United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
KELLI D. REJNIAK, Plaintiff,
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Postmaster General of the United States, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER, Re: ECF No. 51
MAUREEN P. KELLY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Kelli D. Rejniak (“Plaintiff”) has brought this
action against Megan J. Brennan, the Postmaster General of
the United States (“Defendant”), pursuant to the
Age Discrimination and Employment Act (the
“ADEA”). Plaintiff's claim arises out of
allegations that Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff
because she filed a complaint alleging discriminatory conduct
by employees of the United States Postal Service (the
“USPS”) in 2016.
before the Court is Defendant's Renewed Motion for
Summary Judgment (“Motion for Summary Judgment”).
ECF No. 51. For the reasons that follow, the Motion for
Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKROUND
claims arise out of alleged age-related discrimination
and retaliation that Plaintiff suffered while employed by the
USPS as a City Letter Carrier. Plaintiff has worked out of
the Allison Park Post Office for approximately twenty-four
years. ECF No. 40 ¶ 1. During the relevant time period,
from approximately the summer of 2016 to summer of 2017,
Plaintiff reported to Richard Williams
(“Williams”) as her first-line supervisor and to
Jamie Rinderle (“Rinderle”) as her second-line
supervisor. ECF No. 35 ¶¶ 5, 6. Williams had been
assigned to the Allison Park Post Office in November 2015 to
a temporary supervisor position. Id. ¶ 4.
claims that her mail carrier route was “overburdened,
” or in other words, required more deliveries than
could be accomplished in the time allotted for her to
complete the route. As a result, she claims she was unable to
complete her route in the eight hours permitted. Id.
¶¶ 19, 20.
testified during her deposition that Rinderle and other
supervisory staff utilize a system referred to as the
“DOIS” (Delivery Operation Information System) in
order to estimate the time needed for a letter carrier to
complete her assigned route. Id. ¶ 47. Through
the DOIS, an individual enters the amount of mail to be
distributed in a day, and the program calculates an estimated
route duration. Id. ¶ 48. According to
Plaintiff, Rinderle and Williams relied on the DOIS to
determine whether Plaintiff required additional time to
complete her route. Id. ¶ 50.
letter carrier is unable to complete her route in the time
allotted, the carrier can request permission to work
overtime. ECF No. 35 ¶ 21. A supervisor determines
whether to grant the letter carrier's overtime request.
Id. ¶ 22. Letter carriers often submit an
overtime request via a phone call or text message from the
road. Id. ¶ 23. Although the parties dispute
whether letter carriers were always required to submit a
“3996 Form” to request overtime under these
circumstances, they agree that Rinderle generally required
letter carriers to submit this form in connection with such
requests. Id. ¶ 23; ECF No. 39 ¶ 23.
the relevant time period, Plaintiff requested overtime to
complete her route “a couple” times per week. ECF
No. 35 ¶ 25. Plaintiff regularly took in excess of her
approved time to complete the route, which resulted in verbal
reprimands. Id. ¶ 27.
claims that Rinderle regularly “harassed” her
about not completing her route within the eight hours
allotted. Id. ¶ 26. She further testified that
Rinderle and Williams used a “harsh tone” with
her, and that Rinderle was “rude” in tone and
disrespectful towards Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶
54, 55. Plaintiff testified that she removed herself from the
overtime list for the period of April to June 2017 and used
paid vacation days to avoid the work environment. ECF No. 40
¶ 6. She further testified that she saw a therapist to
cope with stress and anxiety arising out of Rinderle's
letter carrier may receive a route inspection, which involves
observation and analysis of a letter carrier's route, if
she overruns on a route for more than sixty days. ECF No. 35
¶ 31. This observation period lasts one week.
Id. ¶ 33.
January or February 2017, Plaintiff was granted a route
inspection at her request. Id. ¶ 30. Steven
Hrip (“Hrip”), a Site Lead on the Route Exam
Team, was scheduled to observe Plaintiff beginning on
February 7, 2017. Id. ¶ 32; ECF No. 36-13. On
February 7, 2017, Hrip observed Plaintiff completing her
route, and she completed it within her allotted 8 hours. ECF
No. 35 ¶ 34.
observer did not accompany Plaintiff the next two days, on
February 8 and 9, 2017. Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff did
not complete her route in the time allotted on these two
days, and took 1.96 and 1.27 additional hours, respectively,
over her allotted time.
Hrip's observation was scheduled to resume on February
10, 2017, Hrip cancelled the route inspection. Id.
¶ 37. Hrip stated that he cancelled Plaintiff's
route inspection because of concerns over the accuracy of the
data collected. Id. ¶ 37. In particular, Hrip
pointed to Plaintiff's failure to submit a Form 3996 on
February 8 and 9, 2017 requesting overtime or auxiliary
assistance, which resulted in management assuming that she
would complete her route in 8 hours. Id. ¶ 39.
Hrip also noted that Plaintiff failed to record the time in
which she counted the mail on a required form, which would
result in data inaccuracy. Id. In addition, Hrip
“felt the data . . . from the first 3 days of the route
was not accurate and could not be utilized to adjust her
route” due to the discrepancy between her route times
on February 7, 2017, when accompanied by a route observer, as
opposed to February 8 and 9, 2017, when she completed her
route alone. Id. Hrip indicated that he advised
Plaintiff of the reason for cancelling the route inspection,
and she “offered no valid reason” for the
disparity in her route times between February 7 and 9, 2017,
as she acknowledged that the mail volumes were similar.
Id. ¶ 40.
testified that, on one of the days of her scheduled route
inspection, winter weather conditions were severe, mailboxes
were frozen, schools were cancelled due to weather, and the
inspector who was scheduled to ride with her was unable to
make it to the post office in order to accompany her. ECF No.
40 ¶ 15. She further testified that Rinderle refused to
allow Plaintiff to perform a mail count required as part of
the route inspection process, and that she believed Rinderle
had influenced the Route Examination Team's decision to
terminate her route inspection because Rinderle had spoken
with Hrip beforehand. Id. ¶¶ 16, 17; ECF
No. 35 ¶ 38.
testified that another letter carrier, Missy Bailey
(“Bailey”), received a route adjustment based on
a route inspection and receives additional assistance to
complete her route. ECF No. 40 ¶¶ 19, 20. Plaintiff
asserts that Bailey's route, which is on the opposite
side of the Route 8 corridor from Plaintiff's route, is
approximately the same length and has similar traffic
conditions to Plaintiff's route. Id. ¶ 21.
Letter of Warning
February 27, 2017, Rinderle issued Plaintiff a disciplinary
letter of warning (the “Letter of Warning”),
which stated in part:
On February 8th, you failed to submit a PS Form
3996 to alert management you needed to work more than eight
hours and you expanded your time by one hour and 57 minutes
without authorization. On February 9th, you failed to submit
a PS Form 3996 to alert management you needed to work more
than eight hours and you expanded your time by one hour and
16 minutes without authorization. On February
13th, your PS Form 3996 was approved for 45
minutes. You expanded your time without authorization by 99
At your interview you did not provide a reasonable
explanation for not fulfilling your reporting requirements.
. . . You must demonstrate adherence to Postal regulations.
Future deficiencies will result in more severe disciplinary
action being taken against you. Such actions may include
suspensions or removal from the Postal Service. If you do not
understand the reason for this letter, or if you are having
problems that I am not aware, I urge you to see me as soon as
You have the right to appeal the issuance of this
disciplinary action under the grievance/arbitration procedure
as set forth in Article 15 of the National Agreement within
14 days of your receipt of his notice.
ECF No. 35 ¶¶ 41-43; ECF No. 36-15.
Letter of Warning was, itself, the disciplinary action and no
additional penalties were imposed. ECF No. 35 ¶ 44.
Plaintiff believes that one instance of sick leave