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Burns v. Potter

February 2, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge


This is an employment discrimination action filed by Terry Burns ("Burns"), a former participant in the United States Postal Service Associate Supervisor Program. The defendant, John E. Potter, is the Postmaster General for the United States Postal Service ("Postal Service"). In his complaint, Burns alleges that the Postal Service discriminated against him on the basis of gender and age. Presently before the court is defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 12). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. Statement of Facts*fn1

The Associate Supervisor Program is "an intense 16 week curriculum of classroom learning, homework, tests, and on-the-job training" designed to prepare Postal Service employees to become supervisors. (Doc. 13 ¶¶ 1, 3; Doc. 27 ¶¶ 1, 3.) In 2001, non-Postal Service employees were invited to participate in the program for the first time. (Doc. 13 ¶ 2; Doc. 27 ¶ 2.) Burns, a fifty-three year old non-Postal Service employee, applied for the program. He underwent a "rigorous selection process consisting of a written examination and a series of oral interviews" before being selected. (Doc. 13 ¶¶ 14, 16-17, 19; Doc. 27 ¶¶ 14, 16-17, 19.)

In total, seventeen individuals were selected to participate in the program in 2001. (Doc. 13 ¶¶ 19-20; Doc. 27 ¶¶ 19-20.) Of these seventeen individuals, thirteen, including Burns, received their training at defendant's Harrisburg facility. (Doc. 13 ¶ 19; Doc. 27 ¶ 19.) The four remaining individuals received their classroom training in Harrisburg, but completed their on-the-job training and evaluations at other Postal Service facilities in Pennsylvania. (Doc. 13 ¶ 20; Doc. 27 ¶ 20.)

A. Weeks One and Two of the Program

The first two weeks of the Associate Supervisor Program consist entirely of classroom instruction, followed by a written examination to determine whether a candidate should be permitted to continue in the program. (Doc. 13 ¶¶ 4-5; Doc. 27 ¶¶ 4-5.) In the instant case, all seventeen participants, including Burns, met as a group for classroom instruction. (Doc. 13 ¶ 28; Doc. 27 ¶ 28.) Burns passed his written examination and was permitted to remain in the program. (Doc. 13, Ex. B at 18.)

Faye Griggs ("Griggs") was the classroom instructor during the first two weeks of the program. (Doc. 13 ¶ 30; Doc. 27 ¶ 30.) On the first day of the program, Griggs mistook Burns for a fellow instructor as "he was the only one in a shirt and tie." (Doc. 13 ¶ 32; Doc. 27 ¶ 32.) Griggs commented on Burns' clothing, which Burns initially took as a compliment. (Doc. 13 ¶ 33; Doc. 27 ¶¶ 33-34.) At some point, Burns told Griggs, "My wife lays out my clothes on the bed and when I get done taking a shower and stuff I put them on." (Doc. 13, Ex. B at 23.) In response to this, Griggs said, "Oh, your wife dresses you." (Doc. 13, Ex. B at 23.) According to Burns, Griggs repeated this comment several times throughout the program, which made it offensive.*fn2 (Doc. 13, Ex. B at 24; Doc. 17 ¶¶ 33-34.) In addition, Griggs repeatedly referred to Burns' all-male group as the "testosterone group" and commented that she was unsure whether she would want to "start all over again" as a supervisor at her age, which was fifty-one. (Doc. 13, Ex. B at 163; Doc. 13 ¶ 39; Doc. 27 ¶ 39.) Finally, after giving Burns several of his evaluations, Griggs allegedly stated, "We had some concerns about how you would fit into the class because of your age, but I don't think it's going to be a problem now." (Doc. 13 ¶ 64; Doc. 27 ¶ 64.)

At the end of the second week, the thirteen participants in the Harrisburg facility were broken into two groups based upon each participant's preferred work schedule. (Doc. 13 ¶¶ 23-26; Doc. 27 ¶¶ 23-26.) The groups were comprised as follows:

Group A Group B

Lan Walters (male, age 31) Rob Wicks (male, age 40) Michael Battle (male, age 37) Frank Thompson (male, age 32) George Daugherty (male, age 46) Rodney Rowe (male, age 32) Daron Depto (male, age 33) David Thomas (male, age 48) Patrick King (male, age 49) John Smith (male, age 36) Terry Burns (male, age 53) John Chatmon (female, age 35) Jayme Garner (female, age 25) (Doc. 13 ¶ 27; Doc. 27 ¶ 27.)

B. Weeks Three through Eight of the Program

In weeks three through eight of the program, classroom instruction is supplemented with on-the-job training and homework assignments. (Doc. 13 ¶ 6; Doc. 27 ¶ 6.) Candidates also receive weekly evaluation scores ranging from zero to four.*fn3 (Doc. 13 ¶ 7; Doc. 27 ¶ 7.) In the instant case, Troy Seanor ("Seanor") provided classroom instruction and prepared evaluations for week three of the program.*fn4 (Doc. 13 ¶ 49; Doc. 27 ¶ 49.) From weeks four through six, Carrol Cannon ("Cannon"), Joanne Smith, and Barbara Murray ("Murray") provided instruction. (Doc. 13 ¶¶ 52-57; Doc. 27 ¶¶ 52-57.) Despite the fact that she was not an instructor, Griggs prepared the evaluations for weeks four through six. Griggs elicited input from Cannon but not from Smith or Murray. (Doc. 13 ¶ 58; Doc. 27 ¶ 58.) Murray continued to provide instruction during weeks seven and eight. (Doc. 13 ¶ 66; Doc. 17 ¶ 66.) Murray also prepared the evaluations for those two weeks. Murray was instructed that no one should receive a score of four, so Murray awarded scores ranging from 3.4 to 3.9 for weeks seven and eight. (Doc. 13 ¶¶ 67-68; Doc. 27 ¶¶ 67-68.) Murray awarded Burns a score of 3.6 for weeks seven and eight. (Doc. 13, Ex. D at 13.) Averaging these scores with Burns' prior weekly scores of 2.0, 2.8, 2.5, and 2.7 resulted in Burns' final evaluation score of 2.9. (Id.)

After the eighth week, candidates must take a second written examination, which is scored from zero to four.*fn5 (Doc. 13 ¶ 10; Doc. 27 ¶ 10.) Each candidate's test score is then added to his or her average weekly evaluation score to arrive at a combined score. (Doc. 12 ¶ 13; Doc. 27 ¶ 13.) A candidate must receive a combined score ...

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