United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.
Plaintiff Penny Anderson ("Plaintiff") has filed this civil action against her former employer, Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. ("UPS" or the "Company"), alleging violations of the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §2601 et seq. ("FMLA"), as well as gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. C.S.A. §951 et seq . ("PHRA"). Pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 28) filed by Defendant. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted as to all counts in the complaint.
II. Jurisdiction and Venue
The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 and §1367. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1391(b)(2).
III. Factual Background
Plaintiff was employed as a Regular Temporary Package Car Driver for UPS in its DuBois, Pennsylvania business center (the "DuBois Center") between September 2006 and February 20, 2012, when she was terminated from her job. (CSUMF ¶11; Pl.'s Dep. 14-16, ECF No. 31-1.) Plaintiff's job was a part-time, on-call position, which required her to call UPS every morning and fill in as needed whenever a full-time package car driver on one of her assigned routes was absent from work. (Pl.'s Dep. 16-17, 28-29, 32; CSUMF ¶¶11-12.) On days when Plaintiff was not needed for a delivery route assignment, she had the opportunity to work inside the DuBois Center handling package sorting duties, which are referred to as the "local sort." (Pl.'s Dep. 15-16; CSUMF ¶¶12-13.) Plaintiff preferred not to work the local sort job and, per her request, the Company skipped over her and offered that work, as available, to lower seniority employees. (CSUMF ¶13.)
Each UPS business center, including the DuBois Center, is run by a manager (the "Center Manager"), below whom are full-time and part-time supervisors. (CSUMF ¶2.) Between 2006 and 2011, the DuBois Center was managed by David Waters. ( Id. ¶14.) In September 2011, Melissa Davis became the Center Manager. ( Id. ) At times relevant to this lawsuit, Henry Ho served as the full-time dispatch supervisor, and Josh Crabb was a part-time nighttime supervisor who managed the evening local sort. (Pl.'s Dep. 22-23.)
The majority of the hourly employees at the various UPS business centers are members of a collective bargaining unit represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. (CSUMF ¶3.) During her tenure with UPS, Plaintiff was a member of the Teamsters' Union No. 110 (the "Union"), and her employment was governed by the terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement between the Union and UPS. (CSUMF ¶¶ 3, 11.) This agreement, known as the National Master United Parcel Service Agreement and Western Pennsylvania Supplemental Agreement (the "Labor Agreement"), governed UPS's operations in Western Pennsylvania, including its operations at the DuBois Center. (CSUMF ¶3.)
The Preamble to Article 18 of the Labor Agreement expresses the parties' mutual acknowledgment that "the safety of the employees and the general public is of utmost importance." (CSUMF ¶5.) To that end, the Labor Agreement sets forth various provisions "to respond to that mutual concern for safety, " ( id. ), including the following language at Section 3:
Any employee involved in any accident shall immediately notify the Employer.
When required by the Employer, the employee, before the end of the employee's shift, shall complete a report of the accident including all available names and addresses of witnesses to the accident.
(CSUMF ¶5.) An accident is defined by UPS as "any occurrence in which our vehicle is, in any way, involved and which results in personal injury or property damage, no matter how slight." ( Id. )
Failure to report an accident is considered by UPS to be a dishonest act, and dishonesty, in turn, is recognized in the Labor Agreement as a cardinal offense warranting automatic termination. (CSUMF ¶8.) Included in the record are numerous arbitration decisions from Western Pennsylvania holding that the failure of a UPS driver to promptly report an accident constitutes just cause for termination irrespective of the extent of the damage. ( See UPS and Teamsters Local 110 (McPherson, 2009) (concerning an accident by male driver at UPS's Johnstown, Pennsylvania facility); UPS and Teamsters Local Union No. 30 (Miles, 2007) (accident involving male driver at UPS's New Stanton, Pennsylvania facility); UPS and Teamsters Local 30 (Zobrak, 2006) (involving male UPS driver in Greensburg, Pennsylvania); and UPS and Teamsters Local 30 (Zobrak, 2001) (involving male UPS driver in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania), reported at Def.'s Ex. I, Tabs 1-4, ECF Nos. 31-15 and 31-16.)
UPS provides training and periodic reminders to its drivers as to their accident reporting requirements, including the multiple ways that a driver can report an accident incurred during the course of a workday. (CSUMF ¶6.) UPS issues cell phones to its drivers in order to communicate with the Business Center. In addition, drivers can also utilize their own personal cell phones for communication purposes. In the absence of cell phone service, a driver can use the DIAD board, which is an on-car system that records information for the driver and is a way for the driver to communicate with the Business Center. Drivers can also use a landline to telephone the center. ( Id. )
In January 2009, Plaintiff was involved in a "backing accident" that resulted in minor damage to the package car that she was driving. (CSUMF ¶16.) The accident, which UPS determined to be avoidable, resulted in Plaintiff receiving a warning letter and additional training. ( Id. ¶17.) Because Plaintiff timely and properly reported the accident to management, she was spared a more severe form of discipline such as discharge. ( Id. ) In connection with this accident, Plaintiff received an Accident Review Report stating, in relevant part, that "[a]n accident is defined as any occurrence in which our vehicle is, in any way, involved and which results in personal injury or properly damage, no matter how slight." (Def.'s Ex. A, Pt. 4 at 18, ECF No. 31-4; Pl.'s Dep. 183, ECF No. 34-1.)
In April 2010, Plaintiff underwent back surgery for a degenerative disc condition, which resulted in complications. (Pl.'s Dep. 148-49, ECF No. 31-3.) In April 2011, she began utilizing intermittent leave under the FMLA in order to cover flare-ups and monthly doctor appointments related to her back problems. ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims that, thereafter, Ho began assigning her less desirable routes with more stops, mileage, and/or package volume. (CSUMF ¶82; Pl.'s Dep. 166-67, ECF No. 31-3.)
Plaintiff also contends that, on August 23, 2011,  she was off work on an FMLA day when Ho and Crabb advised her that she had to come into work. (CSUMF ¶87; Pl.'s Dep. 157-59, ECF No. 31-3; id. at 173, ECF No. 34-1.) Upon reporting to work, Plaintiff had a heated argument with Ho about her right to take leave under the FMLA. (Pl.'s Dep. 173, ECF No. 34-1.) Ho responded that he didn't have enough drivers because others were taking time off. ( Id. at 174.)
Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL"). (Pl.'s Ex. G, ECF No. 34-1.) The record shows that the DOL investigator made contact with Linda Mayers, an administrative assistant in UPS's Human Resources Department for Western Pennsylvania, located in New Stanton, Pennsylvania. (Mayers Decl. ¶2, ECF No. 31-14.) Mayers' duties at the time included maintaining records associated with leave requests and the Company's approval or disapproval of such requests. ( Id. ¶3.) According to Mayers, the DOL investigator indicated that there was an issue regarding Anderson having been denied FMLA leave. ( Id. at ¶5.) Mayers advised the investigator that Anderson had previously been approved for leave under UPS's leave policy but that she had exhausted her entitlement. ( Id. ¶5.) According to the DOL documentation submitted by Plaintiff, Mayers informed the investigator that the Human Resource Department did not have any record of Plaintiff requesting leave on August 23, 2011. (Pl.'s Ex. G at p. 4, ECF No. 34-1.) Moreover, the DOL's records state that:
... [UPS] has a policy that if an employee with at least 36 months service and at least 625 work hours in the previous 12 months, [sic] are eligible for up to 6 weeks under the UPS FMLA policy... [Redacted] did not work the required 1250 hours in Reg. 825.110(a)(2) the 12 month period prior to commencement of leave to start 1/27/2011 therefore was not eligible for FMLA.
( Id. ) Per the investigator's request, Mayers supplied the DOL a copy of UPS's FMLA policy (Mayer's Decl. ¶5), which Plaintiff admits is more generous than federal law requires. (CSUMF ¶10.) As a result of the DOL's investigation, no FMLA violations were charged. (Pl.'s Ex. G at p. 4, ECF No. 34-1.) Mayers states that she never received any documentation from the DOL concerning Anderson, and she never discussed the conversation she had with the investigator with Davis or anyone else at the DuBois Center. (Mayers Decl. ¶¶ 6-8.)
On February 14, 2012 Plaintiff was assigned a route comprised primarily of stops in the rural outskirts of Punxsutawney. (CSUMF ¶18.) While attempting a delivery on a steeply graded private road known as "Big W Drive, " Plaintiff encountered an oncoming U.S. Postal Service vehicle which began sliding down the roadway toward Plaintiff's package car. ( Id. ¶¶19-20; Pl.'s Dep. 99-100, ECF No. 31-2.) As Plaintiff applied the brakes to her vehicle, she began sliding backward down the hill and got stuck in a ditch. (Pl.'s Dep. 101, ECF. No. 31-2; id. at 102-03, ECF No. 31-3.) Unable to extricate the vehicle by herself, Plaintiff accepted help from two nearby residents who pulled the package car out with a backhoe. (Pl.'s Dep. at 103-08, ECF No. 31-3; CSUMF ¶¶22-23.) Plaintiff and the two individuals who assisted her then inspected the vehicle for damage but found none. (Pl.'s Dep. 118-19, 125, Pl.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 34-1; Pl.'s Ex. B, ECF No. 34-1.)
In all, the incident lasted approximately 45 minutes, 30 of which Plaintiff accounted for in the Company's time-card system as unpaid lunch time. (Pl.'s Dep. at 108-110, ECF No. 31-3; CSUMF ¶24.) Because she was behind schedule on her route, Plaintiff texted a fellow-driver with a request for help on a scheduled pick-up, noting that she'd "[h]ad a BAD morning [and] got stuck for 45 mins..." (Pl.'s Ex. C, ECF No. 34-1.) She did not contact any member of management at the DuBois Center.
Plaintiff eventually returned to the DuBois Center at approximately 9:00 p.m. that night. (Pl.'s Dep. 113, 116, ECF No. 31-3.) Upon completing her post-trip inspection of the package car, she noticed damage to the passenger side of the vehicle. According to Plaintiff, this damage was only "slight" and consisted of "a one-or-two inch [piece] of angle iron [that had been] moved over about a half inch to an inch." (Pl.'s Dep. 118, ECF No. 31-3.) Plaintiff concedes this damage was incurred at some point during the course of her route on February 14, 2012, but she does not believe that it happened at the time she got stuck on Big W Drive, because neither she nor the two individuals who had helped extricate her vehicle had noticed any damage to the package car afterward. ( Id. at 118-19, ECF No. 31-3; Pl.'s Ex. B, ECV No. 34-1.)
In any event, upon noticing the damage, Plaintiff summoned the on-duty mechanic, David Yoder, and pointed it out to him. (Pl.'s Dep. 124-25, 129, ECF No. 31-3.) What occurred during this exchange is disputed by the parties.
Yoder's account is memorialized in a February 23, 2012 email to the Company's Mid-Atlantic Automotive Supervisor, Pat Rossi, who was Yoder's boss. The email states the following:
On February 14, 2012 around 9:20 pm I was on the phone with Eric Starner, the Kane mechanic when Penny Anderson came to me waiving a [Driver Vehicle Inspection Report] slip and saying she needed to talk to me. I told Eric I would call him back. When I got off of the phone Penny told me she slid off the road and got stuck in a ditch trying to avoid an accident with a mail truck that was sliding towards her. She then said rather than have the company charged for a tow she had an excavator pull her out. As we proceeded to walk towards the vehicle she told me she hit a tree and had damage to the side of the truck. Penny said she did not record the accident or damage on the DIVR [sic] slip because she didn't want to get into trouble. (She told me that all I needed to do was take a hammer and knock it back into place.) When we got to the truck, she pointed out the damage to the pillar support on the side of the vehicle again saying, you just need to take a hammer and knock it back into place. Penny then left. I proceeded to look at the vehicle from ground level and grabbed where the damage was to determine what needed to be done and the whole support shook. I then determined it needed more than just knocking it into place with a hammer. I turned around, Scott and Charlene Snyder and Dario Wayne were observing the damage from the belt catwalk. I said to them this is going to take more than two minutes and a hammer, this is structural support damage. Then, Charlene brought out Josh Crabb, the Local Sort supervisor to look at it. Josh then took pictures with the a [sic] digital camera while I ...