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ELLIS v. NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION

February 11, 2004.

DEREK E. ELLIS, Plaintiff
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION and BROTHERHOOD OF RAILROAD SIGNALMEN, LOCAL 18, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RONALD BUCKWALTER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation's ("Amtrak") Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Local 18's ("Union") Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff Derek E. Ellis' ("Plaintiff) Oppositions thereto and Amtrak's Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition. For the reasons set forth below, Amtrak's motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Union's motion is granted.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

  The following is a recitation of the undisputed facts. On or around July 11, 1994 Amtrak hired Plaintiff — an African American — as a Helper. During subsequent times in his Page 2 employment with Amtrak, Plaintiff held the positions of Signalman Trainee and Signalman. Except for the first sixty days of his employment, Plaintiff was at all times a member of a collective bargaining unit that was covered by a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between Amtrak and the Union.

  On or around January 15, 2001, Amtrak eliminated approximately twenty Signalman positions when it abolished several work gangs located in the Pennsylvania Coach Yard. Plaintiff was one of the Signalmen who lost his position. Pursuant to the CBA, Signalmen who lost their positions were permitted to bid for vacant positions within their seniority district, bump less senior employees by exercising their displacement rights or transfer to another seniority district. Any employee who failed to obtain a vacant position, bump a less senior employee or transfer to a different district was furloughed. Faced with these options, Plaintiff bumped into other positions, but each time he bumped into a position, he was ultimately bumped out of the position by a more senior employee. Eventually, Plaintiff ran out of bumps, and with no vacant positions available, Plaintiff decided to accept furlough instead of transferring into another seniority district. Plaintiff was furloughed on or around January 22, 2001.

  While he remained on furlough, two Caucasian employees with less seniority — George Dorman and Michael Moore — obtained positions within Plaintiff's seniority district. Both Dorman and Moore had had their jobs abolished, along with Plaintiff's job, in January, 2001. Dorman received a position in or around April, 2001, and Moore received a position in or around September, 2001. In or around January, 2002, Amtrak recalled Plaintiff from furlough.

  On or around October 24, 2002, Plaintiff filed the instant action alleging that Amtrak intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff by awarding positions to less senior white Page 3 employees before awarding him a position, and that Amtrak's actions violated the CBA. Specifically, Plaintiff has alleged the following three causes of action: 1) violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; 2) violation of Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and 3) Violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa.C.S.A. § 951 et seq.

 II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

  A motion for summary judgment will be granted where all of the evidence demonstrates "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Since a grant of summary judgment will deny a party its chance in court, all inferences must be drawn in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. U.S. v. Diebold. Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

  The ultimate question in determining whether a motion for summary judgment should be granted is "whether reasonable minds may differ as to the verdict." Schoonejongen v. Curtiss-Wright Corp., 143 F.3d 120, 129 (3d Cir. 1998). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

 III. DISCUSSION

  A. The Position Awarded to George Dorman

  In or around October, 2000, Dorman — a white Signalman with less seniority than Plaintiff — went out of work on a medical leave of absence. As explained above, in January, 2001 Page 4 Amtrak abolished approximately twenty Signalman positions, including Dorman's position. Dorman was still on medical leave at the time Amtrak abolished his position.

  On or around January 26, 2001, James Ficarra — a senior Signalman who had retained a position after Amtrak abolished twenty Signalman positions — suffered an injury on the job and was unable to work. Ficarra was out of work for several weeks when it was determined that he would need surgery. In or around late March, 2001 or early April, 2001, Amtrak officially labeled Ficarra's position as "permanently vacant."

  In March 2001 — prior to the time that Amtrak labeled Ficarra's position as permanently vacant — Dorman contacted Amtrak and notified Amtrak that he was ready to return from his medical leave. After passing a physical and a drug test, Dorman returned to work on or around April 8, 2001. Dorman filled Ficarra's position, which ultimately was not advertised as vacant until April 17, 2001 — approximately nine days after Dorman had already filled the position.

  Plaintiff has alleged that Amtrak engaged in racial discrimination by awarding Ficarra's position to Dorman — a less senior white employee — instead of properly advertising the position. Because Plaintiff was the most senior furloughed employee, he claims that he should have received the position. Plaintiff also alleges that Amtrak deliberately left Ficarra's position vacant — and did not advertise the position for approximately two and one half months — in order for the vacancy to coincide with Dorman's return from medical leave in April, 2001. (Def.'s Br. at 9-10, 20, 32.) Page 5

  1. Railway Labor Act Preemption

  Amtrak argues that Plaintiff's claims are preempted by the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. ("RLA"). Amtrak states that the CBA governed all of its actions in awarding Ficarra's position to Dorman, and that Plaintiff's claim is premised on an interpretation of the CBA, and thus, inextricably intertwined with the CBA.*fn2 Accordingly, Amtrak argues that Plaintiff should have filed a grievance and "sought a determination by the National Railway Adjustment Board ...


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