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Linda Difillippo v. Special Metals Corporation and David Marecek

September 30, 2011

LINDA DIFILLIPPO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SPECIAL METALS CORPORATION AND DAVID MARECEK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, Chief U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

In this action, plaintiff asserts that she was subjected to unlawful discrimination by defendants based on her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and based on her disability in contravention of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. Section 12101 et seq.. Plaintiff's complaint also asserts unlawful discrimination claims pursuant to the New York Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"), breach of contract and intentional tortious acts by defendant Marecek arising under New York state law. Defendants move for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims on various grounds. Plaintiff opposes defendants' motion.

II. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Defendant Special Metals Corporation is located in New Hartford, New York, and currently employs approximately 370 people. The company develops and produces nickel and cobalt alloys for components and parts for a variety of products in various industries around the world. During all times relevant to the present action, defendant David Marecek was employed by Special Metals as Operations Manager of the Bar Mill Production department at the plant. Plaintiff Linda DiFillippo began working at Special Metals in August 2005, and after a period of training was signed to the Bar Mill department. The Bar Mill is an area of Special Metals' New Hartford facility which is its own production area separate and apart from the Main Plant production area. The Main Plant production area produces the alloys and then casts large bars or blocks, which are referred to as billots and ingots. The billots and ingots are then sent to the Bar Mill for further processing.

Certain employees at Special Metals, including plaintiff, are represented for purposes of collective bargaining by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and Local Lodge 2310. At all times relevant to the complaint herein, the union had a collective bargaining agreement ("the Agreement") with Special Metals that defined "seniority" as "preference in employment, based on the length of continuous service in the plant, in jobs in a line of promotion (including single-sequence, non "bumpable" jobs) and the qualification and ability of the employee to perform the work involved." Upon hire, each employee is assigned a "clock number" which fixes his or her seniority for job placement, promotion and layoff - - the lower an employee's clock number, the more senior that employee is.

There are 18 different lines of promotion established pursuant to the Agreement. Each line of promotion pays a specific contractual wage rate. Because the New Hartford facility runs on a 24-hour/7-day production schedule, the employees are divided into different job groups and each job group is assigned to particular shifts to provide coverage for the 24/7 operation. The process of placing employees within departments and groups within a particular line of promotion is referred to throughout the Agreement as the "manning" process. The placement of employees through the "manning" process is controlled by the Agreement between the company and the union and by associated practices developed between the parties over the years. Barbara A. Tarnawa has been employed at Special Metals since 1974 and has been charged with responsibility for the "manning" process at the plant for in excess of twenty-five years.

Employees who work in the Utility line of promotion are classified at Special Metals as Plant Utility employees. A Plant Utility employee is responsible for performing a number of job functions, working with a variety of materials and using a variety of tools to perform those functions. According to defendants, the primary functions of a Plant Utility employee are as follows:

(a) Utilize pneumatic grinder to remove surface defects and prepare various intermediate mill products for additional processing.

(b) Utilize grinder to remove material from ingots, electrodes, and billets.

(c) Move and/or weigh and locate material and equipment.

(d) Operate overhead cranes and load and unload machinery.

(e) Transport and weigh material.

(f) Transport scrap, and trash, etc.

(g) Keeps assigned areas in a clean, orderly condition.

(h) Operate grit blaster equipment to clean surfaces of various sizes bar, billet, and ingot material.

(i) Operate pneumatic chipping hammer to remove cans from billets.

(j) Add oil to reservoirs.

(k) Perform general work involving minor maintenance and repair.

(1) Assists in the installation and dismantling of equipment.

(m) Operates small vehicles to maintain grounds.

(n) Operate spot grinder.

(o) Operate cutting torch.

Plaintiff disputes defendants' assertion that hand grinding is a standard of performance for Plant Utility employees. Plaintiff contends that although there are "supposed to be a certain number of people on a shift who are capable of hand grinding," it "depends on the foreman and whether he likes the worker." Plaintiff asserts that "management plays games with the standards for employees."

The Plant Utility position is broken down into several different departments: (a) Bar Mill Production; (b) Bar Mill Maintenance; (c) Main Plant Production; (d) Main Plant Maintenance; and (e) Janitorial. According to defendants, employees are placed in jobs through the "manning" process, taking into account the company's needs, along with the seniority and group preference of each employee, as well as any applicable work restrictions. An employee's group preference is communicated to Special Metals' Human Resources Department through a form, titled "Hourly

Employee Action Request," upon which an employee ranks his or her preferred job group.

Each department within Plant Utility performs different functions. According to defendants, the general job duties of employees who work in the several Plant Utility departments are as follows:

(a) Bar Mill Production (department 652) - - utilize a pneumatic grinder to remove surface defects and prepare various intermediate mill products for additional processing; utilize a grinder to remove material from ingots, electrodes, and billets; move and/or weigh and locate material and equipment; operate overhead cranes and load and unload machinery; transport and weigh material; transport scrap, and trash, etc; keep assigned areas in a clean, orderly condition; operate a grit blaster equipment to clean surfaces of various sized bar, billet, and ingot material; operate a pneumatic chipping hammer to remove cans from billets; operate small vehicles to maintain grounds; and operate spot grinder. Based upon the level of production in the Bar Mill, the need for employees who are capable of hand grinding can vary on a week to week basis.

(b) Bar Mill Maintenance (department 660) - - Move and/or weigh and locate material and equipment; keep assigned areas in a clean, orderly condition; add oil to reservoirs; perform general work involving minor maintenance and repair; assist in the dismantling of equipment; and operate a cutting torch.

(c) Main Plant Production (departments 833 and 852) - - Employees in department 833 (ViC grinding) are required to: utilize a pneumatic grinder to remove surface defects and prepare various intermediate mill products for additional processing; utilize a grinder to remove material from ingots, electrodes, and billets; move and/or weigh and locate material and equipment; operate overhead cranes and load and unload machinery; transport and weigh material. Employees assigned to department 852 are required to transport scrap, and trash, etc.; and keep assigned areas in a clean, orderly condition. As with the Bar Mill Production department, the need for employees who are capable of ViC grinding varies on a week-to-week basis based upon the production level.

(d) Main Plant Maintenance (department 860) - - Move and/or weigh and locate material and equipment; keep assigned areas in a clean, orderly condition; add oil to reservoirs; perform general work involving minor maintenance and repair; assist in the dismantling of equipment; and operate a cutting torch.

(e) Janitorial - - Transport scrap, and trash, etc. and keep assigned areas in a clean, orderly condition.

Based upon the distribution of tasks among the various departments, only the Bar Mill Production and Main Plant Production departments involve hand grinding.

In accordance with the Agreement, employees within Plant Utility earn the same wage (depending on years of service), irrespective of the department in which they work. Employees assigned to the Janitorial department earn an hourly wage that is slightly less than the other Plant

Utility positions. As referenced above, plaintiff was hired in August 2005 for the Plant Utility position in the Utility line of promotion. Upon her hire, plaintiff was assigned a clock number of 529700.

In November 2005, plaintiff bid on and - based on her seniority - was later awarded a job opening in Cold Finish, which is in the Cold Finish line ...


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