Jon Campisi Jan. 8, 2014, 3:52pm


An attorney for the Port Authority of Allegheny County filed a petition on

Jan. 3 seeking the transfer of a federal complaint by a fired bus operator to federal court.

The underlying litigation was initiated in early December by Sean Antonella in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

The plaintiff, who was employed by the Port Authority from July 28, 2003 until July 24, 2012, was fired allegedly for violating a rule by the defendant that prohibits “fraudulent behavior with regard to payment and/or receipt of wages, salaries, benefits, or workers’ compensation payments,” according to court papers.

Antonella’s ordeal dates back to the spring of 2010, at which time he called out of work due to a shoulder injury.

After providing his employer with a form from his doctor in June 2010, Antonella was approved for placement on a waiting list for a light duty position with the Port Authority, the record shows.

Antonella, who underwent surgery for his shoulder injury that July, filed for unemployment compensation benefits while he was awaiting a light-duty assignment.

A hearing was then held on Feb. 11, 2011, to determine if the plaintiff was eligible for such benefits, with the two main issues being whether the defendant offered Antonella any light-duty work and whether the plaintiff had provided the defendant with the appropriate medical forms concerning his ability to work, according to the record.

While the Port Authority claimed that an associate employment administrator called Antonella to inform him that a light-duty position had become available, a call that was allegedly followed up with a letter to the plaintiff from the woman, Antonella testified at the hearing that he never received such correspondence from the administrator, court papers state.

Antonella therefore claimed that he did not falsely testify about being offered a light-duty position by the Port Authority.

As to the issue concerning the proper medical forms, Antonella testified that he believed his physician had filled out the requested forms and faxed them back to the defendant no later than Aug. 19, 2010, the record states, although it was later determined that the forms were never sent to the defendant.

The doctor subsequently penned a letter to the defendant explaining that the mistake was his alone, and not an error by the plaintiff.

Nevertheless, Antonella says he was terminated from his job allegedly for violating the employer’s professional rules, his lawsuit states.

Antonella says he was fired for allegedly giving false testimony during the two hearings into the status of his employment.

Antonella accuses the Port Authority of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The plaintiff is seeking 15 years’ worth of loss wages, what the suit says is approximately $750,000, plus loss of unemployment compensation benefits worth more than $10,000, unspecified liquidated and punitive damages, legal fees, interest and costs.

He is being represented by Pittsburgh attorney Christi Wallace.

Last week, attorney Marie Milie Jones, of the Pittsburgh law firm JonesPassodelis, filed a notice of removal seeking to transfer the civil action to the Western District of Pennsylvania because the suit alleges violations of federal civil rights statutes.

 

The federal case number is 2:14-cv-00016-AJS.

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