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Willis v. American Customer Care

October 25, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Jones III United States District Judge

Judge Jones


Pending before the Court is Defendant American Customer Care's ("Defendant" or "ACC") Motion for Summary Judgment ("the Motion")(doc. 39) filed on September 1, 2006.

For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


On December 3, 2004, Plaintiff Tanisha Willis ("Plaintiff" or "Willis") commenced this action by filing a complaint in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against the above-referenced Defendant. (Rec. Doc. 1). The complaint raises claims for racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I), breach of contract (Count II), and promissory estoppel/detrimental reliance (Count III). On February 7, 2005, the Defendant answered the complaint. (Rec. Doc. 6).

On September 1, 2006, the Defendant filed the instant Motion along with statement of facts. (Rec. Docs. 39 and 40). On September 11, 2006, Defendant filed a supporting brief. (Rec. Doc. 44). On September 29, 2006, Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the Motion with counterstatement of material facts. (Rec. Docs. 45 and 46). A reply brief was filed by the Defendant on October 19, 2006. (Rec. Doc. 50). Accordingly, the Motion has been fully briefed and is therefore ripe for our review.


Summary judgment is appropriate if "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); see also Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing "there is no genuine issue for trial." Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 357 (3d Cir. 1992). Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences which a fact finder could draw from them. See Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982).

Initially, the moving party has a burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This may be met by the moving party pointing out to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that, where such a motion is made and properly supported, the non-moving party must then show by affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The United States Supreme Court has commented that this requirement is tantamount to the non-moving party making a sufficient showing as to the essential elements of their case that a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23.

It is important to note that "the non-moving party cannot rely upon conclusory allegations in its pleadings or in memoranda and briefs to establish a genuine issue of material fact." Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). However, all inferences "should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true."

Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912 (1993) (citations omitted).

Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)(emphasis in original). "As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material." Id. at 248. A dispute is considered to be genuine only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.


Plaintiff is an African American. (Rec. Doc. 40 at ¶1).*fn1 Defendant is a Pennsylvania corporation that operates inbound and outbound contact centers and has a facility in Montoursville, Pennsylvania. ACC's customers contract with ACC to have telephone calls made or received on their behalf. (Rec. Doc. 40 at ¶2). On or about August 2004, ACC hired Plaintiff as a Corporate Trainer to be based in its Montoursville facility. (Rec. Doc. 40 at ¶3). The Corporate Trainer position was a new position that had been created by ACC immediately prior to Plaintiff being hired. ACC had never previously employed a Corporate Trainer.

(Rec. Doc. 40 at ¶6). Upon the beginning of her employment, Plaintiff was given an Orientation packet that contained an "Employment At Will Disclaimer." (Rec. Doc. 40 at ¶5). Plaintiff, however, denies that she ...

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