PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A federal judge struck down a counterclaim filed by a Pennsylvania nursing home against a former employee it said illegally wiretapped a grievance meeting following her termination.
The legal battle began in October 2011 when Aqila Thomas sued Bala Nursing Home and Retirement Center, claiming it had retaliated against her and ultimately fired her for having a disability.
Since Thomas, a licensed practical nurse, was a member of the National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Workers, she could challenge her termination in a grievance meeting with the nursing home.
A deposition in February, 2012 revealed that Thomas had tape recorded the meeting without the knowledge or consent of its participants.
Five months after Thomas had filed her original suit against Bala, it filed a counterclaim for violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act.
Thomas moved to strike Bala’s counterclaim, insisting it had not arisen from her wrongful termination suit. She also argued that Bala had not obtained consent from her or the court to file its counterclaim in the first place.
“The core facts and legal issues associated with the establishment of the Wiretap Act claim do not bear any similarity to the factual and legal issues involved in Plaintiff’s employment discrimination claim. While it may be true, as Bala asserts, that the subject matter of the tape-recorded grievance meeting concerned alleged discrimination and retaliation on the part of Bala, the content of the material recorded is not essential to a claim under the Wiretap Act,” Judge David Strawbridge wrote in his opinion.
“There simply is not adequate similarity between the factual issues in the case to establish a ‘common nucleus of operative facts’ and, more significantly, it is clear that the legal issues between the original claim and the counterclaim are distinct,” Strawbridge added.
The court granted Thomas’ motion to strike the nursing home’s counterclaim.