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Parsia v. Allied Tube & Conduit Corp.

March 18, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jan E. DuBois



AND NOW, this 18th day of March, 2009, upon consideration of the Motion of Defendant, Allied Tube & Conduit Corporation for Summary Judgment Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (Document No. 24, filed May 2, 2008), and Plaintiff Parviz Parsia's Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 25, filed May 30, 2008), Defendant's Reply Brief in Further Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 27, filed June 11, 2008), Plaintiff Parviz Parsia's Supplemental Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 32, filed February 3, 2009), and Defendant's Sur-Reply Brief in Further Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 34, filed February 11, 2009), for the reasons set forth in the attached Memorandum, IT IS ORDERED that defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and JUDGMENT IS ENTERED in FAVOR of defendant, Allied Tube & Conduit Corporation, and AGAINST plaintiff, Parviz Parsia.



I. Introduction

This case arises out of plaintiff Parviz Parsia's termination on March 4, 2006 from his position as the Lab and Paint Supervisor at the Philadelphia manufacturing facility of defendant Allied Tube & Conduit Corporation ("Allied"). Plaintiff asserted the following claims in his First Amended Complaint: (1) race and national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1991, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I); (2) religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1991, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count II); and (3) hostile work environment under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. C.S.A. § 951 ("PHRA") (Count III).*fn1

Presently before the Court is defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

II. Background

Plaintiff Parviz Parsia, an Iranian male who is Zoastrian, began his employment with Allied-a company that manufactures electrical tubing and conduit products-on April 18, 2005. (Def.'s Mot. 3, 4; Pl.'s Resp. 1; Parviz Parsia Dep. 33:21--34:2, 36:22--23, Nov. 7, 2007, Ex. A to Def.'s Mot.) Plaintiff was hired as a Laboratory and Paint Supervisor at Allied's Philadelphia manufacturing facility. (Def.'s Mot. 4; Pl.'s Resp. 1.) Plaintiff first interviewed for this position in March 2005 with Richard Waggoner, then Industrial Relations Manager (i.e., Human Resources Manager), David Pliner, the Technical Manager, and Manzoor Chaudhry, the Laboratory Coatings Manager. (Def.'s Mot. 3; Parsia Dep. 35:16--23.) At Allied, plaintiff's responsibilities included supervision of a team of laboratory technicians who monitored and analyzed the chemical composition of Allied's products. (Def.'s Mot. 4; Parsia Dep. 41:24--43:19.) Plaintiff's immediate supervisor was Mr. Chaudhry, who in turn reported to Mr. Pliner. (Def.'s Mot. 4; Parsia Dep. 40:9--15.) Mr. Pliner also supervised plaintiff. (Parsia Dep. 44:12--23.)

In his employment papers, plaintiff marked his "ethnic origin" as "white." (Id. at 57:11--13.) However, plaintiff considers his race to be "white" and his national origin to be Iranian. (Id. at 57:21--58:2.) "Although I consider myself white," plaintiff asserts, "I don't think a hundred percent of Americans would consider me white." (Id. at 129:7--9.) Plaintiff believes he was the only employee at Allied's Philadelphia manufacturing facility who was Middle Eastern and the only employee who was Zorastrian. (Id. at 86:3--4, 86:10--13.)

According to plaintiff, "the majority of people" at Allied knew plaintiff was Iranian or Persian. (Id. at 84:1--4.) Plaintiff stated that he had explained to Stephen Norvilas, the General Manager, that he was Iranian and Zorastrian. (Id. at 87:7--88:3.) Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Waggoner and Mr. Pliner knew he was Iranian because he "believe[s] that [he] told them" as they had asked him about his background "because of [his] accent." (Id. at 85:4--10.) Moreover, on the day he was hired, either Mr. Waggoner or Mr. Pliner brought plaintiff to Mr. Chaudhry, who is from Pakistan, and said "[h]ere is your friend," presumably because they looked alike. (Id. at 84:8--15.)

Plaintiff stated that Elmer Foster, the Operations Manager,*fn2 and Don Davison, then Mill Supervisor,*fn3 knew that he was Iranian because: "[t]hey asked me. I have an accent. I told them where I come from." (Id. at 89:3--16.) However, plaintiff does not recall whether he informed Mr. Waggoner, Mr. Pliner, Mr. Foster, or Mr. Davison of his religion; he "believe[s] they knew through [Mr. Chaudhry]" but does not know for a fact whether Mr. Chaudhry told them or not. (Id. at 88:22--89:2.)

Plaintiff does not recall any instances where anyone at Allied made a negative or threatening comment about his race, national origin, or religion. (Id. at 89:24--90: 22.) However, plaintiff felt that one employee, Mr. Davison-who was at the same level of supervision as plaintiff, though in a different department-bullied plaintiff. (Id. at 11--13, 97:22--24.) Plaintiff estimates that on approximately five to ten occasions, Mr. Davison "was hostile" and "was using the F word" in situations involving water leaks in areas that Mr. Davison "was supposed to supervise." (Id. at 92:6--12, 93:8--9.)

One specific instance plaintiff recollects involved a water leak that plaintiff asked Mr. Davison to repair, and Mr. Davison responded by telling plaintiff to "[g]o F'ing do [it] yourself." (Id. at 91:14--23.) Plaintiff stated that he did not know "for sure" whether Mr. Davison made those comments because of his race or national origin. (Id. at 97:17--21.) Plaintiff reported this incident to Mr. Chaudhry and Mr. Pliner and had complained to them about Mr. Davison's behavior about two or three times in the past. (Id. at 95:19--96:10.) Mr. Chaudhry and Mr. Pliner were "supportive" of plaintiff when he expressed these complaints. (Id. at 96:11--14.) Although plaintiff wanted Mr. Chaudhry and Mr. Pliner "to create a better atmosphere" in response to his complaints, plaintiff felt that they failed to do so. (Id. at 97:9.) However, plaintiff admits that he never requested specific remedial actions such as bringing the complaint to the attention of Human Resources or the Tyco Concern Line. (Id. at 96:20--97:2.)

The incident that precipitated the filing of the instant lawsuit occurred shortly after noon on March 1, 2006. At that time, plaintiff was in the Mill office*fn4 and became engaged in a conversation with Mr. Foster over plaintiff's request to another supervisor to repair a leaking induction box.*fn5 (Def.'s Mot. 4, 5; Pl.'s Resp. 1; Parsia Dep. 100:5--8, 107:20--21.) According to plaintiff, Mr. Foster began yelling at plaintiff angrily, "a few inches from [his] face" and with such intensity that particles of saliva sprayed into plaintiff's face. (Def.'s Mot. 5; Parsia Dep. 107:24--108:19.) Mr. Foster also used profanity. (Richard Waggoner Dep. 64:23--65:2, Dec. 19, 2007, Ex. B to Def.'s Mot.; Parsia Dep. 108:10, 109:12.)

During this interaction, plaintiff reached out his hands and touched Mr. Foster's upper torso around the front of his shoulders. (Def.'s Mot. 5; Parsia Dep. 111:13--112:8.) A witness to the situation, Mr. Davison, interjected that plaintiff had just touched Mr. Foster, whereupon Mr. Foster "stamp[ed] his feet on the floor" and said "you touched me motherfucker . . . ." (Parsia Dep. 109:15--22, 111:11--12.) Plaintiff then left the office. (Id. at 110:1--4.)

Plaintiff was "shocked" by Mr. Foster's behavior as plaintiff considered him "a nice guy" and a "[f]riend in the work environment." (Id. at 98:18--22.) On one occasion, Mr. Foster suggested that plaintiff could join him to go sailing, and plaintiff even brought Mr. Foster a "little boat" memento as a gift. (Id. at 99:9--19.) However, plaintiff asserts that Mr. Foster has a history of aggressive and verbally abusive behavior at Allied for which he was never disciplined. (Pl.'s Resp. 7.) First, in or around 2004, Mr. Foster "aggressively confronted" an auditor-Matthew Towne-by raising his voice and using foul language. (Pl.'s Resp. 7; Waggoner Dep. 79:24--81:21.) After Mr. Towne complained about this behavior to Mr. Norvilas, Allied did not discipline Mr. Foster but suggested that he voluntarily attend anger management therapy, which Mr. Foster did. (Waggoner Dep. 79:24--81:21; Stephen Norvilas Dep., 56:16--62:18, Jan. 8, 2006, Ex. F to Def.'s Mot.)

Second, Mr. Norvilas noted in Mr. Foster's performance evaluation for the year that ended on March 7, 2002 that Mr. Foster had "negative outbursts . . . with union management and Tyco auditors," "[m]ust learn to stay away from personality conflicts," and was "fighting too many windmills the last 8 months." (Pl.'s Resp. 7--8; Norvilas Dep. 64:19--67:6.) Mr. Norvilas had "intentionally delayed" his review of Mr. Foster for three months to address such problems and provide more "direction" and "counseling sessions" to him. (Norvilas Dep. 65:9--11, 65:15--18.) Mr. Foster ultimately received a "satisfactory plus" rating in that evaluation. (Id. at 64:22--23.) Finally, Mr. Waggoner received complaints about Mr. Foster's "management style"-namely, that "he gets agitated, come[s] on very strong with employees he is talking to," and "raises his voice [or] use[s] bad language to try to make his point." (Waggoner Dep. 83:18--23.)

On March 1, 2006-the day of the incident between plaintiff and Mr. Foster-Mr. Foster reported the incident to Mr. Pliner, who then joined Mr. Foster in reporting it to Mr. Waggoner. (Def. Mot. 5; David Pliner Dep. 40:6--41:13, Jan. 8, 2008, Ex. E to Def.'s Mot.) Mr. Foster told Mr. Waggoner that he and plaintiff had an argument and that plaintiff "pushed him hard enough [so that] he fell backwards and had to [re]gain his balance." (Waggoner Dep. 56:25--57:7.) Mr. Foster also informed Mr. Waggoner that Mr. Davison was present during this incident. (Id.) Afterward, Mr. Waggoner and Mr. Pliner paged plaintiff to meet with them, at which time Mr. Waggoner sent plaintiff home with pay pending the outcome of an investigation. (Waggoner Dep. 58:3--6; Pliner Dep. 41:14--15; Parsia Dep. 115:12--16.) During this brief meeting, plaintiff attempted to communicate his version of what transpired with Mr. Foster-namely, that plaintiff did not push Mr. Foster, but touched him with "the tip of [his] fingers" in an effort "to calm him down." (Parsia Dep. 109:7--10, 111:13--112:8, 114:9, 115:20--22.)

Mr. Waggoner subsequently conducted an investigation and spoke with Mr. Foster, Mr. Davison, plaintiff, and two other employees. (Waggoner Dep. 58:20--22, 61:23--24, 62:13, 64:7--9; Pl.'s Resp. 2.) Mr. Waggoner and Mr. Norvilas first interviewed Mr. Foster. (Waggoner Dep. 58:20--22, 59:6--9.) Mr. Waggoner then spoke with Mr. Davison. (Id. at 59:20--60:23.) In an effort to verify certain facts cited by Mr. Foster-facts concerning the induction box leak underlying the argument between plaintiff and Mr. Foster-Mr. Waggoner also consulted Bob Barrett, the 2P Mill Supervisor, and Ed Golaszewski, the Third Shift Supervisor. (Waggoner Dep. 61:20--62:14; Parsia Dep. 102:5--15.)

On Friday, March 3, 2006, Mr. Waggoner called plaintiff in for an interview with himself and Mr. Pliner. (Waggoner Dep. 64: 6--9.) During the interview, plaintiff explained his version of events. In particular, plaintiff told Mr. Waggoner and Mr. Pliner that Mr. Foster "got agitated, started raising his voice, [and] started swearing." (Id. at 64:18--65:3.) Plaintiff then "approached" Mr. Foster, "was telling [him] to calm down, . . . put his hands out and touched [Mr. Foster's] shirt with his extended fingers." (Id. at 64:18--65:3.) At that point, Mr. Davison commented that plaintiff should "stop pushing" Mr. ...

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