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Diffenderfer v. Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 22, 2018



          SYLVIA H. RAMBO United States District Judge

         In this civil action against his former employer, Plaintiff asserts claims for employment discrimination and retaliation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Presently before the court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to all claims. For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be granted in its entirety.

         I. Background

         In considering the instant motion, the court relied on the uncontested facts or, if the facts were disputed, viewed the facts and deduced all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to Plaintiff as the nonmoving party. See Doe v. C.A.R.S. Prot. Plus, 527 F.3d 358, 362 (3d Cir. 2008).

         A. Facts

         Plaintiff Gregory Diffenderfer (“Plaintiff”) was employed by Defendant Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union (“Defendant”) as a collections manager from October 2007 until 2014. (Doc. 20, Statement of Material Facts (“SMF”), ¶ 3; Doc. 25-3, Answer to SMF and Counter-Statement of Material Facts (“CSMF”), ¶ 3.) From approximately 2014 until his resignation in October 2016, Plaintiff had the title of senior collections manager and was exclusively responsible for Defendant's automobile loans. (SMF at ¶¶ 4, 10, 83; CSMF at ¶¶ 4, 10, 83.) Among Plaintiff's duties as a senior collections manager was to “develop and maintain reports that provide timely measurements of workflow, staff productivity and the effectiveness of unit operations, ” which “should display trending and provide data needed for forecasting.” (SMF at ¶¶ 5-6; CSMF at ¶¶ 5-6.) Plaintiff was also responsible for disseminating information throughout the collections unit through frequent meetings. (CSMF at ¶ 7.)

         In February 2000, prior to his employment with Defendant, Plaintiff received a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant, and subsequently experienced rejection problems with both transplanted organs at different points. (SMF at ¶ 11; CSMF at ¶ 11.) Plaintiff's medical issues required monthly blood tests which caused him to report for work late on days his blood was drawn. (SMF at ¶ 13; CSMF at ¶ 13.) Defendant never denied any of Plaintiff's requests for time off for doctor appointments or blood tests, and did not require Plaintiff to use FMLA leave for these appointments. (SMF at ¶¶ 14-15; CSMF at ¶¶ 14-15.)

         In November 2013, Plaintiff suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. (SMF at ¶ 16; CSMF at ¶ 16.) As a result, Plaintiff missed work and used continuous FMLA leave from November 2013 until March 2014. (SMF at ¶ 17; CSMF at ¶ 17.) Plaintiff's physician, Dr. James Harvey, certified that Plaintiff would be able to return to work on March 11, 2014, provided that he not lift more than forty pounds and that he leave work at 2:45 p.m. three times per week until June 1, 2014 to attend cardiac rehabilitation. (SMF at ¶ 18; CSMF at ¶ 18.) Upon Plaintiff's return to work on March 11, 2014, Defendant notified him that he had exhausted all of his available FMLA leave. (Doc. 21, p. 247 of 353.) Plaintiff testified that although he did not recall receiving the notice, he did remember that in 2014 he had used all of his available FMLA leave. (Id. at p. 111 of 353.) Although Plaintiff had exhausted his FMLA leave, Defendant never denied his subsequent requests for time off. (Id.)

         On April 2, 2014, Plaintiff received a written warning for his poor judgment in not complying with a cease and desist letter Defendant had received in relation to a collections account. (Id. at p. 193 of 353.) The warning noted that Plaintiff was “relied upon for his judgment” and that “[s]imilar incidents occurring in the future will result in further discipline up to and including termination.” (Id.) Later in April 2014, Stephen Hemler (“Mr. Hemler”) became the Director of Consumer Debt Collections in Defendant's Credit Services Department, making him Plaintiff's direct supervisor. (SMF at ¶¶ 24-25; CSMF at ¶¶ 24-25.) Mr. Hemler indicated that he would give all employees now under his supervision, including Plaintiff, a clean slate. (SMF at ¶ 49; CSMF at ¶ 49.) Plaintiff felt Mr. Hemler was a positive change over his previous supervisor and felt that he and Mr. Hemler had a good working relationship. (SMF at ¶¶ 26-28; CSMF at ¶¶ 26-28.) During the months leading up to October 2014, however, Mr. Hemler noticed “a series of performance issues” with Plaintiff (Doc. 21 at pp. 274-75 of 353), and had multiple discussions regarding these issues with Nancy Deckert, an employee in Defendant's human relations department (id. at p. 285 of 353). Specifically, Mr. Hemler communicated to Plaintiff that he was not displaying a sense of urgency in completing tasks, requiring Mr. Hemler to repeatedly follow up with him. (Id. at pp. 123-24 of 353.)

         On September 25, 2014, Plaintiff called to notify Defendant that he would be late to work because his daughter had fallen and he needed to take her to the hospital. (SMF at ¶¶ 29-30; CSMF at ¶¶ 29-30.) On September 29, 2014, Mr. Hemler emailed Plaintiff and asked if his time card needed to be updated to reflect his time off on September 25, 2014. (SMF at ¶ 33; CSMF at ¶ 33.) Plaintiff responded that he was confused by the question because he felt that, as an exempt employee under Defendant's “Exempt Employees and Taking Time Off” policy, he did not need to use paid time off (“PTO”) for occasional time missed as long as he worked at least four and one half hours in a work day. (SMF at ¶¶ 34-35; CSMF at ¶¶ 34-35.) Per Defendant's policy:

Exempt employees taking time off are not required to take PTO if they work at least 4.5 hours on a given day. The reason for this policy is that it is understood that occasionally things come up like doctor appointments, family issues, or simply some kind of personal situation that needs to be dealt with. These types of circumstances may require coming to work late or leaving early, etc.

(Doc. 21 at p. 243 of 353.) The policy goes on to clarify that “[s]upervisors have the right to deny requests if they deem it necessary. This is always at the supervisor's discretion - not the employee's.” (Id.) After Plaintiff and Mr. Hemler discussed the issue in person, during which there was no discussion of any of Plaintiff's medical issues, Mr. Hemler sent an additional email to Plaintiff, stating:

Just as a follow up to our discussion, my preference is that we get 8 hours in per day. I'm perfectly fine with managers adjusting their hours or using PTO to make that happen but do ask that you email me and also obviously ensure that there is coverage. With so much on our plates and a good bit of work ahead of ...

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