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Emma Miller v. Tyco Electronics

September 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Currently pending before the Court is Defendant Tyco Electronics, Ltd.'s motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 39.) The matter is ripe for disposition, and, for the reasons stated more fully herein, the Court will deny the motion.


Plaintiff Emma Miller worked in various manufacturing and assembly capacities on production lines while employed by Defendant Tyco until she was terminated in March 2009. (Doc. Nos. 41, 47 ¶ 2.) From 1999 until late 2007, Plaintiff worked in a large facility in East Berlin, Pennsylvania; when the East Berlin facility closed in 2007, she was transferred to a plant in Harrisburg. (Id. ¶ 3.) At the Harrisburg plant, Plaintiff was assigned to work on a "multi-gig" assembly line machine. (Id. ¶ 9.) While Plaintiff had worked on the multi-gig machine at the East Berlin plant, her responsibilities increased at the Harrisburg plant, where she was required to run the entire assembly line, repair machines, and perform set-up duties on the machines. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 13.) While Plaintiff asserts that she should have received more training, she claims that she was able to perform all of the duties associated with her position. (Id. ¶ 16.)

In November 2008, Plaintiff's supervisor James Smith prepared performance reviews for all of his direct reports, including Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 18.) Employees received a performance-based ranking score of either one (below expectations), two (meets expectations), or three (exceeds expectations). (Id.) Mr. Smith gave Plaintiff a score of one. (Id. ¶ 20.) While no male employees were given a score of one, some female employees were given scores higher than their male counterparts. In his written review of Plaintiff, Mr. Smith wrote that Plaintiff's demonstrated skills did not measure up to the descriptions of her job classification. (Id. ¶ 22.)

In December 2008, Plaintiff complained to Tyco's human resources department, claiming that Mr. Smith discriminated against her and harassed her based on her Filipino national origin and her gender. (Id. ¶ 24.) Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that Mr. Smith constantly reprimanded her about her jewelry and about her hair not being pulled back, that she was not treated professionally, and that she did not get the same help and training as her white male co-workers. (Doc. No. 39-11.) Upon investigation of Plaintiff's claims, Tyco's human resources department concluded that Plaintiff had not suffered any illegal discrimination or harassment; however, Plaintiff disagrees with this conclusion. (Doc. Nos. 41, 47 ¶ 27.) In her deposition in this case, Plaintiff provided more detailed allegations of discrimination. (Doc. No. 46-1.) Notably, Plaintiff stated that Mr. Smith told her that no woman should be doing the type of work that she was performing, screamed at her for wearing jewelry, called her dumb, tried to flick her in the head, laughed at her Filipino accent, and called her a dumb Filipino. (Id. at 10-14, 18, 21-22.)

In March 2009, Tyco engaged in a round of layoffs that affected the Harrisburg plant. (Doc. Nos. 41, 37 ¶ 32.) Tyco used its standard reduction-in-force selection criteria to determine individuals for layoff, placing individuals on the layoff list if they received a performance-based ranking of one on their last performance review or if they had written disciplinary action in their record. (Id. ¶ 34.) Because Plaintiff had received a performance-based ranking of one on her last performance review, she was terminated on March 4, 2009. (Id. ¶ 37.)

Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on December 3, 2010, alleging that she was terminated from her position at Tyco for improper reasons. (Doc. No. 1.) She filed an amended complaint against Tyco on January 17, 2012, raising claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), alleging that she was terminated based on, inter alia, her gender, national origin, and race. (Doc. No. 4.) On July 11, 2012, Plaintiff filed a stipulation amending her complaint, dropping all of her claims except for a Title VII claim and a PHRA claim based on gender and national origin. (Doc. No. 36.) Following discovery, Defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment on July 20, 2012. (Doc. No. 39.)


Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment is warranted "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). A factual dispute is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law, and it is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). At summary judgment, the inquiry is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. Id. at 251-52. In making this determination, the Court must "consider all evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." A.W. v. Jersey City Pub. Sch., 486 F.3d 791, 794 (3d Cir. 2007).

The moving party has the initial burden of identifying evidence that it believes shows an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2004). Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's claims, "the non-moving party must rebut the motion with facts in the record and cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memoranda, or oral argument." Berckeley Inv. Grp.. Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). If the non-moving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial," summary judgment is warranted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. With respect to the sufficiency of the evidence that the non-moving party must provide, a court should grant summary judgment where the non-movant's evidence is merely colorable, conclusory, or speculative. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. There must be more than a scintilla of evidence supporting the non-moving party and more than some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Id. at 252; see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Further, a party may not defeat a motion for summary judgment with evidence that would not be admissible at trial. Pamintuan v. Nanticoke Mem'l Hosp., 192 F.3d 378, 387 (3d Cir. 1999).


Tyco moves for summary judgment, arguing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. (Doc. No. 39.) In response, Plaintiff argues that she has produced sufficient facts to prove a prima facie case of national and gender discrimination, and that she has established pretext. (Doc. No. 46.)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for an employer to "fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The PHRA likewise prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of, inter alia, one's gender and national origin. 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951 et seq. To prevail on a claim of discrimination under Title VII or the PHRA, a plaintiff must satisfy the three-step burden-shifting inquiry under McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). Atkinson v. LaFayette Coll., 460 F.3d 447, 454 (3d Cir. 2006).

Briefly summarized, the McDonnell Douglas analysis proceeds in three stages. First, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. If the plaintiff succeeds in establishing a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant "to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection." Finally, should the defendant carry this burden, the plaintiff then must have an opportunity to prove by a preponderance of the ...

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