United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA, SECRETARY OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Plaintiff,
LLOYD INDUSTRIES, INC., ET AL., Defendants.
Secretary of the Department of Labor, R. Alexander Acosta,
brings this action on behalf of two discharged employees
against their employer, Defendants Lloyd Industries Inc.
(“Lloyd Industries”) and William P. Lloyd
(“Mr. Lloyd”), alleging violations of the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act (the
“OSH Act”), 29 U.S.C. § 660(c).
to the Secretary, Matthew Spillane and Santa
“Dino” Sanna were wrongfully terminated in
retaliation for assisting the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (“OSHA”) in identifying safety
hazards at Lloyd Industries. The Secretary relies upon
Section 11(c) of the OSH Act, which prohibits the discharge
of employees because they file complaints or otherwise
exercise rights afforded by the Act, including informing OSHA
about unsafe conditions.
Secretary brings one claim of retaliation in violation of the
OSH Act. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. As
genuine issues of material fact exist, Defendants' motion
will be denied.
issue before me is whether material undisputed facts exist to
establish that Defendants' termination of Mr. Spillane
and Mr. Sanna was non-retaliatory. The Secretary asserts that
Mr. Spillane was fired because he took and shared photographs
of a machine that caused an injury to a co-worker, leading to
an OSHA complaint. The Secretary further posits that Mr.
Sanna was fired because of his relationship to an employee
who filed a complaint with OSHA and for testifying at an OSHA
hearing. Defendants counter that the material undisputed
facts establish that Mr. Spillane was terminated because he
was sleeping on the job, and Mr. Sanna was terminated because
his disregard for his duties to oversee OSHA compliance
resulted in OSHA citations. Not surprisingly, these vastly
divergent versions of events are supported by differing and
parties agree on only the following facts:
- Lloyd Industries is a small business manufacturing a
variety of fire and smoke dampers, a product designed to stop
the spread of fires. Founded by its owner and president, Mr.
Lloyd, the company employs almost 100 individuals in two
plant locations-one in Florida and one in Montgomeryville,
Pennsylvania, which is the focus of the lawsuit before me.
(Defs.' Statement of Material Facts (“SOF”)
¶¶ 1-3; Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts
(“SOF”) ¶¶ 1-3.)
- On July 11, 2014, Joshua Elbode (“Mr. Elbode”),
an employee of Lloyd Industries, suffered a partial
amputation of three fingers on his right hand while using a
press brake machine. In late October 2014, three months after
the injury, Mr. Elbode filed a complaint with OSHA. As a
result, OSHA initiated an inspection of the plant, and
Compliance Safety and Health Officers arrived on November 13,
2014. (Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 28-29, 31, 33-34;
Defs.' Mot, Ex. 1, 27:19-28:6, 30:7-8, 34:8-24, 139:3-7,
143:6-14, 2003:17-2007:23; Id, Ex. 6; Pl.'s SOF
¶¶ 28-29, 31, 33-34.)
- Mr. Spillane, one of the fired employees, joined Lloyd
Industries in May 2014. He worked with Mr. Elbode in the
Access Door Department as a laborer. Following Mr.
Elbode's accident, Mr. Spillane took photographs of the
worksite from July 2014 through August 2014 and, at the
request of Mr. Elbode's attorney, provided them to Mr.
Elbode to assist with his worker's compensation matter.
Rene Santos, another employee at Lloyd Industries, informed
Mr. Lloyd that he saw Mr. Spillane taking these photographs.
The parties also agree that Mr. Lloyd gave Mr. Spillane
Phillies tickets despite learning about the photographs.
(Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 35-40; Compl. ¶¶ 12,
16; Ans. ¶ 12; Defs.' Mot., Ex. 1, 1072:3-1073:19;
Id, Ex. 7, 11:21-12:5; Id, Ex. 9;
Id, Ex. 10, 65:23-68:11; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶
- Mr. Lloyd terminated Mr. Spillane on November 18, 2014.
(Defs.' SOF ¶ 52; Compl. ¶ 23; Ans. ¶ 23;
Pl.'s SOF ¶ 52.)
- Mr. Sanna, another terminated employee of Lloyd Industries,
is Mr. Elbode's grandfather and was hired in 2008 to work
as the Montgomeryville plant manager. Mr. Sanna provided
testimony to OSHA in February 2015. (Defs.' SOF ¶¶
23, 28; Compl. ¶ 30; Ans. ¶ 30; Pl.'s SOF
¶¶ 23, 28.)
- On May 11, 2015, OSHA issued numerous citations against
Lloyd Industries and proposed penalties in the amount of
$822, 000. OSHA issued six alleged violations of 29 C.F.R.
§ 1910.212(a)(3)(ii), which requires the point of
operation machinery to be guarded, and three alleged
violations of 29 C.F.R. § 1910.95(g)(6), which requires
that employees exposed to noise over 85 dBA for an eight-hour
time weighted average receive annual audiometric tests.
(Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 59, 61-62; Defs.' Mot., Exs.
18-19; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 59, 61-62.)
- On May 11, 2015, after screaming in frustration because of
the OSHA citations, Mr. Lloyd fired Mr. Sanna. Mr. Lloyd
testified that if the company received an $822, 000 fine,
“somebody gets fired.” (Defs.' SOF
¶¶ 68-69; Defs.' Mot., Ex. 11, 146:18-147:4;
Id, Ex. 20, 298:14-301:13; Pl.'s SOF
- Following their terminations, Mr. Spillane and Mr. Sanna
both filed complaints alleging that Lloyd Industries
retaliated against them in violation of the OSH Act. Upon
receiving notification of Mr. Spillane's complaint, Lloyd
Industries informed OSHA that it terminated Mr. Spillane
because “[s]everal employees notified [Mr. Lloyd] that
Mr. Spillane was punching in at 6:00 am on Saturday and
Sunday's going back to his car to sleep until 8:30-9:00
am.” (Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 72-73; Defs.'
Mot., Exs. 21-23; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 72-73.) The
parties have not provided any citations to the record
regarding whether Mr. Lloyd provided any explanation to OSHA
regarding Mr. Sanna's termination.
majority of the factual record is contested as follows:
- Regarding Mr. Spillane's termination, Defendants
contend that Mr. Lloyd received multiple reports that Mr.
Spillane slept while on the job. Mr. Lloyd was informed that
Mr. Spillane would clock into work on a Saturday at 6:00
a.m., go to his car for a period of time, and then return to
work before Mr. Lloyd arrived. Defendants assert that Rene
Santos, another Lloyd Industries employee, told Mr. Lloyd
that Mr. Spillane was sleeping in his car, as did the union
shop steward Russell Murphy. (Defs.' SOF ¶¶
43-46; Defs.' Mot., Ex. 10, 39:2-13; Id., Ex.
11, 64:6-11, 75:17-79:25.) According to Defendants, having
received multiple reports of Mr. Spillane sleeping on the
job, he was legitimately fired.
The Secretary contradicts these facts by pointing to
Murphy's deposition, wherein Murphy states that he did
not tell Mr. Lloyd about Mr. Spillane sleeping in his car
prior to termination. (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. J,
- Defendants note that Mr. Lloyd does not have a set
procedure for terminating employees, but rather usually
“lets an issue fester” until he reaches a
“boiling point, ” and then “just fire[s]
them.” According to Defendants, Mr. Lloyd waited to
fire Mr. Spillane until more than one employee reported they
had seen Mr. Spillane clock in and return to his car.
(Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 53-54, 57; Defs.' Mot., Ex.
11, 35:14-21, 71:20-72:1, 86:7-87:19.)
In response, the Secretary points to Mr. Sanna's
declaration, where he states that Mr. Lloyd has a short
temper and often fired employees when he became angry with
them. The Secretary again flags that Russell Murphy testified
he did not tell Mr. Lloyd about Mr. Spillane sleeping in his
car prior to termination. (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. D ¶ 7;
Id., Ex. E, 35:3-15; Id., Ex. J,
- As to Mr. Sanna, Defendants contend that he directed and
managed all plant operations in his role as plant manager,
and had additional broad responsibilities for production,
maintenance, safety, quality, and other production-related
activities. (Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 24, 26; Defs.'
Mot., Ex. 3, 29:14-24, 39:13-21, 41:3-45:19, 49:7-16,
75:6-76:17, 93:15-94:16, 194:20-197:3, 268:24-271:24;
Id., Ex. 4, 102:16-24; Id., Ex. 5,
28:8-23.) Defendants raise these facts to justify Mr.
In response, the Secretary points to the declaration of Mr.
Sanna, in which he avers that he was not responsible for
safety at the plant. (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. D ¶ 10.)
- Defendants also point out that Mr. Lloyd became
“incensed” when he received the OSHA citations
because he believed the Montgomeryville plant was
“clean as a whistle” in light of the fact that
his Florida plant, which was a “clone” of the
Montgomeryville plant, was also inspected by OSHA and
received no citations. (Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 64-68;
Defs.' Mot., Ex. 11, 142:8-143:10-25, 146:18-147:4,
148:18-149:7; Id., Ex. 20, 298:14-301:13.)
The Secretary contests this point, citing to the transcript
from the OSHA hearing where Mr. Lloyd testified that he did
not “pay much attention” to OSHA rules and
“delegate[s] that to other people so [he] can stay away
from it.” (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. C, 1668:7-14.)
- Finally, Defendants aver that Mr. Lloyd fired Mr. Sanna
because he believed Mr. Sanna was responsible for ensuring
the company complied with OSHA regulations. (Defs.' SOF
¶¶ 69-71; Defs.' Mot., Ex. 20, 298:14-301:13.)
The Secretary responds that Mr. Lloyd did not assign
responsibility for safety and health to Mr. Sanna. (Pl.'s