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Mark Schmidt v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

September 25, 2012

MARK SCHMIDT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Cathy Bissoon

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. MEMORANDUM

For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 21) will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings this lawsuit against Defendant, his former employer, alleging disability discrimination under the ADA and PHRA. Plaintiff began working for Defendant in June 1995. See Def.'s Stmt. of Facts (Doc. 24) at ¶ 1.*fn1 At all relevant times, Plaintiff's employment was governed by a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between his union and Defendant.

Id. at ¶ 3. The CBA contained provisions addressing employees' absences from work, which included the taking of paid "Sick and Accident" leave (hereinafter, "paid leave" or "S&A") and unpaid personal leave. See id. at ¶¶ 5-6. Defendant's written work policies established procedures for an employee's requesting unpaid leave, and Plaintiff was aware of those policies. See id. at ¶¶ 7-8.

In February 1999, Plaintiff entered a rehabilitation program to address his problems with alcohol dependency. See id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff applied for paid leave, which was approved, but his attempted rehabilitation was unsuccessful. See id. at ¶¶ 11-12.

Between the years 2002 and 2003, Plaintiff participated in no fewer than five rehabilitation programs, and in each instance, he was granted paid leave for his absence. See id. at ¶¶ 13-22. Plaintiff did not consider any of the rehabilitation programs to have been successful. Id. at ¶ 27.

In April through June of 2008, Plaintiff again was granted paid leave to attend a rehabilitation program to address his ongoing struggle with alcohol and drugs. See id. ¶¶ 23-24. Like the ones before it, Plaintiff's attempted rehabilitation failed. See id. at ¶ 25.

By January 2009, Plaintiff again was using drugs and alcohol. Id. at ¶ 29. Plaintiff decided to return to rehab, but before doing so, he went on a three-day drinking binge. See id. at ¶¶ 30-31. Around the same time, disputes arose between Defendant and Plaintiff regarding his poor work attendance, and a grievance hearing was held on February 19, 2009. See id. at ¶¶ 32-33. In attendance were Plaintiff, his union representatives and representatives of Defendant. See id. at ¶ 34.

Carol Tobias, an administrative secretary in Defendant's labor relations department, took detailed notes during the hearing. See id. at ¶ 35.*fn2 The notes reveal that much of the hearing was spent discussing Plaintiff's recent work absences, his explanations regarding them, and Defendant's responses to the same. See hearing notes (filed under Doc. 23-6) at pgs. 2 of 17 through 5 of 17. Conspicuously absent from the discussions were references to Plaintiff's longstanding struggles with alcohol and drug dependency. See id. Just before the close of the hearing, however, was the following exchange:

Plaintiff: When I called off [of work], I talked to Ross [Scumaci, Plaintiff's supervisor,] who then told me I was off the schedule.

Mr. Scumaci: [Plaintiff] never asked for me.

Plaintiff: You called back within a minute. You took me off the schedule in two minutes.

Union rep.

Chuck Gaston: Did you and [Plaintiff's other supervisor] Howard [Laur] have a conversation about S&A?

Plaintiff: I called Howard [Laur] . . . and told him I was on S&A. Howard said good luck.

Mr. Laur: You didn't say anything about S&A.

Mr. Scumaci: I didn't know about the request for S&A.

Plaintiff: I called off three days in a row because I was going into rehab.

Mr. Laur: I didn't say okay.

Hearing notes at pg. 6 of 17.

As a result of the grievance proceedings, Defendant agreed to reinstate Plaintiff in exchange for his signing a last chance agreement ("LCA"). See Def.'s Facts at ΒΆ 36. The LCA stated that Plaintiff had accumulated absent-without-leave ("AWOL") hours in excess of the amount permitted under the CBA, thereby warranting his automatic termination. See LCA (filed under Doc. 23-10) at pg. 10 of 15. The agreement stated, ...


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