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Walters v. Potter

March 5, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


This is an employment discrimination action filed by Lan R. Walters ("Walters"), 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, Walters alleges that the Postal Service: (1) discriminated against him on the basis of gender and disability, and (2) retaliated against him for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Presently before the court is defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 15). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. Statement of Facts*fn1

In 1997, Walters began working for the Postal Service as a distribution clerk. (Doc. 17 ¶¶ 9-10; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 9-10.) In 1999, Walters applied for the Associate Supervisor Program ("Program"), which 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. 17 ¶¶ 32-33; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 32-33.) Walters' application was rejected.*fn2 Thereafter, Walters participated in precomplaint counseling sessions with the EEOC in which he alleged that his application for the 1999 Program had been rejected because of disability and gender discrimination.*fn3 (Doc. 17 ¶¶ 45, 47; Doc. 17 ¶¶ 45, 47.) In settlement of these claims, defendant agreed to accept Walters into a subsequent Program. (Doc. 17 ¶ 49; Doc. 23 ¶ 49.)

In 2001, Walters was one of seventeen individuals selected to participate in the Program. (Doc. 17 ¶¶ 51-52; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 51-52.) Of these seventeen individuals, thirteen, including Walters, received their training at defendant's Harrisburg facility. (Doc. 17 ¶ 51; Doc. 23 ¶ 51.) 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. 17 ¶ 52; Doc. 23 ¶ 52.)

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. 17 ¶¶ 34-35; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 34-35.) In the instant case, all seventeen participants, including Walters, met as a group for classroom instruction. (Doc. 17 ¶ 63; Doc. 23 ¶ 63.) Walters passed his written examination and was permitted to remain in the Program. (Doc. 17 ¶ 75; Doc. 23 ¶ 75.)

At the end of the second week, the thirteen participants in the Harrisburg facility were broken into two groups to make it easier for them "to hear and understand". (Doc. 17 ¶ 55; Doc. 23 ¶ 55.) Because each group was to work a different shift, the participants were asked for their shift preferences before the group assignments were made. (Doc. 17 ¶ 56; Doc. 23 ¶ 58.) Walters was assigned the shift he had requested. (Doc. 17 ¶ 60; Doc. 23 ¶ 60.) The groups were comprised as follows:

Group AGroup B Lan Walters (male)Rob Wicks (male) Michael Battle (male)Frank Thompson (male) George Daugherty (male)Rodney Rowe (male) Daron Depto (male)David Thomas (male) Patrick King (male)John Smith (male) Terry Burns (male)Joan Chatmon (female)  Jayme Garner (female)

(Doc. 17 ¶ 62; Doc. 23 ¶ 62.)

Thereafter, Faye Griggs ("Griggs"), who was the classroom instructor during the first two weeks of the Program, repeatedly referred to Walters' all-male group as the "testosterone group." (Doc. 17 ¶¶ 69-70; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 69-70.) Walters also alleges that Griggs made an offensive comment to one of Walters' group members, Terry Burns ("Burns"). After a dialogue between Griggs and Burns regarding Burns' attire, Griggs said, "Oh, your wife dresses you." (Doc. 17 ¶¶ 66-67; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 66-67.)

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. 17 ¶ 36; Doc. 23 ¶ 36.) Candidates also receive weekly evaluation scores ranging from zero to four.*fn4 (Doc. 17 ¶ 37; Doc. 23 ¶ 37.) In the instant case, Troy Seanor ("Seanor") provided classroom instruction and prepared evaluations for week three of the Program. (Doc. 17 ¶ 76; Doc. 23 ¶ 76.) Seanor gave all of the participants an evaluation score of 2. (Doc. 17 ¶ 78; Doc. 23 ¶ 78.) From weeks four through six, Carrol Cannon ("Cannon"), Joanne Smith ("Smith"), and Barbara Murray ("Murray") provided instruction.*fn5 (Doc. 17 ¶¶ 79, 86; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 79, 86.) Despite the fact that she was not an instructor, Griggs prepared the evaluations for weeks four through six. Griggs elicited input from Cannon and Keim but not from Smith or Murray.*fn6 (Doc. 17 ¶ 87; Doc. 23 ¶ 87.) Griggs decided that "no one at that point was an expert in any part of that process of the [P]rogram," so she did not award any evaluation scores of 4. (Doc. 17 ¶¶ 91-92; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 91-92.)

Murray continued to provide instruction during weeks seven and eight. (Doc. 17 ¶ 95; Doc. 23 ¶ 95.) Murray also prepared the evaluations for those two weeks. Cannon told Murray that Walters "was only in the program because of an EEO complaint, and that he was a troublemaker."*fn7 (Doc. 24, Ex. 1 at 67.) Cannon also instructed Murray 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. 17 ¶¶ 96-97; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 96-97.) Murray awarded Walters scores of 3.6 and 3.65 for weeks seven and eight, respectively. (Doc. 17 ¶ 97; Doc. 23 ¶ 97.) Averaging these scores with Walters' prior weekly scores of 2.0, 2.3, 2.0, and 2.2 resulted in Walters' final evaluation score of 2.6. (Doc. 17, Ex. D at 2-9.)

C. Week Eight Examination

After the eighth week, candidates must take a second written examination, which is scored from zero to four.*fn8 (Doc. 17 ¶ 41; Doc. 23 ¶ 41.) Each candidate's test score is then added to his or her average weekly evaluation score to arrive at a combined score. (Doc. 12 ¶ 43; Doc. 23 ¶ 43.) A candidate must receive a combined score of five or higher to continue in the Program. (Doc. 17 ¶ 44; Doc. 23 ¶ 44.)

In total, seven of the thirteen Harrisburg participants successfully completed the Program in 2001.*fn9 Walters was not among them. (Doc. 17 ¶ 112; Doc. 23 ¶ 112.) Walters was asked to leave the Program because he received a score of 2 on his final examination, for a combined score of 4.6. (Doc. 17 ¶¶ 109, 111; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 109, 111.)

Believing that his final examination score had been calculated incorrectly, Walters requested permission to review his examination. His request was refused because the Postal Service destroys the examinations in the "ordinary course of business" and considers the examination questions to be "trade secrets." (Doc. 23 ¶ 76; Doc. 17 ¶¶ 95, 117, 121.)

D. Alleged Program Irregularities

Walters asserts that there were numerous irregularities in the Program's administration and that these irregularities were prompted by a discriminatory animus. (Doc. 24 at 11.) The alleged irregularities are as follows:

1. The evaluations for weeks four through six were completed after the sixth week, rather than once weekly as required by the Program. Walters says this reduced his ability to improve between evaluations. (Doc. 17 ¶ 93; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 93-94; Doc. 24 at 19.)

2. Griggs and Cannon decided that none of the candidates in Harrisburg deserved an evaluation score of four. (Doc. 17 ¶¶ 91-92; Doc. 23 ¶¶ 91-92; Doc. 24 at 25-28.)

3. Griggs conducted evaluations when she was neither an on-site trainer nor a classroom instructor, as required by the Program. (Doc. 17 ¶ 87; Doc. 23 ¶ 87; Doc. 24 at 22-24.) When preparing these evaluations, Griggs consulted ...

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