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Snooks v. Duquesne Light Co.

February 6, 2008

WILLIAM SNOOKS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DUQUESNE LIGHT COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This action arises out of Defendant Duquesne Light Company's decision to promote a Caucasian female as opposed to the Plaintiff, an African-American male, to the position of McKeesport Field Activities Supervisor, which, Plaintiff contends, violated his federal civil rights as to race and gender discrimination. Because the Court disagrees with Plaintiff's contention, Defendant's Duquesne Light Company's Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 17] will be granted.

FACTS

Defendant is a supplier of electric energy for a variety of customers, including other utilities and approximately 580,000 direct consumers in southwestern Pennsylvania. Docket No. 19, Statement of Undisputed Material Facts at ¶ 1 (hereinafter, "SOF"). Plaintiff is an African-American male, who was hired by Defendant on November 8, 1976. SOF at ¶¶ 1, 5. Plaintiff currently works as a Customer Activity Specialist B ("Specialist B") at Defendant's Penn Hills office. SOF at ¶ 5, 9. Plaintiff has performed the duties of a Specialist B for more than five years and is responsible for disconnecting and reconnecting electrical services to consumers whose electric services have been suspended as a result of nonpayment. SOF at ¶¶ 6,8. In May of 2004, a Field Activities Supervisor vacancy for Defendant's McKeesport office was posted on Defendant's Penn Hills office bulletin board. SOF at ¶ 12. The position required the following qualifications: "Bachelor's degree in business or equivalent with five years experience in the Field Services area. Knowledge and understanding of the customer information and mobile data systems." SOF at ¶ 13. In other words, a bachelor's degree in business is not required for the position and Defendant considers five years of experience in the Field Services area to be the equivalent of a bachelor's degree.*fn1 SOF at ¶¶ 14-15. Plaintiff has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. SOF at ¶ 29; Plaintiff's Facts at ¶ 11. The resume that Plaintiff submitted for the supervisor position indicates that he has a "Bachelor of Science in Business/Psychology."*fn2 SOF at ¶¶ 30-31.

Seven employees, including Plaintiff, applied for the vacant Field Activities Supervisor position at the McKeesport office. SOF at ¶ 28. Candidates for the Field Activities Supervisor position were to be interviewed by Lisa Minor, James Cole, and Keith McGill. SOF at ¶ 18. Ms. Minor is a Human Resource Specialist with Defendant and her role is to assist managers with the interview process and only to offer her opinion of the candidates if requested to do so.*fn3 SOF at ¶¶ 19-21. Mr. Cole is the Administrator of Field Services for Defendant and reports to Mr. McGill. SOF at ¶ 22. Prior to becoming Manager of Automated Meter Requests and Meter Operations, Mr. McGill was the Manager of Field Services and Energy Diversion from July of 2004 to December of 2005 and supervised the Field Activities Supervisors for all Field Services areas. SOF at ¶¶ 23-26. Mr. McGill was responsible for filling the McKeesport Field Activities Supervisor position.*fn4 SOF at ¶ 27.*fn5

Mr. McGill reviewed the applications and selected the following five candidates to be interviewed on August 5, 2004: Plaintiff (African-American, male), Lisa Stoehr (Caucasian, female), William Robinson (African-American, male), Earl Roshon (Caucasian, male), and Joseph Stolarz (Caucasian, male). SOF at ¶¶ 33-34, 39. Ms. Stoehr, Mr. Robinson, and Mr. Stolarz do not have college degrees. SOF at ¶ 35. To ensure fairness, Mr. McGill, Mr. Cole, and Ms. Minor asked the same questions to all candidates during their respective interviews. SOF at ¶ 40. Following the initial interviews, Ms. Minor developed her own rating matrix of the candidates to summarize her view of the candidates but this was not a requirement of the interview process under Defendant's company policy. SOF at ¶ 47. With respect to the matrix, Ms. Minor gave Plaintiff a total of 4.6 points and Ms. Stoehr a total of 4.4 points. SOF at ¶ 48; Docket No. 25, Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts Precluding Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Facts") at ¶¶ 69-71. Mr. McGill believed that a second round of interviews was needed to select the candidate for the available position and all three interviewers concluded that both Plaintiff and Ms. Stoehr should be offered the second interview. SOF at ¶ 49-50. Defendant's policies do not require a second set of interviews but the three interviewers decided that a second interview would serve as a "tie breaker" because both Plaintiff and Ms. Stoehr performed similarly during the initial interviews.*fn6 SOF at ¶ 51.

During this time, Mr. McGill, as a new manager, wanted to spend a day in the field at each of Defendant's four Field Services locations, also referred to as a "ride-along", because he wanted to acquaint himself with the duties of a Specialist B. SOF at ¶¶ 53-54, 58. Mr. McGill had no role in selecting which Specialist B would accompany him at each location. SOF at ¶ 56. Instead, Mr. McGill asked the Field Activity Supervisors to pick each Specialist B. SOF at ¶ 55. Ms. Stoehr was selected by Al Duss, the Penn Hills Field Activities Supervisor, to escort Mr. McGill in the field on August 17, 2004. SOF at ¶¶ 58-60. Mr. McGill and Ms. Stoehr did not discuss the vacant Field Activities Supervisor position during the day spent in the field. SOF at ¶ 61. Furthermore, Plaintiff admits that he does not know what Mr. McGill and Ms. Stoehr discussed during their day, except that Ms. Stoehr stated that she put Mr. McGill "through the ropes." SOF at ¶ 62; Plaintiff's Facts at ¶¶ 81-85.

The second interview was conducted on August 19, 2004. SOF at ¶ 66. Only Mr. Cole and Mr. McGill were present during the second interview because Ms. Minor was on vacation at the time. SOF at ¶¶ 64-65. Both Plaintiff and Ms. Stoehr were asked the same questions regarding several scenarios that a supervisor might encounter at work. SOF at ¶¶ 68, 72. Based on their answers, Mr. McGill noted that Ms. Stoehr demonstrated a greater understanding of corporate policies and procedures*fn7 , particularly with respect to Defendant's progressive discipline policy and drug and alcohol testing policy. SOF at ¶ 80-83. Specifically, Defendant states that Plaintiff did not discuss the application of Defendant's progressive discipline policy to the first question whereas Ms. Stoehr stated that she would counsel the employee, involve the human resources department, and take action if needed. SOF at ¶¶ 73-74. With respect to the second question, Plaintiff did not have an answer on handling the scenario situation and Ms. Stoehr provided a more detailed answer as to Defendant's drug and alcohol testing policy.*fn8 SOF at ¶¶ 75-78. Moreover, Mr. McGill testified that he also had to ask Plaintiff a leading question with respect to the fifth question. McGill Deposition, at 49:14-20 ("Q: And what leading question did you ask [Plaintiff] with respect to question number 5? A: If the behavior did not change, what would be the next steps be. Q: And did [Plaintiff] have a response to that question? A: No, he did not."). Both Mr. Cole and Mr. McGill believed that Ms. Stoehr was the better candidate for the Field Activities Supervisor position and, therefore, Ms. Stoehr was offered the position.*fn9 SOF at ¶ 84-87.

On August 27, 2004, Plaintiff contacted Ms. Minor to express his disagreement with Ms. Stoehr's promotion and to inquire as to why he was not selected for the position. SOF at ¶ 91. Subsequently, Mr. McGill offered to mentor Plaintiff because he believed Plaintiff was a strong candidate but lacked a sufficient understanding of corporate policy and procedure.*fn10 SOF at ¶¶ 92-97. Furthermore, Plaintiff's Field Activities Supervisor planned to retire, a position which Mr. McGill believed that Plaintiff would be prepared for following the mentor program. SOF at ¶¶ 95-98. Mr. McGill scheduled an appointment with Plaintiff to review his interview responses but Plaintiff subsequently changed his mind and refused to meet. SOF at ¶¶ 99-100. Plaintiff states that he did not trust Mr. McGill because Defendant failed to mention any mentor programs in the rejection letter and he believes the mentoring offer was the result of Plaintiff's complaint to the Human Resources department. Plaintiff's Facts at ¶ 118. Furthermore, Plaintiff testified in his deposition that he believed Mr. McGill "keeps women . . . around him more than men." SOF at ¶ 125; Plaintiff's Response at ¶ 125.

In 2005, a Field Activities Supervisor position in the Defendant's Penn Hills office became available and Plaintiff applied for the position. SOF at ¶¶ 104-105. Plaintiff interviewed with Mr. McGill and another representative from Defendant's Human Resources Department and was asked similar questions to those asked during his second interview for the prior Field Activities Supervisor position. SOF at ¶¶ 106-107. However, Mr. McGill offered the position to Tausha Jackson, an African-American female with substantial supervisory experience. SOF at ¶¶ 108-110.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 9, 2004, Plaintiff filed a timely Charge of Discrimination that was cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue on September 18, 2006. On November 3, 2006, Plaintiff filed a Civil Complaint, alleging race discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"), and race and gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) ("Title VII"). Defendant filed its Answer on November 27, 2006. On June 16, 2007, this matter was reassigned to the undersigned Judge.

After the parties declined alternative dispute resolution, on July 23, 2007, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant Duquesne Light Company's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. 17 and 18). On September 10, 2007, Plaintiff filed his Opposition. On September 17, 2007, Defendant filed its Reply Brief in Support of its Motion ...


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