Judge issues summary judgment in favor of St. Luke's hospital in technician's wrongful termination case

By John Breslin | Jun 12, 2018

ST. LOUIS – A surgical technician employed by a hospital group with a facility in Missouri has failed in her claim that she was fired in violation of provisions of the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

ST. LOUIS – A surgical technician employed by a hospital group with a facility in Missouri has failed in her claim that she was fired in violation of provisions of the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

Plaintiff Karen Beckley, who worked as a surgical technician for St. Luke's Episcopal-Presbyterian Hospital in Chesterfield, claimed her employment was terminated because of leave she was granted under the FMLA.

But federal Judge Ronnie White of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri issued a summary judgment May 31 in favor of the defendant, which he found "provided ample evidence that Beckley faced increasingly severe discipline for her infractions, was notified of the potential for termination if her behavior continued, and then was terminated based upon her failure to rectify her performance issues."

The court ruling detailed how Beckley was employed as a surgical technician, a non-licensed, non-degree support position that involves passing instruments in the operating room in the labor and delivery department of the hospital. She later worked in the general operating room.

This change in job in 2012 included a requirement that she remained "on call" for certain shifts, which meant she had to be able to report for work within 30 minutes of receiving notification of an emergency situation.

Beckley was on FMLA leave at the time of her appointment and was approved for further time off from February 2013 to August 2013 and again from April 2014 to April 2015. She was fired in March 2015.

But the court heard that Beckley was "reprimanded on multiple occasions ... regarding her failure to respond appropriately to emergency call requests.

"Each time Beckley was reprimanded, she was counseled on the appropriate on-call procedures and the department's expectations," according to the court order.

The employee was told that further infractions could lead to her firing. She failed to respond to other emergency call requests, the court found, adding that "Beckley admits that this discipline was unrelated to her taking FMLA."

She was also cited for "inattention to details," including an incident of her supervising a student who handed to a surgeon an anti-coagulant instead of saline water.

Further, the court ruling states, during an open patient gall bladder surgery in 2015 shortly before her termination, Beckley "became accidentally contaminated and failed to follow hospital sterility policy by walking into the sterile field twice....used poor judgment when counting surgical equipment during surgery, and left the surgical team in the middle of surgery for an extended period."

In granting summary judgment in favor of St. Luke's, White stated, "Beckley, however, claims she has evidence of discriminatory animus. Beckley asserts that she routinely suffered adverse actions following her exercise of FMLA rights

"The court holds that Beckley fails to state a claim for FMLA retaliation based upon the undisputed evidence."

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division

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