novo3 before this Court and, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a), we make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.
FINDINGS OF FACT
On April 9, 1973, Brown, a black female resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was hired by the Postal Service as a part-time mailhandler, Postal Service Level 4, Flexible Schedule, with the General Post Office at 30th and Market Streets in Philadelphia. Brown and approximately 20 other new, part-time flexible mailhandlers were assigned to work on Tour Two, Incoming Mails, Third Floor, where the mailhandlers unloaded and moved incoming bulk mail from the truck terminal and various conveyor belts for processing. All new employees with the Postal Service work as probationary employees for 90 days before they become eligible for regular employment. During this probationary period, the Postal Service can terminate a new employee for any reason.
1. Brown's One-Day Suspension
In April of 1973, Brown worked on Tour Two, Paper Side, under the supervision of Group Leader Charles C. Lane, Jr. ("Lane"), and Foremen of Mails William J. Buchanon ("Buchanon") and Herbert E. Katz ("Katz"). From the beginning of her employment with the Postal Service, a personality conflict developed between Brown and her supervisors, Buchanon and Lane. On May 17, 1973, Buchanon assigned Brown to sort mail items from non-mail items as they passed her on a particular conveyor belt.
Brown became upset because the speed of the belt, which was controlled by Buchanon, was so fast that she was unable to effectively remove the mail from the belt as it moved, and because she was the only mailhandler assigned to sort mail on this belt. Brown thereupon left her work station without permission to talk with her uncle, who worked in a different location in the General Post Office. When Brown returned to her work station 20 minutes later, Buchanon called Brown to his desk and advised her that a Postal Service employee is prohibited from leaving an assignment without first obtaining permission from either a group leader or a foreman. As a result of this discussion, Buchanon determined that Brown was uncooperative and that he was unable to communicate with her with respect to the rules of the Postal Service. Consequently, Buchanon recommended a one-day suspension from work for Brown, even though he knew that he could have recommended dismissal of Brown from the Postal Service because of her probationary work status.
On the same day that Brown left her work assignment, she requested and obtained permission to visit the Postal Service EEO to obtain advice from EEO Counselor Jacqueline Tate ("Tate"), and to initiate an informal complaint charging Buchanon with discrimination. Brown's request to visit the EEO was not unusual, because many employees secured permission to leave their work areas to obtain counseling from the Postal Service EEO.
On June 5, 1973, Brown received a Notice of Disciplinary Action from the Postal Service which approved Buchanon's recommendation of a one-day suspension, effective June 12, 1973, for Brown's behavior on May 17, 1973. After Brown received the notice of suspension, she circulated a petition among her co-workers charging Buchanon and Lane with "favoritism" and "unnecessary harassment."
The petitioners, including Brown and 11 other mailhandlers, discussed the charges with Buchanon's supervisors, General Foreman Leroy Hall ("Hall") and Coordinator Joseph J. DiGiacomo ("DiGiacomo"), before they submitted the petition to EEO Counselor Tate. Subsequent to the circulation of the petition, Buchanon was transferred by his supervisors from Tour Two, Paper Side, to a different section of the third floor.
2. Brown's Three-Day Suspension