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Broadwater v. State, Department of Human Services

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 23, 2014

Tara Broadwater, Plaintiff,
v.
State of Minnesota Department of Human Services, Defendant

Page 990

Gregg M. Corwin, Jordan Stockberger, Gregg M. Corwin & Associate Law Office, St. Louis Park, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

Kristyn M. Anderson, Alethea M. Huyser, Gary R. Cunningham, Minnesota Attorney General's Office, St. Paul, Minnesota, for Defendant.

OPINION

Page 991

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD H. KYLE, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

In this action, Plaintiff Tara Broadwater contends her former employer, Defendant State of Minnesota Department of Human Services (" DHS" ), discriminated against her based on her disability by denying her request to transfer to another facility and terminating her employment. DHS now moves for summary judgment; for the reasons set forth below, its Motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts, though largely undisputed, are recited in the light most favorable to Broadwater.

Broadwater is a board-certified psychiatrist. Beginning in 2007, she worked for DHS's State Operated Services Division, treating patients at the Minnesota Security Hospital (" MSH" ) in St. Peter, Minnesota. From 2007 until 2011, Broadwater worked at MSH without incident and received generally positive performance reviews.

On August 8, 2011, she was the victim of a severe domestic assault, suffering a

Page 992

concussion, occipital neuralgia,[1] and post-concussion syndrome. Her resulting symptoms included: severe headaches, insomnia, diminished concentration, loss of appetite, and difficulty with executive functions such as multitasking. Broadwater returned to work soon after the injury and continued to work full-time until December 22, 2011. At that point, she requested a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ) to recover from her injury. Her request was granted and her leave began December 23.

On December 19, 2011, prior to her FMLA request, one of Broadwater's patients complained that he wanted to stop his medications but had not been able to see his doctor (Broadwater). He complained that he " felt neglected" by Broadwater, prompting DHS to review the patient's file. It discovered an absence of psychiatric progress notes in the file, despite Broadwater having treated the patient numerous times. In response to this discovery, it opened an internal investigation into her medical documentation for all of her assigned patients.

On January 6, 2012, Dr. Alan Radke, the State Medical Director, called Broadwater at home to ask if she could work part-time doing forensic evaluations for MSH. She declined, telling him she was not a forensic psychiatrist. He asked her when she would be returning from FMLA leave and she responded that she did not yet know. Then, according to Broadwater, he referenced a disciplinary proceeding involving her and suggested she turn herself into the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice; she did not understand to what he was referring.

The preliminary audit of Broadwater's patients' records was completed on January 25, 2012, while she was on leave. It revealed that she had fallen far behind on her charting during 2011. MSH's policy required her to dictate progress notes within three days of seeing a patient, but she had neglected to dictate 105 progress notes between April and December 2011. (Ochsendorf Aff. Ex. A.) She tried to catch up in December, dictating all 105 notes over the course of eight days. But they remained temporary notes, as she never finalized them or placed them in patient files. (Id.) She offered to finalize them while on leave, but DHS did not allow her to do so. The audit also revealed that she had not completed the required quarterly progress notes for 17 of her 27 patients. The results of this audit were provided to DHS's Division of Licensing,[2] which determined that Broadwater had violated its Psychiatric Assessment policy and Minnesota Statutes § 245A.04, subd. 14 (relating to the licensing of DHS facilities) and issued MSH a citation. (See Broadwater Dep. Ex. 24.) The remainder of the investigation was stayed while Broadwater was on leave.

By July 2012, Broadwater's doctor cleared her to return to work part-time. She did not wish to return to her position at MSH and began looking for employment at other DHS-administered psychiatric facilities. Dr. Peter Miller, who knew of the ongoing ...


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