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James v. Potter

March 30, 2006

DARRYL JAMES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, U.S. POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Presently before the Court for disposition is the MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, with brief in support, filed by Defendant, John E. Potter, Postmaster General, U.S. Postal Service (Document Nos. 24 and 25, respectively), and the brief in opposition filed by Plaintiff, Darryl James (Document No. 28). After careful consideration of Defendant's motion, the filings in support and opposition thereto, the memoranda of the parties, the relevant case law, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that there is not sufficient record evidence upon which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for Plaintiff, Darryl James, on his claims of discrimination based upon his race, physical disability, and retaliation. Therefore, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment of Defendant, John E. Potter, Postmaster General, U.S. Postal Service.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this civil rights action on June 24, 2003, in which he alleges that his manager at the United States Postal Service, Thomas Graf ("Graf"), discriminated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII").

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was refused "light duty" work based upon his race (African American); physical disability (10% veteran's disability); and retaliation (for filing an Equal Employment Opportunity claim in 1998).

Defendant has filed the instant motion for summary judgment, in which it contends that Plaintiff is unable to establish a prima facie case on any his claims. Plaintiff has filed his brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. The matter is ripe for disposition.

BACKGROUND

The facts relevant to this discussion, and viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, are as follows. Plaintiff has been a full-time employee of the Postal Service since 1994 and works as a laborer/ custodian at the General Mail Facility ("GMF") in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Prior to his employment with the Postal Service, Plaintiff served in active duty in the United States Air Force from 1979 through 1992. He received an honorable discharge and a 10% veteran's disability rating based on his service-connected condition of hypertension.

On October 22, 1998, Plaintiff was given notice of a seven (7) day suspension for his failure to meet the attendance requirements of his position from his immediate supervisor, Wallace Root. In response, on November 30, 1998, Plaintiff filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint against his senior manager, Graf. Plaintiff claimed that the suspension was the result of "unequal treatment" because a white friend allegedly had poor attendance and was not placed under suspension.

Plaintiff's EEO claim was settled at mediation. The parties agreed that if Plaintiff had no more than three unscheduled absences for a ten-month period his suspension would be removed from the Postal Service records. The summary judgment record reflects that Plaintiff fulfilled the terms of the agreement and the suspension was removed from his file.

Plaintiff's next major incident with the Postal Service management occurred in June, 2002. During this time, Plaintiff was assigned as a laborer/ custodian on Tour 1, which is the night shift. Plaintiff was responsible for general cleaning, grass cutting, snow removal, and furniture assembly at the GMF. In February 2002, Plaintiff complained of a sensation in his groin, which was later diagnosed as a hernia, and was scheduled to have surgery on June 16, 2002.

As a result of his hernia condition, Plaintiff requested and was granted a series of "light duty" assignments from February 2002 to June 2002. After thirty (30) days on light duty, Plaintiff was required to renew his request for additional light duty assignments.*fn1 On June 25, 2002, Plaintiff reported to work but his light duty authorization had expired. Plaintiff showed Graf a doctor's excuse that was very restrictive and stated that Plaintiff "could not sit, stand, walk, bend, or lift great[er] than five pounds." Graf told Plaintiff that his restrictions, as noted by his physician, had become so severe that Plaintiff could not be approved for a light duty assignment. Further, Graf noted that Plaintiff had failed to obtain a valid medical excuse from the Postal Service's medical unit, as required by Article 13 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. As a result, Graf sent Plaintiff home with instructions to follow the "call off procedures until he ha[d] approved light duty or could return to full duty." Plaintiff was absent from work for the next several days and took leave without pay because he did not have any accumulated leave left. The lack of leave caused Plaintiff to cancel his hernia surgery.*fn2

On June 30, 2002, Plaintiff reported back to work. His physician modified his restrictions to be less severe, but Plaintiff continued to fail to obtain the appropriate light duty documentation from the Postal Service's medical unit. Therefore, Graf, again, sent him home.

Plaintiff then commenced a one-year leave without pay status and collected unemployment.*fn3 Plaintiff had his hernia surgery in June 2003 and reported back to work at the Postal Service in July 2003, cleared by his personal physician to full unrestricted duty.

On August 9, 2002, Plaintiff filed a formal EEO complaint in which he alleged various grounds of discrimination stemming from the denial of light duty assignment. The matter was fully investigated and on March 26, 2003, a final decision was issued in favor of the ...


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