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Azuh v. Providence-Providence Park Hospital

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 10, 2018

CHINYE AZUH, Plaintiff,
v.
PROVIDENCE-PROVIDENCE PARK HOSPITAL, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [16]

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Chinye Azuh was a resident physician at Providence Park Hospital. She believes that Providence discriminated against her because of her race and because she was pregnant during her residency. Azuh also maintains that this discrimination led her to quit the program. She thus sued Providence alleging multiple claims of discrimination and retaliation under state and federal law. Providence moves to dismiss the case on the grounds that Azuh did not file suit within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory activity as she agreed she would in her employment application.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Providence's motion to dismiss.

         I.

         The following non-conclusory allegations are accepted as true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 679 (2009).

         Azuh is an African-American woman who graduated from medical school in December 2013. (R. 1, PID 2.) At the end of March 2014, Providence accepted Azuh into its residency program at the hospital's Southfield campus. (Id.) A few days later, Azuh informed Providence that she was pregnant. (Id.)

         In June 2014, soon after Azuh began her residency program, Dr. Karen Mitchell, the Program Director of Providence's Family Medicine Residency, called Azuh into a meeting. (R. 1, PID 3.) In this meeting, Mitchell instructed Azuh, over Azuh's objection, to take three months of maternity leave, which would delay her graduation from the residency. (Id.) Mitchell also expressed concerns about Azuh's ability to cope with the residency after having her child. (R. 1, PID 3-4.) Around that same time, another resident informed Azuh that individuals had been talking about her and voiced similar concerns about her ability to cope after returning from leave. (R. 1, PID 4.) Azuh was warned by this resident: “You had better do what you need to do so your child issues do not affect your work here.” (Id.) Azuh completed her first two rotations. (Id.) Then, at the end of July 2014, she took about a month's maternity leave. (Id.)

         Upon her return in August 2014, Azuh felt overly-scrutinized in her work and experienced an increasingly hostile work environment. (R. 1, PID 5.) She was bullied and residents and physicians refused to speak to her. (R. 1, PID 5.) Mitchell even started a rumor that Azuh was having difficulty coping with residency after childbirth. (Id.) And Azuh's advisor, Dr. Martha Rumschlag, began asking her personal questions, including about her children and husband, her sleeping and eating habits, and her childcare routines. (Id.) Rumschlag further suggested that Azuh start therapy. (Id.) Still, Azuh completed two more rotations in her residency.

         In the winter of 2014, Rumschlag met with Azuh and informed her that she should leave the program before she got fired. (R 1, PID 7.) She also told Azuh that she would be required to undergo neuropsychological testing. (Id.)

         Shortly after the meeting, Azuh met with Mitchell and relayed that Rumschlag wanted her to leave the program, that she was being treated differently than other residents, and that she wanted a different advisor. (R. 1, PID 7-8.) Azuh further told Mitchell that she was being harassed by attending physicians, senior residents, and supervisors. (R. 1, PID 8.) Mitchell warned Azuh that Rumschlag was the Chair of the Clinical Competency Committee and that the psychological testing was mandatory. (Id.)

         After her meeting with Mitchell, Azuh was restricted in the number of patients she could see. (Id.) This made it difficult for her to reach program goals. (Id.) Azuh also continued to be mistreated to the point that she “would feel compelled to resign.” (R. 1, PID 9.) So Azuh began to apply for alternative residency programs, but her efforts were frustrated by Mitchell's refusal to provide her a letter of recommendation. (R. 1, PID 10-11.) The other programs also stopped contacting Azuh after they spoke with Mitchell. (Id.)

         In February, 2015, Azuh met with Mitchell and Dr. Thomas Anan, her family medicine supervisor, to discuss her performance in her current rotation. (R. 1, PID 11.) Anan provided a good evaluation. (Id.) At that same meeting, Azuh was informed that, despite having scored well above average on her board exams, her contract would not be renewed and that she would still be required to undergo neuropsychological testing “for academic purposes.” (R. 1, PID 11-12.)

         In April 2015, Azuh signed her second-year residency agreement. (R. 1, PID 12-13.) She was informed, however, that her second year would be delayed by three months because of her maternity leave. (R. 1, PID 13.) Azuh continued to undergo the required psychological testing. (R. 1, PID 13-15.) She also found herself to be the only resident instructed to manage patients overnight, the only resident not allowed to present her cases to the next team after her shift, and the only resident forbidden from attending the second-year retreat with her colleagues. (R. 1, PID 14-15.)

         In September 2015, Azuh informed Mitchell that she felt compelled to leave the residency program because of discrimination, harassment, and poor treatment. (R. 1, PID 16.) Mitchell informed her that fewer credits than she earned would transfer to a new program. (R. 1, PID 16- ...


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