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Grace v. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide

February 14, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge



In this civil action, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, claims that Defendant, his employer, discriminated against him based on race and gender, and then retaliated against him for complaining about the discrimination. He purports to assert claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000 e et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. 951 et seq. ("PHRA"), as well as 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 495. Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims against it.*fn1

For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be granted.


I. Facts

The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise indicated. To the extent that either party failed to comply with Local Rule 56.1, or failed to comply with Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 by submitting properly sworn materials, nonconforming information has not been accepted as undisputed or as sufficient to create a factual dispute. Moreover, by way of background, I recite here several facts that are immaterial to summary judgment.

Defendant is a hotel and leisure company whose brands include Sheraton. Defendant operates approximately ten properties in Pennsylvania, and has approximately 2000 employees in Pennsylvania. Starwood manages the Sheraton Station Square hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Starwood has employed Plaintiff, an African-American male, as a banquet server at the hotel since September, 1999. Banquet servers are represented by a Union. Banquet servers do not work a regular schedule; the schedule varies according to the number and nature of banquet functions held at the hotel. Banquet servers are paid an hourly wage, and may work either tip-eligible "service hours" or tip-ineligible "late night" hours. Tip- ineligible hours of clean up or late night commence once the food is put away at the conclusion of food service.

The banquet manager on duty at the pertinent times was responsible for designating on the payroll when a server commenced clean up for late night hours on a particular evening. Banquet servers of various races complained about how the banquet manager administered banquet servers' payroll, and how he designated when their late night hours began.

The alleged instance of discrimination in this case occurred on a single evening, May 13-14, 2005, when the hotel hosted a high school prom event.

Plaintiff worked that event from 7:30 PM on the 13th until 5:03 AM on the 14th. The event was scheduled to run much later than typical banquet functions. A large staff of banquet servers, including Plaintiff, helped with the dinner portion of the prom. Four banquet servers, including Plaintiff, worked the after-prom after dinner had been cleared. The other three servers included one African-American male, and two Caucasian women. Plaintiff knew that he would be working the late-night hours, during the early morning of the shift. Plaintiff believes that all of the four banquet servers should have been switched to late-night hours during the early morning hours of the shift. Plaintiff alleges that the two women were left on service hours for the entire shift, while he and the other African-American male were switched to late night hours.*fn2 The banquet manager, however, testifies that all four banquet servers were removed from tip-eligible service hours to tip-ineligible late night hours during the early morning hours ofMay 14th, and were paid accordingly.He processed the payroll for the prom/after-prom event in accordance with his regular practices for switching employees from service hours to late night hours.

In September of 2005, Plaintiff lodged an internal complaint regarding, inter alia, the alleged disparity in tip-eligibility at the event in question. Leonard Tasselmyer, Defendant's area director of Human Resources, is responsible for overseeing HR issues at the subject hotel. His office is in the Poconos, and he is not involved with day-to-day operations at the hotel. Tasselmyer and Plaintiff communicated several times. Plaintiff asserts that they did not discuss Tasselmyer's consent to tape recordings of conversations; Defendant asserts that he told Plaintiff he did not consent to the recordings.Plaintiff recorded conversations with Tasselmyer. Plaintiff destroyed the tapes containing their full conversations, saving only several sentences that he believed might be evidence. Plaintiff transcribed and now proffers portions of an October 4, 2005 conversation between the two men. In its entirety, that transcript reads as follows:

Tasselmyer - Here's my understanding what happened, the two on, apparently you and was it JJ?

Grace - yes

Tasselmyer - OK. Punched out, and I guess that uh, you punch yourselves out, I mean nobody ...

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