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HOFFMAN v. POTTER

March 2, 2004.

KENNETH L. HOFFMAN,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS O'NEILL, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Kenneth L. Hoffman, brings this action against John E. Potter, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service alleging age and disability discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701, et seq.*fn1 In addition to actual damages, attorneys' fees and costs, plaintiff has requested punitive damages. Before me now is defendant's motion for summary judgment, plaintiff's response thereto and defendant's reply brief.

  BACKGROUND

  The U.S. Postal Service hired plaintiff in February 1996. Plaintiff was assigned to be a letter carrier in the Phoenixville, Pennsylvania post office. The Postal Service hires new letter carriers for a ninety day probationary period. At the time of his hiring plaintiff was over the age of forty and had been diagnosed as suffering from hypertension and anxiety.

  At or about the time plaintiff was hired the Postal Service hired two additional probationary letter carriers at the Phoenixville post office. Both of the other probationary letter carriers were under forty years old and without disability. They were hired at the end of their probationary period.

  Prior to the end of his probationary employment period the Postal Service terminated plaintiff's employment. Plaintiff claims that he successfully performed the duties of his position, despite the disparate training and treatment he claims to have received as a result of age and disability discrimination. Plaintiff alleges that his termination was also a result of age and disability discrimination by the Postal Service and that the Postal Service's purported reason for the termination, his inadequate performance, was merely a pretext for that discrimination.

  STANDARD OF REVIEW

  Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact," the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). I will apply the this rule in accordance with Supreme Court and Third Circuit precedent. See, e.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989). DISCUSSION

 I. The ADEA

  The burden of proof for discrimination cases was established by McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).*fn2 Under the McDonnell Douglas line of cases, as applied to the ADEA, a three step analysis applies to pretext discrimination cases. Id. at 802-04. First, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 506 (1993). Plaintiff establishes a prima facie case if he shows that he (1) is a member of the protected class, i.e. at least 40 years of age; (2) is qualified for the position; (3) suffered an adverse employment decision; and (4) has sufficient evidence to create an inference of age discrimination. Simpson, 142 F.2d at 644, n.5. The standard by which plaintiff must prove his prima facie case is by a preponderance of the evidence. Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981). Second, upon such a showing by the plaintiff, the burden shifts to the employer to produce evidence of a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse decision. Hicks, 509 U.S. at 506-07. Third, the plaintiff must then demonstrate that the employer's articulated reason was not the actual reason, but rather a pretext for discrimination. Id. at 507. The burden of proving discrimination rests at all times with plaintiff. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253.

  A. Plaintiff's Prima Facie Case

  Plaintiff has established that he is a member of the protected class of the ADEA. He was over forty years old when all relevant employment decisions were made. He suffered an adverse employment action when he was discharged from his position as probationary letter carrier.

  The parties agree that a letter carrier must be proficient at casing*fn3 and delivering mail. Plaintiff's only evidence in support of his contention that he was qualified for the position of letter carrier is employee time records from the Phoenixville post office. Each letter carrier has an identification badge which he is to swipe in a computer system to keep track of what task he has just completed. The computer system prints reports of letter carrier time called "clock rings" so that supervisors can monitor how much time each carrier is spending on his daily tasks. Plaintiff points to the clock rings of himself and two younger probationary employees who were hired, Phil Marcantonio and Brian Bonsall, as evidence supporting his position that he was qualified for the position. Pl.'s Reply to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. app. at 68-111. I find those clock rings to be of no probative value because they do not contain items of information that are necessary to explain the quality of the work completed by each employee; for example, what tasks ...


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