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Linda Goodman v. Niagara Frontier Transit Metro System

December 2, 2011

LINDA GOODMAN, PLAINTIFF
v.
NIAGARA FRONTIER TRANSIT METRO SYSTEM, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to have the undersigned conduct all further proceedings in this case, including entry of final judgment. Dkt. #27.

Plaintiff commenced this action seeking damages pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), alleging that she was terminated from her employment because of her color.*fn1 Dkt. #4.

Currently before the Court is defendant Niagara Frontier Transit Metro System, Inc.'s ("NFT Metro's") motion for summary judgment. Dkt. #6. For the following reasons, defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced employment with NFT Metro as a full-time bus operator on May 24, 2002. Dkt. #7, ¶ 1.

On March 14, 2008, plaintiff turned the bus she was driving left from Church Street onto Lower Terrace Road (near the entrance to the Adams Mark Hotel), lost control of her bus and ran into another bus which was parked on Lower Terrace Road. Dkt. #7, ¶ 5. The accident was recorded on the surveillance cameras on board each of the buses. Dkt. #9, ¶ 6. The driver of the bus plaintiff hit and a passenger on the bus plaintiff was driving were transported to the hospital by ambulance. Dkt. #7, ¶ 6. The combined damage to the two buses exceeded $150,000.00. Dkt. #7, ¶ 6.

Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement between the

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1342 ("ATU Local 1342"), and NFT Metro, plaintiff's accident was reviewed by a five member Accident Review Committee composed of three drivers who are members of ATU Local 1342 and two management representatives. Dkt. #7, ¶ 8. The Accident Review Committee reviews the circumstances of bus accidents in accordance with the terms of the Bus Accident Reduction Program established pursuant to the collective bargaining process. Dkt. #7, ¶¶ 7-8. The Bus Accident Reduction Program assigns points to every preventable accident in accordance with a scale which accounts for personal injury, dollar value of property damage, factors outside of the operator's control which may have contributed to the accident, such as faulty equipment or weather conditions, and evidence of gross negligence by the operator. Dkt. #9, p.14. Depending on the number of points an operator receives over the course of a twelve-month period, the operator may receive additional instruction from a supervisor, be required to attend defensive driving classes, or be subject to suspension or termination. Dkt. #9, p.15. An operator who accrues 12 points in a twelve-month period is terminated. Dkt. #9, p.15. Timothy Martin, Safety Quality Assurance Coordinator for NFT Metro, affirms that since he became a participant of the Accident Review Committee in 2005, no driver who accumulated 12 or more points within a 12 month period and thereby faced discharge under the Program was instead given a less severe disciplinary action. Nor to date has the Union been successful in obtaining the reinstatement of a driver who was discharged according to the terms of the Program.

Dkt. #25, ¶ 9.

The Bus Accident Review Committee reviewed the circumstances of plaintiff's accident on April 10, 2008. Dkt. #9, ¶ 11. They reviewed the accident report and the surveillance videos and heard from plaintiff. Dkt. #9, ¶ 11. The Bus Accident Review Committee assessed plaintiff 10 points for being involved in an accident falling into the highest category of seriousness and 2 points for gross negligence. Dkt. #9, ¶ 11. As a result of plaintiff's accumulation of 13 points within a twelve-month period,*fn2 plaintiff's employment was terminated. Dkt. #7, ¶ 12. ATU Local 1342 filed a grievance on plaintiff's behalf, asserting that there was newly discovered evidence of a possible defect in the steering mechanism that should have been considered by the Accident Review Committee. Dkt. #7, ¶ 14; Dkt. #9, ¶ 14. The arbitrator determined that the Accident Review Committee should decide whether or not to review it's decision and the Accident Review Committee subsequently determined that the newly discovered evidence did not warrant further review. Dkt. #7, ¶¶ 15-16.

Plaintiff filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR"), alleging that her termination was motivated by age, race and/or sex. Dkt. #7, ¶ 17. The NYSDHR issued a Determination and Order after Investigation finding no probable cause to believe that plaintiff had been discriminated against on the basis of her age, sex and/or race, but that she was "involved in an accident and was disciplined accordingly in the same fashion as all other employees." Dkt. #9, p.36. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission adopted the findings of the NYSDHR and issued a Dismissal and Notice of Suit Rights on February 18, 2010. Dkt. #22, p.1.

DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

NFT Metro argues that plaintiff's termination was not an exercise of management discretion but the result of a collectively bargained process setting objective criteria for the discipline of ...


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