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CHRISTY JACKSON v. TEMPLE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL

November 30, 2010

CHRISTY JACKSON
v.
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, INC.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, Christy Jackson, has alleged that Defendant, Temple University Hospital, Inc. ("Temple Hospital"), terminated her employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 ("Title VII") and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981").*fn1 She contends that her termination was motivated by her race, African American, and was in retaliation for a letter she sent to Temple University's Office of Affirmative Action detailing the allegedly discriminatory behavior of her supervisor.

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Because Plaintiff has failed to adduce sufficient evidence to demonstrate: (1) a prima facie case of race discrimination or that her termination was pretextual; or (2) that her termination was causally connected to the letter she sent to Temple University, Defendant's motion will be granted.

I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Unless otherwise indicated, the facts discussed below are undisputed.*fn2 Temple University Health System, Inc. (hereinafter "TUHS"), is the parent corporation of Defendant, Temple Hospital, a teaching hospital with two locations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff began working at Temple Hospital in 1998 as a secretary in the Department of Respiratory Care. Her duties included answering telephones, setting up home-care oxygen supplies, typing, assisting with payroll, ordering medical supplies and generating reports. At all times relevant to this litigation, she directly reported to John Mullarkey, Director of Respiratory Care. (Def.'s State. Facts, ¶¶ 1-6; Mullarkey Depo., p. 7.)

In the last six months of 2006, TUHS suffered operating losses of $31,650,000. Temple Hospital incurred losses of $9,898,000 during the same period. In order to reduce operating costs, TUHS's Chief Operating Officer informed the Senior Management Team at Temple Hospital that there would be a reduction in force ("RIF"). In January 2007, Temple Hospital began the process of compiling names of positions that could be eliminated. Sandra Gomberg, Associate Hospital Director, asked divisional leaders, including Cecilia Pemberton, Administrative Director of the Lung Center, to identify positions that had no impact, or at most, a minimal impact on patient care. Thereafter, Pemberton asked Mullarkey to identify positions within the Respiratory Care Department that met this criterion and which involved job duties that could be assumed by existing employees. (Def.'s State. Facts, ¶¶ 16-18, 26-27.)

At the time, the Respiratory Care Department had approximately 50 employees, including respiratory therapists, supervisors, one equipment technician and one secretarial position. Mullarkey selected Plaintiff's secretarial position and the equipment technician position for possible elimination. He testified that he "couldn't lay off anybody with a [state certification in respiratory care] . . . [s]o he gave [Pemberton] the name of the two positions that weren't credentialed[.]" (Mullarkey Depo., pp. 8-9.) Defendant contends that by mid-January 2007, after a "two-way conversation" with Mullarkey, Pemberton recommended that Plaintiff's secretarial position be eliminated, while retaining the equipment technician position. Pemberton testified that the secretarial position had the least impact on patient care and that the department had the ability to absorb Plaintiff's duties. (Pemberton Depo., pp. 16-17; Def.'s State. Facts, ¶¶ 8, 29.)

Defendant contends that Gomberg accepted and approved Pemberton's recommendation in mid-January and on January 29, 2007, Plaintiff's name and position were included on an initial completed template of Temple Hospital's "Remediation Plan," which was sent to TUHS's corporate human resources department. Plaintiff's name was also included on all subsequent revised templates. The RIF was officially implemented on February 16, 2007, whereby approximately 450 positions were eliminated system-wide. At Temple Hospital, 34 positions, including Plaintiff's, were eliminated. After the RIF, the four managers in the Respiratory Care Department assumed Plaintiff's duties. (Def.'s State. Facts, ¶¶ 10, 35-36, 39, 59-60.)

Plaintiff claims that she was terminated on the basis of her race and in retaliation for a letter she mailed to Temple University's Office of Affirmative Action on February 2, 2007, which alleged discriminatory conduct in the Department of Respiratory Care. In support of her claim of racial discrimination, Plaintiff points to comments allegedly made by Mullarkey, which she described in her February 2, 2007 letter and deposition. Specifically, she alleges that:

-- In September 2004, Mullarkey told her that he could change the fact that she was off on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, but after seeing she was upset, he "laughed nervously and added, 'Oh I guess you would want to keep that Holiday, huh?'" (Def.'s State. Facts, Ex. 9 at 8) (emphasis in original);

-- In 2004, Mullarkey commented that "those people in the neighborhood that we worked in[,] Temple, of course, being in the heart of North Philadelphia[,] . . . just can't seem to get it together . . . the Irish did it, we did it, why can't they?" (Jackson Depo., pp. 71, 73);

-- In 2004, Mullarkey noted that Plaintiff could play music at her desk, as long "as it wasn't that rap shit[,]" (id. at 79);

-- In 2004, after she told Mullarkey that Malcolm X's father was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Lansing, Michigan, the location of a Respiratory Care conference, Mullarkey asked another supervisor if she would like to go to the conference, and noted "I hear it's a great place to live. [Plaintiff] said it's a great place to live[.]"*fn3 (id. at 82-83);

-- On January 31, 2007, Plaintiff overheard Mullarkey saying that "they said that the NBRC (National Board of Respiratory Care) was racially biased back then and gave them lower test scores . . . but my friends and I went out and drinking the night before our exam and we were hung-over and still passed the exam[,]" (Def.'s State. Facts, Ex. 9 at 9) (emphasis in original); -- At "the end of January" 2007, in response to Plaintiff describing an allergy and sinus problem she was having, he said "What's that they have in the city? Let me see now . . . yes, rats and cockroaches! They cause allergies!" (Jackson Depo., p. 94; Def.'s State. Facts, Ex. 9 at 8); and -- At an unspecified time, Plaintiff asserts that after Mullarkey mentioned a "football player or it could have been a basketball player . . . [who] had been accused of having relations with a Caucasian women" and doing "something very negative in the media's eyes," he "smacked" her on the arm and said, "that's going to be your son one day[,]" (Jackson Depo., pp. 112-13).

Plaintiff also contends that, as a general matter, "[t]here was a lot of Irish versus black conversations that [Mullarkey] tried to draw [her] into. Always smears, you know, slurs against blacks. Why can't blacks do this, why can't black -- why can't some people? Why? . . . I mean, those conversations were so -- there was too many to count." (Jackson Depo., pp. 116-17.) She specified that these comments ...


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