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Lane v. Potter

March 17, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald L. Buckwalter, S.J.


Currently pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant John E. Potter, Postmaster General for the United States Postal Service. For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.


The core of the dispute before the Court focuses on Plaintiff Donald Lane's unsuccessful bid for a promotion with his employer, the United States Postal Service ("USPS"). Plaintiff Donald Lane is an African-American male who first joined USPS in May of 1986 as a mail processor. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B, Dep. of Donald Lane ("Lane Dep.") 9:23-10:2, Aug. 11, 2009) He served in that position until February 1987, when he was reassigned, upon request, to the Transportation Department. (Id. at 10:4-19.) He worked as a motor vehicle operator for about five months, and was then promoted to tractor-trailer operator. (Id. at 10:20-25.) To date, he has remained in the position of tractor-trailer operator. (Id. at 11:13-12:1.) In 2003, Plaintiff made a formal application and was hired to go on temporary detail as an acting (as opposed to permanent) supervisor. (Id. at 31:19-35:5.) With the exception of a brief period in 2004 or 2005, he served in that capacity until December 2007, when the temporary details of Plaintiff and seven other individuals were cancelled to return them to their duties as drivers. (Id. at 31:19-35:5, 40:5-41:1; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. D, Decl. of Joseph Quinn ("Quinn Decl.") ¶¶ 23-28, Jan. 28, 2010.)

At the time relevant to the Complaint, Joseph Quinn was the Manager of Transportation Networks for the United States Postal Service in the Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center ("Philadelphia Center"), and had served in that position from November 1999 until his retirement in July 2009. (Quinn Decl. ¶ 1.) Quinn reported to Paul Zavorski, who served as Manager of Transportation Networks, and when Zavorski left, Quinn took over his role in an acting capacity. (Id. ¶ 2.) Quinn's responsibilities involved overseeing all incoming and outgoing mail to and from his district, coordinating all deliveries to and from the Philadelphia Center, hiring and supervising the supervisors or acting supervisors of Transportation Operations, and overseeing the supervision of 189 USPS drivers. (Id. ¶ 3.)

A. Plaintiff's First Application for a Promotion (Supervisor Position E-06687)

In late 2006, a vacancy was posted for the position of Supervisor of Transportation Operations (Supervisor position E-06687) in the Philadelphia Center. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. G.) Although Quinn participated in the interviews of the candidates for that position, Zavorski was the deciding official. (Quinn Dep. 115:3-12 and Ex. 1.) Quinn had no input into the selection or rejection of candidates for that position. (Id. at 115:13-15; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J, Ex. E, Decl. of Andrea Robinson ("Robinson Decl."), ¶ 9, January 2010.)

Plaintiff applied for this position and was interviewed. (Quinn Decl. ¶ 5.) Ultimately, however, Zavorski awarded it to Karen Scannell, a Caucasian woman. (Id.) Plaintiff pursued no further course with respect to the position.

B. Plaintiff's Second Application for a Promotion (Supervisor Position E-07831)

On August 28, 2007, a vacancy announcement was posted for a Supervisor of Transportation Operations position (E-07831) for Tour 3 on weekdays at the Philadelphia Center.*fn1 (Quinn Decl. ¶¶ 5-6 & Ex. 2.) Quinn was the selecting official for this position. (Id. ¶ 5.)

Initially, five USPS employees applied for the vacancy: (1) Plaintiff, an African-American male; (2) Michael Blancuzzi, a Caucasian male; (3) Sylvia Holley, an African-American female; (4) Rafael Munoz, a Hispanic male; and (5) D.C. Starling, an African-American female. (Id. ¶ 7.) Before interviews even started, Mr. Munoz withdrew his candidacy. (Id.)

Although Leo Lepczyk, the Operations Manager under Quinn, attended the ensuing interviews, the hiring decision remained entirely in the hands of Quinn. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) During the interviews, each candidate was asked the same substantive questions. (Quinn Dep. 34:10-11; Quinn Decl. ¶ 9 & Ex. 3.) Additionally, the applicants were told that there would be another vacancy opening for the position of Supervisor of Transportation Operations for Tour 1, and were asked if they would be interested in that position. (Quinn Decl. ¶ 10.) All of the applicants indicated that they were. (Id.)

Quinn eventually chose Michael Blancuzzi for the promotion to Tour 3 Supervisor of Transportation Operations. (Quinn Decl. ¶ 12.) In his subsequent deposition, Quinn explained that, as the Manager of Transportation Operations, he had the opportunity to observe Supervisors of Transportation Operations who reported to him, including acting supervisors Blancuzzi and Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 11.) He chose Blancuzzi because "he was the most qualified candidate." (Id. ¶ 12.) Although both Lane and Blancuzzi had the requisite qualifications and experience, Quinn was impressed with Blancuzzi's work ethic, willingness to volunteer for additional responsibilities and assignments, and willingness to volunteer for weekend or holiday work. (Id.; Quinn Dep. 66:11-67:3.) Quinn further indicated that he did not select Plaintiff because Plaintiff often did not want to work Sundays or too many holidays unless he had to, and did not volunteer his services or time as readily as Blancuzzi. (Quinn Decl. ¶ 12; Quinn Dep. 65:9-68:2.) To contradict Quinn's claimed rationales, Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he often worked weekends, never turned down overtime, and never refused a request to come in early or stay late. (Lane Dep. 217:5-218:12.)

At Quinn's direction, Lepczyk sent a form letter to all the unsuccessful candidates, including Plaintiff, indicating that they had not been selected for the position. (Quinn Decl. ¶ 13.) The letter encouraged all candidates to apply for future vacancies. (Id. Ex. 5.) Plaintiff testified that, upon learning of the decision, a lot of guys at work, many of them Caucasian, were walking around saying, "You got screwed. You got f--ed." (Lane Dep. 77:21-25, 78:20-79:4.)

C. Plaintiff's Meeting With Quinn Regarding the Promotion Decision

After receiving the rejection letter in October 2007, Plaintiff harbored some concern about the propriety and basis of this decision. (Quinn Decl. ¶ 14.) As such, he went to see Quinn in his office, at which time Lepczyk was also present. (Id.; Lane Dep. 156:13-25; Quinn Dep. 106:13-107:11.) Plaintiff asserted that, in light of his longer length of service with USPS, he believed he deserved the job and was displeased with the decision to promote Blancuzzi instead of him. (Lane Dep. 156:13-25.) Quinn responded that it was a difficult decision and that Plaintiff was well-qualified, but that Blancuzzi ranked as the better candidate. (Quinn Decl. ¶ 14; Lane Dep. 152:2-11.) He further explained that he used a rating system to tally points and that ...

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