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HICKS v. ARTHUR

March 7, 1995

SCHREE HICKS, ANGELIQUE GIDDINGS, SANDRA WHITE and WILLIE MAE LEWIS
v.
ROBERT ARTHUR, MARSHA O'HARA ROBERT FISHMAN and RESOURCES FOR HUMAN DEVELOPMENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. CURTIS JOYNER

 JOYNER, J.

 MARCH 7, 1995

 Today we decide Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The facts of this case are somewhat confusing to relate, due to the fact that each Plaintiff's cause of action for race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (1994) is against different Defendants and stem from different events, each taking place at a different time. In addition, one Plaintiff also brings a sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e -- 2000e-17 (1994). In the interest of clarity, we will first state the general caselaw applicable to this action, and then examine each Plaintiff's claim or claims separately.

 CASELAW APPLICABLE TO § 1981 AND TITLE VII CLAIMS

 Plaintiffs' claims arise under both Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. § 1981 reads:

 
All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.

 Title VII's § 2000e-2(a)(1) states:

 
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer - to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

 The legal elements of these causes of action are the same. O'Brien v. City of Philadelphia, 837 F. Supp. 692, 699 (E.D. Pa. 1993). A plaintiff can show a Title VII violation under either a disparate impact or disparate treatment theory. EEOC v. Metal Serv. Co., 892 F.2d 341, 347 (3d Cir. 1990). A § 1981 claim can only be brought under a disparate treatment theory. Croker v. Boeing Corp., 662 F.2d 975, 989 (3d Cir. 1981).

 All Plaintiffs here make a disparate treatment argument. To move beyond a summary judgment motion, they must first make a prima facie case of discrimination. Metal Serv., 892 F.2d at 347. To make a prima facie case, each Plaintiff must show that:

 
1) she is a member of a protected class
 
2) she was qualified for her position
 
3) despite these qualifications, she was terminated from her position, and
 
4) she was replaced by someone not in a protected class or someone in a non-protected class, otherwise similarly situated, was treated more favorably.

 See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 & n.13, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). The prima facie case is not intended to be rigidly applied or difficult to show. Metal Serv., 892 F.2d at 347. *fn1"

 Once a prima facie case is made, the burden of production switches to Defendants to assert legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for the allegedly discriminatory actions. Id. If Defendants can make that showing, the burden of production switches back to Plaintiffs to rebut the Defendants' proffered legitimate reasons by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. This can be done either by showing that each reason is a recent fabrication or that discrimination is more likely than not a motivating or determinative cause for the actions. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 804; Josey v. John R. Hollingsworth Corp., 996 F.2d 632, 637-38 (3d Cir. 1993).

 At the summary judgment stage, a plaintiff can produce evidence that either makes us disbelieve the defendant's proffered reasons or that indicates that discrimination was more likely than not a motivating or determinative cause of the termination, possibly by showing such implausibilities and inconsistencies that make the proffered reasons unbelievable.

 A plaintiff "need not prove at th[e summary judgment] stage that the employer's purported reason for its actions was false, but the plaintiff must criticize it effectively enough so as to raise a doubt as to whether it was the true reason for the action." Solt v. Alpo Pet Foods, Inc., 837 F. Supp. 681, 684 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (citing Naas v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 818 F. Supp. 874, 877 (W.D. Pa. 1993)). However, "an ill-informed decision or an ill-considered decision is not automatically pretextual if the employer gave an honest explanation for termination." Billups v. Methodist Hosp., 922 F.2d 1300, 1304 (7th Cir. 1991).

 The Third Circuit has held that "factors such as the defendant's credibility, the timing of an employee's dismissal, and the employer's treatment of the employee could raise an inference of pretext which would make summary judgment for the employer inappropriate." Josey, 996 F.2d at 638-39 (defendant cited economic considerations to explain plaintiff's termination but replaced plaintiff with Caucasian employee at higher wage). Accordingly, summary judgment was not granted when an African American plaintiff showed that Caucasian employees were not required to submit medical records for absences or return travel advances in cash, yet ...


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