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Ammon Mikell v. Marriott International

May 19, 2011

AMMON MIKELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC., D/B/A PHILADELPHIA MARRIOTT WEST, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.

MEMORANDUM

I.Introduction

Plaintiff Ammon Mikell ("Plaintiff" or "Mikell") has brought suit against Defendant Marriott International, Inc., doing business as Philadelphia Marriott West ("Defendant" or "Marriott"),*fn1 under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951 et seq.*fn2 Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343, and 1367. Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant in part and deny in part that Motion.

II.Background*fn3

Plaintiff Ammon Mikell is a black male and former employee of Defendant Marriott. Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1; Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 6, ECF No. 14. Marriott manages the Philadelphia Marriott West, a hotel in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 1.

On October 18, 2000, Mikell was hired by Marriott as a Loss Prevention Officer. Compl. ¶ 12; Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 6. A Loss Prevention Officer is responsible for ensuring the safety of Marriott‟s clients, employees, and property; duties include patrolling the interior and exterior of the hotel, as well as the parking garage. Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 7.

In 2003, Mikell applied for a position as an Accountant at the hotel but was not selected. Id. ¶ 9. On January 22, 2004, he filed a complaint against Marriott with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), Compl. ¶ 7, alleging discrimination and retaliation based on Marriott‟s failure to promote him, Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 37.

In September of 2007, Mikell applied for the position of Loss Prevention Supervisor.

Pl.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 1, ECF No. 15; Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 13; Compl. ¶ 13. Loss Prevention Supervisors are similar to Loss Prevention Officers, but have the additional duties of supervising the daily operations of the hotel security unit, including identifying and/or responding to any and all security related incidents, issues, or concerns, and supervising a staff of Loss Prevention Officers. Compl. ¶ 14.

In October of 2007, Mikell learned that he would not be offered the position of Loss Prevention Supervisor. Compl. ¶ 16. Marriott sent him a letter stating, "We have reviewed your qualifications and while we appreciate your interest, we are currently pursuing other candidates whose background and skills more closely fit our current need." Resp. Ex. 3, ECF No. 15. Mikell also received a note card from Tom Logan stating that "we have decide[d] on one of the other candidates." Id. Later, Marriott wrote in an answer to a subsequent PHRC complaint by Mikell that the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason that Mikell was not selected was that he "voluntarily withdrew his application for the position," and Tom Logan submitted a sworn statement to the PHRC to this effect. Pl.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶¶ 4-6; Resp. Ex. 2 ¶ 12; Resp. Ex. 5.

Ultimately, Ellen Abadie ("Abadie"), a white female, received the position. Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 15; Compl. ¶ 17. Abadie had also been a Loss Prevention Officer at the Philadelphia Marriott West from 2003 until 2007. Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 17. Before this, from 1990 until 2003, Abadie had worked at another Marriott property in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Id. ¶ 18. She had become a Loss Prevention Officer there on August 4, 1997. Id.

On June 19, 2008, a guest at the hotel reported that gasoline had been siphoned from his or her car overnight. Id. ¶ 21. Abadie investigated the complaint by reviewing security footage and discovered that no Loss Prevention Officer had patrolled the garage during the night. Id. ¶ 22. Abadie then reviewed the patrol log, a company document where Loss Prevention Officers record their activities while on duty. Id. ¶ 23. In the log, Mikell, the officer on duty at the time, had written: "03:05 Ammon is patrolling the garage levels. 03:15 Ammon is clear from above." Pl.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 11; see also Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 23. On June 20 or 21, 2008, Mikell was suspended with intent to terminate for falsification of company records. Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 24. Compl. ¶ 20; Duffy Decl. Ex. 5.

When an employee is suspended, Human Resources at the Philadelphia Marriott West conducts an investigation to determine whether termination is appropriate. Rodden Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 14. Falsification of company records appears in Marriott‟s Associate Handbook for employees as an offense providing grounds for immediate termination. Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 4; Duffy Decl. ¶ 6; id. Ex. 3. Elizabeth Duffy, Director of Human Resources at the hotel, conducted an investigation into the incident giving rise to Mikell‟s suspension. Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 26.

During the investigation, in defense of his log entry, Mikell stated that on occasion he would just patrol the "garage level," which entailed merely looking out from the elevators through the glass doors into the garage level to see that nothing out of the ordinary was going on, without actually patrolling inside the garage. Pl.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 13. According to Mikell, when he actually went out into the garage itself to patrol, he would enter comments into the log about the cars or vehicles in the garage. Id. ¶ 14. The log entry in question made no mention of cars or vehicles in the garage. Id. ¶ 15. Thus, Mikell maintained that his log entry did not indicate that he actually patrolled the garage and as a result was not falsified. Id. ¶ 16. In conducting her investigation of the incident, Duffy interviewed other Loss Prevention Officers at the facility and concluded that "patrolling the garage levels" was "consistently understood to mean walking throughout the garage." Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 31.

On June 24, 2008, Mikell‟s counsel submitted a letter to Marriott stating that Mikell "would like to return to work without taking further action to address what he believes may be illegal discrimination in the workplace." Pl.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 9; Resp. Ex. 3. On July 8, 2008, Mikell complained to Duffy during an interview that he was discriminated against and believed that there was a conspiracy to terminate him. Pl.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 7.

When Duffy had completed her investigation, she recommended that Mikell be terminated for falsification of company records, and General Manager Michael Rodden ("Rodden") approved her recommendation. Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶¶ 32-33. Mikell then appealed his termination directly to Rodden. Id. ¶ 34. Mikell requested that Rodden review the log, but Rodden stated that there was "no need for that" and upheld the termination decision.

Pl.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 18. Mikell‟s employment with Marriott ceased on July 15, 2008. Compl. ¶ 21; Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 6.

On July 21, 2008, the EEO Compliance Manager at Marriott, Leslie O‟Bryant, received a complaint from the PHRC, signed by Mikell and dated March 11, 2008. Def.‟s Stat. Mat. Facts ¶ 38. Also on July 21, 2008, O‟Bryant received an "Amended Complaint," signed by Mikell and dated June 24, 2008. Id. ¶ 39. Two weeks later, O‟Bryant received a "Second Amended Complaint." Id. ¶ 40. The PHRC dismissed the case in the summer of 2009; the EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on November 4, 2009. Compl. ¶¶ 9-10.

III.Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see Kornegay v. Cottingham, 120 F.3d 392, 395 (3d Cir. 1997). A fact is "material" if the dispute "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" if the evidence would permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there are no material facts supporting the nonmoving party‟s legal position. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party carries this initial burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The nonmoving party cannot rely upon "bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions" to support its claim. Fireman's Ins. Co. v. DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982). Rather, the party opposing summary judgment must go ...


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