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Aniskevich v. Blue Ridge Pressure Castings

June 8, 2009

BONITA ANISKEVICH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BLUE RIDGE PRESSURE CASTINGS, INC., AND UNITED AUTO WORKERS UNION LOCAL 1098, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before the Court is defendant United Auto Workers Local 1098's ("Local 1098") motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 28.*fn1 Having considered the parties' briefing and other papers, relevant state and federal statutes, rules, and case law, the Court will GRANT the motion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The procedural background of this litigation does not appear to be in dispute. Plaintiff Bonita Aniskevich originally filed her three-count complaint in the civil division of the Court of Common Pleas of Carbon County, Pennsylvania on or about November 20, 2007. (Doc. No. 1 at 1.) She asserted claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (count 1 or the "ADA Count"), under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (count 2 or the "PHRA Count"), and under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (count 3 or the "LMRA Count"). Each count was brought against both her employer, defendant Blue Ridge Pressure Castings, Inc. ("Blue Ridge"), and against her union, defendant Local 1098. (Doc. No. 1 at 5, 11.) The plaintiff argues that after long service on the job her health began to decline and she suffered an on-the-job injury. (Doc. No. 35 at 1.) She sought accommodations from her employer in terms of leaving early and regular rest periods during the business day. These efforts were rebuffed by her employer, Blue Ridge. Moreover, during these negotiations with Blue Ridge, plaintiff maintains that Local 1098, her union, failed to represent her in good faith.

Defendant Blue Ridge removed the action from state court into the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 1 at 1.) Once in federal court, the parties filed a variety of papers, including: an answer, (Doc. No. 6), an amended complaint and an answer to the amended complaint, (Doc. No. 8 & Doc. No. 10), and a second amended complaint and an answer to the second amended complaint filed by Local 1098, (Doc. No. 11 & Doc. No. 12). Thereafter, Judge Ditter, who presided over this action in the Eastern District, transferred this case to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania because Carbon County is in the Middle District, not the Eastern District. (Doc. No. 14.) Once transferred to this district, this case became ultimately assigned to the undersigned. (Doc. No. 23.)

Defendant Local 1098 filed a timely summary judgment motion, (Doc. No. 28), with a statement of facts, (Doc. No. 30), and supported by a memorandum of law, (Doc. No. 31). Plaintiff responded with an opposition brief only, (Doc. No. 35), to which defendant Local 1098 replied, (Doc. No. 39). The gravamen of Local 1098's motion is that the ADA Count and PHRA Count should be dismissed on exhaustion grounds, and that the LMRA Count should be dismissed because Local 1098 did not breach its duty of fair representation.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, and is material if it will affect the outcome of the trial under governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Aetna Casualty & Sur. Co. v. Ericksen, 903 F. Supp. 836, 838 (M.D. Pa. 1995). At the summary judgment stage, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; see also Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (a court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations). Rather, the court must consider all evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007).

To prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must affirmatively identify those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. The moving party can discharge the burden by showing that "on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." In re Bressman, 327 F.3d 229, 238 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party meets this initial burden, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts," but must show sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor. Boyle v. County of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, if the non-moving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to [the non-movant's] case, and on which [the non-movant] will bear the burden of proof at trial," Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment because such a failure "necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23; Jakimas v. Hoffman La Roche, Inc., 485 F.3d 770, 777 (3d Cir. 2007). Where, for example, the non-movant opposes summary judgment merely by standing on its own pleadings, and offers no other evidence in regard to a contested material fact, then the movant's motion will be granted. See First Nat. Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968) ("What Rule 56(e) does make clear is that a party cannot rest on the allegations contained in his complaint in opposition to a properly supported summary judgment motion made against him."); Arnold Pontiac-GMC, Inc. v. General Motors Corp., 786 F.2d 564, 575 (3d Cir. 1986).

III. LEGAL ANALYSIS

Defendant Local 1098 asserts that the ADA Count and PHRA Count should be dismissed on exhaustion grounds, and that the LMRA Count should be dismissed because Local 1098 did not breach its duty of fair representation. The Court turns to each argument in turn.

A. Exhaustion

The Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12101, et seq., provides that:

No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. 42 U.S.C. §12112(a). The coverage of the ADA extends to a union defendant. See 42 U.S.C. §12111(2) ("The term 'covered entity' means an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint ...


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