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Jakimowicz v. City of Philadelphia

June 30, 2010

JOSEPH JAKIMOWICZ, PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



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

MEMORANDUM

This case comes before me on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff, Joseph Jakimowicz, alleges that he was constructively discharged from his position as a correctional officer for the City of Philadelphia Prison System ("PPS") after the defendants, the City of Philadelphia, Captain Cathy M. Talmadge, Lieutenant Deurward Spellman, and Lieutenant Jonathan Boston discriminated against him based on his race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). I find that there are no material facts in dispute and that the defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Therefore, I will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I. Factual Background*fn1

The plaintiff is a white male who was employed by the City of Philadelphia in its prison system from July 28, 2003, to November 27, 2006. He was appointed Correctional Sergeant on June 26, 2006. Pursuant to the City's Civil Service Regulation 14.01, any employee who is appointed to a position from a promotional list is subject to a probationary period of six months. After beginning his probationary period, the plaintiff was issued a written warning on August 28, 2006, from Spellman, a black lieutenant with twenty-three years of work experience in the PPS, for using profanity towards an officer. In an unrelated incident, Spellman issued the plaintiff an Employee Violation Report on September 1, 2006, charging the plaintiff with failing to follow orders. Boston, a white lieutenant with seventeen years of work experience in the PPS, issued the plaintiff an Employee Violation Report on September 5, 2006, charging the plaintiff with failing to investigate a report of potentially lethal violence, ordering an inmate to be locked in his cell, and failing to search the inmate.

In a memorandum sent to Warden Adams dated September 19, 2006, Talmadge, a black captain with twenty-five years experience in the PPS, recommended that the plaintiff's promotion to Correctional Sergeant be cancelled and that he be returned to the position of Correctional Officer. The plaintiff's probationary promotion was set aside effective October 9, 2006. The plaintiff did not file a grievance or appeal the rejection of his promotion.

The plaintiff's last day of work was September 18, 2006, and he began a vacation on that day. On September 25, 2006, the plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident and took a leave of absence from his employment with the PPS. In a letter dated November 27, 2006, the plaintiff submitted what he described as his "involuntary resign[ation]" from his position as Correctional Officer. In an appeal to the City's Civil Service Commission, he alleged that he was constructively discharged because it was necessary he resign to avoid the harassment he suffered from his superiors. The Commission found that the plaintiff did not carry his burden of proof and denied his appeal. The plaintiff did not appeal the Commission's decision to the Court of Common Pleas.

II. Procedural History

The plaintiff alleged eight separate counts against all defendants in his amended complaint and sought both compensatory and punitive damages. On the defendants' motion, I dismissed all of the plaintiff's claims, except for the plaintiff's Title VII race discrimination and retaliation claims against the City (Count I), the plaintiff's PHRA race discrimination claim against the City (Count II), and the plaintiff's First Amendment claim under section 1983 against all defendants (Count III). I also dismissed all claims for punitive damages. I granted the plaintiff leave to amend his PHRA claim against the individual defendants (Count II), and the plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding a sentence to Count II. After limited discovery, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on all the remaining counts.

III. Parties' Contentions

The plaintiff contends that he was demoted and constructively discharged because of his race and in retaliation for complaints he made concerning the treatment of inmates. He contends that because of his race his supervisors treated other employees more favorably than they treated him. He alleges that Talmadge told him, "You whites ran this prison for a long time. Now we Blacks run it, and when I give you an order, no matter what it is, you will carry that out." The defendants contend that the plaintiff's promotion to Correctional Sergeant was rejected during his probationary period due to several instances of misconduct, not his race, and that the plaintiff voluntarily resigned from his position as Correctional Officer. The defendants contend that even if the plaintiff was to establish that Talmadge made the alleged statement, the statement itself does not support an inference that the defendants took any action against the plaintiff because of his race.

IV. Standard of Review

The standard for deciding a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56(c) of the Rules of Civil Procedure is well-established. I must consider all the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. The moving party will prevail in its motion only if there is no issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. If a moving party demonstrates that no genuine issue of material fact exists, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing a genuine material issue for trial and may not rest upon the mere allegations or denial of its pleadings. I must deny the motion if there is a material fact in dispute such that a reasonable finder of fact could find for the non-moving party.

V. Discussion

A. Race Discrimination Claim

The plaintiff alleges that because of his race the defendants discriminated against him in violation of Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act in Counts I and II, respectively. The analysis under both statutes is the same "[b]ecause Pennsylvania courts have interpreted the [PHRA] interchangeably with Title VII." Boles v. City of Philadelphia Water Dept., No. 06-1609, 2010 WL 2044473, at *1 n.2 (E.D. Pa. May 21, 2010) (citing Weston v. Philadelphia, 251 F.3d 420 n.3 (3d Cir. 2001)). Therefore, I will proceed with an ...


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