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Murphy v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

February 12, 2010

KENNETH MURPHY
v.
SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, ET AL.



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

Memorandum

In December 2007, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority fired Kenneth Murphy from his position as a transit police officer because it found that while on a "Final Warning" for an earlier infraction, Murphy had violated SEPTA Directives by: 1) repeatedly making obscene, threatening, and racially abusive remarks to his girlfriend and her mother; and 2) failing to inform his supervisors that Philadelphia Police had confronted him during a fight he had with his girlfriend. Murphy does not dispute these facts. Rather, in his Complaint, Murphy alleges that SEPTA fired him in December 2007 to retaliate against him for filing an EEOC complaint in February 2005. In response to SEPTA's Summary Judgment Motion, however, Murphy raises new allegations of retaliation. Because Murphy neither exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to these new claims nor sought to amend his Complaint to include them, they are not properly before me. Even if I consider the belated allegations on the merits, however, it is apparent that like the original allegations, they cannot survive summary judgment.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff Kenneth Murphy brings this action against Defendants SEPTA and employees Richard Evans, David Scott, and Vandyke Rowell pursuant to Title VII, the Civil Rights Act, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e) et seq, 1981, 1983; 42 Pa. Stat. §§ 951-963. The Court has jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. §1331 and supplemental jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's state law claims under 28 U.S.C. §1367.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

The requirements for granting summary judgment are well known: Upon motion of any party, 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). Summary judgment may be granted only if the movant shows that "there exists no genuine issue of material fact that would permit a reasonable jury to find for the nonmoving party." Miller v. Ind. Hosp., 843 F.2d 139, 143 (3d Cir. 1988). An issue is "genuine" if a reasonable jury could possibly hold in the non-movant's favor with regard to that issue. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" only if it could affect the result of the suit under governing law. Id.

In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the district court "must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party," and make every reasonable inference in that party's favor. Hugh v. Butler County Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265 (3d Cir. 2005). If, after viewing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, the court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 83 (3d Cir. 1987).

The opposing party must support each essential element with concrete evidence in the record. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted). This requirement upholds the "underlying purpose of summary judgment [which] is to avoid a pointless trial in cases where it is unnecessary and would only cause delay and expense." Walden v. Saint Gobain Corp., 323 F. Supp. 2d 637, 641 (E.D. Pa. 2004) (citing Goodman v. Mead Johnson & Co., 534 F.2d 566, 573 (3d Cir. 1976)).

III. HISTORY

In describing this case, I have construed the undisputed facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff and resolved all material factual disputes in Plaintiff's favor. I have separately noted those instances where Plaintiff disputes Defendants' factual contentions, but offers no supporting evidence . I have treated these factual contentions made by Defendants as undisputed. See Blaylock v. City of Phila., 504 F.3d 405, 413 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)) (a factual allegation without evidentiary support cannot create a genuine factual dispute).

A. Plaintiff's Employment with SEPTA

On October 8, 1981, SEPTA hired Plaintiff, an African American, to the position of transit police officer. (Doc. No. 1, at 3.) In December 2003, SEPTA disciplined Plaintiff for leaving his post without authorization and failing to respond to a call for backup. Plaintiff received a fifteen day suspension and a Final Warning. In September 2004, SEPTA discharged Plaintiff after he again left his post without authorization. (Doc. No. 20, Ex. 6.) The Fraternal Order of Transit Police filed grievances on Plaintiff's behalf, challenging the 2003 suspension and the 2004 discharge. (Id., Ex. 5.)

While his grievances were pending, on December 6, 2004, Plaintiff filed a successful workers' compensation claim alleging that from March 18, 2004 through June 18, 2004 he suffered severe headaches as a result of a hostile work environment. (Doc. No. 22, Pl.'s Statement of Facts, at 3). On February 23, 2005, Plaintiff also filed a complaint against SEPTA with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, alleging race discrimination and retaliatory termination. (Pl.'s Trial Exhibits, at Ex. 21). After receiving a right to sue letter, Plaintiff abandoned the claims. (Doc. No. 22, Pl's Response to Def Statement of Facts, at 9.)

On March 9, 2006, an arbitrator issued a final determination regarding Plaintiff's grievances, upholding Plaintiff's 2003 suspension and Final Warning, but reducing Plaintiff's 2004 discharge to a suspension and another Final Warning. (Doc. No. 20, Ex. 5.) Accordingly, the arbitrator ordered Plaintiff's immediate reinstatement to his former position as a patrol officer with no loss of seniority. (Id.)

Sometime after learning of the award, Plaintiff attempted to contact SEPTA regarding his employment. On March 28, 2006, Defendant Vandyke Rowell, a SEPTA Police Captain, informed Plaintiff that SEPTA's Medical Department had cleared him to return to full duty and that SEPTA would officially reinstate him effective March 29, 2006. (Doc. No. 20, Ex. 9.) Plaintiff received no wages during the twenty days it took SEPTA to process his reinstatement. He filed no grievance respecting this twenty-day period, however, and -- until he responded to the instant Summary Judgment Motion -- never suggested it was in any way unreasonable.

On March 23, 2006, SEPTA ratified a labor agreement making all active patrol officers eligible to receive a $1,000 bonus. (Doc. No. 26, Ex. 31.) The bonus checks were processed on March 25th and distributed on March 31st. (Doc. No. 22). SEPTA informed Plaintiff that he was ineligible to receive the bonus because he was not on the active payroll when SEPTA ratified the agreement. (Doc. No. 26, Ex. 31.) The FOTP filed a grievance on Plaintiff's behalf, and on August 23, 2006, SEPTA agreed to pay Plaintiff the $1,000 bonus. (Doc. No. 26, Ex. 31, 34.)

On January 4, 2007, SEPTA offered some officers overtime hours to work at the January 6th New Year's Day Parade in Philadelphia. (Pl.'s Trial Exhibits, Ex. 87). Because Plaintiff's superiors did not inform him of the overtime detail, he missed an opportunity to earn overtime wages. (Doc. No. 22, Pl.'s Statement of Facts, at 7.) The FOTP filed another grievance on Plaintiff's behalf. (Pl.'s Trial Exhibits, Ex. 87). After conducting an internal grievance hearing, SEPTA Lieutenant Cynthia Santiago found that given Plaintiff's seniority, he should have been contacted regarding the overtime opportunity, and awarded him 13.5 hours of lost overtime. (Id.)

B. Incidents Related to Plaintiff's 2007 Discharge

In February 2007, Plaintiff began dating Annett Price. (Doc. No. 22, Pl.'s Statement of Facts, at 5.) On August 20, 2007, Philadelphia Police were summoned to Ms. Price's residence during a fight between her and Plaintiff. After speaking with Plaintiff, Police asked him to leave the residence. Plaintiff complied with the request and no criminal complaint was filed. (Doc. No. 22, Pl.'s Statement of Facts, at 6.) Plaintiff never informed his SEPTA supervisor of this incident. (Id.)

In September 2007, Plaintiff began leaving a series of almost forty messages on Ms. Price's home and work voicemails and her mother's voicemail. Plaintiff admits that he left the messages -- some of which were heard by Ms. Price's co-workers -- in which he repeatedly refers to Ms. Price as a "f**king stinking a**, black bi**h," "ho," "motherf**king monkey a**," and "bum a** bi**h." (Doc. No. 20, Ex. 1 at 62-88.)Plaintiff told Ms. Price that, "I'm going to be your worst nightmare," "you cruising for a bruising," "s**t going to happen to you," "if you think you are going to ignore ...


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