A former mill operator at a South Philadelphia recycling plant says that one of his managers had an agenda to get him fired because of his pro-union stance, according to a wrongful termination suit filed at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Ronald Schultz, of Philadelphia, says the actions by his manager and former employer, EMR/SPC, constituted a breach of contract against his union, Local 676, and the reasons given for his termination in March 2014 defamed his reputation.
According to the suit, Schultz had a good working relationship with management at the South Philadelphia plant for the first two years of his employment, with excellent performance reviews.
In 2010, a new human resources director, Stephen D'Ottavi, joined the company and immediately began to target Schultz because of his vocal support of his union. The claim says that D'Ottavi singled Schultz out for numerous disciplinary write-ups for minor infractions, allegedly to create a paper record that would justify Schultz's firing.
Schultz received notification in November 2013 that he had been terminated and requested a grievance hearing, under the advice of his union representation.
The complaint alleges that D'Ottavi approached Schultz and asked what it would take to not take the matter to a grievance procedure. Schultz says in the claim that he interpreted the question as an overture to a bribe. The plaintiff replied that nothing could be done and continued to file the grievance.
While waiting for the hearing to be scheduled, Schultz continued to work for EMR/SPC at the metal recycling facility in Camden, N.J. On March 5, 2014, the mill shut down at 6 p.m. from a backup of materials in the feeder. The claim says such incidents are common at a metal recycling plant when misshapen objects clog up the machinery.
Schultz, who was operating the crane that fed material to the recycling belt, spent the rest of his shift helping clear the blockage. When he returned the next day, he continued to help with clean-up when a co-worker accused Schultz of deliberately shutting down the mill. The plaintiff says he sarcastically replied, "Oh, yeah, I shut down the mill."
The complaint says those comments were twisted into an admission of guilt by D'Ottavi, who terminated Schultz's employment immediately. At an unemployment compensation hearing in June 2014, D'Ottavi admitted that he did not consult with the union business agent, as required by Local 676's contract with EMR/SPC.
Schultz seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against D'Ottavi and EMR/SPC, including the reinstatement of his position at the plant. He also seeks compensatory damages for lost wages and benefits, plus punitive damages.
The plaintiff is represented by Thomas McGlaughlin of the McGlaughlin Law Group.
The case ID is 140901457.