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Reginald Fenter v. Kraft Foods Global

November 14, 2012

REGINALD FENTER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
KRAFT FOODS GLOBAL, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant Kraft Foods Global, Inc. ("Defendant"), a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff Reginald Fenter ("Plaintiff"), and Defendant's Reply Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons explained below, the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

This is an employment discrimination case.*fn1 Plaintiff, who is an African-American former employee of Defendant, contends that he was constructively discharged, retaliated against, and harassed because of his race. Plaintiff was employed by Defendant from 1974 until 2008. (Compl. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff alleges that he was constructively discharged in February 2008 because of his race and in retaliation for having complained about race discrimination. (Id.) Plaintiff held many positions during his time with Defendant, but he was last employed as a Retail Sales Manager. (Id.) Despite years of exemplary performance and achievement, Plaintiff contends that he experienced a racially hostile work environment, was retaliated against when he complained about the racially hostile work environment for himself and other African-American sales professionals, and otherwise experienced work conditions that left him with no reasonable alternative other than to resign his employment. (Id. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff claims that Defendant intentionally put him at a competitive disadvantage against Retail Sales Managers who were not African-American by assigning him to a sales territory that was 65 miles away from his home while two white Sales Managers lived closer to the territory. (Id. ¶ 8.) Consequently, Plaintiff spent many hours in his car traveling to his sales territory that he could have spent working with and training Sales Representatives. (Id.) Also, he claims that he was required to travel over 100 miles to New York for meetings whereas white Sales Managers only had to travel 10 miles to New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 9.) Further, Plaintiff states that his territory encompassed the most crime-ridden areas of New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 11.)

Additionally, Plaintiff claims that Defendant assigned Sales Representatives to his sales team with significantly less pertinent sales knowledge and years of experience than managers who were not African-American. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff states that Defendant intentionally assigned Sales Representatives with inadequate skills to Plaintiff's sales team in an effort to get him to resign. (Id. ¶ 11.) Also, as a member of Defendant's Black Sales Caucus, Plaintiff alleges that he forcefully advocated for the promotion of four qualified African-American Sales Representatives, and three were promoted. (Id. ¶ 12.) Regarding the fourth Sales Representative, Plaintiff claims that Defendant did not promote him explaining that some issue in the person's personnel file indicated that he would never be accepted for promotion. (Id.)

Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to access the personnel file. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, his efforts of promoting African-Americans were opposed by management. (Id.) Plaintiff states that when he nominated 14 white Sales Representatives for promotions, all but one were promoted without any opposition from management. (Id.) Plaintiff states that Defendant's management viewed his actions in support of the African-American Sales Representatives as pushy, threatening and offensive. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that he complained about the racially hostile work environment to Darryl Brown, Vice President of Sales, and Richard Martino, Vice President of Headquarters Sales, in 2007. (Id. ¶ 13.) According to Plaintiff, in violation of established policy, neither Brown nor Martino informed Defendant's Human Resources Department about Plaintiff's complaint. (Id.) Plaintiff states that no investigation of his action was conducted. (Id.)

Sometime prior to February 2008, Plaintiff alleges that he concluded that of four District Managers, he and two other minority Managers were being targeted by Defendant. (Id. ¶ 14.) Consequently, Plaintiff determined that he had no alternative other than to resign his employment with Defendant, and he was constructively discharged in February 2008. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant discriminated and retaliated against him in connection with his alleged constructive discharge by refusing to offer him a severance pay package. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff states that Defendant offered severance pay packages of a salary of at least one year to other employees both prior to and after his constructive discharge. (Id.)

On August 1, 2011, Plaintiff filed his Complaint alleging employment discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. § 10:5-12 et. seq. (Compl., ¶¶ 20-30.) On December 27, 2011, Plaintiff's claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. § 10:5-12 et. seq., was dismissed by the Court. Thus, the only remaining claim is Plaintiff's Section 1981 claim. Defendant has moved for summary judgment regarding this claim. Plaintiff has opposed Defendant's Motion, and Defendant's have filed a Reply Memorandum. For the reason set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) states that summary judgment is proper "if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Hines v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court asks "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether . . . one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit after applying the substantive law. Further, a dispute over a material fact must be 'genuine,' i.e., the evidence must be such 'that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party.'" Compton v. Nat'l League of Prof'l Baseball Clubs, 995 F. Supp. 554, 561 n.14 (E.D. Pa. 1998).

Summary judgment must be granted "against a party who 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 of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party has produced evidence in support of summary judgment, the non-moving party must go beyond the allegations set forth in its pleadings and counter with evidence that presents "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am. Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1362-63 (3d Cir. 1992). "More than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" must be presented by the non-moving party in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Tziatzios v. United States, 164 F.R.D. 410, 411-12 (E.D. Pa. 1996). If the court determines that there are no genuine issues of material fact, then summary judgment will be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff opposes Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment in the following two ways:

(1) by seeking a postponement of a decision under Federal Rule Civil Procedure 56(d)*fn2 to permit additional discovery and (2) by arguing that he has provided enough evidence to survive summary judgment. Neither ...


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