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Flowers v. University of Pennsylvania Health System

June 16, 2009

CARLOS FLOWERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA HEALTH SYSTEM, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schiller, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Carlos Flowers brings this action against Defendant University of Pennsylvania Health System, alleging that Defendant discriminated against him, on the basis of race, and retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Philadelphia Human Relations Act (PHRA). Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Flowers, an African-American male, is currently employed by Pennsylvania Hospital, a component of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts [hereinafter "Def.'s SOF"] ¶¶ 1-3.) Flowers received a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice in 1995 and completed a Masters of Art in Special Education in 2007. (Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. [hereinafter "Def.'s Mem."] Ex. B at Pl.'s Dep. Ex. 37 [Flowers' Resume].) He worked as a Philadelphia Police Officer from October 1996 though September 2001. (Id.) He has also served in the Army Reserve/National Guard since September 1989 and is the "officer in charge of a platoon of combat engineers." (Id.) Since August 2001, he has worked as a Special Education Teacher, in addition to working part-time with Defendant. (Id.)

Flowers worked for Defendant as a Security Officer, for twenty-five hours each week, from 1994 to 1997. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 9.) Flowers left the hospital and pursued work as a police officer and subsequently as a special education teacher. (Pl.'s Statement of Contested Facts [hereinafter "Pl.'s SOF"] ¶ 9.) To supplement his income, he returned to the hospital in 2002, working through the present as a Security Officer for 16 hours every other weekend. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 9.) Since July 2004, Flowers has worked additional shifts as a Relief Supervisor. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 34.) In this capacity, he received additional pay for filling in when a supervisor wanted time off. (Pl.'s Dep. at 91.) This position was not a promotion, nor did Flowers apply for it through the Human Resources Department; he was instead asked by a regular security supervisor to fill this role. (Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 35-38.) Between 2004 and 2008, Flowers applied for seven promotions within the University of Pennsylvania Health System. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 43.) Three of these positions were awarded to African-American applicants. (Id.) Plaintiff's discrimination complaint is based on only five of these positions. (Pl.'s SOF at ¶ 43.) Of the five positions he identifies, two were awarded to African-American applicants.*fn1 (Def.'s Mem. Ex. D at Carolina Dep. Ex. 10 [Def.'s Objections and Resps. to Pl.'s First Set of Interrogs. [hereinafter "Def.'s Resps. to Interrogs."]] at 4-5.) Defendant contends that it consistently chose a more qualified applicant than Flowers for these positions.

In 2004 Flowers applied to be Director of Security and Safety at Pennsylvania Hospital. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 44.) He was interviewed by Steve Wanta, Pennsylvania Hospital's Vice President of Support Services. (Id. ¶ 49.) According to Flowers, Wanta asked about Flower's academic credentials and, when told Flowers had a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice, Wanta "slammed his hands on the table and he said 'where you get that from, where you get that,' as if I wasn't supposed to have a degree." (Pl.'s Dep. at 131.) Wanta then asked Flowers about the safety aspects of the position; Flowers conceded he was not very familiar with the relevant safety procedures. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 49; Pl.'s Dep. at 134-35.) Lawrence Knicely, who is not African-American,*fn2 was ultimately chosen for the position. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 50.)

An opening for a full-time Security Supervisor at Pennsylvania Hospital was posted on or about December 29, 2004. (Id. ¶ 57.) Flowers did not apply for the position online, but contends that he expressed his interest by writing his name on a posting in the security department. (Id. ¶ 58.) Defendant does not have a record of a resume submitted by Flowers for the position, but according to Flowers a resume he submitted six months later for the position of Operations Manager at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was "probably" the same resume. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 59; Pl.'s Dep. at 164-65.) Karl Kinkler, who is not a member of Plaintiff's protected class, was ultimately hired for the Security Supervisor position. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 60.)

The Operations Manager position, which Flowers applied for in June 2005, was ultimately awarded to Art Wells, an African-American. (Id. ¶¶ 55-56.). Plaintiff does not challenge his failure to be promoted to this position.

In November 2006, Flowers applied for a position as Safety Emergency Coordinator at Pennsylvania Hospital.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 67.) The responsibilities of the position included: "the recognition, evaluation, monitoring, and control of facilities, operational and environmental safety factors . . . ." (Id. ¶ 68.) The job posting required "knowledge of health care operations and regulations including JCAHO, OSHA, and related regulatory requirements." (Id. ¶ 69.) According to Defendant, Flowers did not meet the minimum qualifications for this position, as his resume did not indicate knowledge regarding "safety and emergency preparedness and response." (Id. ¶¶ 70-71; Def.'s Mem. Ex. C [Carolina Dep.] at 78.) Flowers concedes that his knowledge of the relevant safety regulations was limited to what he had learned working in the security department, but contended that he "could have learned more." (Pl.'s Dep. at 234.) John Wierzbowski, who possessed a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Health and a Master's Degree in Environmental Health and Industrial Hygiene, and had previously served as Industrial Hygienist and Safety Officer at Hahnemann University, was hired for the position. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 73.) Plaintiff agrees that Wierzbowski, who was not a member of Plaintiff's protected class, was better qualified for the position, but contends that he met the minimum qualifications for the job and therefore should have received an interview, per company policy. (Pl.'s SOF ¶ 75; Pl.'s Dep. at 231:10-24.)

In October 2007, Flowers applied for the position of Director of Security at Pennsylvania Hospital. (Pl.'s SOF ¶ 78.) Flowers satisfied the educational requirements for the position and received an interview. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 82; Pl.'s Dep. at 242-43.) The hospital ultimately selected Darryl Beard, an African-American, for the job. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 85.) Beard previously served as Associate Director of Public Safety for New Jersey University and had twenty-six years of law enforcement experience. (Id. ¶ 86.) He possessed a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Science and a Master's Degree in Education, Supervision, and Administration. (Def.'s Resps. to Interrogs. at 6-7.) Flowers admitted that he was not more qualified than Beard. (Pl.'s Dep. at 274-75.) He does not contend that he was discriminated against in relation to this promotion decision, but instead argues that Defendant hired Beard, an African-American, to retaliate against Flowers for filing his complaint. (Id. at 275; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 88.)

Flowers applied for two additional positions that are not the subject of this lawsuit. In Spring 2008, he applied to be Office Manager at the Penn Sleep Center. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 89.) Because he failed to meet the minimum job requirements, which included three years of experience as an office or administrative manager, Flowers was not scheduled for an interview. (Id. ¶ 92.) The position was filled by Patrice Thomas, an African-American female. (Id. ¶ 94.) Flowers next applied, in May 2008, for the position of Assistant Hospital Director for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 96.) Again, Flowers was not scheduled for an interview as he lacked the minimum job requirements. (Id. ¶ 97.) He admits he was not qualified for this position and explains that he applied for it mistakenly. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 98; Pl.'s Dep. at 281-82.)

Flowers also brings a claim of discrimination related to additional responsibilities assigned to Ralph Trovato, who is not African-American. Trovato received the position of Entrance & Valet Manager in May 2005. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 102.) Flowers did not apply for this position, believing "it had nothing to do with security." (Id. ¶ 101; Pl.'s Dep. at 179-80.) In 2006, Knicely, the Security Director at the time, delegated to Trovato responsibility for certain day-to-day duties within the security department, including scheduling officers, screening candidates for security positions, and distributing assignments. (Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 104-05; Carolina Dep. at 98.) In an email to the security department announcing this assignment of duties, Knicely referred to Trovato as "Security Manager Ralph Trovato." (Def.'s SOF ¶ 109.) Knicely did not seek permission from human resources to refer to Trovato in this manner and he testified that he did not consider this title change to be significant, as Trovato already had a management position within the security department. (Knicely Decl. ¶ 15.) Trovato subsequently had a badge made that identified him as "Security Manager" and referred to himself in emails using this title. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 111.) However, his title was never changed in his personnel file. (Id. ¶ 112.) Trovato received no increase in pay upon assuming these additional duties.*fn4 (Id. ¶ 114.) Knicely's supervisor learned, though the filing of Plaintiff's discrimination charge, that Trovato was using the title of "Security Manager" and immediately instructed Knicely and Trovato to cease using this title. (Id. ¶ 115.) Trovato remains employed as the Entrance and Valet Manager and has not received a promotion. (Id. ¶ 117.)

On July 2, 2007, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which he cross-filed with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR). (Def.'s SOF ¶ 119; Def.'s Mem. Ex. B at Pl.'s Dep. Ex. 16 [Charge of Discrimination].) The charge referenced his failure to be promoted to three posted positions -- Director of Security and Safety (2004), Safety Emergency Coordinator (2006), and Security Supervisor (2005) -- as well as an unposted position of "Security Manager," a reference to the additional duties given to Trovato. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 120.) Plaintiff's attorney requested a right to sue notice from the EEOC on April 7, 2008 and sent a copy of this letter to the PCHR. (Id. ¶ 122.) The PCHR subsequently closed its investigation of Plaintiff's charge of discrimination on May 16, 2008. (Id. ¶ 123.) Plaintiff filed his Complaint with this Court on August 19, 2008 and amended this Complaint on November 3, 2008.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record that it believes illustrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party makes such a demonstration, the burden then shifts to the non-movant, who must offer evidence that establishes a genuine issue of material fact that should proceed to trial. Id. at 324; see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986). When the moving party does not bear the burden of persuasion at trial, it may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to carry its ...


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