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Diehl v. U.S. Steel/Edgar Thomson Works

January 21, 2010


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


I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Michael Diehl ("Diehl"), has sued his formed employer, Defendant United States Steel Corporation ("Defendant"),*fn1 for discrimination pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., and for wrongful discharge.*fn2 (Docket No. 22). Diehl claims that he was discharged because of his association with a disabled co-worker, Ralph Parise, and for having supported another co-worker, Ronald Vorassi's account of having been injured by Lee Mott, one of Diehl's supervisors. (Docket No. 22 at 7-8). This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Diehl's Amended Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 (Docket No. 25), in which Defendant argues that Diehl's filing of his Amended Complaint was untimely, and both of Diehl's claims fail as a matter of law. (Docket No. 25, passim). For the reasons discussed herein, Defendant's Motion (Docket No. 25) is GRANTED, and Diehl's Amended Complaint is dismissed, with prejudice.

II. Factual Background

Diehl, a resident of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, was hired by Defendant, a Pennsylvania corporation, on March 18, 2002 as a Mechanical Maintenance Technician. (Docket No. 22 at ¶¶ 2-3, 5). Diehl avers that throughout his employment with Defendant, he met applicable job qualifications and performed his job in a manner that met Defendant's expectations. (Id. at ¶ 9). On August 15, 2008, Diehl claims that he and his co-worker, John Pekar, were instructed by their immediate supervisor, Mark Cooke, to change the "F South Oxygen hose" (the "hose") with other co-workers. (Id. at ¶ 10). For this task, Cooke advised Diehl that it might be necessary to alter the gaskets on the hose, however, Diehl refused to make the requested alteration because to do so would violate written instructions from the manufacturer. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-13). Diehl alleges that Cooke thereafter determined that the gasket did not need to be altered. (Id. at ¶ 14).

Diehl claims that when he and Pekar went to change the hose, and after they removed the cardboard covering, they saw an object immediately inside the opening of the hose. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24). Diehl avers that the object appeared to be a cloth rag and that he "never touched the object." (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27). Cooke was approximately 15 to 20 feet away from the hose when the covering was removed and Diehl claims that Pekar immediately called Cooke over to show him the object in the hose. (Id. at ¶¶ 28-29). Cooke then contacted Lee Mott, the Senior Process Leader, and requested that he come to the maintenance area, where Diehl and Pekar were, with his camera to take photographs of the hose and the object inside of it. (Id. at ¶¶ 30-31). Upon being instructed to do so, Diehl and Pekar then put the cardboard covering back on the hose, with the object still inside, and placed the box with the hose back in the maintenance area. (Id. at ¶¶ 32-33). The hose was then removed by the "parts people" and another hose was brought in to be installed. (Id. at ¶ 34). Diehl claims that he and Pekar were required to work overtime to complete the installation of the hose. (Id. at ¶ 36). Prior to doing so, Diehl and Pekar made sure that there were no objects inside the new hose and the installation was successfully completed on August 15, 2008. (Id. at ¶¶37-38).

When Diehl reported to work the next Monday, August 18, 2008, he was advised by his supervisor, Lee Mott, that he was being escorted off of the property as a result of the situation with the object in the hose. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-43). At first, Diehl states that he was not sure to what Mott was referring but that Mott advised him that there was a video camera, and "it shows all." (Id. at ¶¶ 44-45). Contrary to Mott's assertions, Diehl avers that he did not place the foreign object in the hose. (Id. at ¶ 46). He received a notice that he was being disciplined for the following:

(1) Case # 08063 Sabotage of company equipment balance of turn plus four day suspension "Justice and Dignity" will not apply this slip will run concurrently with the discipline received in slip # 08064.

(2) Case # 08064 Contamination of company equipment balance of the turn plus four day suspension "Justice and Dignity" will not apply and this slip will run concurrently with the discipline slip above # 08063. (Id. at ¶ 47). It is not averred whether Diehl served the suspension referenced above, rather, Diehl claims that Defendant advised him on August 22, 2008 that he was discharged from his position. (Id. at ¶¶ 48). On December 12, 2008, Diehl filed a charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC and the PHRC. (Id. at ¶ 49). Diehl claims that he received a notice of dismissal of his administrative charge with the EEOC, stating "that the informal methods of conciliation, conference and persuasion had failed," which provided Diehl with the requisite notice of his right to file suit in federal court.*fn3 (Id. at ¶ 51).

In support of his ADA claim, Diehl contends that Defendant's decision to discharge him was motivated by his association with a disabled co-worker, Ralph Parise, in violation of the ADA. (Id. at ¶ 53). For this claim, Diehl asserts that Mott became angry with him on numerous occasions when Diehl would assist Parise, who has physical restrictions, and that Mott verbally chastised Diehl for the same. (Id. at ¶¶ 54-55). For his wrongful discharge claim, Diehl avers the following. On October 29, 2007, Diehl states that while he was on a break in the employee break room, he played a recorded "Looney Tunes" song over the broadcast system while his co-worker, Ronald Vorassi, sat in the break room. (Id. at ¶¶ 58-60). When Mott came into the break room, he struck Vorassi's elbow with the door, and then confiscated the radio from Diehl.*fn4 (Id. at ¶¶ 60-61). Diehl avers that Mott retaliated against him for having supported Vorassi's allegations that he was injured by Mott. (Id. at ¶¶ 62-63). Thus, Diehl contends that a termination of an at-will employee for verifying a co-worker's work-related injury is a violation of public policy and supports a claim for wrongful discharge. (Id. at ¶ 64). Diehl seeks damages in the form of past and future lost income from the date of his discharge and loss of health insurance and other fringe benefits for his claims. (Id. at ¶ 65).

III. Procedural History

Diehl commenced this action by filing his initial Complaint on July 21, 2009 (Docket No. 1), in which he brought claims under the ADA, the ADEA, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (the "PHRA"), 43 Pa. C.S. § 951, et seq., and for wrongful discharge.*fn5 (Id.). Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 56 on September 21, 2009. (Docket No. 7). In his response filed on October 2, 2009, Diehl agreed to withdraw his ADEA claim, conceded that his PHRA claim was time-barred, and requested leave to amend his Complaint. (Docket No. 12 at 6). Upon consideration of Diehl's response (Docket No. 12), the Court dismissed Diehl's claims under the ADEA and the PHRA, and ordered Diehl to file an amended complaint by November 5, 2009, thereby mooting Defendant's motion to dismiss. (Docket No. 13).

The Court held a case management conference with counsel for the parties on October 29, 2009 and set down deadlines for fact discovery and for the completion of ADR. (Docket Nos. 18, 19, and 20). On November 10, 2009, Diehl filed his Amended Complaint (Docket No. 22), setting forth a claim for unlawful discrimination under the ADA and a pendent state law claim for wrongful discharge. (Docket No. 22). Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, or in the alternative, for Summary Judgment, and Brief in Support on November 25, 2009. (Docket Nos. 25 and 26). In support of the motion, Defendant attached the following: (1) Diehl's PHRA Charge of Discrimination (Docket No. 26-1); (2) Diehl's EEOC Right to Sue Letter (Docket No. 26-2); (3) the affidavit of Krista Marcin, the Department Manager for Labor Relations and Employment for Defendant's Mon Valley Works*fn6 (Docket No. 26-3); (4) the collective bargaining agreement between Defendant and the United Steelworkers of America (Docket No. 26-4); and (5) the arbitration award from Diehl's union grievance (Docket No. 26-5). On December 15, 2009, Diehl filed his ...

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