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Rodriguez v. Reston Hospital Center, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

February 28, 2017

ISRAEL RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
RESTON HOSPITAL CENTER, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES C. CACHERIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Reston Hospital Center, LLC's (“RHC”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. [Dkt. 16.] For the following reasons, the Court will deny RHC's motion to dismiss.

         I. Background

         Israel Rodriguez (“Plaintiff” or “Rodriguez”) brings this suit against RHC for alleged violations of the False Claims Act (“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3730 et. seq., and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et. seq. The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and, for the purposes of this motion, are presumed true.

         Rodriguez began his employment at RHC in 1995 as an x-ray technologist. Am. Compl. ¶ 6. In 2003, RHC promoted Rodriguez to Hospital Operations Imaging Manager, a position he held for more than ten years. Id. ¶¶ 7, 59. Rodriguez directly supervised over 100 staff employees in this position and earned $97, 000 per year. Id. ¶ 9.

         As part of its accreditation, RHC is required to complete yearly competency assessments for all of its employees. Am. Compl. ¶ 11. The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (“JCAHO”) conducts inspects every three years to ensure RHC's compliance. Id. ¶ 15. In fact, RHC risks losing its accreditation if yearly competencies are not completed. Id. ¶ 16. During monthly management meetings in 2013, Rodriguez learned that his direct supervisor and the Assistant Director of Radiology, Donald Bauer (“Bauer”), had not yet completed his competencies for the year. Id. ¶¶ 18-22. In early 2014, Debbie Simmons, the Director of Radiology and Rodriguez's second-in-line supervisor, confirmed that Bauer had not done so. Id. ¶ 24. Then, in February 2014, Bauer approached Plaintiff, stated that he had not yet completed his 2013 competencies, and asked Rodriguez to backdate several of the competencies to 2013. Id. ¶ 26. Rodriguez refused. Id. ¶ 27. After learning that several other employees were also asked to backdate competencies, Rodriguez approached them and told them that he refused to sign the backdated assessments and advised them to do the same. Id. ¶ 42.

         In March 2014, RHC posted an opening for a staff technologist in Rodriguez's department. Am. Compl. ¶ 43. Rodriguez's wife, Sheila, also worked at RHC, and she informed a former colleague, Belinda Hooven-Fossie (“Hooven-Fossie”), of the opening. Id. ¶ 44. Hooven-Fossie applied and did well during the interview, but Rodriguez removed her from consideration about discovering that another hospital had previously terminated her.[1] Id. ¶ 46. Once a representative from Human Resources determined that Hooven-Fossie was, in fact, still hirable under RHC policy, Rodriguez prepared a hire sheet for her and brought it to Simmons for approval. Id. ¶¶ 48-49. Before a hiring decision was made, however, another technologist, Nicole Pestell (“Pestell”), asked Rodriguez about the open position. Id. ¶ 53. He told her that it required weekend hours. Id. ¶ 54. Pestell was eventually hired. Id. ¶ 55. When the hiring process concluded, Simmons initiated an investigation into Rodriguez's conduct regarding the open position, alleging that Rodriguez discouraged Pestell from applying in order to get a referral bonus for Hooven-Fossie. Id. ¶¶ 56-57.

         The following month, on April 15, 2014, Simmons demoted Rodriguez to Computed Tomography (“CT”) Technologist, decreasing his salary by $10, 000 per year. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 59-60. RHC's stated reason for the demotion was Rodriguez's attempt to use his authority to hire an employee he had referred for an open position so that he could earn a referral bonus. Id. ¶¶ 50, 61. Additionally, RHC based its demotion decision on Rodriguez's alleged improper reporting of an incident of workplace violence earlier in 2014.[2] Id. ¶ 46.

         Following his demotion, Rodriguez was required to register as a CT Technologist, which required completing 125 CT exams that were then signed off by another technologist, supervisor, or radiologist. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 78, 80. However, Plaintiff alleges that Simmons imposed more stringent requirements, allowing only a radiologist to sign off on his exams. Id. ¶ 81. He began his new position on April 21, 2014. Id. ¶ 82. Plaintiff alleges that he was provided with only six weeks of training, rather than eight weeks, and placed on the midnight shift, which limited his ability to interact with patients to complete the exams required for his credentials. Id. ¶¶ 83-85. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that he provided completed CT exams to Simmons to review in late August 2014, but she never reviewed or returned the exams. Id. ¶¶ 86, 88-94.

         On September 17, 2014, Rodriguez emailed Simmons to notify her of some ongoing shoulder issues. Am. Compl. ¶ 95. He informed Simmons that he would undergo shoulder surgery on October 2, 2014, and needed to take several months of FMLA leave to recover. Id. ¶ 96. Following his surgery and recovery, Rodriguez received approval to return to work from his doctor on February 24, 2015. Id. ¶ 102. However, Simmons required Rodriguez to complete a “return to work” plan prior to coming back to RHC, which “shocked” Rodriguez as it was “not typical at RHC.” Id. ¶¶ 103-04. Nevertheless, Rodriguez returned to work on February 25, 2015-one day later-after completing the required plan. Id. ¶ 107.

         In late March 2015, Rodriguez turned in additional CT exams for his application to re-register as a CT technologist. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 108-09. He continued to ask Simmons to return the exams he had submitted to her in August 2014 so that he could use them to meet his credentialing requirements. Id. ¶ 112. Simmons never did so. Id. ¶ 113.

         RHC terminated Rodriguez on April 25, 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 110. RHC's reason for his termination was that Rodriguez had not obtained proper credentials for the CT position. Id. ¶ 111.

         Plaintiff initiated the instant case on June 6, 2016. [Dkt. 1.] The Amended Complaint alleges: (1) wrongful discharge involving retaliation under the FMLA; (2) interference under the FMLA; and (3) retaliatory discharge under the FCA. [Id.] On November 4, 2016, Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss. [Dkt. 16.] Plaintiff filed his opposition on November 15, 2016, to which Defendant replied on November 21, 2016. [Dkts. 19, 21.] Oral argument was held on February 22, 2017. This motion is now ripe for disposition.

         II. ...


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