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Hughes v. Allegheny County Airport Authority

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 6, 2017

LONNELL HUGHES, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY AIRPORT AUTHORITY a/k/a PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Lonnell Hughes (“Plaintiff”) initiated this civil action on February 17, 2015 against his employer, the Allegheny County Airport Authority a/k/a Pittsburgh International Airport (“ACAA” or “Defendant”). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint sets forth claims of racial discrimination and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

         Presently pending before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff (Docket Nos. 113 and 114) and Defendant (Docket No. 116). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED and Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment will be DENIED.

         II. Background

         A. Local Rule 56.1 Violation

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that Plaintiff has failed to properly respond to Defendant's Concise Statement of Material Facts, (Docket No. 117), as required by Local Rule 56.C.1. This rule requires non-moving parties to a motion for summary judgment to file their own concise statement responding to each numbered paragraph in the movant's concise statement. See LCvR 56.C.1. The non-moving party's concise statement must admit or deny the facts contained in the movant's concise statement; set forth the basis for denial if any fact within the movant's concise statement is not entirely admitted by the non-moving party, with appropriate citation to the record; and set forth, in separately numbered paragraphs, any other material facts at issue. See id.

         A non-moving party faces severe consequences for not properly responding to a moving party's concise statement. Any alleged material facts “set forth in the moving party's Concise Statement of Material Facts ... which are claimed to be undisputed, will for the purpose of deciding the motion for summary judgment be deemed admitted unless specifically denied or otherwise controverted by a separate concise statement of the opposing party.” LCvR 56.E.

         In responding to Defendant's summary judgment motion, Plaintiff failed to specifically reply to each paragraph in Defendant's concise statement. Instead, Plaintiff included a narrative in his Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Docket No. 125), that purports to state his own version of the operative facts, albeit without any citations to the factual record. Plaintiff later clarified, by way of an email to the Court, that this memorandum was intended to serve as his response to Defendant's concise statement. (Text Entry, 5/22/17).

         Courts provide some leniency to pro se litigants when applying procedural rules. Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 244 (3d Cir. 2013) (“[W]e tend to be flexible when applying procedural rules to pro se litigants, especially when interpreting their pleadings.”). However, the Court “‘is under no duty to provide personal instruction on courtroom procedure or to perform any legal chores for the [pro se litigant] that counsel would normally carry out.'” Id. (quoting Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004)). Pro se litigants must adhere to procedural rules as would parties assisted by counsel. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (explaining that “we have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel”).

         This Court “requires strict compliance with the provisions of [Local Rule 56].” E.E.O.C. v. U.S. Steel Corp., No. 2:10-CV-1284, 2013 WL 625315, at *1 n.1 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 20, 2013) (internal quotations omitted); see also Practices and Procedures of Judge Nora Barry Fischer § II.E. (i), Effective Mar. 23, 2010, available at http://www.pawd.uscourts.gov/ Documents/Judge/fischerpp.pdf. Accordingly, to the extent Plaintiff's allegations of facts fail to address a particular concise statement of material fact, that concise statement of material fact will be deemed admitted. LCvR 56.E; see also Boyd v. Citizens Bank of Pa., Inc., No. 12-CV-332, 2014 WL 2154902, at *3 (W.D. Pa. May 22, 2014) (applying Local Rule 56.E and explaining that “to the extent [the pro se] Plaintiff's recitation of the facts do not specifically address Defendant's statement of facts, Defendant's statement will be deemed admitted”). The Court will consider any facts properly alleged in Plaintiff's pro se responses that specifically contradict Defendant's statement of facts, to the extent that they are supported by the record. See Boyd, 2014 WL 2154902, at *3 (stating that “[t]o the extent Plaintiff's statement of ‘fact' specifically controverts Defendant's, the Court will consider these facts in determining whether summary judgment should be granted”).

         B. Facts

         Plaintiff, an African-American male, commenced employment with the ACAA as a Laborer on February 12, 2001. (Docket No. 117 at ¶ 1). In 2004, Plaintiff filed two charges of discrimination against the ACAA with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) alleging that he was being subjected to a hostile working environment because of his race. (Id. at ¶ 3; Hughes Depo. (Docket No. 119-2) at 213-15). Each of these complaints was dismissed by the EEOC and/or PHRC without a finding of cause. (Docket No. 117 at ¶ 4).

         In 2008, Plaintiff initiated an action against the ACAA in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas based on a disagreement concerning health coverage. (Hughes Depo. (Docket No. 119-2) at 217-18). Plaintiff's attorney voluntarily dismissed that lawsuit in 2008. (Id. at 217; Praecipe to Discontinue (Docket No. 119-4) at 8-9).

         In 2013, Plaintiff applied for two Driver positions posted by the ACAA. (Docket No. 117 at ¶ 5). Pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between the Teamsters and the ACAA, employees seeking a position as a Driver are required to obtain and maintain a Pennsylvania Class “A” Commercial Drivers License (“CDL”) with Tank/Hazmat and Passenger commercial endorsements. (Id. ¶ 6). Plaintiff possessed the requisite CDL and Hazmat and Tanker commercial endorsements, but has never obtained a Passenger endorsement. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15, 20-21). The two Driver positions were ultimately awarded to candidates who possessed all of the endorsements required by the CBA. (Id. at ¶ 22).

         CDLs and commercial endorsements are issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”), rather than the ACAA. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11). An employee seeking a position as a Driver with the ACAA must obtain the requisite endorsements on his own behalf. (Id. at ¶¶ 11). Although the ACAA routinely refers employees to a PennDOT-certified test administrator named Ron Burkhart, Burkhart is not an ACAA employee and is not subject to the ACAA's control. (Id. at ¶ 12). ACAA employees are not required to take the endorsement skills tests with Burkhart. (Id. at ¶¶ 13, 19).

         In the fall of 2013, Plaintiff bid for two additional positions: (1) a position on the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift, and (2) a temporary position on the 6:00 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. shift. (Id. at ¶ 25). Plaintiff was selected for the position on the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift based on seniority, but was denied the second position because he was not the most senior person who bid for that position. (Id. at ¶ 26).

         Beginning in 2013, Plaintiff received several “Failure to Punch” notifications from the ACAA because of his failure to comply with the ACAA's time card policy. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-29). Failure to Punch violations are minor infractions that do not typically result in disciplinary action. (Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiff did not receive any discipline based on the Failure to Punch notifications that he received. (Id. at ¶ 31).

         On January 6, 2014, Plaintiff was randomly selected for a drug test. (Id. at ¶ 33). Pursuant to the ACAA's Substance Abuse Policy, a minimum of 50% of the employees covered by the policy must be randomly drug tested each year. (Id. at ¶ 32). The ACAA utilizes an unaffiliated third-party administrator, Heritage Valley Health System (“Heritage Valley”), to administer its random drug testing program. (Id. at ¶ 34). Although Plaintiff complained that his drug test had been intentionally scheduled during a period of time in which he was taking prescription pain medication, Plaintiff passed his drug test. (Id. at ¶¶ 36-37).

         After being notified of his selection for random drug testing, Plaintiff became angry and irate. (Id. at ¶ 38). Plaintiff approached his supervisor, Mark Pobicki, and an Administrative Assistant, Terry Mitchell, and displayed behavior that Pobicki and Mitchell described as “loud and angry” and “aggressive.” (Id. at ¶ 40; Pobicki Statement (Docket No. 119-14) at 1; Mitchell Statement (Docket No. 119-15) at 1-2). As a result, the ACAA contacted the Allegheny County Police Department to report Plaintiff's behavior. (Docket No. 117 at ¶ 41). The ACAA also placed Plaintiff on paid administrative leave and referred him to a physician for a “fit for duty evaluation” to determine whether he was medically fit to return to work. (Id. at ¶ 44).

         Following Plaintiff's evaluation, the ACAA received a letter from the referred physician stating that Plaintiff was unfit for duty. (Docket No. 119-18). Based on this determination, Plaintiff was placed on unpaid leave. (Id. at ¶ 45-46). Plaintiff remained on unpaid leave from February 9, 2014, through May of 2014, at which time he returned to work as a Laborer. (Id. at ¶¶ 46-49).

         III. Procedural History

         Plaintiff initiated the instant action on February 17, 2015, asserting claims against both the ACAA and Laborers Local Union No. 1058. (Docket No. 1). Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on August 19, 2015. (Docket No. 18). On July 7, 2016, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of Laborers Local Union No. 1058 with prejudice. (Docket No. 63).

         On October 31, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second motion to amend his complaint, seeking to add an allegation of disparate treatment based on the same conduct underlying his Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 96). The Court granted the motion on December ...


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