Court determines union role did not contribute to hearing officer being denied promotion

By Gabriel Neves | Dec 27, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- A union member hearing officer who claimed he was not promoted as a retaliatory measure for his union activity has lost his lawsuit, as a summary judgment motion was granted.

Judge Harvey Bartle III, on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued a 15-page ruling on Dec. 17, entering the judgment in the lawsuit filed by Paul Mattia against Mary Lou Baker.

Mattia, who works as a hearing officer for the Family Court Division of the First Judicial District of

Pennsylvania, sued Baker over a supposed retaliatory measure that prevented Mattia from obtaining a promotion on the job. He alleged that by being a member of a union, Baker violated his First Amendment rights, as a public employee is allowed to exercise freedom of speech without fear of retaliation, and that grants rights for government employees to join unions.

As stated in the ruling, "in early 2016, Mattia applied for and was interviewed for a [Hearing Officer] III position," which required the applicants to be interviewed by a panel of other officers who will then recommend the candidate "with the highest interview score to the Administrative Judge of the Family Court, who makes the final decision on whom to promote."

Mattia was interviewed and his scores fared under 90, the highest score that qualified candidates for the position of Hearing Office III.

One of the candidates with the highest scores, per the ruling, "was an active member of the union who received an AFL-CIO certification in leadership training, was a member of the 'Next Wave' program that promotes internal union growth and leadership, and served as a union delegate." The officer was also a shop steward, the same union position held by Mattia.

The plaintiff claims the union activities were not the only cause for denying the promotion.

"In the complaint, Mattia asserts that he was denied the HO III position because of these union activities. However, in his deposition, Mattia also suggested that he was denied the promotion simply because Baker does not like him, and that he does not know why. He also suggested that his age and/or nationality played a

role in the decision not to promote him," the ruling said.

In his ruling, Bartle dismissed the claims on Mattia's part, stating that "based on the record presented here, a rational jury simply could not conclude that the failure to promote Mattia was based on his union

membership."

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Case No. is 17-4298.

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