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Collier v. United States Steel Corp.

September 14, 2006

TINA MARIE COLLIER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McVerry, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is the MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, with brief in support, filed by Defendant United States Steel Corporation (Document Nos. 15 and 16), the BRIEF IN OPPOSITION TO MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT filed by Plaintiff, Tina Marie Collier (Document No. 22), and the REPLY BRIEF filed by Defendant (Document No. 23).

The issues have been fully briefed and the matter is ripe for disposition. After a careful consideration of the motion, the filings in support and opposition thereto, the memoranda of the parties, the relevant case law, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that there is not sufficient record evidence upon which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for Plaintiff, Tina Marie Collier, on her claims of disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Therefore, the Court will grant the Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Tina Marie Collier, ("Plaintiff") brought this lawsuit on September 16, 2004, by the filing of a Complaint against United States Steel Corporation ("Defendant" or "U.S. Steel") in which she alleges that her former employer, U.S. Steel, wrongfully terminated her employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").

Defendant has filed the instant motion for summary judgment in which it contends that Plaintiff is unable to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA. In the alternative, Defendant contends that assuming arguendo that Plaintiff could state a prima facie case under the ADA, summary judgment should still be granted in its favor because there is no evidence that Defendant's articulated legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for Plaintiff's discharge (i.e., work restrictions) was false and/or that Plaintiff's "disability" was the real reason for her termination.

BACKGROUND

As the law requires, all disputed facts and inferences are resolved most favorable to the Plaintiff.

Plaintiff was employed by U.S. Steel at its Research and Technology Center ("Tech Center") in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, from 1996 until her employment was terminated on November 5, 2003. Plaintiff began her employment in the mechanical testing laboratory on September 23, 1996, as an Associate Technician, which position required heavy lifting.

Plaintiff was promoted to an Assistant Technician on April 1, 1998, which position required the same heavy lifting duties as those of an Associate Technician.

Effective March 1, 2000, Plaintiff was promoted to Senior Technician, and remained in that position until the last day she worked. The Senior Technician position required Plaintiff to stand at a computer either pushing buttons or entering data and also required doing repetitive movements, crouching, and stooping. Plaintiff's primary responsibility was to perform various tests on steel samples, including tests for hardness, tensile strength, and impact strength. Repetitive bending, repetitive movement, stooping and lifting up to 50 pounds were essential functions of the Senior Technician position.

Plaintiff's last day of work at U.S. Steel was November 5, 2001. On, or just prior to that day, she began to experience pain in her back for which she sought medical treatment. Initially, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a kidney infection, but later was diagnosed with a degenerative lower back condition which resulted from osteoarthritis of the lower spine and dehydration of several discs.

On or about March 14, 2002, Karen Kuhns, M.D., the U.S. Steel's company physician, examined Plaintiff to assess her fitness to return to work. Dr. Kuhns released Plaintiff to return to work with restrictions, which included no lifting greater than 20 pounds, no repetitive movements involving her lower back, no bending, no stooping, or crawling, Also in March, 2002, Plaintiff's personal physician, Joseph Mollura, M.D., examined the Plaintiff and released her to return to work with restrictions similar to those prescribed by Dr. Kuhns, i.e., no lifting greater than 35 pounds, no repetitive movements, no stooping, crawling, or repetitive bending.

Based upon all the physician-imposed restrictions, U.S. Steel decided that Plaintiff could not return to her position as Senior Technician. However, the human resources manager at the Tech Center encouraged her to check job postings for other jobs at U.S. Steel that fit her qualifications, which by her own admission she checked weekly until her employment terminated on November 5, 2003.

Plaintiff received Supplemental Disability Benefits until May 31, 2003, under a benefits program for non-union employees of U.S. Steel. In June or July 2003, Plaintiff accepted a position as an insurance agent for Combined Insurance, where she was employed for approximately two (2) months.

In September 2003, Plaintiff began employment as a Maintenance Service Technician with Reliant Energy, where she continues to be employed. This position requires occasional climbing, frequent bending, ...


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