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Akin v. York County Prison

June 8, 2010

ROBERT J. AKIN, PLAINTIFF
v.
YORK COUNTY PRISON, AND TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION 776, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Robert J. Akin, a former corrections officer with Defendant York County Prison, brought this civil rights action pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that the York County Prison violated the ADA and the PHRA by refusing to reassign him to a light duty job, and thus failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation for his disability of degenerative disc disease, and instead terminated his employment. Plaintiff further asserts that York County Prison violated the ADEA and the PHRA when it refused to assign him to a light duty job while at the same time assigning light duty jobs to younger employees.

Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Teamsters Local Union 776, ("Union"), violated the ADA, the ADEA, and the PHRA by refusing to pursue light duty employment or an alternative position for him despite having successfully pursued light duty employment for non-disabled and younger corrections officers.

Before the court is the Union's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 15.) The motion is ripe for disposition.

I. Background

A. Facts

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's complaint, the exhibits attached thereto, or those documents mentioned in Plaintiff's complaint, the authenticity of which is not disputed. Plaintiff Robert J. Akin is a 60-year old male with degenerative disc disease who was formerly employed as a corrections officer for Defendant York County Prison ("Prison"). Akin worked as a corrections officer at the Prison from 1999 until February 29, 2008, when his employment was terminated. While employed at the Prison, Akin was a member of the Union and was covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

In or about 2004, Akin was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. Prior to June 2007, Akin was a corrections officer in good standing and worked many hours of overtime. However, on or about June 6, 2007, Akin underwent an operation for his back due to a non-employment related injury and suffered post-operation complications from a staph and strep infection in the wound, which prolonged his recovery and limited his ability to bend, twist, and lift. After this surgery, Akin forwarded his doctor's notes and records to Defendants and made them continually aware of his limitations and his recovery.

On November 13, 2007, Akin was released by his doctor for light-duty employment where he would not be required to bend, twist, or lift. At all times after November 13, 2007, Akin could not perform the functions of his prior position, but was able to work in other positions. Akin informed the Prison of his limitations and sought placement on floor control, which is the computer operation of the doors in the prison, answering phones, operating computers for the cell and pod doors, and roof positions. The Prison denied him placement in any of these positions on the basis that there were no light duty positions at the Prison.

Akin was cleared to return to work against medical advice effective April 30, 2008. (Doc. 13, Amend. Compl. ¶ 25.) However, on February 19, 2008, Mary Sabol, the chief deputy warden of the Prison, mailed a letter to Akin terminating his employment effective February 29, 2008. (See Feb. 19, 2008 Ltr. from Sabol to Akin, Doc. 12-2 at 42.) In this letter, which was attached to Akin's Amended Complaint, Sabol details the history of Akin's medical leave, and then states the following:

While we sympathize with your condition, I am sure you can understand that we cannot hold your job open indefinitely while you attempt to recover from your injury. Moreover, we have received information from you that you will be off until at least April 2008. In light of the above, the County has determined that it is necessary to terminate your employment effective as of February 29, 2008. (Id.) Later, at the request of the Union, it was clarified by Sabol that Akin's termination was due to his "fitness for duty," and that Akin was "an employee in good standing," who should feel free to reapply once his circumstances changed. (Mar. 6, 2008 Ltr. from Robert Nace to Mark Andreozzi, Doc. 15-2 at 53 of 59.)

In February 2008, the Prison hired twelve new corrections officers all of whom were younger than Akin and none of whom had limitations in their ability to work. Akin believes that all of these individuals were less than forty years of age.

Akin also asserts that the Prison has accommodated younger corrections officers with light duty assignments in the past.

On March 28, 2008-one month after Akin's employment was terminated-Akin's Union representative met with Sabol to discuss the possibility of reinstatement. After this meeting, the Union representative phoned Akin and informed him that the Prison had the prerogative to terminate his employment and that Akin's time for redress had expired. Akin avers that "pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, [the Union] had [in the past] successfully pursued light duty employment for non-disabled and younger Corrections Officers at [the Prison]." (Doc. 13, Amend. Compl. ¶ 31.)

B. Procedural History

On or about April 15, 2008, Akin dual-filed a complaint alleging discrimination based on disability and age with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against the Prison. (See Doc. 12-2 at 3-9.) On July 30, 2008, Akin dual filed a complaint alleging discrimination based on disability and age with the PHRC and the EEOC against the Union.*fn1 Both of these complaints were administratively exhausted and Akin was issued right to sue letters.

Akin filed a complaint with this court on December 16, 2009. (Doc. 1.) In his original complaint, Akin sued not only the Prison and the Union, but he also sued Mary Sabol, the chief deputy warden, and Mark Andreozzi a Union representative. On March 12, 2010, the Union and Andreozzi filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. (Doc. 3.) On March 15, Mary Sabol filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, and the Prison filed an Answer. (Docs. 6, 8.) On April 2, 2010, Akin filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, which would dismiss the claims against Defendants Sabol and Andreozzi. (Doc. 10.) That motion was granted on April 5, 2010, and an Amended Complaint was filed that day. (See Doc. 12.) Later that same day, Plaintiff filed a corrected Amended Complaint that deleted some of the language pertaining to Defendant Andreozzi. (See Doc. 13.)

Akin's corrected Amended Complaint asserts two counts against the Prison and the Union. First, Akin asserts that the Prison violated the ADA and the PHRA by refusing to grant him a reasonable accommodation for his disability or an alternative position due to his disability of degenerative disc disease. (Doc. 13, Amend. Compl. ΒΆ 37.) Akin contends that the Union violated the ADA and the PHRA by "refusing to pursue light duty ...


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