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Stephen Glenn v. Raymour and Flanigan

December 22, 2011

STEPHEN GLENN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RAYMOUR AND FLANIGAN, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Stephen Glenn ("Plaintiff" or "Glenn") has brought suit against his former employer, Raymour and Flanigan ("Defendant" or "Raymours"), for disparate treatment, retaliation, and hostile work environment under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 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 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 95 et seq.*fn1 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 Defendant's motion.*fn2

I.BACKGROUND*fn3

A. Glenn's Hiring and Promotion at Raymours

On July 24, 2007, Raymour and Flanigan, a furniture company, hired Glenn, an African-American male, as a Facility Technician in its Frazer, Pennsylvania service center ("Frazer Service Center"). Upon being hired, Glenn received a copy of Raymour's "Associate Handbook" and confirmed in writing that he understood its contents. The Associate Handbook identified a non-exhaustive list of actions and conduct that might "result in disciplinary action up to and including termination . . . ." Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 9. This list included the following conduct:

C "Rude, abusive, or obscene language or conduct on company property." C "Fighting or disorderly conduct."

C "Harassing, interfering with, or refusing to cooperate with co-workers in the performance of their duties."

C "Threats of harm directed to a . . . co-worker . . .on Company property . . . ." Id. Glenn also understood that Raymours had a policy against harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This policy was communicated to the employees at the Frazer Service Center in at least five distinct ways-(1) in a discussion upon hiring, (2) Professional Conduct and Harassment Awareness training and an accompanying handout, (3) in the Associate Handbook, (4) through signing an acknowledgment form, and (5) through workplace posters placed outside the employee break room.

The Frazer service center is divided into several different departments, including Operations, Delivery, Customer Care, and Internal Controls. Each department has its own manager. During the relevant time period, the Operations Manager was Don Hazeldine, and the Delivery Manager was Eric Delaney. Both Hazeldine and Delaney reported to Chris Saporito, the Regional Director of Operations, who oversaw the Operations, Delivery, and Internal Controls Departments at the Frazer Service Center.

As heads of their respective departments, Hazeldine and Delaney were responsible for their department's supervisors; those supervisors in turn oversaw their subordinates in each department. In the Operations Department, the subordinates included Facility Technicians and Customer Delivery Inspectors. In the Delivery Department, the subordinates included Customer Delivery Experts (drivers) and Customer Delivery Assistants (helpers). Department managers were responsible for the hiring, supervision, promotion, discipline, and firing of their employees. Hazeldine interviewed Glenn for the Facility Technician position and made the decision to hire him.

When Glenn first began working at Raymours, he was on the night shift. Being on the night shift increased his pay rate over that of the day shift employees. Sometime in the fall of 2008, after Glenn expressed interest in moving to the day shift, Hazeldine made the decision to approve Glenn's transfer to the day shift. Hazeldine allowed Glenn's pay rate to remain the same, even though it was supposed to decline as a result of the transfer. Glenn considered this transfer "like a promotion in itself."

After his transfer to the day shift, Glenn was occasionally able to perform the duties of a Customer Delivery Inspector ("CDI"). He liked the duties of a CDI and informed his Operations Supervisor, Robert Mirth, that he was interested in a promotion to that position. Mirth subsequently recommended Glenn for a CDI position, and Hazeldine promoted Glenn to the position effective January 21, 2008. The CDI promotion enabled Glenn to receive more in wages for less hours of work than his previous position.

Up until March 20, 2008, Glenn was generally satisfied with working at Raymours. He felt he was treated fairly and had no problems with anyone at the company. He testified that he had no reason to believe that anyone at Raymours discriminated against him or harassed him prior to March 20, 2008. On March 20, 2008, however, an altercation between Glenn and a co-worker, Steven Faust, led to Glenn's termination and his filing this action.

A. The Glenn-Faust Altercation

Glenn and Faust, both CDIs for Raymours, worked in areas adjacent to one another. On March 20, 2008, while at their respective work areas, they got into a dispute about a box of trash-each man pushing the box into the other's work area claiming that it was not his trash. Exactly what was said during the ensuing heated argument is the subject of some dispute. At some point during the argument, however, Faust began walking toward Don Hazeldine's office to report the incident. Hazeldine was in his office at the time, along with Robert Mirth and Nicole Corson, another Operations Supervisor. From Hazeldine's office, Hazeldine, Mirth, and Corson observed Glenn following Faust, flailing his arms, and yelling the words "pussy" and "faggot" at Faust. Faust eventually entered Hazeldine's office, and the door was closed. Glenn tried to open the door to follow Faust into the office, but it was closed on him. He went back to his line and started finishing his work.

While in the office, Faust informed Hazeldine, Mirth, and Corson that he and Glenn had been arguing over a trash box and that Faust had told him that they should "step outside," at which point Faust went to Hazeldine's office. Mirth subsequently left Hazeldine's office to discuss the matter with Glenn. When Mirth left, Faust continued to talk to Hazeldine and Corson about the incident. He alleged that Faust had threatened to "kick [his] ass" and called him a "pussy" and a "faggot." Faust admitted that he called Glenn a "pussy" as well, to which Glenn responded, "Be a man, let's take this outside." Faust explained that he came to Hazeldine's office because he did not want to lose his job over fighting.

Glenn, meanwhile, had been at his line working for a "few minutes" when Mirth approached him. During their conversation, Mirth asked Glenn if he threatened Faust, and Glenn denied having done so. Mirth then asked if Glenn had told Faust to "step outside," as Faust had alleged, and Glenn admitted that he had. Mirth asked Glenn if he knew that was a threat, and Glenn said he did not. Mirth subsequently informed Glenn that he could get fired for such a statement. Glenn testified that at this point he "paused and kind of realized that [he] might be getting fired . . . ." Glenn Dep. 190:14-16. He asked Mirth "what [he was] going to do." Glenn Dep. 190:16-17. Glenn failed to provide any other information on the altercation to Mirth. Mirth instructed Glenn to wait by the time clock until he returned.

When Mirth got back to Hazeldine's office, Hazeldine asked Faust to leave the office. He then asked Mirth and Corson what they thought should be done about the situation. Mirth recommended that Glenn be terminated because he committed a serious violation of the company's workplace policies, based on the behavior he observed and Glenn's admission that he invited Faust to "step outside" during their argument. Corson agreed with this recommendation. After listening to Mirth and Corson, Hazeldine decided to terminate Glenn's employment. He then called Chris Saporito, the Regional Director of Operations, to inform him of his decision. Saporito told Hazeldine that if he was going to terminate Glenn, he needed to ensure that he be escorted off the premises immediately. Mirth returned to Glenn and told him to punch out for the day because he was terminated. Glenn "pleaded" with Mirth and asked if he could speak to the human resources representative for Raymours, Latasha Lane. Mirth told him he could not and then escorted him off the property.

In a "Disciplinary Counseling" form created that same day, Mirth documented the termination and noted that Glenn "was terminated for creating a hostile work environment and making threats to another associate." Def's. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 19 at P01014-0105.

B. Glenn's Explanation of the Faust Incident and Faust's Written Reprimand

When Glenn arrived back at his home that same day, he called Latasha Lane. Lane instructed him to write down what happened and fax it to her. Glenn faxed a letter, dated March 20, 2008, the next day on March 21, 2008. In this letter, Glenn offered his description of the incident with Faust. According to Glenn, while he and Faust were pushing the trash box back and forth from their respective work areas, Faust said to him, "Boy, don't put your box back on this line." Glenn then responded, "Don't call me boy." Faust called him "boy" again. At that point, Glenn got "excited" and started calling Faust names like "homo, faget [sic], etc." As both men were "name calling," Glenn retorted "say it to my face." Faust approached Glenn, face-to-face, and said, "Go ahead, do it . . . I'm not getting fired." At that point, Faust began walking back to Hazeldine's office. As Faust was walking, he said to Glenn, "I see stupid written all over your face." Glenn responded, "Step outside then!"*fn4 In his letter, Glenn ...


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