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David Jones v. Food For All

July 11, 2011

DAVID JONES
v.
FOOD FOR ALL, INC., ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff David Jones has sued his former employer, Food for All, Inc., and his former supervisor, David Dobson (collectively, "Food For All" or "defendants"), for employment discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Specifically, he claims that defendants retaliated against him for engaging in a protected activity (Count I), discriminated against him based on his race (Count II), and subjected him to a hostile work environment (Count III).

Defendants have moved for summary judgment, and Jones has responded and included a Statement of Facts. Defendants contend that Jones cannot establish a prima facie case for his claims and that they had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating his employment. Jones argues that defendants' proffered reasons for firing him are pretextual.

For the reasons we discuss in detail below, we will deny defendants' motion.

I. Factual Background*fn1

Plaintiff David Jones is an African-American male who began working for defendants on June 15, 2009. Compl. ¶ 11-12. Jones worked for defendants for about ten months. Id. ¶ 13. Jones worked as a laborer and performed physical and manual tasks as requested. Id. ¶ 14. Dobson fired Jones on April 8, 2010.

Id. ¶ 16. During Jones's employment, he was supervised by a Caucasian male named Daut Dahirai, who was also referred to as "David Tariq" or "Happy Hands." Pl. Resp., Ex. N at 7-9. Jones and other black employees were brought in to Food for All from a workforce development program, were pre-qualified for hire, and did not have to go through an interview process because Dobson agreed to hire them as part of the program. Id., Ex. L at 70-73.

When Dobson hired him, he told Jones that Jones would be reporting to Dahirai and that he should report any problems to Dahirai. Id., Ex. K at 32; see also Ex. B (Steve Faison, an employee of defendants, certifying that Dahirai was a supervisor); Ex. C (Ernest Sutton, an employee of defendants, certifying that Dahirai was a supervisor). Dobson told Jones to do whatever Dahirai told him to do and to follow his orders.

Id., Ex. K at 55-56.

Dahirai confirmed that over the last four years of employment with defendants he worked forty hours per week on average. Id., Ex. N at 12-13. Jones and other employees worked at multiple property locations where Dahirai supervised them.

Id., Ex. K at 60. Dahirai sent Jones home at least twice when he was dissatisfied with Jones's work. Id. at 126. Dahirai testified that he could send employees home after getting permission from Dobson, and stated that he was personally responsible for reporting work progress to Dobson. Id., Ex. N at 26-27.

According to Jones and his co-workers -- Steve Faison, Ernest Sutton, and Naim Scott -- Dahirai was a blatant racist who constantly made racist statements to them. For example, Dahirai frequently called the African-Americans working for defendants "nigger" -- sometimes on a daily basis -- told them that they live in the projects and sold drugs, referred to blacks as only being good for drug dealers, and told Jones that he should go find him "a black girl so I can freak her for ten hours because you're all real cheap". Dahirai also reportedly stated that he was "tired of working with you people," asked "[h]ow many kids do you have, like fifteen kids?," said "you people are poor," "you people are always broke," asked if blacks "shit in a bucket," if the black employees were high, how much money black girls charge for sexual favors, and inquired whether "[y]ou know any black prostitutes I can fuck?" Id., Ex. B 6-8, 13; Ex. C 7-9, 15-16; Ex. E 9-11; Ex. K at 56, 62, 67, 76. Dahirai is said to have made these derogatory statements on a weekly or daily basis. Jones testified he heard Dahirai use the word "nigger" at least four or five times. Id., Ex. K at 62.

Jones complained to Dobson about Dahirai's racist remarks on many occasions, and Dobson told Jones that he would fix the problem, but Dahirai's behavior did not change. Id. at 56-57, 59, 80-84. Faison, Sutton, and Scott attested that Dobson was aware of Dahirai's treatment of the black employees, but did nothing to reprimand or discipline Dahirai. Id., Ex. B ¶ 13; Ex. C ¶ 16; Ex. E ¶ 16-17.

On April 6, 2010, Jones was working on a house in the Chestnut Hill area in Philadelphia. Id., Ex. K at 86-87. He left for lunch and when he returned he received a phone call from Melissa in the Food For All office informing him that his son's school had called and Jones had to leave work. Id. at 87. Melissa asked him if he wanted to leave and Jones said yes and left. Id.

When Jones returned to work on April 7, 2010, Dobson did not mention the fact that Jones had left work early the day before. Id. Dobson held the regular morning meeting that Jones, Sutton and Faison attended. Id. at 91. When the meeting was over, they each left to meet at the stables. Id., Ex. L at 128. Jones pulled around to the stables in a golf cart. Id., Ex. K at 93. As Jones drove the cart up to the stables, Dahirai began cursing at Jones and walking toward him. Id. at 87. When Dahirai was close to Jones, he spit in his face. Id. Then Dahirai picked up a shovel and motioned as if he was about to hit Jones with it. Id. at 88. Dobson observed this exchange, and Jones said, "Dobson, did you just see him just spit in my face, cuss me out and I thought he was going to hit me with a shovel." Id. Mr. Dobson responded, "You shouldn't have been sitting down. You should have been doing some work." Id. at 104.

Jones worked only a half day on April 7, 2010 because he had already asked for, and received, permission to leave early to pick up his son's report card from school. Id. at 109-10. That night, Jones informed Dobson that he would not be coming into work the next day because he intended to go to the police station to press charges against Dahirai. Id. at 88. At the police station Jones learned that the police would only be able to charge Dahirai with a misdemeanor, and Jones decided not press charges. Id. at 112. The following day, Jones went to the office to collect his check where he also received his termination letter. Id. at 89.

Dobson claims that he did not fire Jones because of the incident with Dahirai, but that the incident inspired him to create a negative absence calendar on April 7, 2010 for Jones. Id., Ex. L at 163-164. Dobson testified that Jones missed work thirty-five times between October of 2009 and April of 2010.

Def. MSJ, Ex. C. Dobson also knew by April 8, 2010 that Jones had threatened to file a lawsuit. Pl. Resp., Ex. L at 156:6-7 ("This isn't a reason to come to work -- I don't know if it's a valid excuse that you want to file a lawsuit -- that you don't show up at work"). Dobson claims that after deliberating for two days after he saw the ...


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