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Edward A. Stabile v. Allegheny Ludlum

September 6, 2012

EDWARD A. STABILE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLEGHENY LUDLUM, LLC, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I.INTRODUCTION

This is an employment discrimination case brought by Plaintiff Edward A. Stabile against his former employer Defendant Allegheny Ludlum, LLC. (Docket No. 30-2). Plaintiff's claims include age discrimination under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act ("ADEA"), disability discrimination pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act and an ERISA Section 510 claim for Defendant's alleged intentional interference with Plaintiff's continuing receipt of medical benefits. (Id.). Presently pending before this Court is Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 30). Defendant opposes this Motion. (Docket No. 31). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff was employed by Defendant, a manufacturer and processor of specialty steel products, as a Senior Production Supervisor from approximately November 19, 1978 until his termination from employment on August 22, 2011. (Docket No. 30-2 at ¶¶ 6-7; 15). Plaintiff is sixty-five years old and was the oldest employee in the "Melt Shop," which Plaintiff describes as a department consisting of approximately 200 employees within Defendant's Brackenridge, Pennsylvania plant. (Id. at ¶¶ 15; 18). In his most recent position as a Senior Production Supervisor, Plaintiff supervised employees, cast steel, and ensured plant safety. (Id. at ¶ 16).

Plaintiff suffers from heart disease and diabetes that significantly limit his ability to perform major life activities, such as walking, sleeping, engaging in manual activity and working, as compared to an average person. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-20; 26). Defendant is aware of Plaintiff's health problems and the limitations they impose on his performance of major life activities. (Id. at ¶¶ 23- 24; 28; 32-33). In particular, Plaintiff had explained his health problems to various members of Defendant's management team, including Melt Shop Superintendent Russ Conners, Melt Shop Assistant Superintendent Brent Furl, Melt Shop Assistant Superintendent Scott Bigley, Melt Shop Assistant Superintendent Kevin Smith, Melt Shop Assistant Superintendent Paul Manns and Melt Shop Office Manager Jerry Durci. (Id.).

In 2003, Plaintiff suffered a heart attack, sustained related physical harm and injury, and underwent significant medical procedures, including stent placement. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-24). He subsequently took a four-week medical leave of absence from work, during which he avers that he remained in regular contact with Defendant. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-22). Thereafter, on two occasions between 2005 and 2009, Plaintiff required medical treatment while at work from Emergency Medical Technicians due to his diabetes. (Id. at ¶ 25). Defendant created reports for both of his on-site diabetes treatments. (Id. at ¶ 27). Then, in July 2011, Plaintiff suffered another heart attack and again sustained physical harm and received medical treatment, including another stent placement. (Id. at ¶¶ 29; 32-33). He took another two-week medical leave of absence from work but stayed in contact with Defendant during his leave. (Id. at ¶¶ 30-31). Due to Plaintiff's employment with Defendant, he and his children, including a son that is disabled, received health and medical benefits under Defendant's self insured employer welfare plan. (Id. at ¶¶ 53-56; 58). Over the course of several years, Plaintiff and his children purportedly incurred "significant medical expenses for various health conditions," which resulted in significant medical bills paid by Defendant. (Id. at ¶¶ 57; 59).

On August 22, 2011, six weeks after Plaintiff had returned to work following his second medical leave, Defendant terminated his employment. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-35). Plaintiff claims that Melt Shop Superintendent Brent Furl and Plant Superintendent John Beresek made the decision to terminate him. (Id. at ¶¶ 36-37). Following his termination, Defendant allegedly replaced Plaintiff with significantly younger and non-disabled production supervisors including, but not limited to E. Talmadge and J. Davenport. (Id. at ¶ 47). Defendant communicated to Plaintiff that one of the reasons for his termination was an email that Plaintiff sent prior to his second medical leave, in March 2011. (Id. at ¶ 38). In this email, Plaintiff purportedly referred to a piece of workplace equipment in an "inappropriate" manner. (Id.). Plaintiff describes that his reference was, in reality, "familiar workplace jargon" and "was not objectionable or inappropriate." (Id. at ¶¶ 39-40). Another alleged reason that Defendant provided for Plaintiff's termination was that Plaintiff had "incurred minor physical harm in minor accidents." (Id. at ¶ 43). Plaintiff asserts that these accidents resulted from workplace safety hazards, as well as Defendant's own negligence, and did not cause "lost time" for Defendant. (Id. at ¶ 44). Moreover, Plaintiff avers that younger, non-disabled production supervisors, including, but not limited to Foremen T. Fusko, T. Hines, L. Fykes, J. Kesicky, J. Davenport and E. Talmadge had often used the same language and had also been involved in similar minor accidents but were not subject to termination. (Id. at ¶¶ 41-42; 45-46).

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's proffered reasons for his termination are pretext for age and disability discrimination. (Id. at ¶¶ 48-51). To that end, Plaintiff has pled that he was treated less favorably than and replaced by significantly younger, non-disabled production supervisors when he was terminated for allegedly using inappropriate language in an e-mail and for allegedly "incurr[ing] minor physical harm in minor accidents," while younger, non-disabled production supervisors did not suffer the same consequences for using the same language and being involved in minor accidents. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-41; 43; 45; 47-48; 76). Alternatively, Plaintiff contends that Defendant's proffered reasons for his termination are pretext for Defendant's intentional interference with his continuing receipt of medical benefits under Defendant's self insured employer welfare plan which is subject to the provisions of ERISA. (Id. at ¶ 52-55; 58). Because Plaintiff and his children incurred significant medical expenses paid by Defendant, Plaintiff avers that Defendant terminated him to save money, as Defendant allegedly has a policy and practice of identifying and discriminating against eligible employees with relatively high medical costs in order to save money. (Id. ¶¶ 57; 59; 61).

III. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on February 10, 2012, which was followed by Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint and supporting brief. (Docket Nos. 1; 4; 5). Rather than responding to Defendant's Motion, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on March 29, 2012. (Docket No. 9). Approximately two weeks later, on April 13, 2012, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint and a supporting brief. (Docket Nos. 10; 11). Instead of filing a Response, however, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 14). In turn, Defendant filed a Response and Supplement in opposition, and Plaintiff filed a Reply brief. (Docket Nos. 17; 18; 19).

On May 31, 2012, the Court convened a Hearing on the motions.*fn2 (Docket No. 20). During this Hearing, the Court heard argument, and counsel for Plaintiff orally moved for the opportunity to file additional briefing, which the Court granted. (Docket No. 21). Accordingly, Plaintiff filed his Supplemental Reply on June 21, 2012, and seven days later, Defendant filed its Sur-Reply. (Docket Nos. 23; 24). Subsequently, on July 3, 2012, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause why the case should not be dismissed as he had named the wrong entity as Defendant and had not corrected the error despite the fact that counsel for Defendant had repeatedly pointed out to Plaintiff's counsel that the wrong Defendant had been named. (Docket No. 25). On July 27, 2012, the parties filed a Stipulation to amend the case caption by removing Defendant Allegheny Technologies, Inc. and naming Allegheny Ludlum, LLC as the Defendant. (Docket No. 27). The Court immediately granted the Stipulation and amended the case caption. (Docket No. 28).

As a result of the Stipulation and amended case caption, the Court vacated its Show Cause Order and denied Allegheny Technologies' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint against Allegheny Technologies as moot. (Docket No. 29). In addition, the Court ordered Plaintiff to file an Amended Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint against Defendant Allegheny Ludlum, LLC, (id.), which Plaintiff timely filed. (Docket No. 30). Defendant then filed its Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 31).

As this matter is fully briefed (see Docket Nos. 17; 18; 19; 23; 24; 30; 31) and the Court has had an opportunity to review the transcript, (Docket No. 22), it is ripe for disposition. The Court now turns to ...


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