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Weiler v. R & T Mechanical

October 25, 2006

ARTHUR WEILER, JR., PLAINTIFF
v.
R & T MECHANICAL, INC., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Muir

(Complaint filed 11/22/05)

ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS

On November 22, 2005, Plaintiff Arthur Weiler, Jr., initiated this action by filing a one-count complaint. At all relevant times Weiler had been employed by Defendant R & T Mechanical, Inc. In his complaint Weiler alleges that his employment with R & T Mechanical, Inc., was terminated as a result of his opposition to sexual harassment in the work place and his assistance to a female co-worker in pursuing her complaint of sexual harassment. Therefore, his termination was in violation of both the Federal Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. (Complaint, p. 4, ¶29)

On September 8, 2006, R & T Mechanical, Inc., filed a motion for summary judgment. A supporting brief, statement of undisputed material facts, and exhibits were filed with the motion. Weiler filed his opposing brief, counter-statement of facts, and exhibits on September 26, 2006. Although the brief was filed one day late, we will accept it as having been timely filed. R & T Mechanical, Inc., filed its reply brief on October 11, 2006, thereby ripening its summary judgment motion for disposition.

Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact which is unresolved and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56©. Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the material facts or the proper inferences which a fact-finder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). "When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided in ...[Rule 56], an adverse party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading...." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

Initially, the moving party has a burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This may be met by the moving party pointing out to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325.

Rule 56 provides that, where such a motion is made and properly supported, the adverse party must show by affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The United States Supreme Court has commented that this requirement is tantamount to the non-moving party making a sufficient showing as to the essential elements of its case that a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

Because summary judgment is a severe remedy, the Court should resolve any doubt about the existence of genuine issues of fact against the moving party. Ness v. Marshall, 660 F.2d 517, 519 (3d Cir. 1981).

The United States Supreme Court has stated that in motions for summary judgment a material fact is one which might affect the outcome of the suit under relevant substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). The Supreme Court also stated in Anderson that a dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Id. at 248. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corporation, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has commented that "this standard is applied with 'added rigor in employment discrimination cases, where intent and credibility are crucial issues.'" Hankins v. City of Philadelphia, 189 F.3d 353, 363 (3d Cir. 1999)(quoting Robinson v. v. PPG Indus., Inc., 23 F.3d 1159, 1162 (7th Cir. 1994)). We are also mindful of the comment of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that

[a] play cannot be understood on the basis of some of its scenes but only on its entire performance, and similarly, a discrimination analysis must concentrate not on individual incidents, but on the overall scenario.

Abramson v. William Patterson College of New Jersey, No. 00-5026, 2001 WL 881255, *9 (3d Cir. August 3, 2001)(quoting Andrews v. City of Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1484 (3d Cir. 1990). We will apply those principles to the pending summary judgment motion.

In considering the motion's merits, we rely upon the following undisputed facts to decide whether any reasonable finder of fact, based upon the evidence of record, could find in favor of Weiler on his retaliation claim.

R & T Mechanical, Inc., was formed and began operations in 1987. The corporation is an industrial contractor which specializes in pipe-fitting, millwright work, rigging, metal fabrication, crane rentals, and industrial concrete. Timothy Baughman is the owner and president of R & T Mechanical, Inc.

In 1988 or 1989, R & T Mechanical, Inc., hired Robert Savidge as an Installation Foreman. Savidge and Baughman were personal friends. Savidge eventually became general manager of R & T Mechanical, Inc.'s, north division which was headquartered in Tioga Junction, Pennsylvania. Savidge's duties included the hiring and firing of R & T Mechanical, Inc.'s, north division employees. Savidge's only supervisor at R & T Mechanical, Inc., was Baughman.

On February 5, 1997, Savidge hired Weiler as an employee at R & T Mechanical, Inc.'s, north division. In 2001 Weiler became a General Supervisor at the corporation's office in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. Savidge was Weiler's immediate supervisor. In Savidge's absence Weiler was in charge. Two of R & T Mechanical, Inc.'s, female employees in that office were Kimberly Lauterborn and Judy Hitman. Lauterborn's husband was also employed by R & T Mechanical, Inc., at that location.

In 2002 Lauterborn informed Weiler that she was being sexually harassed by Savidge. Weiler advised Lauterborn to inform Baughman of Savidge's inappropriate conduct. Lauterborn did not do that, and she asked Weiler not to inform Baughman of Savidge's conduct, because she was afraid that 1) Baughman would side with Savidge, and 2) both Lauterborn and her husband would lose their jobs as a result of the allegations.

Savidge's inappropriate behavior continued. In the summer of 2003, Weiler and Lauterborn confronted Savidge about the problem. Savidge admitted that he behaved inappropriately. Despite his statement that he would no longer harass Lauterborn Savidge continued to make inappropriate statements to Lauterborn.

One of Weiler's job responsibilities at R & T Mechanical, Inc., was the preparation of bids for jobs. In January of 2004, Weiler prepared a bid for a job in Tyler, Texas, which was accepted. R & T Mechanical, Inc., lost $10,000 on the Tyler, Texas, job. Shortly after that job Weiler met with Baughman to discuss the manner in which bids should be ...


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