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David Walton v. Evergreen International Aviation

December 17, 2012

DAVID WALTON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
EVERGREEN INTERNATIONAL AVIATION, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gene E.K. Pratter United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

GENE E.K. PRATTER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff David Walton has sued his former employer, Evergreen Aviation Ground Logistics Enterprises, Inc. ("Evergreen"), alleging that Evergreen discriminated against him based upon race and subjected him to a hostile work environment and unlawful retaliation. Evergreen has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment which would, if granted, dispose of the case in its entirety. For the reasons set forth below, this Motion will be granted.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

For the purposes of this motion, the Court considers whether the record presents any genuine issues of material fact that would allow a reasonable jury to find in favor of Mr. Walton. See Miller v. Ind. Hosp., 843 F.2d 139, 143 (3d Cir. 1988); see also Anderson v. Wachovia Mortg. Corp., 621 F.3d 261, 267 (3d Cir. 2010) (noting that at the summary judgment stage, courts must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve conflicting evidence in favor of the non- moving party). With this standard in mind, the facts set forth in this Memorandum are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

Mr. Walton, an African-American, accepted a position with Evergreen on December 15, 2005. Evergreen provides cargo handling services at various airports, and it hired Mr. Walton as a mechanic at its Philadelphia Airport location. The parties agree that, during the relevant time period for this litigation, Mr. Walton's immediate supervisor was Jack Bobst, and that Mr. Bobst was supervised by Dan Daly.

On August 31, 2006, Mr. Bobst gave Mr. Walton a written warning for failing to complete tasks in a timely manner, failing to complete work orders, and failing to lock up vans at nighttime. Mr. Walton admits that he failed to complete an assigned task on August 31, 2006, but has testified that he nonetheless believes Mr. Bobst wrote him up due to racial animus.

On April 11, 2007, Mr. Walton received a second written warning and a one-day suspension from Mr. Bobst for inconsistently completing paperwork. Two days later, Mr. Walton received a third written warning after Mr. Daly observed him smoking inside of a work van that contained cans filled with gasoline. Mr. Walton has testified that he believes this warning also arose from racial animus towards him, and that Mr. Daly previously told him that employees were allowed to smoke inside of work vans.

In May 2007, Evergreen officials informed Mr. Daly that he needed to reduce employee hours and staff at Evergreen's Philadelphia Airport location. On May 30, 2007, Mr. Daly informed Mr. Walton that he was being terminated due to this company downsizing. Evergreen also terminated Thomas Gunsenhouser, a Caucasian mechanic who worked at its Philadelphia location, but retained other Caucasian mechanics. Subsequent to these terminations, Evergreen did not post advertisements for any open mechanic positions at its Philadelphia Airport location in 2007, but it did hire two Caucasian mechanics three years later, in 2010.

Mr. Walton filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on February 28, 2007, some three months before he was terminated from employment. However, Mr. Walton has testified that he never directly complained to Mr. Daly or anyone else at Evergreen about suffering racial discrimination or harassment. At his deposition, Mr. Daly stated that he did not know Mr. Walton filed an EEOC charge until after Mr. Walton was terminated by Evergreen.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

A court shall grant a motion for summary judgment "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). An issue is "genuine" if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Under Rule 56, the Court must view the evidence presented on the motion in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, "[u]nsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions are insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev. Ctr., 621 F.3d 249, 252 (3d Cir. 2010).

The movant bears the initial responsibility for informing the court of the basis for the motion for summary judgment 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). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue, the moving party's initial burden can be met simply by "pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. After the moving party has met the initial burden, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuinely disputed factual issue for trial by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . . , admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Summary ...


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