DiGuglielmo made the racially-offensive remark attributed to him by Washington, and also believed that DiGuglielmo was a part of the decision-making process, it was conceivable that the jury could find that racism was a motivating factor in the decision to fire Washington, along with what was clearly a legitimate reason, the mandated lay-offs.
The jury's verdict was against Washington on his racial discrimination claim, something they were unlikely to do had they believed that DiGuglielmo made the statement.
III. THE MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW ON THE RETALIATION CLAIM
In order to make out a claim for retaliation, a plaintiff must show they were engaged in a protected activity, that they were discharged after or contemporaneously with the protected activity, and that a causal link exists between the protected activity and the loss of the job. Quiroga v. Hasbro, Inc., 934 F.2d 497, 501 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court of Common Pleas argues that Washington has not established a sufficient causal link between his filing a PHRC complaint and his lay-off. I agree.
In Jalil v. Avdel Corporation, 873 F.2d 701, 708 (3d Cir. 1991), the Court of Appeals stated that the "causal connection required to establish a prima facie case of retaliation may be demonstrated by evidence of retaliatory motive such as protected conduct followed closely by adverse action." In Jalil, a causal link existed because plaintiff was fired two days after filing a complaint. In this case, Washington's layoff came nine months after the filing of his complaint.
During the nine months that followed his complaint, there was no "pattern of antagonism" as there was in Robinson v. SEPTA, 982 F.2d 892 (3d Cir. 1993). The record shows that following the filing of his complaint, Washington received what was by all accounts a critical evaluation, but nevertheless one that rated his performance as "satisfactory." Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to another section of Pre-Trial Services, a move which reduced the number of employees he supervised but had no effect on his salary or his classification. Both the evaluation and the transfer occurred over six months before Washington was eventually laid-off.
It was undisputed at trial that despite his supervisors' dissatisfaction with his work, Washington would not have been fired were it not for the Supreme Court's mandate. His lay-off came at a time when 250 other court employees were laid-off, an unprecedented event in the history of the Philadelphia court system.
Even if there were an intent to retaliate against Washington after he filed his complaint, I find that the evidence was overwhelming that the Court of Common Pleas would have made the same decision had their not been a retaliatory intent. The Supreme Court mandate which forced the Court of Common Pleas to institute mass lay-offs, considered along with the well-documented dissatisfaction with Washington's performance, his relatively high salary, and the relative ease with which Washington's responsibilities were absorbed by others, made such a decision almost unavoidable. This finding, and the nine months which elapsed after the filing of Washington's complaint and his lay-off forces me to find that the jury's verdict in favor of Washington on his retaliation claim cannot stand as a matter of law. Therefore, I will grant the Court of Common Pleas' motion for judgment as a matter of law.
Accordingly, in that I have found that the judgment in favor of Washington cannot stand, I will deny plaintiff's motion to amend the judgment and enter the following order:
AND NOW, this 10th day of March, 1994, upon consideration of Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Judgment, Defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, and all responses thereto, it is ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Judgment is DENIED; and
2. Defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law is GRANTED.
By the Court:
Robert F. Kelly, J.