Discrimination not a factor in woman not getting prison nurse job, court rules

By Sandra Lane | Apr 23, 2018

HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania appeals court recently affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant separate motions for summary judgment filed by a health care provider and the City of Philadelphia, which had been accused of denying a woman employment because of her race and criminal background.

Judges Hannah Leavitt, Dan Pellegrini and Michael H. Wojcik heard the case, and Pellegrini wrote the decision, filed on March 28 in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

The appeal stems from a lawsuit filed by Sonya Edmonds, who claimed that she had been denied employment as a nurse at a Philadelphia correctional institution that was serviced by Corizon Health Inc. because of her race and criminal background.

“Edmonds has entirely failed to provide any statistical evidence demonstrating a significantly discriminatory hiring pattern by Corizon and/or the city,” Pellegrini wrote in the decision. “In fact, all evidence proffered in Corizon’s and the city’s motions for summary judgment points to the contrary.”

Corizon Health Inc., which provides health care services for the Philadelphia Prison System, offered Edmonds a job as a nurse contingent upon passing a background check and obtaining a security clearance from the city, according to the appeals court’s decision. The security clearance was denied.

Although Edmonds had been arrested as a juvenile, the charges were eventually dismissed and her record was expunged, according to the appellate court’s decision. However, that did not prevent her from previously working for Corizon Health Inc. from 1998 to 2004.

Edmonds filed suit against Corizon Health Inc. and the City of Philadelphia, claiming that discrimination had been a factor in her failure to obtain a security clearance. Corizon Health Inc., however, argued that "Edmonds offered no evidence that its employment practices had a "disparate impact on African-American employees."

Corizon Health Inc. further argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because Edmonds had presented no evidence that it possessed her criminal record or withdrew an offer of employment based on that information.

The city also filed a motion for summary judgment because it was not Edmonds’ employer and did not participate in “Corizon’s alleged discriminatory intent.”

The trial court granted both motions and dismissed Edmonds’ complaint because she did not respond to either motion, according to the appellate court’s decision. The court’s ruling said that “summary judgment may be entered against a party who does not respond.”

Edmonds appealed the decision, claiming that the trial court wrongly granted a default judgment against her for failing to file a timely response to Corizon’s and the city’s motions for summary judgment. Edmonds also claimed that “there are outstanding unresolved issues of material fact.”

However, the appeals court did not accept her argument.

“The offered evidence and uncontested factual averments by Corizon repeatedly demonstrate that Corizon did not complete a criminal background check on Ms. Edmonds and never received any criminal record history related to Ms. Edmonds from any entity,” Pellegrini wrote in the decision. 

“Obviously, because Corizon did not consider Edmonds’ criminal history record when rescinding its offer to employ her, it could not have violated the Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA).”

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Organizations in this Story

City of Philadelphia Corizon Health Inc. Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court

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