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Grigsby v. Pratt & Whitney Amercon

September 15, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge

Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo


This case is a civil rights action brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. ("PHRA"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Pratt & Whitney Amercon, Inc. and Amercon International, Inc. (collectively "Amercon") and Defendant Randy Gronda discriminated against him because of his race. Before the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment.*fn1 (Doc. 44.) The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I. Background*fn2

A. Parties

Amercon is a manufacturing company based in Middletown, Pennsylvania that makes blades, vanes, and heat shields for turbine engines. Amercon has various departments, including a vane production line-machinist line-and a welding department. Amercon's welding department has never employed more than four welders at any one time, and often has had less than four. Defendant Randy Gronda has worked for Amercon in various capacities since February 1999, and was in charge of Amercon's vane production line from 2003 through 2004. In 2005, Gronda was promoted to his current position as Director of Operations.

Plaintiff Ronald Grigsby was first hired by Amercon on December 17, 2001 as a machinist. In October 2003, Grigsby bid on and was awarded a welder position on first shift. Grigsby was laid off as a welder in December 2003.*fn3

Defendants allege that Grigsby was laid off because of a slowdown in the welding department. (Doc. 46-3 at 4, Alfred Matarese Decl. ¶ 6; Id. at 15, Randy Gronda Decl. ¶ 7.) Grigsby asserts that he does not know why he was laid off, and that he was not at work when it happened. (Doc. 49-2, Ronald Grigsby Dep., Vol. 1, Sept. 25, 2008 at 17.) In July 2004, Grigsby was recalled to a machinist position, and began working in that capacity on or about August 2, 2004. Grigsby worked as a machinist from August 2, 2004 until March 7, 2005, when he was awarded a welder position. During the time that he was in the welding department, Grigsby was the only African-American in welding. He stayed in welding until 2007 when he bid on and received a machinist position he currently occupies.

B. May 2004 Decision not to add a Welder

While Grigsby was laid off from his position as a welder in May of 2004, Amercon believed that it would likely need a welder in the coming months because of an expected increase in welding production needs. At the time, Amercon employed only one welder-Renee Rivera-who was working more than forty hours per week. Amercon decided to test current employees to see if any of them possessed the required welding skills. Amercon states that it chose to test only current employees because of its financial condition; it wanted to fill the position with a current employee to keep as many current employees working as possible.*fn4

(Doc. 46-3 at 4-5, Matarese Decl. ¶ 11.) Amercon also advertised in the Sunday, Harrisburg Patriot-News in case any of the individuals tested could not meet the requirements. Grigsby did not see this advertisement until August 2004 when he came back from being laid off. (Doc. 49-6, Grigsby Dep., Vol. II, Sept. 26, 2008 at 276-77.) Amercon also posted the job description for the welder position on bulletin boards at the Amercon plants from May 4, 2004, through May 7, 2004.

Amercon tested four individuals for the welder job: two of whom were African-American and two of whom were Caucasian. Three of the four persons tested were current employees, the fourth was a former employee with management experience. Amercon avers that it tested the non-employee because he had skills that would benefit the company independent of the welding department, and that one of its primary customers at the time had previously worked with this individual and requested that Amercon bring him back. Grigsby was not contacted about this position. Amercon avers that at the time it did not have any formal policies related to layoffs or recalls, but considered factors such as an individual's seniority within the company, his or her skill and experience, and prior performance. (Doc. 46-3 at 4-5, Matarese Decl. ¶ 8.) Grigsby contends that Amercon did have formal policies for recall, and cites the Amercon Associate's Guide, Section 1.2 Equal Employment Performance Opportunity Policy.*fn5 (Doc. 49-8 at 66, Amercon Associate's Guide § 1.2.) Amercon states that in addition to wanting to give its current employees a chance to test into this position, that Grigsby was "a difficult employee to manage," an accusation that Grigsby disputes. (Doc. 46-3 at 16, Gronda Decl. ¶ 9.) Ultimately, after testing the four individuals, Amercon decided not to hire anyone as the need for an additional welder never materialized.

C. Grigsby's recall in August 2004

When the need arose for more machinists, two management employees-Joel Williams and Scott Deitrich-spoke with Gronda about bringing back Grigsby. Gronda expressed reservations about recalling Grigsby because he believed that Grigsby was difficult to manage. (Id.) Ultimately, however, Williams and Deitrich convinced Gronda to recommend that Grigsby be recalled. In July 2004, Grigsby was recalled to Amercon to work as a machinist and began work on August 2, 2004.

D. Welding Certification

After he returned to work as a machinist in August 2004, Grigsby requested that Amercon pay to maintain the welding certifications he had earned prior to his layoff in December 2003. Amercon refused to do so. Each certification costs at least $400, and Amercon states that its decision to deny Grigsby's request was partly based on the cost of maintaining this certification for an employee who was not welding and who Amercon had no plans to return to welding position.

(Doc. 46-3 at 21-22, Matarese Decl. ¶¶21-22.) Grigsby counters that Amercon's true motivation was that it did not want him in welding, and that Amercon maintained the certification of another non-welder-John Forry, who is white-when that employee was not working in welding, (Doc. 49 at 36, Ronald Grigsby Decl. ¶ 22); although, Grigsby acknowledges that Forry was permitted to come from the machinists line to the welding area to practice only after he had been selected to become a welder. (Doc. 49-2, Grigsby Dep., Vol. 1, Sept. 25, 2008, at 165-167.) It is undisputed that if Grigsby were subsequently needed in welding, he could regain his certifications in two to four weeks.

E. Hiring of Part-Time Welder

In September 2004, Amercon decided that it needed to hire a part-time welder. Amercon decided to recall James Hartman, an employee who had gone out on medical leave earlier in the year but who was cleared to come back for part-time work. Hartman has worked for Amercon since 1999, and has decades of welding experience. Amercon states that it did not give the job to Grigsby because doing so would have created a need for a part-time machinist and the machine line was already overstaffed. (Matarese ...

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