A doctor who owned her own practice, billed her patients directly, and filed taxes as a self-employed physician was not an employee of the hospital she had privileges at, and therefore was not entitled to sue the hospital for discrimination after it revoked her practice privileges.
For almost 13 years, Dr. Yelena Levitin performed surgeries at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Levitin is a female, Jewish surgeon of Russian descent. She owns and operates Chicago Surgical Clinic, Ltd., a private medical practice. From 2000 until 2013, most of her revenue came from the work she performed at Northwest.
In 2008, Levitin complained to Northwest that Dr. Daniel Conway, another surgeon, was harassing her. Levitin alleged that Conway repeatedly criticized her medical decisions, undermined her in front of her patients, and interrupted one of her surgeries. Northwest reprimanded Conway, and the harassment stopped in January 2009. After that, at least four doctors filed complaints concerning Levitin’s professional judgment. Another refused to work with Levitin entirely. The head of pathology complained that Levitin habitually requested inappropriate tests from his department. In response to the complaints, Dr. William Soper, then the chair of Northwest’s surgery department, informed Levitin that he would begin proactively reviewing the surgeries she scheduled for potential issues.
Soper also reviewed Levitin’s prior surgeries. He referred 31 cases to the Medical Executive Committee, which oversees physician credentialing at Northwest. The committee found that Levitin deviated from the appropriate standard of care in four of the cases. The committee initially determined that Levitin should receive quarterly reviews, but it reconvened after Levitin operated on a patient without proper sedation. At this meeting, the committee decided to revoke Levitin’s practice privileges. Levitin appealed the committee’s decision but was unsuccessful in getting her privileges reinstated.
Seven months later, Levitin sued Northwest and several of the doctors who complained about her. The complaint contained counts for antitrust violations, state-law claims, and a claim for employment discrimination based on sex, religion, and ethnicity in violation of Title VII. The district judge dismissed the antitrust claims early but allowed the remaining claims to proceed. At summary judgment, the judge determined that Levitin was not a Northwest employee, which resolved the Title VII claim. The district court then relinquished jurisdiction over the state-law claims and entered final judgment. Levitin then appealed.
On appeal, Levitin challenged only the district court’s decision regarding the scope of Title VII. The appellate panel began by citing Vakharia v. Swedish Covenant Hospital, stating that the 7th Circuit had repeatedly held that a physician with hospital privileges is not the hospital’s employee merely because they are subject to peer review. However, the panel noted that the court had also previously held that under certain factual situations, a physician who enjoys hospital privileges could be said to have an indirect employer-employee relationship with the hospital sufficient to invoke Title VII protection.
The panel then stated, however, that Levitin’s case was materially distinguishable from those precedents. The panel noted that Levitin owned her own practice, billed her patients directly, and filed taxes as a self-employed physician. The panel stated that Levitin could set her own hours, subject only to operating-room availability; she could obtain privileges at other hospitals and redirect her patients to those locations, and she could use her own staff in surgeries. The panel determined that because of these factors, Levitin was not an employee of Northwest, and it, therefore, affirmed the decision of the district court.
You can view the full decision here.
If you are an employer seeking to defend and employment discrimination claim or an employee who is a victim of employment discrimination, call one of our employment attorneys near Chicago. Our Naperville employment law, wage and hour, and non-compete agreement attorneys have more than three decades of experience representing individuals and businesses of all sizes, including small or closely held businesses for whom competition from an ex-employee can be a serious threat. Lubin Austermuehle a firm of Chicago employment and business dispute lawyers have defended high-level executives and represented classes of hourly workers in wage violation cases. A case in which our firm defended a former Motorola executive was covered in Crain’s Chicago business. You can view that article by clicking here.
Our Chicago employment litigation lawyers with offices near Evanston, Oakbrook Terrace and Naperville have substantial experience in restrictive covenant and breach of contract cases, and we are proud of our record of strong results. Our Chicago non-compete agreement attorneys represent both plaintiffs and defendants in such cases, and can also help stop litigation before it starts by reviewing contracts to look for covenants and clauses that could create problems later. Based in Elgin and downtown Chicago, our Schaumburg and Highland Park non-compete clause lawyers take cases from Deerfield and Northbrook and many other cities throughout Illinois, as well as in Indiana, Wisconsin, and the entire United States. To learn more or set up a free consultation, please contact one of our Chicago employment dispute lawyers online or call toll-free at (833) 306-4933 today.