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Lynch v. Matthews International

June 28, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Amy Reynolds Hay


Joseph Lynch ("plaintiff" or "Lynch") brings this employment discrimination action against defendants, Matthews International, Successor in Interest to iDL Worldwide, Inc. ("Matthews"), Tom Chiocchio ("Chiocchio"), John Mazock ("Mazock"), and Steve Miller ("Miller") (collectively, "the individual defendants"), alleging that they violated his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654 ("FMLA"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 951, et seq. ("PHRA"), when his employment was terminated in June of 2007. Because Lynch has either withdrawn or conceded to the dismissal of the majority of his claims and the Court finds that Lynch has failed to produce evidence to demonstrate that a genuine issue of fact exists as to his remaining claims, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

A. Factual and Procedural Background

In 1990, prior to his employment with Matthews, Lynch sustained a work related injury to his left foot that continues to cause him a significant amount of pain. Lynch consequently takes a number of pain medications and gets monthly nerve block injections from the pain specialist with whom he treats. Lynch nevertheless assured Matthews when he was hired that his injury would not impede his ability to perform the job and, indeed, there is no evidence that his injury interfered with his work. In fact, Lynch was promoted to a supervisory position in the wood shop within the first three years of his employment.

Although Lynch initially was hired to work the second shift, which enabled him to receive his injections during the day, he was later transferred to another facility that did not have a second shift. Lynch was nevertheless given time off to receive his monthly injections utilizing his vacation time and personal days. Although Lynch was advised by Chiocchio that he may be entitled to family medical leave and directed him to the Human Resource Department where he obtained the requisite FMLA forms, Lynch never requested FMLA leave for those absences. This notwithstanding, Matthews' relevant FMLA Policies require employees to used accrued paid leave for FMLA leave.

Further, according to Matthews, and Lynch has presented no evidence to the contrary, in late 2006 and continuing into early 2007, Matthews decided to reduce, if not completely discontinue, the wood shop operation at the facility where Lynch was employed because of a reduction in customer demand and the fact that the custom cabinetry part of the business was no longer profitable. At the same time, the company implemented overall cost cuts and company-wide staff reductions which included Lynch's termination in June of 2007. Lynch, however, contends that Chiocchio told him that one of the reasons he was terminated was because of his frequent absences. Chiocchio, of course, denies having made that statement.

Lynch filed the instant complaint on December 16, 2008, against defendants bringing claims under the FMLA for interference (Count I) and retaliation (Count II); Title VII (Count III); the ADA (Count IV); and the PHRA (Count V). Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on January 15, 2010, which is now ripe for review.

B. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is warranted only where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). See Conoshenti v. Public Service Electric & Gas Company, 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004). When the moving party has met this burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The mere existence of some evidence favoring the non-moving party, however, will not defeat the motion. There must be enough evidence with respect to a particular issue to enable a reasonable jury to find in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). See McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359, 363-64 (3d Cir. 2005). In evaluating the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. Matreale v. New Jersey Dept. of Military & Veterans Affairs, 487 F.3d 150, 152 (3d Cir. 2007).

C. Discussion

Because Lynch has either conceded to the dismissal of or has withdrawn all the claims brought against the individual defendants and the retaliation claims brought against Matthews under Title VII and the FMLA, the only claims remaining in the case are those brought against Matthews under the ADA and the PHRA for disability discrimination and under the FMLA for interference.*fn1

1. Claim for Disability Discrimination under the ADA

Matthews contends that Lynch's ADA claim is properly dismissed because there is insufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and that Lynch is nevertheless unable to demonstrate that its reasons for terminating Lynch's employment are pretextual.

In addressing the allocations of burdens of proof and persuasion in cases arising under the ADA and the PHRA, courts utilize the familiar three-stage shifting burden of proof set forth in McDonnell Douglas v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), and Texas Dep't. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981). See Newman v. GHS Osteopathic, Inc., 60 F.3d 153, 157-58 (3d Cir. 1995). Under this framework, the plaintiff has the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. To satisfy a prima facie case under the ADA, the plaintiff must show that: (1) he has a "disability," (2) is a ...

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