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Lomidze v. Chester Downs and Marina, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 16, 2015

KOBA LOMIDZE,
v.
CHESTER DOWNS AND MARINA, LLC d/b/a HARRAH'S PHILADELPHIA

MEMORANDUM

JOHN R. PADOVA, District Judge.

Plaintiff Koba Lomidze brings this employment discrimination case against his employer, Defendant Chester Downs and Marina LLC, d/b/a Harrah's Philadelphia, asserting that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of age and disability. Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, in which it argues that the undisputed record evidence demonstrates that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. For the following reasons, we grant the Motion and enter judgment in Defendant's favor.

I. BACKGROUND

The undisputed record facts are as follows. Defendant hired Plaintiff as an Environmental Services Attendant in March of 2009. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Facts Stmt") ¶ 1.)[1] Two years later, he was transferred to the position of Heavy Duty Cleaner. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff's duties as a Heavy Duty Cleaner included climbing, stretching, bending, lifting up to fifty pounds, and pushing and pulling heavy duty equipment. (Id. ¶ 4.) According to Plaintiff, these duties were more difficult than those he was required to undertake as an Environmental Services Attendant. (Id. ¶ 5.) On February 5, 2012, Plaintiff was suspended pending an investigation into his refusal to follow a direct work order from his supervisor. (Id. ¶ 6.) On February 13, 2012, following that investigation, Plaintiff was terminated from his position as a Heavy Duty Cleaner. (Id. ¶ 7.) Defendant stated that the reason for Plaintiff's termination was his failure to follow a direct order from his supervisor, which was considered to be insubordination. (Id. ¶ 8.)

On February 14, 2012, Plaintiff filed a grievance with his union, seeking to dispute his termination and asking that the termination be "expunge[d]." (Id. ¶¶ 9, 14; Def.'s Ex. E.) After the union conducted its own investigation, which included speaking with Plaintiff's shop steward, it confirmed that Plaintiff had refused to follow a direct work order even after being advised of the consequences of that refusal. (Facts Stmt ¶ 9.) As a result, the union declined to pursue reinstatement on Plaintiff's behalf. (Id.; Def.'s Ex. F.) Instead, the union simply sought to have Plaintiff's termination converted to a resignation, so that his employment file would not reflect a termination. (Facts Stmt ¶¶ 10-11.) Defendant agreed to that resolution and, on April 4, 2012, Plaintiff's February 13, 2012 termination was converted to a resignation, effective February 13, 2012. (Id. ¶ 12.)

On January 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Id. ¶ 15.) In the Charge of Discrimination, Plaintiff claimed that Defendant had failed to accommodate his alleged disability and had disciplined him on account of his disabilities. (Id.) Consistent with that claim, the only box checked on Plaintiff's Charge of Discrimination is "disability, " and the only statute referenced in the Charge is the Americans with Disabilities Act, 29 U.S.C. § 12112(a), as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008, 29 U.S.C. § 1201 et seq. (together, the "ADA"). (Id. ¶ 16.) The Charge of Discrimination does not allege discrimination based on age or national origin, and it does not mention the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 623(a); Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ; or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) Plaintiff co-filed a claim with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, but he never filed a claim with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"). (Id. ¶ 20; Def.'s Ex. H.) The EEOC issued a right to sue letter on December 2, 2013. (Facts Stmt ¶ 21.)

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this case on February 28, 2014. The Complaint asserts that Plaintiff was wrongfully terminated from his employment with Defendant due to age and disability, and that such termination violated Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA and the PHRA.[2] Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing, inter alia, that we should enter judgment in its favor because Plaintiff failed to timely exhaust his administrative remedies and did not raise any claim other than disability discrimination in his untimely filing with the EEOC.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id.

"[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After the moving party has met its initial burden, the adverse party's response must support the assertion "that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed... by (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record...; or (B) showing that the materials [that the moving party has] cited do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). In ruling on a summary judgment motion, we consider "the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the party who opposed summary judgment." Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177, 179 n.1 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007)).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant argues that we should dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims because Plaintiff did not timely exhaust his administrative remedies. In the alternative, it argues that we should dismiss Plaintiff's discrimination claims insofar as they are grounded on any discrimination other than disability discrimination, because Plaintiff only asserted disability discrimination in his EEOC filing.

A. Timely Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

It is well established that, as a prerequisite to filing an employment discrimination suit under Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA, or the PHRA, a plaintiff must first exhaust his administrative remedies. Webb v. City of Philadelphia, 562 F.3d 256, 262 (3d Cir. 2009) (addressing Title VII claims (citations omitted)); Hildebrand v. Allegheny County, 757 F.3d 99 (3d Cir. 2014) (addressing ADEA claims (citing 29 U.S.C. § 626(d)(1)); Churchill v. Star Enters., 183 F.3d 184, 190 (3d Cir. 1999) (addressing ADA claims (citations omitted)); Mandel v. M&Q Packaging Corp., 706 F.3d 157, 163 (3d Cir. 2013) (addressing PHRA claims) (citation omitted)). A plaintiff does so by filing an administrative charge within a specified time frame. See, e.g., Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 104-05 (2002) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)). For a Title VII claim, the plaintiff must file a charge with the EEOC within "either 180 or 300 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.'" Id . (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)). The operative time period in Pennsylvania is 300 days, because Pennsylvania is a "deferral state, " i.e., a state in which there is a state agency with authority to grant relief on claims of alleged discrimination. Seredinski v. Clifton Precision Prods. Co., 776 F.2d 56, 61 (3d Cir. 1985). The same 300-day time period applies in ADEA and ADA cases. See Hildebrand, ...


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