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Kamen v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

August 15, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


Steven A. Kamen sues his former employer, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO ("IBEW") and its president, Edwin D. Hill, asserting that they violated the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq., the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977 ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code Ann. § 2-1401.01 et seq., the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and tortiously interfered with his employment contract, when they discharged him from his position as a Senior International Representative. Defendants move to dismiss Counts II (PHRA), III (ERISA) and most of Count IV (DCHRA) of the Amended Complaint as time-barred by the respective statutes. See Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss Counts II, III, and most of Count IV of the Am. Compl. ("Defs.' Mem.") [Dkt. #9]. Mr. Kamen opposes the motion. Because there are no facts in dispute and the points have been fully briefed, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.


Steven A. Kamen worked as an International Representative for the IBEW for years before he became ill and was hospitalized in February 2004. Am. Compl. ¶ 19. During his hospital stay, he was diagnosed as having contracted the human immunodeficiency virus ("HIV"). Am. Compl. ¶ 20. About the time that he was diagnosed as HIV-positive, the IBEW became aware of that Mr. Kamen is a homosexual and that he had contracted HIV. Id. ¶¶ 21-23.

Mr. Kamen returned to work for the IBEW on or about May 1, 2004. Id. ¶ 28. He asserts that he was capable of performing the essential functions of his position as a Senior International Representative when he returned to work, with or without a reasonable accommodation. Id. ¶ 32. He alleges, however, that he was denied training opportunities, was not permitted to assist at manufacturing conferences, was never given back duties he had been assigned prior to taking a medical leave, and was not promoted to a vacant position at IBEW Headquarters in Washington, D.C., even though he was the most qualified candidate for the position. Id. ¶ 33.

Mr. Kamen contends that the Defendants illegally terminated his employment on December 8, 2004. Id. ¶ 36.

A. EEOC/PHRC Administrative Complaint Process

Through his legal counsel, Mr. Kamen submitted a one-page General Information Questionnaire, a four-page General Intake Questionnaire, an eight-page ADA Intake Questionnaire, and a three-page document entitled Witness Information to Ronald Dean, Intake Supervisor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 26, 2005. See Pl.'s Response in Opp. to Defs.' Partial Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. ("Pl.'s Opp."), Ex. 1. The cover letter asked that the documents be filed "as Claimant Steven A. Kamen's verified Charge and Complaint of Discrimination (disability)." Id. at 1. It also asked that the charge "be dual-filed with the PHRC, with the EEOC to take the lead in the investigation." Id. At the end of the General Intake Questionnaire, the ADA Intake Questionnaire, and the Witness Information document was the following:

I hereby verify that the statements contained in this complaint are true and correct to the best of my knowledge, information and belief.

You must sign and date below:

Signature of Mr. Kamen and date of 4/16/05.

Id. (boxes around statement of verification and signature omitted).

Thereafter, on July 6, 2005, Mr. Kamen filed a formal Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, charging the Defendants with discrimination in violation of the ADA. See Defs.' Mem., Yellig Decl. Ex. 2. This charge stated that "[o]n December 8, 2004, Edwin D. Hill, International President, informed me that I was being let go because I had been delinquent in filing the weekly reports, the expense reports, and several other assignments." Id. This document was signed and dated under the statement, "I declare under penalty of perjury that the above is true and correct." Id. The blocks for signing before a notary -- "When necessary for State and Local Agency Requirements" -- were left blank. Id. (italics in original). This formal charge was cross-filed with the PHRC on the same day.

By letter dated September 27, 2005, the PHRC notified the IBEW that it had received the charged filed by Mr. Kamen but that it was waiving its opportunity to investigate the charge. See Defs.' Mem., Yellig Decl. Ex. 3. "This means that EEOC will not have to wait 60 days to take action on the charge." Id. But PHRC reserved the right "to docket, serve and require an answer to the charge at some future date." Id. This procedure was followed as a result of a work sharing agreement between the PHRC and the EEOC. The Work Sharing Agreement was adopted by the EEOC and the PHRA "to provide individuals with an efficient procedure for obtaining redress for their grievances under appropriate Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Federal laws." See Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 2 ¶ I.B. When a charge is filed with the EEOC, federal law requires EEOC to send a copy of the charge to PHRC. Defs.' Mem., Yellig Decl. Ex. 3. This happens because the EEOC must afford state agencies, such as the PHRC, the opportunity to investigate the complaint for 60 days. Id. PHRC has the discretion to waive the opportunity to investigate the charge, as it did in this case. Id.

The EEOC in Pittsburgh issued its Notice of Right to Sue (on request) to Mr. Kamen on March 15, 2006. See id., Ex. 4 (noting that 180 days had passed since the filing of the charge and that ...

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