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Edward M. Supinski v. United Parcel Service

April 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)


Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Edward Supinski's Motion for Contempt. Because Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. ("UPS") took reasonable steps to comply with the Court's order, and there are doubts as to the wrongfulness of its conduct, the motion will be denied.

I. Background

On February 17, 2012, a jury found that UPS failed to accommodate Mr. Supinski and retaliated against him in violation of the ADA and PHRA. At the conclusion of trial, I orally ordered that "UPS shall restore Mr. Supinski to a position where he will have the salary, benefits and pension contributions that he would have had had the conduct of UPS not occurred. Moreover, UPS shall make contributions to the pension plan sufficient to restore Mr. Supinski's rights where they would have been had he not been subjected to UPS's conduct." The jury gave an advisory verdict on back pay. On March 6, 2012, I issued an order reducing the jury's back pay award. On that same day, judgment was entered for the first time in favor of Mr. Supinski and against UPS.

Mr. Supinski filed his motion for contempt on March 2, 2012, seeking $1000 per day as sanctions. Mr. Supinski argued that UPS had not yet reinstated Mr. Supinski, nor had it contacted him. In his reply brief, he argued that UPS had failed to restore his pension.

UPS's counsel contacted Mr. Supinski's counsel on March 9 to discuss his reinstatement, sending a follow-up letter on March 16 instructing Mr. Supinski about the details of when he would start. On March 19, 2012, UPS filed a motion to stay the order regarding restoration of Mr. Supinski's pension.

On March 20, 2012, Mr. Supinski began a two-week paid training period for the feeder driver position at UPS. He was scheduled to take the qualifying exam for the position, but shortly after beginning training, Mr. Supinski bid on and obtained a combination car washer/customer sort position. He began paid training for that position on April 10, 2012.

The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. A hearing on the motion was held on April 24, 2012. At the hearing, Mr. Supinski argued that UPS had failed to provide him with his vacation pay, sick days, and personal days. He further claimed that UPS had retaliated against him by interfering with his bid on the combination position.

II. Legal Standard

A district court may, within its discretion, impose sanctions for civil contempt. Elkin v. Fauver, 969 F.2d 48, 52 (3d Cir. 1992) (citing United States v. United Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258, 303 (1947); Roe v. Operation Rescue, 919 F.2d 857, 871 (3d Cir. 1990)). The purposes of civil contempt sanctions are: "(1) to coerce compliance with the Order; and (2) to compensate for losses sustained by the opposing party due to the disobedience." Marshak v. Treadwell, 595 F.3d 478, 494 (3d Cir. 2009). A compensatory sanction may not exceed the actual loss suffered by the party wronged. Elkin, 969 F.2d at 52.

"A plaintiff must prove three elements by clear and convincing evidence to establish that a party is liable for civil contempt: (1) that a valid order of the court existed; (2) that the defendants had knowledge of the order; and (3) that the defendants disobeyed the order." Marshak,595 F.3d at 485. However, a motion for contempt should not be granted where "there is ground to doubt the wrongfulness of the defendant's conduct," Harris v. City of Phila., 47 F.3d 1342, 1350 (3d Cir. 1995) (internal quotations omitted) (quoting Quinter v. Volkswagen of Am., 676 F.2d 969, 974 (3d Cir. 1982)), or the defendant "took all reasonable steps to comply," id. at 1324. Any "ambiguities must be resolved in favor of the party charged with contempt." John T. ex rel. Paul T. v. Del. Cnty. Intermediate Unit, 318 F.3d 545, 552 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Robin Woods, Inc. v. Woods, 28 F.3d 396, 399 (3d Cir. 1994)).

III. Discussion

The first two elements of the civil contempt test are easily satisfied here. I gave a valid order on February 17, 2012. Because UPS was present when the order was given, it had knowledge of the order.

UPS claims that it did not disobey the order because it was not obligated to comply with the order until March 20, 2012, by which time Mr. Supinski had been reinstated. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58, "[e]very judgment and amended judgment*fn1 must be set out in a separate document." Based on this rule, UPS claims that there was no order with which to comply until the judgment was separately entered on March 6, 2012. As Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 62(a) provides for an automatic fourteen-day stay of execution and enforcement of judgments, UPS argues that the order was not enforceable until March 20. Mr. Supinski responds that Rules 58 and 60 do not control here because they are ...

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