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Glass v. Armstrong Utilities

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 11, 2014

TERRY GLASS, Plaintiff,
v.
ARMSTRONG UTILITIES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NORA BARRY FISCHER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On August 14, 2013, Plaintiff Terry Glass ("Plaintiff") initiated this civil action against his former employer, Armstrong Utilities ("Armstrong" or "Defendant"). In his amended complaint, Plaintiff raised claims of discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination on account of his disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. ("PHRA").

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 29), Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition (ECF No. 34), and Defendant's Reply Brief (ECF No. 39). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On October 29, 2007, Plaintiff commenced employment with Defendant, a cable and internet provider, as a cable installer and technician. (ECF No. 32-1 at 32; ECF No. 32-2 at 141). Prior to November 5, 2008, Plaintiff's direct supervisor was Jim Bahorich ("Bahorich"). (ECF No. 32-5, Tab E, ¶ 2). Thereafter, Plaintiff's direct supervisor was Greg Plutnicki ("Plutnicki"). ( Id. ). Plutnicki and Bahorich each reported to their manager, Jim Charles ("Charles"), who in turn reported to regional manager Joe Taylor ("Taylor"). (ECF No. 32-1 at 38).

As an install technician, the bulk of Plaintiff's work involved entering into customers' homes or offices for the purpose of installing and replacing equipment related to television, telephone, and internet cable services. (ECF No. 32-1 at 32-35). At the beginning of each workday, Plaintiff and his coworkers reported to an office in Grove City, Pennsylvania, and received a worksheet containing a list of work orders for the day. ( Id. at 41, 44). Work orders were distributed amongst the install technicians by an automated computer program ("auto-router") operated by an ISP Technician, Vincent D'Antonio. (ECF No. 32-5, Tab E, ¶ 4). When an installer finished all of the work orders on his worksheet, he was required to telephone the company's dispatch department to let them know that he was finished so that dispatch could send him to help any other installers who might be running behind. (ECF No. 32-1 at 68-69).

In addition to his daily work orders, Plaintiff and his coworkers were required to regularly spend a week "on call" to respond to issues from customers requiring immediate attention outside of normal work hours, such as telephone or internet outages. (ECF No. 32-1 at 57-59). Plaintiff's on-call team consisted of himself and Ed Miloser, Brian Kocher, Eric White, Matthew Barnett, Steve Fucsko, and David Leopald. ( Id. at 57-58). Dispatchers assigned jobs to members of the on-call team on a rotating basis. ( Id. at 58-59, 62).

On Friday mornings, Plaintiff and his co-workers attended weekly staff meetings at Defendant's office in Grove City, Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 32-5, Tab D, at 20-22). Those meetings were typically run by Taylor, Charles and Plutnicki. ( Id. at 22). After the group meetings, Charles would frequently pull an employee into his office to criticize him for his performance or for making mistakes. (ECF No. 32-2, at 119-20; ECF No. 32-5, Tab G, at 32, 40-41). Plaintiff, in particular, was targeted for these closed-door meetings with Charles so often that his co-workers begin to joke that he had "a black cloud" over his head. (ECF No. 32-2 at 112-15).

On June 23, 2009, Plaintiff visited his physician at Cranberry Internal Medicine Associates and informed him that he was having trouble with anxiety. (ECF No. 32-5, Tab H). He explained to his doctor that he had "a real conflict" with his boss and "has been called in to see his boss on multiple occasions." ( Id. ). Plaintiff's physician prescribed him an antianxiety drug, Citalopram. ( Id. ). Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff informed Plutnicki, Charles, and several of his co-workers that he was taking Citalopram for anxiety and depression. (ECF No. 32-6 at 171, 194-95).

On one particular day during the winter of 2009-2010, inclement weather caused several road closures and created hazardous travel conditions in Plaintiff's work area. Management instructed any employee who could make it to the office to try to do so. (ECF No. 32-3 at 115-16). Plaintiff and several of his co-workers arrived at the office, only to be sent home after waiting around all day with no instructions. ( Id. at 116). The following day, Plutnicki held a meeting and informed Plaintiff and his co-workers that they would not be paid for the prior day. ( Id. ). Plaintiff and several other co-workers spoke up and said that it was "bullshit" that they were not going to be paid. ( Id. at 116, 118-19). According to Plutnicki, Plaintiff became belligerent and repeatedly forced the issue, causing Plutnicki to eject him from the meeting. (ECF No. 32-5, Tab D, ¶ 5). Plaintiff denies becoming belligerent and avers that he simply raised the same objections that everyone else did. (ECF No. 32-3 at 116). In any event, Plaintiff's closed-door meetings with Charles became even more frequent and hostile in tone following that incident, often resulting in Plaintiff leaving Charles' office in tears. (ECF No. 32-3 at 115-16; ECF No. 32-6 at 159-60, 174).

On September 16, 2011, Plaintiff phoned dispatch to inform them that he had finished his regular assignments. (ECF No. 32-1 at 67-69). Dispatch instructed Plaintiff to begin an installation at a customer's home because the assigned technician, Brady Jones ("Jones"), was running behind schedule on his own work orders. (ECF No. 32-1 at 67-69). Upon arriving at the home at 4:15 PM, Plaintiff discovered that he would have to drill a hole in a wall of the house in order to complete the installation. (ECF No. 32-1 at 72-73; ECF No. 32-2 at 74-75). Because the customer was a renter, company policy required Plaintiff to obtain a written permission slip from the landlord before he could perform any drilling. (ECF No. 32-1 at 73). The customer informed Plaintiff that her landlord was on the way. (ECF No. 32-2 at 75-76). However, at some point a dispute arose between Plaintiff and the customer, causing her to call Defendant's customer service line and lodge a complaint concerning her "horrible experience" with Plaintiff. (ECF No. 32, Tab A, ¶¶ 8-15; ARM 000464). The customer indicated that Plaintiff didn't want to wait for her landlord because his quitting time was 4:30 PM, but that she had insisted that he wait. ( Id. ). At that point, the customer indicated that Plaintiff became angry and began throwing his equipment out of his vehicle. ( Id. ). The customer became so upset and frightened that she was sobbing on the telephone while lodging her complaint and would not allow Plaintiff to enter her home. ( Id. ). Plaintiff denied that any of the customer's claims were accurate. (ECF No. 32, Tab A, ¶ 14). However, upon reviewing an audio transcript of the call, Taylor noted that the customer sounded "sincerely and highly upset" and concluded that Plaintiff had acted inappropriately. ( Id. at ¶ 15). As a result of the incident, Taylor issued Plaintiff a written warning and suspended him for one day. ( Id. at ¶ 16). The written warning stated that "any repeat bad attitude customer complaints or temper related issues will result in progressive discipline up to and to include termination." (ECF No. 32-2 at 92).

On October 5, 2011, Plaintiff sent a handwritten complaint (the "Internal Complaint") to Plutnicki, Charles, and Human Resources Director Jeff Walker alleging that he felt he was being mistreated by Charles and others due to his anxiety and depression. (ECF No. 32-7, Ex. 12). Upon receiving a copy of the Internal Complaint, Taylor initiated an investigation and spoke to both Plaintiff and Charles about the allegations of mistreatment. (ECF No. 32-6 at 155; ECF No. 32, Tab A, ¶ 18). In addition to general allegations of teasing by co-workers, Plaintiff informed Taylor that he believed Charles was giving him a hard time because of his anxiety and because he had spoken up about the unpaid snow day. (ECF No. 32, Tab A, ¶ 20). Prior to this conversation, Taylor had not been aware that Plaintiff suffered from anxiety or was taking medication. ( Id. ). After speaking with Plaintiff, Taylor instructed Charles and Plutnicki to take steps to improve Plaintiff's work environment and curtail the teasing from his co-workers. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-23). In response to Taylor's directive, Charles stopped ordering Plaintiff into his office for closed-door meetings and, indeed, stopped speaking to Plaintiff entirely. (ECF No. 32-6 at 212-13). Plaintiff indicated that this "was a relief" and that "[i]t was actually a pleasure to start working" again without harassment from Charles. ( Id. at 213). Taylor and Walker followed up with Plaintiff on numerous occasions and were informed on each that Plaintiff was doing "fine" and "much better." (ECF No. 32, Tab A, ¶¶ 24-25).

On July 5, 2012, Plaintiff was assigned to do a particularly difficult commercial telephone installation. (ECF No. 32-2 at 96-99). When Plaintiff contacted Plutnicki to request assistance, two other employees, Pat Covert ("Covert") and Brian Moore ("Moore"), were sent. ( Id. at 100-102). However, when Covert and Moore informed Plaintiff that they would only stay until 4:30 PM, Plaintiff became upset and exclaimed that the situation was "fucking bullshit." ( Id. at 105, 109). Moore informed Charles of the incident, and ...


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