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BOYKINS v. LUCENT TECHNOLOGIES
January 10, 2000
THEODIS BOYKINS, PLAINTIFF,
LUCENT TECHNOLOGIES, INC., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, District Judge.
Pro se plaintiff, Theodis Boykins, brought this employment
discrimination action against the defendant, Lucent Technologies,
Inc., pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Stat.Ann. §§ 951 et seq.,
and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Specifically, plaintiff claims that
defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his race by
suspending him for two days without pay in connection with his
involvement in an altercation with a fellow employee. See
Compl. ¶ 10. In addition, plaintiff maintains that defendant
retaliated against him for filing a charge with the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), which was cross-filed with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Id. ¶ 10.
The following material facts are not in dispute or have been
construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
and all reasonable inferences have drawn in the non-moving
party's favor. Plaintiff currently works for defendant as an
operator in its Linear I department and has been employed by
defendant, or its predecessor, at its Reading facility since
1979. At all relevant times, there was in place a collective
bargaining agreement between defendant and the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1898 (the "Union").
Plaintiff is a member of this bargaining unit. Therefore,
plaintiff's terms and conditions of employment are governed by
the collective bargaining agreement.
In 1997, defendant instituted a cross-training program to
increase the production efficiency of its workers. Plaintiff
apparently became concerned about the program and its effect on
the availability of overtime work. On several occasions,
plaintiff questioned another employee, Lee Fry, about Mr. Fry's
performance of a particular job function. Shortly thereafter,
plaintiff's supervisor, Marty Mislevy, spoke to plaintiff about
Mr. Fry's work assignments.
On February 6, 1997, plaintiff and Mr. Fry became involved in a
heated conversation regarding a job that Mr. Fry was performing.
During the altercation, plaintiff pushed Mr. Fry.*fn2 At no
time, however, did Mr. Fry actually hit or touch plaintiff.
Thereafter, defendant conducted an internal investigation of the
incident. After a hearing held on March 14, 1997,*fn3 defendant
concluded that plaintiff had violated a workplace conduct
rule*fn4 by pushing Mr. Fry during their argument. Defendant
subsequently disciplined plaintiff by suspending him for two days
without pay, which took place on March 19 and 20,
1997.*fn5 Mr. Fry was not disciplined for his part in the
Plaintiff grieved his suspension through the grievance
procedure provided for in the collective bargaining agreement.
After defendant denied plaintiff's grievance, the matter
proceeded to arbitration. At the arbitration, plaintiff was
represented by a union official. Following the hearing, a neutral
arbitrator concluded that plaintiff had pushed Mr. Fry in
violation of defendant's workplace conduct rules and that,
accordingly, defendant had "just cause" to suspend plaintiff for
two days without pay. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ.J., Ex. I
(Summary of Award of Arbitrator) at 1. The arbitrator also stated
that "Mr. Fry's [sic] not also having been disciplined does not
support a finding of disparate treatment, inasmuch as he was not
responsible for initiating any physical contact." Id. at
On January 19, 1998, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination
against defendant with the PHRC based on the two-day suspension.
His charge was shortly thereafter cross-filed with the EEOC.*fn7
On February 18, 1999, plaintiff filed an amended complaint with
the PHRC alleging that he was a victim of retaliation due to his
Based on his complaint in the instant action, his deposition
taken in this case, and the discrimination and retaliation
charges he filed, plaintiff's theory of the case appears to be
that defendant suspended him after the altercation with Mr. Fry
solely because of his race (African-American) and that after he
filed his charge of discrimination with the PHRC, defendant
retaliated against him for doing so.
Defendant responds by stating that plaintiff's action in
pushing Mr. Fry constituted workplace violence and thus a two-day
suspension was warranted. Turning to plaintiff's claims of
retaliation, defendant contends that plaintiff has not
established a prima facie case of retaliation because he did not
suffer any adverse employment action, and even if he had,
plaintiff has not demonstrated a causal connection between such
actions and plaintiff's filing of a charge.
Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party can "show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment,
the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-movant. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538
(1986). The court must accept the non-movant's version of the
facts as true and resolve conflicts in the non-movant's favor.
See Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N.
Amer., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).
The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of genuine issues of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265
(1986). Once the movant has done so, however, the non-moving
party cannot simply rest on its pleadings. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(e). Rather, the non-movant must then "make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of every element essential
to his case, based on the affidavits or by depositions and
admissions on file." Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 852
(3d Cir. 1992); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
Speculation, conclusory allegations, and mere denials are
insufficient to raise genuine issues of material fact. See
Sterling Nat'l Mort. Co. v. Mortgage Corner, Inc.,
97 F.3d 39, 45 (3d Cir. 1996) (finding that plaintiff was obligated to
come forward with evidence sufficient to raise triable issue and
that "mere speculation about the possibility of the existence of
such facts" does not entitle non-moving party to go to trial);
Trap Rock Industries, Inc. v. Local 825 Int'l Union of
Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO, 982 F.2d 884, 890 (3d Cir. 1992)
(stating that "non-moving party may not rest upon mere
allegations, general denials, or . . . vague statements").
Indeed, to defeat "a properly supported summary judgment motion,
the party opposing it must present sufficient evidence for a
reasonable jury to find in its favor." Groman v. Township of
Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995).
Moreover, merely because a non-moving party is proceeding pro
se does not relieve him of the obligation under Rule 56(e) to
produce evidence that raises a genuine issue of material fact.
See Kershaw v. Aspin, No. CIV.A. 94-216, 1994 WL 683384, at *2
(E.D.Pa. Dec. 5, 1994) ("While a pro se litigant must be afforded
a more liberal interpretation of [his] complaint than a
represented plaintiff, this judicial grace does not relieve the
pro se plaintiff of the burden of coming forth with some evidence
to rebut defense affidavits that refute [his] claims."); Wade v.
Wooten, No. CIV.A. 90-2373, 1993 WL 298715, at *5-6 (E.D.Pa.
July 30, 1993) (recognizing that, although all reasonable
latitude must be afforded pro se litigant, just like any other
party, pro se party is subject to obligations of Rule 56(e)).
A. Plaintiff's Race Discrimination Claim Based on His Two-Day
Defendant first argues that plaintiff's § 1981 claim is
time-barred.*fn8 The court agrees with defendant to the extent
that plaintiff is claiming defendant discriminated against him
because of his race by suspending him.*fn9