Lanza v. Postmaster General of United States, 062714 FED3, 13-4562
|Opinion Judge:||BARRY, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||DEBORAH LANZA, Appellant v. POSTMASTER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES; UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE; JOHN DOES I-V; ABC CORPORATIONS I-V|
|Judge Panel:||Before: AMBRO, GREENBERG and BARRY, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||June 27, 2014|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit|
Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) June 10, 2014
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (D.C. Civil No. 3-10-cv-06737) District Judge: Honorable Peter G. Sheridan.
Deborah Lanza filed this action against her employer, the United States Postal Service ("USPS"), the Postmaster General of the United States, and other unnamed persons and entities, alleging that she was subjected to discriminatory discipline in the workplace because of her sex, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and her disability, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 1 as well as in retaliation for initiating a workers' compensation proceeding. The District Court granted summary judgment on all claims in favor of appellees. We will affirm.
Lanza began working as a supervisor at the U.S. Post Office in Red Bank, New Jersey in 2003. On March 20, 2006, she injured her knee while at work, and underwent surgery in July of the following year. Within months of her 2007 surgery, she was placed on limited duty status. She filed a workers' compensation request for a partial impairment in October 2008 and was issued an award on December 17, 2008.
Pursuant to USPS policy, each night, the Red Bank Post Office transfers its mail to a processing facility in Monmouth, New Jersey. Nightly processing is important to the timely delivery of mail. Accordingly, the on-duty supervisor must ensure that the mail has been sent to the processing plant before leaving the post office.
On December 9, 2008, Lanza worked a shift from 4:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Another supervisor, Judith Carter, was responsible for completing the daily operations at the post office, including overseeing transfer of the mail to the processing facility. Sometime between 9:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., Carter called Lanza at her home and told her that there had been a power outage at the post office and the mail had not been sent out for processing. Lanza advised Carter to contact their immediate superior, Paul Lagana, the postmaster at the Red Bank Post Office.
Lanza arrived for her shift at approximately 3:00 a.m. and discovered that the previous day's mail had still not been sent to the processing plant. Lanza called Lagana and arranged to have the mail immediately taken to the Monmouth facility. Lagana recognized that failure to have the mail transferred was a "major breach of protocol, " (S.A. 9), and expressed concern that he would be disciplined or fired for the delayed transfer. Ultimately, he received a disciplinary letter of warning in lieu of a 14-day suspension.
Lagana conducted a pre-disciplinary interview of Lanza on December 11, 2008, and issued a notice of proposed removal ("NPR") to both Lanza and Carter. Although Lanza was not on duty at the time she learned that the mail had not been transferred, Lagana believed that, once she had been informed of the problem, she had an obligation to attempt to resolve it and did not do so. He provided Lanza with a NPR on December 30, 2008. It stated that it constituted "advanced written notice that it is proposed to remove you from the Postal Service no sooner than 30 calendar days from the date of your receipt of this letter, " (AA 33), and that Lanza could appeal or request mediation. She understood that the NPR did not suspend or demote her and that she could remain at work in her same position.
After receiving the NPR, Lanza left work before her shift ended and never returned. She met with her physician, who treated her for chest pain and a panic attack, and was later treated for depression and anxiety. She applied for, and eventually received, another award of workers' compensation benefits.
Meanwhile, Lanza appealed the NPR and the matter was submitted to mediation. On April 3, 2009, the USPS reduced her discipline from removal to a letter of warning in lieu of a 7-day suspension. Lanza further appealed, and, in June 2009, she received a letter from the USPS absolving her of any wrongdoing with respect to the December 9, 2008 incident and rescinding all discipline. No USPS employee told Lanza that she could not return to work and she always understood that she could resume her position at the post office.
Lanza filed this action on December 22, 2010, and amended her complaint ten months later. She claimed that the USPS issued the disciplinary NPR because of her sex and disability and in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim and obtaining a limited duty assignment. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of appellees. This appeal followed.
We exercise plenary review over the District Court's grant of...
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