The opinion of the court was delivered by: VANASKIE
The plaintiff, Richard M. Horth (Horth), brought this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12201 et seq., claiming that the defendant, General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. (General Dynamics), discriminated against him in refusing his request for early retirement benefits. Both parties have moved for summary judgment. (Dkt. Entries 21 & 23.) Because Horth has failed to present evidence sufficient to establish his prima facie case or to raise an inference that he was denied early retirement benefit as a result of his alleged disability, General Dynamics' summary judgment motion will be granted.
Horth was employed by General Dynamics from January 1978 through August 1991. (Plf's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 24) P 3; Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 3.) In January 1990, Horth injured his shoulder and lower back when he fell from a cafeteria chair at work. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 16; Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 16.) As a result of this injury, Horth was absent from work for a short time and received workers' compensation. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 16; Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 16.) On or about April 23, 1990, Horth returned to work on a "light duty" status and his workers' compensation benefits were suspended. (Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 16.) On July 9, 1990, while working at General Dynamics, Horth injured his elbow. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 17; Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 17.) On August 13, 1991, while working on "light duty" status, Horth injured both of his knees. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 18; Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 18.)
On or about September 26, 1991, Horth petitioned the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers Compensation to reinstate workers' compensation benefits payable as a consequence of his January 1990 work-related injury. On or about September 30, 1991, Horth petitioned the Bureau of Workers Compensation for an award of benefits based upon the alleged work-related injuries sustained in July and August of 1991. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 19; Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 19.)
In a decision filed on December 11, 1991, the Workers' Compensation referee assigned to this matter granted Horth's petition for reinstatement of benefits payable as a consequence of his January, 1990 work-related accident. As a result, Horth was awarded workers' compensation benefits of $ 384.28 per week, retroactive to August 31, 1991.
(Plf's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 24) P 7.) In affirming the award, the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board found that Horth's case was governed by precedent which held that where, as here, benefits were suspended while an injured claimant occupies a light duty job and that job is subsequently eliminated, workers' compensation benefits are to be reinstated until a petition to either terminate or modify the award is granted. See Scobbie v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Bd., 118 Pa. Commw. 424, 545 A.2d 465 (1988), app. denied, 522 Pa. 606, 562 A.2d 828 (1989); Zimcosky v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Bd., 118 Pa. Commw. 209, 544 A.2d 1106 (1988).
Horth's petition for workers' compensation based on his alleged July and August, 1991 work-related injuries proceeded to an evidentiary hearing. Based on the testimony of various physicians, the workers' compensation judge found that Horth was "capable of performing appropriate sedentary or light duty work, but was placed on indefinite lay off as of September 1, 1991 while continuing to suffer from the work injury. . . ." (Plf's S.J. Mot. (Dkt. Entry 23) Exhibit C, P 14(d).) Horth was awarded a weekly compensation benefit of $ 436 for "temporary total disability," retroactive to September 1, 1991.
Thus, Horth has been paid workers' compensation benefits of $ 436 since he was laid off by General Dynamics. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 32; Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 32.)
In early March of 1993, General Dynamics and Horth's Union, the United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), announced the establishment of a Special Early Retirement Plan (Plan). (Plf's Dep. (Dkt. Entry 20) Exhibit 5.) The Plan, which was formally executed on March 30, 1993, made available special pension benefits to "all employees currently on indefinite layoff and those indefinitely laid off through the expiration of the current Agreements (June 18, 1994) who were at least age 50 with 10 years credited service at time of layoff." (Id., Exhibit 5.) The Plan further provided that "[a] laid off worker (indefinite layoff or closed plant) will become eligible for and may apply for a Special Early Retirement after having been on an indefinite layoff for sixty (60) days." (Id.) The purpose of the Plan was to provide assistance to those employees affected by General Dynamics' downsizing. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 37.) The Plan was not intended to provide additional benefits to employees who were already receiving a supplemental income from another source. (Id. P 38.)
Horth submitted an application for early retirement benefits under the Plan on March 12, 1993. (Plf's Dep. (Dkt. Entry 20) Exhibit 7.) At the time that Horth applied for early retirement, he had over ten years of service and was over 50 years old. (Plf's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 24) P 11-12.) Further, Horth had been out of work for more than sixty days. (Id. P 13.) Despite his apparent qualifications, Horth was denied early retirement benefits.
General Dynamics informed Horth that he was not entitled to early retirement benefits because he was not on "layoff" status; instead, he was on "workers' compensation" status. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 43; Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 43.) In a letter dated November 12, 1993, George Guman, the UAW benefits representative, told Horth that according to the UAW's understanding of the Plan, Horth did not qualify for early retirement benefits because he was collecting workers' compensation benefits. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 44; Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 44.) Consistent with this understanding, the UAW decided not to file a grievance on Horth's behalf concerning the denial of early retirement benefits. (Def's Stat. of Facts (Dkt. Entry 22) P 53; Plf's Answer (Dkt. Entry 27) P 53.)
Following exhaustion of administrative remedies, Horth filed the instant action claiming that General Dynamics had violated the ADA by refusing to grant him early retirement benefits under the Plan. The ADA claim is the only cause of action asserted by Horth.
Both Horth and General Dynamics have moved for summary judgment. Briefing was completed on May 31, 1996, and this matter is ripe for disposition.
Summary judgment should be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or non-existence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). "Facts that could alter the outcome are material facts." Charlton v. Paramus Bd. of Educ., 25 F.3d 194, 197 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1022, 130 L. Ed. 2d 503, 115 S. Ct. 590 (1994).
"Summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is 'genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. There is no issue for trial unless sufficient evidence favors the nonmoving party so that a jury could return a verdict for that party. Id. at 249. Rule 56 requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986).
Initially, the moving party must show the absence of a genuine issue concerning any material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 329. All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988); Continental Ins. Co. v. Bodie, 682 F.2d 436 (3d Cir. 1982). Once the moving party has satisfied its burden, the nonmoving party "must present affirmative evidence to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. The affirmative evidence must consist of verified or documented materials. Mere conclusory allegations or denials taken from the pleadings ...