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Wolfe v. Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh

October 12, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge


Memorandum Opinion

This is an action for employment discrimination. Plaintiff, Patricia Wolfe ("Wolfe") alleges that defendants, Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh, ("CBB"), Service Employees International Union District 1199P ("the Union"), and Carol Dollish ("Dollish") discriminated against her on the basis of age and gender, that she was sexually harassed, and that she was terminated in retaliation for her complaints of alleged sexual harassment, all in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).*fn1 Pending before this Court are defendants' motions for summary judgment (doc. nos. 47 and 49). After careful consideration, and for the reasons that follow, this Court will GRANT defendants' motions for summary judgment.

I. Facts

The parties have set forth more than 50 pages of material facts. The facts may be fairly summarized as follows.*fn2 Plaintiff, who is a 51 year old woman, was hired by defendant CBB in October 1989 as a Laboratory Technician I ("Lab Tech I"). In approximately 1993, she was promoted to Laboratory Technician II ("Lab Tech II") and she was promoted to position of Trainer in 2002. She subsequently self-demoted herself back to the position of Lab Tech II because she did not like the hours she had to work as a Trainer. At the time of her discharge, she was a Lab Tech II.

Grievance Procedures/Policies Against Harassment

Since at least 2003, the terms and conditions of plaintiff's employment were covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Union and the CBB. Plaintiff served as a Union Steward from 2004 until her termination on March 22, 2006. As a Union member, plaintiff could file a grievance under the grievance procedure if she had any complaint against a supervisor.

Both the CBB and the Union have comprehensive policies against harassment. The CBB policy against harassment specifically provides that if an employee feels that he or she is being harassed or retaliated against, he or she should contact the Site Human Resources representative. The CBB also has a policy against Sexual Harassment and similarly provides employees with a complaint procedure (including a confidential hotline). Plaintiff received copies of both the Harassment Policy and the Sexual Harassment Policy and received training on both policies.

Plaintiff's Job Responsibilities and CBB's Guidelines for Discipline

Lab Tech IIs are responsible for manufacturing and modifying blood and blood components intended for transfusions in accordance with the manufacturing practices required by the FDA, and the CBB. Plaintiff, as a Lab Tech II, has many responsibilities including centrifuging blood products, precisely entering blood products which have been entered into the computer system, and eventually weighing the products and ensuring that they are sufficient weight.

Because the CBB employees must be extremely careful and consistent when processing blood products, the CBB has developed very specific standard operating procedures and strict Guidelines for Progressive Discipline for employees who fail to follow a standard operating procedure. The Guidelines for Progressive Discipline identify two types of errors: Class 1 and Class 2. A Class 1 error has the potential to affect the safety, potency, purity or identity of the blood products or the potential to adversely impact patient care. According to the Guidelines for Progressive Discipline, an employee who commits a Class 1 error is subject to progressive discipline on a rolling 12 month calendar beginning with a written warning on the first error and termination on the third error. Plaintiff, however, states that she "has no knowledge of terminations following three Class 1 errors in a rolling 12 month period." (Doc. No. 67 at 8). Class 2 errors do not have the potential to affect the safety of the product, and therefore, the Progressive Discipline is much less severe.

Plaintiff's Discharge

Plaintiff was discharged for committing six (6) Class 1 errors within a 12 month period, four (4) of which occurred within an 8-day time frame.

Specifically, on November 3, 2004, plaintiff received a Corrective Action Notice for allegedly mislabeling two fresh frozen plasma products and a supervisor issued a Corrective Action Notice. Plaintiff did not file a grievance through the Union.

On June 15, 2005, plaintiff received another Corrective Action Notice and suspension for allegedly failing to apply labels to certain products. Plaintiff was suspended for this error because it was her second Class 1 error in a 12 month period. Although plaintiff now alleges that computer problems caused the errors, she did not file a grievance over this notice.

Next, on November 9, 2005, plaintiff received yet another a Corrective Action Notice for not following the standard operating procedure on sealing of a blood product. This was a Class 1 error and plaintiff was suspended for one day. Although plaintiff contends that she was singled out for improperly sealing the products, she neither denies that the seals were broken by her, nor did she file a grievance.

Finally, on March 8, 2006, March 14, 2006, March 15, 2006, and March 16, 2006, plaintiff committed four more Class 1 errors. In her responsive statement of facts, plaintiff does not deny that she made these errors, she simply makes excuses for her conduct and states that the errors "were manufactured against her." ...

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