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Shenecqua Butt, Allegra King v. United Brotherhood of Carpenters : & Joiners of America

January 26, 2012


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


I. Introduction

Plaintiffs Shenecqua Butt ("Butt"), Allegra King ("King"), Tanya Mitchell ("Mitchell"), Theresa Howard ("Howard"), and Ellen Bronson ("Bronson") are African-American female carpenters. Defendants Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, Southeastern Pennsylvania, State of Delaware and Eastern Shore of Maryland, United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America ("the Union"), Edward Coryell ("Coryell"), and Mark Durkalec ("Durkalec") are Plaintiffs' labor union and union representatives. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants have engaged in race and sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and retaliation under Title VII and § 1981.*fn1 Plaintiff Bronson is also suing for race and sex discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. The substantive thrust of their allegations is that Plaintiffs have received substantially fewer job assignments than male and white carpenters due to the discriminatory and retaliatory behavior of Defendants.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.

II. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed*fn2 or reflect Plaintiffs' version of the 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).

A. Overview of Union

Plaintiffs are members of Local 1073 of the Union. Pl. SUF ¶¶ 20, 54, 83, 95, 112. Upon entry into the Union, all Plaintiffs were assigned Durkalec as their business agent. Id. ¶¶ 24, 56, 85, 96, 116. Durkalec, a white male, is the Business Representative responsible for coordinating residential construction work for the Union membership. Def. SUF ¶ 6. The other individual Defendant in this case, Coryell, serves as the Executive-Treasurer and Business Manager of the Union. Id. ¶ 2.

The Union takes a number of measures to assist members in obtaining job assignments with signatory contractors, though members are not prohibited from obtaining employment with other employers. Signatory contractors are employers who have signed agreements with the Union to solicit labor through a specified process and to make certain contributions toward Union members' health and other benefits. Pl. Exh. I at 8-9, 12, 43.

For example, to assist its members in obtaining job assignments, the Union publishes and mails a quarterly newsletter to all members containing a list of construction projects in the area. Def. SUF ¶ 20. Members are encouraged to visit these worksites, as well as to solicit new opportunities on their own. Id. ¶¶ 18, 20. Any employer is free to hire any member of the Union, as long as the member is in good standing. Id. ¶ 22.

The Union also employs Business Representatives, like Durkalec, to help members find work. Specifically, Business Representatives have the authority to contact job sites about the availability of jobs, to communicate any opportunities to members, and to refer members to signatory contractors who call looking for labor. Id. ¶ 25-26, 31. In addition, Business Representatives receive "job start" documents notifying them of upcoming construction projects from signatory contractors. Id. ¶ 27. Although the Union assists members with employment prospects, it does not guarantee them continued employment. Id. ¶ 36.

B. Plaintiffs' Difficulties Finding Work

The undisputed facts reflect that for the last several years, Plaintiffs have had some difficulty in finding work or received work assignments that they considered to be unfavorable. For example, Butt and Mitchell experienced significant periods of unemployment, including from February 2007 though March 2008. Pl. SUF ¶¶ 30, 63. Bronson experienced a 3-month period of unemployment in 2005, Def. SUF ¶ 84, Howard struggled to find work in 2005 and 2006, Pl. SUF ¶ 113-14, and King's annual work hours in 2008 dropped to 432.50 hours, which was 925.25 hours fewer than the year before, Pl. Exh. F.*fn3

Plaintiffs' difficulties with employment are corroborated not only by their own testimony, but also by the testimony of Defendants. For example, Defendant Coryell stated in his affirmation that he was aware Plaintiffs Butt and Mitchell were having difficulty obtaining work. Def. Ex. 1 at ¶¶ 57, 62-63. Defendant Durkalec affirmed the same. Def. Exh. 2 at ¶ 23.

Plaintiffs' deposition testimony indicates that they had trouble obtaining work assignments even when there were specific openings available on job sites. Butt, for instance, visited one job site where work was available. Pl. Exh. H. at 52:3-55:6. She subsequently contacted Defendant Durkalec and requested to be referred to the job; nevertheless, she was not ultimately hired for the position. Id.

Finally, according to Plaintiffs, their troubles were not limited to obtaining assignments in the first place-even when they did get work, they were assigned to less desirable jobs in less desirable neighborhoods, such as jobs at nuclear plants. Pl. Exh. N. at 88:5-23.

C. The Alleged Discrimination Against Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs have offered no direct evidence of race or sex discrimination by Defendants. Rather, to support their claims of discrimination, they rely on indirect and circumstantial evidence that they argue is sufficient to get their claims before a jury.

In support of their race discrimination claim, Plaintiffs offer testimony that when Plaintiff Bronson told Durkalec she was having trouble finding work, he responded: "Ellen, my people are still out of work." Pl. Exh. L at 29:1-11. Bronson further testified that she took this reference to "my people" to mean she "was not a white man and those were the ones that was [sic] his people." Id. at 30:1-6. Plaintiffs also offered testimony from Plaintiff King that she had not observed any African-American women carpenters at job sites she visited. Pl. Exh. N. at 89:4-24. Finally, Plaintiffs offered evidence that both Coryell and Durkalec had reported to Plaintiffs that signatory contractors did not want to hire black females. Pl. Exh. E at 252:10-14; Pl. Exh. J at 47:11-15.

Plaintiffs' evidence regarding sex discrimination is somewhat more extensive. First, Plaintiffs cite to the same portions of the record described above in support of their sex discrimination claim, because that evidence involves Plaintiffs' gender as much as their race. Second, Plaintiffs point to additional circumstantial evidence, including (1) testimony by Butt that she was offered a job by Durkalec that he described to her as "a job that the men don't want," Pl. Exh. E. 205:22-25; and (2) testimony by non-party Margarita Padin, a female Union member from 1989 to 2011, reflecting her observations that the job sites were mostly male and that female carpenters generally were given fewer job assignments, fewer hours to work, and less desirable types of assignments, Pl. Exh R; Pl. Exh. S.

Furthermore, and most notably, Plaintiffs introduced statistics reflecting a substantial discrepancy in average hours worked by male and female Union members during the years 2003 through 2008. Pl. Exh. F. The statistics reflect that, on average, male members worked for signatory contractors 294.79 average annual hours more than female members between 2003 and 2008. Id. Furthermore, though the difference between male and female members' average hours varied from year to year, in no year did the female members' average hours meet or exceed the average hours worked by the male ...

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