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Daniel Philpot v. Amtrak

November 3, 2011

DANIEL PHILPOT,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMTRAK,*FN1 DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Daniel Philpot ("Philpot"), an African-American male, brought this action against his former employer, Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corp. ("Amtrak"), alleging that his termination from Amtrak was the result of racial discrimination and unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. Amtrak moves for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). For the following reasons, Amtrak's Motion is GRANTED.

II. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed*fn2 or reflect Philpot's version of facts in the record, pursuant to this Court's duty to view all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

On August 14, 2008, Philpot was employed by Amtrak as a board usher at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Def. MUF and Pl. MUF ¶ 3.*fn3 As a board usher, Philpot's responsibilities included finding out if Amtrak trains would be arriving at 30th Street Station on time and updating the information posted in the train station regarding trains' arrival times. Id.

¶ 6. Like all employees, Philpot was subject to Amtrak's "Standards of Excellence," a manual that explains Amtrak's goals, values, and expectations.*fn4 Id. ¶¶ 10-11. Philpot admits that he had previously received a copy of Amtrak's "Standards of Excellence" and was aware of his obligations under it when the events prompting this action took place. Id. ¶ 12.

Prior to August 14, 2008, Philpot's employment with Amtrak had been terminated on two occasions, once in August 2005 for improper use of an Amtrak voucher and once in October 2005 for insubordination (that is, failure to follow a supervisor's direct orders). Id. ¶¶ 48-49. After the October 2005 termination, Philpot made a claim of racial discrimination against Amtrak. Def. Br. at 9-10; Pl. Br. at Part III.C.1.*fn5 After both of these terminations, Philpot was reinstated based on "last chance" agreements that provided he would have no further opportunity to remain employed if he failed in his responsibilities. Id. ¶¶ 49-50; Exh. L and Exh. M of Def. Br.

On the date in question, August 14, 2008, Philpot arrived for work at 5:45 a.m. for a shift that began at 6:00 a.m. Id. ¶ 15. Philpot did not find any available parking spots in the area close to 30th Street Station. Additional employee parking areas were located further from 30th Street Station, but Philpot chose not to look for parking in those areas. Id. Instead, Philpot chose to park in a supervisor-only designated parking area, despite being prohibited from doing so. Id. ¶ 16.

Philpot entered the station and asked another employee, Jeff Banks ("Banks"), to notify him when his shift ended at 7:00 a.m., so that Philpot could move his car into Banks' parking spot upon Banks' departure. Id. ¶ 17. At 7:00 a.m., Philpot followed Banks out of the station and attempted to move his car into Banks' parking spot. Id. ¶ 18.According to Philpot, he was occupying "the majority" of the parking space previously occupied by Banks when he felt his car get bumped from behind by another vehicle. Pl. MUF ¶ 19; Exh. A of Pl. Br. at 56:1-10. Philpot emerged from his car and confronted the other driver, another Amtrak employee named Blake Owings ("Owings"). Owings is Caucasian. Pl. MUF ¶ 53; Exh. E of Def. Br. Philpot and Owings began to argue about the parking spot and the collision. Def. MUF ¶ 22; Pl. MUF ¶¶ 19, 22.

Amtrak Police Officer Gerald Arntz ("Officer Arntz") responded to a report of the dispute between Philpot and Owings. Officer Arntz was part of the Police Department's K-9 Unit and was accompanied by a trained police dog. Def. MUF and Pl. MUF ¶ 20. Philpot and Officer Arntz had known each other for a period of 5-7 years and had a friendly relationship. Id. ¶ 21.

Upon his arrival at the scene, Officer Arntz observed Philpot and Owings arguing. He instructed both Philpot and Owings to move their cars to the Penn Coach Yard. Id. ¶ 22. Initially, Philpot's vehicle was blocked by Owings' vehicle; as a result, Philpot could not move his car. Pl. MUF ¶ 22. In response to Officer Arntz's order, however, Owings returned to his car and drove it away. Def. MUF ¶ 23; Pl. MUF ¶¶ 22-24. At this time, Philpot did not remove his car but rather declined to follow the officer's order "so that [he] could return to his desk to maintain his duties." Pl. MUF ¶ 24.

Prior to Philpot's leaving the parking area, Officer Arntz warned him that if he left his car parked improperly, Officer Arntz would have it towed away. Philpot responded, "Go ahead and tow it." Pl. MUF ¶¶ 27-28; Pl. Exh. A at 118:21. Several minutes later, Philpot returned to the parking area. Officer Arntz was standing by Philpot's car, preparing a traffic citation and arranging for a tow truck to tow Philpot's car. Def. MUF and Pl. MUF ¶ 29.

Philpot moved toward Officer Arntz and put his arms out to his sides in frustration. Def. MUF ¶ 30; Exh. A of Def. Br. at 71:10-11; Pl. MUF ¶ 30. Officer Arntz instructed Philpot to walk away, but Philpot continued to approach. Officer Arntz warned Philpot that "[t]he dog is in attack mode," and Philpot responded, "Well, if that dog bites me, I'm going to bite him back." Def. MUF and Pl. MUF ¶¶ 30-31; Exh. A. of Def. Br. at 71:13-17. Philpot continued to move toward Officer Arntz until Officer Arntz pushed him away with an upraised hand. Def. MUF and Pl. MUF ¶ 32. At that moment, Officer Arntz decided to charge Philpot with disorderly conduct, although Philpot was not issued a citation until later that day. Def. MUF and Pl. MUF ¶ 33.

In defiance of Officer Arntz's instructions to move away from the area, Philpot got into his car and pulled fully into the disputed parking space. He then exited the car and returned to the station. Def. MUF and Pl. MUF ¶ 34; Exh. A. 71:18-72:7.

Officer Arntz, now joined by a Sergeant John Cullinan ("Sergeant Cullinan"), approached Philpot at his work location inside of the station. Sergeant Cullinan requested that Philpot present his driver's license, but Philpot refused. Def. MUF and Pl. MUF ΒΆ 35. Sergeant Cullinan repeated ...


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