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Drake v. Laurel Highlands Foundation

November 27, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge

Judge Nora Barry Fischer


On this 27th day of November, 2007, upon consideration of Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration ("Plaintiff's Motion") [DE 17] and Defendants' responses thereto [DE 18, 20] and for the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED.

I. Factual Background

Plaintiff, Roverta Drake ("Plaintiff"),*fn1 is a 62 year old African-American woman with alleged disabilities and/or perceived disabilities. Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court alleging employment discrimination by her employer, Laurel Highlands Foundation, Inc. and James Pearl, supervisor/manager of Laurel Highlands Foundation, Inc. (collectively, "Defendants") in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. ("Title VII"), the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA"), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). (Docket No. 1 ("Complaint") at ¶¶ 1, 7).

Plaintiff worked as a Program Assistant in Defendants' Uniontown, Pennsylvania residence for mentally retarded individuals. Id. at ¶ 4. Plaintiff, who was employed by Defendant for six (6) years, alleges that she was subjected to a continuous and ongoing hostile work environment, disparate treatment, harassment, humiliation and discrimination based on her age, race, disabilities and/or perceived disabilities, and because of retaliation from her employer for complaining about the ongoing hostile work environment, disparate treatment, discrimination and for taking medical leave for heart surgery. Id. at ¶ 11.a, b. Further, Plaintiff alleges that her supervisor, James Pearl, "pried" into Plaintiff's medical conditions and conveyed information to other staff members regarding Plaintiff's heart condition, causing embarrassment to Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 11.d, e.

Defendants terminated Plaintiff's employment on or about February 4, 2007 after investigating allegations that Plaintiff struck with her hand a resident of Defendants' facility during a work-related outing. Plaintiff denies that she struck the resident. Instead, Plaintiff alleges that what appeared to be a striking motion, was actually a spasm in her right hand and arm. The spasm occurred due to a medical condition, which allegedly required further surgeries. Id. at ¶ 11.f. Plaintiff further alleges that the actual reasons for her termination were discriminatory and retaliatory in nature. Id. at ¶ 11.h-k.

Defendants deny that Plaintiff was discriminated against, retaliated against or harassed in any way. (See generally, Document No. 4 ("Answer")). Further, Defendants maintain that Plaintiff was terminated because Plaintiff physically abused and/or assaulted a developmentally disabled resident, an act that cannot be tolerated by an employee of a residence for developmentally disabled individuals. Id. at ¶¶ 31-32.

Plaintiff's case was placed in the Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") Pilot Program, which requires that the parties conduct a selected ADR process within sixty (60) days after the initial Case Management Conference or filing of the initial Case Management Order, whichever occurs first. United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Alternative Dispute Resolution Policies and Procedures, Rule 6.4. In this case, a Case Management Conference was held on June 20, 2007 and a Case Management Order was filed on that same day. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 6.4, ADR should have occurred on or before August 20, 2007. As of the date of this Memorandum Opinion, and for the reasons set forth below, ADR has not yet occurred in this case.

Further, pursuant to this Court's Practices and Procedures, discovery must be completed within 150 days of the date of the initial Case Management Conference. Practices and Procedures of Judge Nora Barry Fischer at ¶ III.B.1. Accordingly, the deadline for discovery in this case was November 15, 2007. As set forth below, minimal discovery has occurred.

II. Procedural History

1. On February 27, 2007, Plaintiff filed her complaint in this action. (Document No. 1).

2. On April 6, 2007, this case was reassigned from Judge Thomas Hardiman to the undersigned Judge. (Text Only Docket Entry dated April 6, 2007).

3. On June 20, 2007, this Court held a case management conference attended by counsel for Defendants, Thomas B. Anderson (in person), and counsel for Plaintiff, Lois Glanby (by telephone). (Document No. 8). Counsel for Plaintiff failed to attend the conference at the scheduled time. The Court then called her office and required that she attend by telephone.

4. During the June 20, 2007 case management conference, counsel for Plaintiff agreed to provide certain medical records and/or reports documenting Plaintiff's spasm condition so that Defendant could assess the potential for mediation in this case. (Document No. 10).

5. On June 27, 2007, Defendants served on Plaintiff interrogatories and requests for production of documents pursuant to which Defendants also sought production of Plaintiff's medical records. (Document No. 20 at p. 2).

6. As of July 10, 2007, Plaintiff had not produced to Defendants the medical records requested during the June 20, 2007 Case Management Conference. Accordingly, on July 10, 2007, this Court ordered that such records must be produced on or before August 10, 2007. (Document No. 10).

7. On August 22, 2007, Defendants filed a Motion to Compel stating that Plaintiff had failed to respond to this Court's July 10, 2007 Order and Defendants' June 27, 2007 discovery requests. Defendants' Motion to Compel requested that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, or, in the alternative, issue a further Order directing Plaintiff to produce outstanding discovery responses within 10 days, including the medical records requested during the June 20, 2007 Case Management Conference. (Document No. 12).

8. On August 30, 2007, this Court granted Defendants' Motion to Compel and Ordered that Plaintiff "respond to Defendants' discovery requests and provide medical records and reports, or in lieu of the same, completed authorizations on or before September 15, 2007. No further extensions on these discovery requests will be granted and Plaintiff risks dismissal if Plaintiff and counsel do not comply with this Order." (Document No. 14).

9. On September 18, 2007, having received a report from Defendants' counsel that Plaintiff had failed to comply with this Court's August 30, 2007 Order, the Court issued a Show Cause Order. Plaintiff was directed to respond to such Order by noon on September 21, 2007 by stating why this case should not be dismissed. (Document No. 15).

10. Plaintiff failed to respond to this Court's Show Cause Order and, on September 21, 2007, this Court entered an Order dismissing Plaintiff's case for failure to comply with this Court's Orders and for failure to prosecute. (Document No. 16).

11. Following the Court's Show Cause Order, Plaintiff did not contact the Court in any manner until October 5, 2007, when Plaintiff filed a Motion for Reconsideration requesting that this Court ...

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