Boss says he didn't know plaintiff had been fired

By Kelly Holleran | Oct 1, 2009

WHEELING – The supervisor who a man is accusing of participating in an age- and disability-based decision to terminate him is saying he did not even know the man was fired until after it occurred.

Ronald Brown filed a lawsuit Aug. 27 in Brooke Circuit Court that defendants Graphic Packaging Holding Company, Graphic Packaging International and Michael P. Cipoletti removed to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on Sept. 28.

In his complaint, Brown alleges he worked as a shipping and receiving coordinator at the Wellsburg West Virginia Graphic Packaging location until his termination on May 15, 2009.

"The termination of Ronald Brown's employment from Graphic Packaging International, Inc. was based upon age, disability, perceived disability or failure to accommodate a disability and/or a mixing of those discriminatory motives," the suit states.

In addition, Brown claims Cipoletti aided in his termination.

But Graphic Packaging Holding maintains that Cipoletti and Brown were not even employed in the same department and that Cipoletti played no role in terminating Brown.

"At the time of Plaintiff's separation from employment, on or about May 15, 2009, Defendant Michael P. Cipoletti held the position of controller at Graphic Packaging International, Inc.'s Wellsburg, West Virginia facility and its New Philadelphia, Ohio facility," the suit states. "Among other things, Defendant Michael P. Cipoletti's duties as controller include supervising employees in the accounting department at the Wellsburg facility. Plaintiff was not employed in that department."

In fact, Cipoletti was not even aware of Brown's termination until after it occurred, according to the complaint and according to Cipoletti's affidavit.

"I was not one of the decision-makers regarding Plaintiff's separation from employment," Cipoletti wrote in his affidavit. "I was neither consulted prior to that decision, nor did I offer any input regarding that decision. I had no influence whatsoever with respect to that decision."

After Brown's firing, he was not sent his final payment of wages, including his vacation pay, within 72 hours, his complaint says. And, Brown was never fully compensated for all of his vacation time, which was supposed to be five weeks per year, according to the complaint.

But according to Graphic Packaging's Human Resources Manager Heather Jones, Robert Brown was immediately paid his annual salary of $35,165.09 before leaving his employment.

Brown is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorney's fees, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

Because they say a diversity of jurisdiction exists as Brown is a West Virginia resident and Graphic Packaging Holding is a Delaware corporation and because they say Brown is seeking more than $75,000, the defendants removed the case to federal court.

Cipoletti's citizenship should be disregarded for the matters of diversity of jurisdiction because he was fraudulently joined to the complaint as a defendant in an attempt to force the case to remain in West Virginia court, Graphic Packaging Holding claims.

Ronald William Kasserman of Kasserman Law Offices in Wheeling will be representing Brown.

C. David Morrison and Jill O. Flario of Steptoe and Johnson in Clarksburg will be representing Graphic Packaging Holding.

U.S. District Court case number: 5:09-CV-108

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