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RODRIGUEZ v. POLO RALPH LAUREN

December 3, 1999

ISMAEL RODRIGUEZ
v.
POLO RALPH LAUREN.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dalzell, J.

MEMORANDUM

Ismael Rodriguez, acting pro se, has sued*fn1 Polo Pennsylvania LLC*fn2 ("Polo") alleging that his termination from his job as a security guard at a Polo store in Reading, Pennsylvania violated 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (Title VII), 43 P. S. § 955 (the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. He specifically alleges that he was terminated because he is Latino.

Rodriguez and Polo have each filed cross-motions for summary judgment*fn3 and each has filed a response. For the reasons set forth below, we will grant summary judgment for Polo as to all claims in plaintiff's complaint.

I. Background

A. Facts

In January, 1998, Rodriguez answered a newspaper employment advertisement placed by Advance Security seeking applicants for the job of security guard with Advance Security. Advance Security hired plaintiff on January 12, 1998, and assigned him to work at defendant's Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store in Reading, Pennsylvania.*fn4 On February 6, 1998, plaintiff's employment with Advance Security was terminated; he was informed of this in a phone call with Rex Francis, Advance Security's site supervisor.

B. Plaintiff's Claims

II. Rodriguez's Motion for Summary Judgment*fn5

In a one-page handwritten document*fn6, unsupported by any exhibits, Rodriguez argues that he should be granted summary judgment because: 1) there is no dispute over material fact, and 2) Polo had not made any "good faith attempt[s] to settle this case." Pl.'s Req. Mot. for Summ. J. at 1. However, the bare, unsubstantiated assertion that there is no disputed issue of material fact will not suffice to carry the moving party's burden of demonstrating that such is the case, see Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 585 n. 10, and evidence of settlement negotiations may not be considered in deciding the instant motions, see Fed.R.Evid. 408. We will therefore deny Rodriguez's motion for summary judgment.

III. Polo's Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Title VII and PHRA Claims

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that "[i]t 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." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act states that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice "[f]or any employer because of the race, color . . . [or] national origin . . . of any individual" to discharge that individual from employment. 43 P. S. § 955(a). The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act is applied in accordance with Title VII, see Dici v. Pennsylvania, 91 F.3d 542, 552 (3d Cir. 1996).

A threshold legal question in considering liability under Title VII is whether the defendant is plaintiff's employer, and in its motion for summary judgment, Polo claims that it can have no Title VII liability to Rodriguez precisely because Polo was not his "employer" within the meaning of Title VII*fn7 and the PHRA*fn8. In order to determine if an individual is an "employee" for the purposes of Title VII, we look to the "common-law" test the Supreme Court endorsed in Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Darden, 503 U.S. 318 (1992). In Darden, the Court considered the meaning of "employee" for ERISA purposes, and held that in interpreting the meaning of "employee" in a statute that does not helpfully define it, courts should look to common-law agency doctrine. Id. at 322-23. Although Darden did not consider the Title VII context explicitly, the breadth of the opinion's language has led trial courts to adopt the common-law test for Title VII in lieu of the "hybrid test" our Court of Appeals endorsed in 1983 in ...


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