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Crownover v. Shriver Contract Services

January 15, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge


Now pending before the Court is the MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Document No. 26), with brief in support, filed by Defendant Shriver Contract Services ("Shriver"). Plaintiff, Robin Crownover, has filed a response (Document No. 33), and the motion is ripe for disposition.

Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff asserts claims for wrongful termination, disparate pay and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa.C.S.A. § 955. The relevant facts are straightforward. Shriver employs approximately 125-130 bus drivers and provides transportation services to schools. Plaintiff drove a bus for Shriver, on and off, for nearly twenty-five years. During the 2005-2006 school year, Crownover drove a mini-bus, which had capacity for 29 students. Plaintiff is one of five drivers employed by Shriver who has a Class C license, which limits the weight of the vehicle she is eligible to drive. Plaintiff was born in 1957, and was 47 years old at the time of the events at issue. A majority of Shriver's drivers are over age 40.*fn1

Crownover's regular duties included one run on Mondays and two runs the remainder of the week. Randy Shriver testified that drivers' pay is primarily based on the length of the run, the number of runs, the district and the size of the bus. There are no written policies. Crownover was unhappy with her pay. Although no other driver earned more total income than Crownover, several drivers made more money per run. For the 2005-2006 school year, Crownover received a $1 raise for her Monday run as compared to the prior year and after she complained in October 2005, she received another $1 raise for her Monday run.

In June 2005, Crownover was involved in a car accident while driving her personal vehicle. The accident occurred when Plaintiff, while driving at less than the posted speed limit in clear conditions, crested a hill and impacted a car that was stopped in the road without a turn signal. In July 2005, she was convicted of careless driving as a result of this incident and PENNDOT assessed three points on her driving record. Exhibit K. Plaintiff contends that her brakes failed, that they were subject to a recall, and that the driver of the other car was also found guilty of careless driving.

Shriver's commercial vehicle insurance policy is subject to renewal annually. The insurance carrier is Selective Insurance Company ("Selective"). In September 2005, Selective began its annual review of all Schriver bus drivers, including a review of motor vehicle and operator records. Selective notified ESS Insurance ("ESS"), the local agent, that Crownover was to be excluded from Shriver's policy coverage. Selective also sought the exclusion of Louis Rondinelli, who had been convicted of speeding for driving 81 mph in a 55 mph zone. See Exhibit L (9/27/05 email noting "I will require AP300 for Robin Sue Crownover and Louis V. Rondinelli."). On November 8, 2005, Shriver learned that Selective had requested that Crownover and Rondinelli be deleted from the policy. Chip Echnoz, an employee of ESS, sent Randy Shriver an email offering to fight the deletion request. Subsequently, ESS contacted Selective, which reversed its decision concerning Rondinelli. Viewing the record in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court will assume that a similar request was not made with respect to Crownover. Shriver did not have any direct contact with Selective regarding the proposed exclusions.

On November 11, 2005, ESS requested a formal letter from Selective regarding exclusion of Crownover as a driver. A follow-up email explained: "I guess the insured wants to dot his "I's" and cross his "t's" with this employee." On November 22, 2005, Selective provided a formal letter. On November 23, 2005, Chip Echnoz sent a letter to Shriver, advising that:

Unfortunately, Robin Sue Crownover's record was blemished to the point that the Selective Insurance Company desires Ms. Crownover to be deleted as a driver due to her unacceptable motor vehicle report. Enclosed please find form AP300 which will serve as a driver exclusion form. Please sign the form after advising Ms. Crownover that she is no longer eligible to operate a Shriver Contract Services vehicle. We apologize for the inconvenience but as you are aware, insurance underwriting requirements are very strict in conjunction with school bus liability operations.

On December 12, 2005, Crownover submitted an EEOC claim of age discrimination, alleging that from September-December 2005, she had been underpaid in an effort to get her to quit. Plaintiff admits that she was not harassed in any way between the filing of the EEOC complaint and her termination. The record reflects that Crownover received two $1 raises for her Monday run during this period, as compared to the prior year. Plaintiff filed a subsequent EEOC complaint in January 2006, alleging retaliation.

On December 22, 2005, Shriver sent Crownover a letter seeking information concerning the accident. Crownover asserts that she did not receive this letter until December 29, 2005. On December 23, 2005, Crownover's bus was taken from her, supposedly for maintenance. On December 28, 2005, Randy Shriver informed Crownover by letter and by telephone that she was being terminated. The letter stated:

As per my letter dated December 22, 2005 and my conversation with you today concerning your conviction on July 18, 2005 of "reckless driving," I have no choice but to sign the exclusion form required by our insurance company and terminate your employment as a school bus driver. Shriver Contract Services cannot operate or fulfill its obligations to transport school students without insurance on our drivers. The termination is effective immediately.

During the phone call, Crownover had explained that the conviction was for "careless" as opposed to "reckless" driving. Crownover denies receipt of the termination letter. The same day, Shriver signed the AP300 exclusion form and terminated Crownover's employment. Had he not signed the form, Shriver's entire insurance policy would have been in danger of non-renewal by Selective. Both parties agree that Shriver's bus drivers cannot drive a school bus without insurance coverage.

After Plaintiff's termination, Sandy Early took over that route for two months, at which time it was assigned to Gordon Clark. After Clark's resignation in June 2006, the route was assigned to Paula Miller. Early (DOB 9/22/56) is older than Crownover ...

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