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Nurse failed to show she was terminated for filing comp claim

Posted On: Sep. 3, 2020 12:24 PM CST


A nurse who sustained a musculoskeletal injury while trying to hold down a combative patient failed to show that she was terminated for filing a workers compensation claim, a district court held Monday.

In Marshall v. University of Maryland Medical Center, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland found that the medical center offered her multiple positions, which she declined over a 14-month period before terminating her employment.

Sheila Marshall began working for the University of Maryland Medical Center in 2009 until her injury in July 2014. She returned to work in a light-duty capacity two months after her injury, working six hours a week, while she continued to undergo treatment. In November 2014, her position was eliminated, but she was transferred to another light-duty position in the hospital.

In November 2015, her physician determined that she had reached maximum medical improvement but could no longer work as a bedside nurse because of lifting and standing restrictions. In January 2016, a nurse utilization reviewer position became available. Ms. Marshall was offered the position at an hourly rate comparable to her former position and was told that if she submitted an application, the onboarding process of moving her to the job could begin. However, she failed to apply for the job.

Over the course of the next 14 months, she was offered and declined multiple positions with accommodations. In April 2017, she was terminated.

She filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that she was discriminated against for filing a workers compensation claim and on the basis of her disability and for workplace harassment.

The district court dismissed her complaint. Although Ms. Marshall argued that there was a causal connection to her testimony at a workers compensation hearing and her termination the same month, the court held that the evidence did not support a finding of causation since the hospital “engaged in strenuous efforts” to find her an alternative permanent position. 

The court held that she failed to show that the medical center discriminated against her on the basis of her disability, noting that she was repeatedly offered multiple jobs for which she was qualified, as well as physical accommodations including a specialized desk and chair. The court further found sufficient evidence that the hospital continued “steady, regular communication” with Ms. Marshall about her needs and that ultimately let her choose her own desk furniture.

The court also found no evidence that Ms. Marshall’s hostile work environment claims were anything more than “petty office dynamics,” which were not severe or pervasive enough to rise to the level of a hostile work claim.