Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey - Newark, Civil Nos. 86-4878 and 87-4457
The appellant instituted these proceedings charging violations of Title VIl of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq., because of national origin discrimination during his employment and retaliatory discharge. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant, holding that plaintiff failed to present a prima facie case. In a second action, the court dismissed the plaintiff's case on the basis of res judicata and enjoined him from bringing any more employment related claims. The primary issues raised on appeal by the plaintiff are whether the record established sufficient evidence for a prima facie case of retaliatory discharge and whether the evidence sufficiently raised a question of material fact pertaining to the alleged pretextual reason for the employer's action. We reverse and remand for trial.
Avdel Corporation (Avdel or the company) a manufacturer of metal fasteners, employed the plaintiff, Ricardo Jalil, of Chilean origin from 1977 to 1985. During that period, Jalil progressed from lower-skill positions to the "lead man" position he occupied at the time of his discharge. At the same time, plaintiff also became active in union affairs. He was elected shop steward in 1979, reelected in 1980, and became president of his Local in 1984. He held that position when the company terminated him.
Some months before Jalil's discharge, he filed a grievance claiming that Avdel was discriminating against him because of his union activity. Six days later, on September 19, 1985, the company informed Jalil that his employment had been terminated for failure to report his absence by the third day. After the union interceded on his behalf, Avdel reduced Jalil's discharge to a three-day suspension, with the admonishment that the next infraction would result in termination.
On September 26, 1985, Jalil filed another grievance in which he complained of harassment and discrimination on the basis of national origin and union activity. The union again supported his claims, although Avdel denied them, and the grievance remained unsettled.
On October 17, 1985, Jalil filed a charge of discrimination with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (DCR) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that Avdel had denied him access to his personnel file and had suspended him in retaliation for filing a grievance with his union and because of his national origin. Avdel received a copy of the charge of discrimination on October 28, 1985. Simultaneously, the events precipitating Jalil's discharge began and rapidly ran their course.
On the day Avdel received a copy of the discrimination charge the department foreman approached Jalil at his work station and asked him to remove the radio headset that he was wearing. After protesting, Jalil complied. Two days later the foreman again requested Jalil to remove his radio headset. Jalil refused, and the foreman sought assistance from the plant manager and plant foreman. Again Jalil refused the request, arguing that the plant safety rules did not prohibit the radio's use. After telling the foremen and the manager to get out of his department, however, Jalil acceded to their requests and removed the radio. Nevertheless, later that day Avdel fired Jalil for "gross insubordination."
After his termination, on October 31, 1985, Jalil filed a second charge of discrimination with the DCR and the EEOC, claiming that Avdel fired him in retaliation for filing the earlier charge of discrimination.*fn1 Finally, on December 8, 1987, Jalil filed pro se his first suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging, among other things that Avdel terminated his employment because of his national origin and in retaliation for filing his charge with the EEOC.
On July 13, 1987, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant Avdel on the ground that Jalil had failed to establish a prima facie case of either national origin discrimination or retaliatory discharge. Following his unsuccessful motion to vacate the summary judgment order, and while his appeal of the order was pending in this court, Jalil brought a second Title VII action in district court. In March 1988, however, the district court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment in the second action, holding the claim barred by res judicata. The district court also granted Avdel's counterclaim for an injunction prohibiting Jalil from bringing further employment-related lawsuits unless he secures the permission of the court. Jalil appealed this decision as well. Because we reverse the first grant of summary judgment and remand for trial, the second district court judgment and the injunction effectively will be vacated.*fn2
In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we apply the same test the district court should have employed initially. Hankins v. Temple Univ., 829 F.2d 437, 440 (3d Cir. 1987). Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of material fact issues regardless of which party would have the burden of persuasion at trial. If the nonmoving party has the burden of persuasion at trial, "the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be ...