United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendants Family Health Care,
and Dr. Monica Howard's (collectively,
“Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF
No. 32. The motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following
reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is
Cheryl New was employed as a Medical Assistant by Defendant
Family Health Care, P.C. (“FHC”), a private
medical practice, from November 2010 to January 15, 2016. ECF
No. 1 ¶¶ 3-9, 23. New's duties included
administering shots, supplying correct doses of medications,
and assisting with routine medical examinations. Id.
¶ 8. Defendant Dr. Monica Howard is a licensed physician
in family medicine and one of FHC's five
physician-owners. ECF No. 32-5 ¶ 1. In 2014, Dr. Howard
became FHC's managing officer. Id.
Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve in 2015, FHC closed
early, although neither day had been previously scheduled as
a holiday for the office. ECF No. 32-5 ¶ 15. FHC still
paid its hourly wage employees for a full eight hours of work
for each of the days. Id.
contends that FHC “manipulated” her time sheets
on these two days by crediting eight hours of work instead of
giving her four hours of holiday pay, which would have
resulted in her receiving compensation for hours marginally
in excess of eight per day. ECF No. 32-7 at 16-18, 22-24.
January 11, 2016, New emailed FHC administrator, Kevin Day,
noting this concern. ECF No. 32-11 at 5. Day responded that
the change was to ensure that all employees “would get
paid for their regularly scheduled hours” even though
the office closed early. Id. Several days later, on
January 14, 2016, FHC Practice Administrator, Marie Grimes,
emailed New regarding an “accusation” New had
purportedly made that morning “in front of several
staff members” concerning time sheet changes. ECF No.
37-2 at 1. New responded to Grimes that no
“accusations” were made and that, rather, several
employees were discussing informally the changes made to
their time sheets for the Christmas Eve and New Year's
Eve hours. Id.
the afternoon on that same day, January 14, a patient arrived
at FHC to receive a Toradol injection. ECF No. 32-8 ¶ 2.
New accompanied the patient to a treatment room and took the
patient's vital signs. ECF No. 32-6 (patient log note
written by New). New observed that the patient “was
experiencing a severe headache/migraine” and had
“notably elevated” blood pressure. Id.
Because the patient had never taken Toradol before, New asked
the patient to wait in the office for thirty minutes after
administering the injection “[a]s a safety precaution .
. . to ensure that she did not experience any adverse
reactions.” Id.; see also ECF No.
32-7 at 6 (New referring to the practice as a “rule if
someone's never had a medication before”). New
brought the patient's husband to the examination room to
wait with her, and New returned to taking calls. ECF No.
32-6. At 5:31 p.m., New clocked out and left for the evening.
Id. The patient and her husband remained alone in
the empty office. ECF No. 32-7 at 9-10.
an hour after New clocked out, she received a text message
from a co-worker that “the patient had contacted the
after-hours line saying that they . . . were still in the
office.” Id. at 10. New returned “to the
office within minutes, ” but the patient had left by
the time New arrived. ECF No. 32-6. New called the
patient's husband and scheduled a follow-up appointment
with Dr. Wollman-Rosenwald for the next morning. Id.
Dr. Wollman-Rosenwald was informed about this incident that
same evening and immediately phoned Dr. Howard. ECF No. 32-8
¶ 2. The two physicians agreed that the nurse
responsible for abandoning the patient should be terminated
for “gross dereliction of duty and the potential harm
to the patient and the practice.” Id. ¶
following morning, on January 15, 2016, Dr. Wollman-Rosenwald
learned that New was the nurse who left the patient
unattended. The doctor directed New “to write a Log
Note to the official patient file” to document the
incident. Id. ¶ 6. Dr. Wollman-Rosenwald also
discovered that New had failed to inform her of the
patient's high blood pressure at the time of injection.
Id. ¶ 4. Needing the consent of a majority of
the five physician-owners to terminate New's employment,
Dr. Wollman-Rosenwald emailed the other owners at 8:27 a.m.,
obtaining unanimous agreement by noon. Id. ¶ 5;
see also ECF No. 32-9.
same morning, around 8:41 a.m., New emailed Grimes on
FHC's internal messaging system and attached a letter
detailing her concerns about the “changes” made
to her time sheets on December 24 and 31. ECF No. 32-11 at 1;
see also ECF No. 32-5 ¶ 12. Although New copied
Dr. Howard on the email, Dr. Howard “did not see or
read” the email that day “or at any time before
this suit was filed.” ECF No. 32-5 ¶ 12. At the
time the physician-owners agreed to terminate New's
employment, none of them were aware of New's wage
complaint. Id. ¶ 14; see also ECF No.
32-8 ¶ 9; ECF No. 32-12 ¶ 5; ECF No. 32-13 ¶
4; ECF No. 32-14 ¶ 4.
submitted the patient log note as directed in the afternoon
on January 15. Dr. Howard reviewed the document to confirm,
in her view, that New committed “gross
misconduct.” ECF No. 32-5 ¶ 11. Grimes and Dr.
Howard then informed New of the FHC physician-owners'
decision to terminate her. Id.; ECF No. 32-7 at
38-39 (New confirming that Grimes said the termination was
“due to what happened yesterday”).
August 19, 2017, New filed this action against FHC and Dr.
Howard, alleging overtime wage violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Maryland Wage Payment
and Collection Law (“MWPCL”) and retaliation
under the FLSA. Id. ¶¶ 34-37, 44-47. New
also alleges that Defendants violated the Consolidated
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985
(“COBRA”) by providing insufficient notice of her
rights to continuing healthcare coverage as required by
COBRA. Id. ¶¶ 38-43. FHC and Dr. Howard
now move for summary judgment on all counts. See ECF
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when the Court, viewing the evidence
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, finds no
genuine disputed issue of material fact, entitling the movant
to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a); In re Family Dollar FLSA Litig., 637 F.3d
508, 512 (4th Cir. 2011). “A party opposing a properly
supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest
upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,'
but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat
v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522
(4th Cir. 2003) (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “A
mere scintilla of proof . . . will not suffice to prevent
summary judgment.” Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d
307, 314 (4th Cir. 2003).
“a court should not grant summary judgment
‘unless the entire record shows a right to judgment
with such clarity as to leave no room for controversy and
establishes affirmatively that the adverse party cannot
prevail under any circumstances.'” Campbell v.
Hewitt, Coleman & Assocs., Inc., 21 F.3d 52, 55 (4th
Cir. 1994) (quoting Phoenix Sav. & Loan, Inc. v.
Aetna Casualty & Sur. Co., 381 F.2d 245, 249 (4th
Cir. 1967)). Where the party bearing the burden of proving a
claim or defense “fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that ...