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Majewski v. Luzerne County

June 15, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Munley)


Before the court are plaintiff's objections (Docs. 109) to the report and recommendation (Doc. 108) of Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser, which proposes that we grant the defendants' motions for summary judgment. Having been fully briefed, the matters are ripe for disposition.


This case grows out of plaintiff's employment at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility (LCCF), where he worked as a guard. Plaintiff began his employment at the LCCF in 1991. (Defendants Luzerne County, Luzerne County Correctional Facility, Gene Fischi, Samuel Hyder, Joseph Morris, Rowland Roberts, Gregory Skrepenak, Todd Vonderheid, Steven Urban, Robert Payne and Wister Yuhas's ("County Defendants") Statement of Material Facts as to Which no Genuine Issue Remains to Be Tried (Doc. 71) (hereinafter "County Defendants' Statement) at ¶ 4).*fn1 Plaintiff sustained a work-related injury in early March 1994. (Id. at ¶ 5). While restraining an inmate, plaintiff herniated a disk in his back. (Defendants International Laborers' Union of North America Local 1300 and Tony Seiwell's ("Union Defendants") Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 67) (hereinafter "Union Defendant's Statement") at ¶ 2). He finally returned to work on October 10, 2000. (County Defendant's Statement at ¶ 6). Plaintiff served in a permanent light duty job as a control booth guard from that date. (Id.). In April 2003, plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged that the defendant prison had retaliated against him because he sought accommodations for his injury pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (Id. at ¶ 7).*fn2

In the late evening and early morning of December 6 and 7, 2004, plaintiff arrived for work at the LCCF and was asked to take a breathalyzer test. (Id. at ¶ 8). Around 2:30 a.m. on December 7, plaintiff was called to his captain's office and ordered to take the exam. (Plaintiff's Deposition (Exh. 2 to County Defendants' Statement) (hereinafter "Defendant's Dep.") at 31). Plaintiff admits that he drank four or five beers and ate a cheeseburger on the night in question, but insists that he slept for seven hours after eating and drinking and was not under the influence of alcohol when he arrived at work. (Plaintiff's Response to Union Defendants' Statement (hereinafter "Plaintiff's Response to Union") (Doc. 82-4) at ¶ 6). Plaintiff blew into the device two or three times for the nurse administering the exam. (Id.). After the device provided no reading, another prison official, Lieutenant Semon, grabbed the breathalyzer from the nurse and ordered the plaintiff to blow into it four or five more times. (Id.). Finally, Semon got a reading from the machine. (Id.). The captain immediately informed plaintiff that he had been relieved of his duties. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that the device had never before been used to check a guard or other prison employee. (Id. at 32). The prison used it only to test inmates on work release. (Id.). Plaintiff contends that he never saw such a test administered on another employee and never saw anyone sent home because they were under the influence of alcohol. (Id. at 32-33).

Later that morning, Deputy Warden Samuel Hyder informed plaintiff that he had been suspended without pay pending possible termination at the next Prison Board meeting. (County Defendants' Statement at ¶ 9). This suspension came because plaintiff had allegedly violated prison rules. (Union Defendants' Statement at ¶ 7). The LCCF Code of Ethics classifies "reporting for duty under the influence of intoxicating beverages or narcotics on facility property" as a first level offense. (Id. at ¶ 10). The penalty for such offenses is dismissal. (Id.). Plaintiff contends that the policy was applied inconsistently. (Plaintiff's Response to County Defendants' Statement (Doc. 82-3) (hereinafter "Plaintiff's Response to County") at ¶ 10). Several other guards had been disciplined for arriving at work under the influence of alcohol, and had received much more favorable treatment than the plaintiff did. (Id.). None of these other workers had returned from work after suffering an injury and been assigned light duty, as plaintiff was. (Id.).

Plaintiff entered an alcohol rehabilitation program on December 13, 2004. (County Defendants' Statement at ¶ 11). Plaintiff contends that he did so only because he feared for his job. (Plaintiff's Response to County at ¶ 11). On January 5, 2005, plaintiff requested medical leave. (Plaintiff's Response to County at ¶ 12). Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he felt that prison officials perceived him as an alcoholic because "[t]hey assumed I was drinking when I was on duty." (Plaintiff's Dep. at 84). Before December 7, 2004, no one at the prison had ever "mentioned" that plaintiff was an alcoholic, and plaintiff never felt that anyone perceived him as suffering from that condition. (Id. at 85). After his stint at the rehabilitation clinic, however, prisoner officials and employees "naturally assumed that [he] was." (Id.).

The prison placed plaintiff on leave retroactive to December 7, 2004. (Plaintiff's Response to County at ¶ 12). Plaintiff contends that he did not ask his leave to be made retroactive, nor was he credited for time he had accrued under the Family and Medical Leave Act. (Id.). The defendants terminated plaintiff's benefits ninety days after December 7, 2004. (Id.).

The County Defendants offered plaintiff a "last-chance agreement" which would have allowed him an opportunity to return to work at the LCCF. (County Defendants' Statement at ¶ 13). The Union Defendants assisted plaintiff in his attempt to negotiate more favorable terms for this agreement. (Union Defendants' Statement at ¶ 14). Defendant Tony Seiwell participated in this process. (Id.). The parties disagree about the extent of the changes plaintiff obtained during this negotiation. Plaintiff agrees, however, that he objected to provisions in the proposed agreement that required him to participate in follow-up care, mandated termination if he violated the agreement, and forfeited his ability to grieve the incident. (Id. at ¶ 15). Plaintiff also contends that he expressed concern about privacy reports. (Plaintiff's Response to Union's Statement at ¶ 15). Plaintiff refused to sign an agreement, though he contends that he still intended to negotiate such an agreement when the prison board fired him. (Id.). On September 19, 2005, the prison board terminated the plaintiff. (County's Statement at ¶ 14).

Plaintiff filed a complaint, a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and a motion for appointed counsel (Docs. 1-3) in this court on November 18, 2005. The magistrate judge gave the complaint an initial screening. On December 7, 2005 he recommended that the court dismiss the complaint without prejudice. (Doc. 4). The plaintiff then obtained counsel and the court granted him leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 8). The plaintiff filed his amended complaint on January 10, 2006. Count I of that complaint, brought against all the individual defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges a violation of plaintiff's rights under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Count II, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleges that the individual defendants conspired against plaintiff in retaliation for claims he brought before the EEOC and under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 P.S. §§ 955(a) et seq. Count III alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. Count IV alleges retaliation under the ADA. Count V brings discrimination and retaliation claims under the PHRA. Count VI claims a conspiracy to violate plaintiff's rights under Pennsylvania law. Count VII contends that defendants Fischi, Hyder and Morris violated plaintiff's rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq. Count VII alleges that all defendants engaged in intentional infliction of emotional distress. Count IX claims wrongful discharge against the County, the LCCF and the Union.

Defendants filed motions to dismiss the amended complaint. The magistrate judge recommended that the court grant those motions in part and deny them in part. (Doc. 47). He recommended that the court dismiss plaintiff's Fifth Amendment substantive and procedural due process, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), punitive damages and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. The court adopted this report and recommendation and remanded the case to Magistrate Judge Smyser so that the parties could conduct discovery. (Doc. 57). The defendants filed motions for summary judgment (Docs. 66, 70) at the close of discovery, and the magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation proposing that the motions for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part (Doc. 86).

Both sets of defendants filed objections to the report and recommendation. After considering these objections, the court adopted the report and recommendation in part and denied it in part. (See Doc. 95). The court concluded that summary judgment. was appropriate for the defendants on all of plaintiff's claims, but that the magistrate judge had not addressed an equal protection claim raised by the plaintiff. As such, the court ordered the case remanded to magistrate judge so that the parties could brief the issue of summary judgment on this claim. The parties did so, and the magistrate judge issued the instant report and recommendation, which recommends that the court grant the defendants summary judgment on this equal protection claim. The plaintiff objected to this finding, and the parties briefed the issue, bringing the case to its present posture.


Because this case is brought pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq., the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state-law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §. 1367(a). ("In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that ...

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