16. Wolf did not make any additional complaints to Creighton about Dr. Airey or the issues identified in her April 5, 2012 written complaint. (Ex. B, Winters Aff., ¶ 40).
17. As a CVT, in Creighton's Cardiac Center, Wolf was required to obtain Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certifications within 90 days of hire. ( Id. at ¶ 9).
18. Creighton also required that CVTs who work in the Cardiac Center's EP and Cath labs obtain either the Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS) or the Registered Cardiology Electrophysiology Specialist (RCES) certification within two years of hire. (Ex. B, Winters Aff., ¶ 10) (Ex. C, Wolf Depo. 37:19-38:3). This requirement was communicated to all CVTs, including Wolf, upon hire. (Ex. B, Winters Aff., ¶ 10).
19. RCIS and RCES certification requirements are administered through Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI), an independent, third-party credentialing agency based in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Ex. B, Winters Aff., ¶ 12).
20. Qualification prerequisites are established by CCI for each certification: for RCIS certification, an applicant must have two years' experience working in a Cath Lab and submit an employment verification letter; for the RCES certification, an applicant must have two years' experience ...

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