Mattison v. Potter

Decision Date20 September 2007
Docket NumberNo. 03-CV-443A.,03-CV-443A.
Citation515 F.Supp.2d 356
PartiesJoy L. MATTISON, Plaintiff, v. John E. POTTER, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of New York

Watson, Bennett, Colligan, Johnson & Schecter, Theresa E. Quinn, of Counsel, Buffalo, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Terrance P. Flynn, United States Attorney, Lynn S. Edelman, Assistant United States Attorney, of Counsel, Buffalo, New York, Attorney for Defendant.

ORDER

RICHARD J. ARCARA, Chief Judge.

This case was referred to Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1), on September 18, 2003. On October 7, 2005, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. On June 7, 2007, Magistrate Judge Foschio filed a Report and Recommendation, recommending that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted.

Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on August 27, 2007, and the defendants filed a response thereto.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1), this Court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections have been made. Upon a de novo review of the Report and Recommendation, and after reviewing the submissions of the parties, the Court adopts the proposed findings of the Report and Recommendation.

Accordingly, for the reasons set forth in Magistrate Judge Foschio's Report and Recommendation, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted. The Clerk of Court shall take all steps necessary to close the case.

SO ORDERED.

REPORT and RECOMMENDATION

LESLIE G. FOSCHIO, United States Magistrate Judge.

JURISDICTION

This case was referred to the undersigned by Honorable Richard J. Arcara on September 18, 2003 for report and recommendation on dispositive motions. The matter is presently before the court on Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 38), filed October 7, 2005.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Joy L. Mattison ("Plaintiff" or "Mattison"), an African-American female, commenced this action pro se on June 10, 2003, alleging that she had been subjected to employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ** 2000e to 2000e-17 ("Title VII"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. ** 12112-12117 ("the ADA"). Defendant John E. Potter, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service ("Defendant") filed an answer on September 15, 2003.

On March 10, 2004, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 22) ("Amended Complaint"). On November 1, 2004, the parties stipulated to the filing of a Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 26) ("Second Amended Complaint"), alleging that while employed by the United States Postal Service ("USPS" or "the Postal Service"), she was discriminated against with regard to the terms and conditions of employment, subjected to hostile work environment and retaliated against in violation of Title VII and § 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 ("the Rehab Act" or "§ 501").1 Defendant's answer to the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 27), was filed November 4, 2004.

On October 7, 2005, Defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 38) ("Defendant's motion"). The motion is supported by a Memorandum of Law (Doc. No. 43) ("Defendant's Memorandum"), a Statement of Facts (Doc. No. 44) ("Defendant's Statement of Facts"), the Declarations of Rhonda Spates-Benton (Doe. No. 39) ("Spates-Benton Declaration"), with attached exhibits ("Spates-Benton Exh(s) —"), Kathleen M. Matter (Doc. No. 40) ("Matter Declaration"), and Angela Cannon (Doc. No. 41) ("Cannon Declaration"), and a volume of exhibits (Doc. No. 42) ("Defendant's Exh(s). —"). In opposition to summary judgment, Plaintiff filed on November 10, 2005, a Statement of Material Facts (Doc. No. 46), the Affidavits of Joy L. Mattison (Doc. No. 47) ("Plaintiffs Affidavit"), with attached exhibits ("Plaintiffs Exh(s) —"), Roland Johnson (Doc. No. 48) ("Johnson Affidavit"), with attached exhibits ("Johnson Affidavit Exh(s) —"), and Dr. Sharon Ziegler (Doc. No. 49) ("Dr. Ziegler Affidavit"), with attached exhibits ("Dr. Ziegler Affidavit Exh(s). —"), and a Memorandum of Law (Doc. No. 50) ("Plaintiffs Memorandum"). In further support of summary judgment, Defendant filed on November 23, 2005, a Reply Memorandum of Law (Doc. No. 52) ("Defendant's Reply"), and the Supplemental Declaration of Rhonda Spates-Benton (Doc. No. 53) ("Spates-Benton Supplemental Declaration"), with attached exhibits ("Spates-Benton Supplemental Exh(s). —"). Oral argument was deemed unnecessary.

Based on the following, Defendant's motion for summary judgment should be GRANTED.

FACTS2

Plaintiff, an African-American female, commenced employment with the Postal Service on December 11, 1993, working as a mail handler at the USPS Processing and Distribution Center ("PDC"), at 1200 William Street in Buffalo, New York. In March 1995, Plaintiff bid for and was awarded a position ("bid position") in the PDC's Sack-Sort Unit as a sack-sort keyer, a grade level 5 employee on Tour III (third shift) with regular hours of duty from 3:30 P.M. to 12:00 A.M. In the Sack-Sort Unit, which was located in an elevated area above the PDC's main floor but which no longer exists, sacks of mail placed on conveyer belts were routed to the sack-sort area, arriving at the top of a long sack-sort slide ("the slide"). The sack-sort keyers were located at five keying stations at the base of the slide. A panel operator located in front of several monitors could view the mail sacks arriving from various parts of the PDC and would regulate the routing of the mail sacks to the sack-sort keyers by operating a deflector at the top of the slide, thereby releasing mail sacks at various points along the slide to the keyers below. Upon being released by the deflector, a mail sack would travel down the slide to the designated sack-sort keyer who would pull the mail sack off the slide, key the mail sack to its destination, and then place the mail sack onto another conveyor belt for further processing.

The slide was equipped with skid strips to slow the mail slack as they reached the bottom of the slide. Panels were located at the base of the slide in front of each keying station to protect the keyers from the sliding bags. When panels were down to permit removal of a mail sack, keyers relied on mail sacks at the bottom of the slide to cushion against other mail sacks as they slid down to their keying stations.

Humps on the slide divided mail sacks as they slid down to the different keying stations. Mail sacks would sometimes get stuck on the humps, resulting in the diversion of the mail slacks to keying stations other than originally intended. At other times, the mail sacks would break open, allowing the loose letters to fall down the side of the slide requiring their retrieval by the sack-sort keyers. The slide was marked with a safety line serving as a guide by which the panel operator determined when to stop the mail sack flow to any given keying station. The slide would occasionally experience such mechanical problems as malfunctioning of the deflector, causing mail sacks to be repeatedly released into the same sack-sort station, or sacks to back up along the top of the slide.

In November 1996, Mattison discussed with Kathy Matter ("Matter"), a co-worker in the Sack-Sort Unit, that neither Mattison nor Matter had been offered overtime work. Mattison and Matter advised union steward Joseph Funk ("Funk") about the overtime situation, and Funk responded that Ed Wozniak ("Wozniak"), the sack-sort panel operator on Mattison's shift, was responsible for informing sack-sort keyers of overtime work opportunities. Mattison later learned that Wozniak had not informed Mattison and Matter about overtime work opportunities because Wozniak preferred to work the overtime hours himself. Wozniak subsequently was removed from the task of informing other USPS employees about overtime work opportunities.3 Shortly thereafter, Mattison reported a series of abusive incidents in which she alleges she was targeted by Wozniak and other co-workers in the Sack-Sort Unit.

In particular, Mattison maintains that Wozniak began operating the slide control panel so as to cause heavy mail sacks to fall on Mattison, and that other co-workers in the Sack-Sort Unit, including Pascal Ballisteri ("Ballisteri"), John O'Connor ("O'Connor"), and Larry Kearney ("Kearney"), joined with Wozniak in harassing Mattison.4 Mattison reported the harassment to her supervisor, Mark Stokes ("Stokes"), union steward Peter Hirchbine ("Hirchbine"), and Labor Relations Director of the National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees Roland Johnson ("Johnson"), but that no action was taken against Wozniak, Ballisteri, O'Connor or Kearney.

On January 21, 1997, Mattison was again hit by mail sacks allegedly improperly directed down the slide by Wozniak. Mattison reported the incident to Stokes and Johnson, causing Stokes to sent a letter to the local United States Postal Inspector's Office about the incident, but, again, no action was taken against Wozniak.

On February 6, 1997, Mattison tripped over a 20 foot long transparent plastic green band near Mattison's keying station in the Sack-Sort Unit, and nearly fell down some stairs. Mattison maintains that Kearney intentionally placed the transparent plastic band at the top of the stairs to cause Mattison to fall down the stairs. Mattison reported the incident to a supervisor, John Burnham ("Burnham"), and to Johnson, and filed an incident report with the Postal Police, but no disciplinary action was ever taken against Kearney. Mattison maintains that at the time of this incident, the area was otherwise clean with no garbage or strapping bands on the floor.

On February 19, 1997, Ballisteri allegedly continuously and...

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