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Davila v. Victory Security Agency

June 28, 2010

CHARLES DAVILA, JR., AND VIRGIL DENNISON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
VICTORY SECURITY AGENCY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Pending now before the Court is DEFENDANT VICTORY SECURITY AGENCY'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, filed at Document No. 14, with brief in support (Doc. No. 15), concise statement of material facts (Doc. No. 16), and appendix (Doc. No. 23). In response to Defendant's motion is PLAINTIFFS' BRIEF IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 17), Plaintiffs' response to Defendant's concise statement of material facts (Doc. No. 18), Plaintiffs' counter statement of material facts (Doc. No.19), and appendix (Doc. No. 20). Defendant also filed a reply brief in support of its motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 21) and a response to Plaintiffs' concise statement of material facts (Doc. No. 22). The motion is ripe for disposition.

Statement of the Case

Plaintiffs initiated this action by filing a complaint on February 4, 2009 (Doc. No. 1), and amended their complaint on March 18, 2009. (Doc. No. 4). With their amended complaint, Plaintiff Davila, who is African-American, and Plaintiff Dennison, who is Caucasian, allege a number of causes of action of employment discrimination made unlawful by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) et seq. ("Title VII"); Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. C.S.A. § 955(a) et seq. ("PHRA"), to include having been subjected to discrimination due to race and retaliation for opposing discriminatory practices. More partiuclarly, Plaintiffs each individually raise four counts of discrimination, the structure of which is organized as follows: 1) race discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (counts I and II); 2) race discrimination under Title VII (counts III and IV); 3) retaliation under Title VII (counts V and VI); and 4) discrimination under the PHRA (counts VII and VIII). All counts stem from events that occurred on or about December 13, 2007, the date upon which the employment of both Plaintiffs was terminated by Defendant. Generally speaking, Plaintiffs allege that their employment positions were terminated on that day due to race discrimination.

After careful consideration of Defendant's motion, the filings in support and opposition thereto, the memoranda of the parties, the relevant case law, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that genuine issues of material fact remain. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion will be denied.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment should be granted "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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Thus, the Court's task is not to resolve disputed issues of fact, but to determine whether there exist any factual issues to be tried. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, this Court must examine the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Int'l Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chem. Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir.1990).

The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence creates no genuine issue of material fact. Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d Cir.1987). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248. A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. The non-moving party must raise "more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249). Further, the non-moving party cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions in attempting to survive a summary judgment motion. Id. (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325). Distilled to its essence, the summary judgment standard requires the non-moving party to create a "sufficient disagreement to require submission [of the evidence] to a jury." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

Legal Analysis

Defendant's motion advances two bases for summary judgment. The first targets the discrimination claims included at Counts I through IV and in Counts VII and VII arguing that summary judgment is appropriate in light of Defendant's legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the decision to discharge the Plaintiffs. The other basis targets the Title VII retaliation claims by arguing that the evidentiary record demonstrates no prima facie basis for recovery by the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, oppose the motion on both counts, and provide references to the evidentiary record in support of their opposition. The Court will address the two challenges seriatim.

A. Genuine Issues of Material Fact Remain with Respect to Plaintiffs' Discrimination Claims

As noted above, in moving for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' discrimination claims at Counts I through IV and VII and VIII, Defendant essentially presents one argument, namely that the evidentiary record demonstrates a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the decisions to discharge both Plaintiffs, and further, that the record does not evince a basis that such reasoning was a pretext for discriminatory animus.

The Court notes at the outset that while Plaintiffs allege the same acts of racial discrimination under three statutes (Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the PHRA), the analysis for purposes of summary judgment under the three is the same. See Lewis v. University of Pittsburgh, 725 F.2d 910 (3d Cir.1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 892, 105 S.Ct. 266, 83 L.Ed.2d 202 (1984); see also , Whidbee v. Garzarelli Food Specialties, Inc., 223 F.3d 62, 69 (2d Cir. 2000); Blise v. Antaramian, 409 F.3d 861, 866 (7th Cir. 2005); Manatt v. Bank of Amercia, N.A., 339 F.3d 792, 797 (9th Cir. ...


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