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Nafis Zahir v. Patrick R. Donahoe

December 17, 2012


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


Plaintiff Nafis Zahir, a Muslim, commenced this Title VII religious discrimination in employment action after he was terminated from his job with the United States Postal Service. Defendant Patrick R. Donahoe, the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service (the "Postal Service") has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and, for the following reasons, we grant that Motion.


The undisputed record evidence is as follows. In 2010, Plaintiff was working in the maintenance department at the Postal Service's Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center. The Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center is the Postal Service's primary mail processing facility in Philadelphia ("the facility" or "the plant"). (Def. Stmt. of Mat. Facts ¶ 2.) The Postal Service runs three shifts at the facility, 24 hours a day, and employs over 2000 people there. (Id.) Tommy Franklin, the Lead Senior Manager, is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the plant and reports directly to the plant manager. (Id.)

Sometime in 2010, Franklin learned that Cassandra Baker, an automation clerk on the overnight shift ("Tour 1"), had not been punching out at the end of her shifts at her assigned time clock in the automation area. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 4.) In some instances, she had not punched out at any time clock at the facility. (Id. ¶ 1.) In an ensuing investigation, Franklin obtained information regarding Baker's time clock rings from the Postal Service security system. (Id. ¶ 4.) The Postal Service determined that Baker had left the Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center on several occasions without returning to the facility, and that someone else had punched out using her time card at the end of her shift. (Id.) On several occasions, Baker's time card had been punched out in the maintenance area of the facility, rather than in the automation area. (Id.) Because of these unauthorized absences, the Postal Service removed Baker from her position with the Postal Service. (Id. ¶ 5.)

Prior to Baker's official removal, at her pre-disciplinary interview on September 17, 2010, the Postal Service asked Baker to turn in her ID badge, and Baker replied that she did not have it with her. (Id. ¶¶ 5- 6.) When asked how she had gotten into the secure facility earlier that day, Baker responded that someone else had let her into the building, but she declined to identify the person who had done so. (Id. ¶ 6.) Because letting another person into the facility was contrary to Postal Service policy, Franklin obtained a videotape of the entrance to determine who, if anyone, had let Baker into the building. (Id. ¶ 7.) Franklin determined by reviewing the videotape that Plaintiff, who at the time was a Maintenance Operations Support Clerk, and who worked on Tour 1 with Baker, had used his ID badge to let Baker into the facility. (Id. ¶ 8.)

Franklin subsequently obtained records of Plaintiff's clock rings for a three month period. (Id. ¶ 10.) Those records revealed that Plaintiff had been out of the facility on a number of occasions while he was still on the clock. (Id.) The records further revealed that Plaintiff frequently left the building at the same time as Baker and, when Baker did not return to work, someone had punched her time card at the end of her shift in the maintenance area where Plaintiff worked. (Id.)

Franklin met with Edward Bissell, the Manager of Maintenance Operations on Tour 1, and discussed the information he had obtained about Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 12.) On October 20, 2010, Bissell conducted a Pre-Disciplinary Interview with Plaintiff, with Franklin and others present. (Id.; Franklin Dec. ¶ 15.) Bissell asked Plaintiff whether his ID badge had "ever been used in order to permit access/egress . . . to and from this facility by any person other than [himself]" and Plaintiff denied that it had. (Def. Stmt. of Mat. Facts ¶ 13; Ex. A to Franklin Decl.) Bissell then showed Plaintiff a videotape from September 17, 2010, in which Plaintiff allowed Baker to enter the facility using his ID badge. (Def. Stmt. of Mat. Facts ¶ 14.) Plaintiff then admitted that he had let Baker into the building, explaining that that her badge had not been working that day. (Id.) Plaintiff also admitted he had let other people into the building on other occasions. (Id.) Following the Pre-Disciplinary Interview, Bissell placed Plaintiff on administrative leave. (Id. ¶ 15.)

On October 29, 2010, Bissell issued a Notice of Proposed Removal, which included three charges against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 16.) The Notice charged Plaintiff with (1) sixteen instances of unauthorized absences from the Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center while Plaintiff was still on the clock, with each absence lasting between 34 minutes and 69 minutes; (2) improper use of Plaintiff's ID badge to allow Baker access to the facility on September 17, 2010, and (3) lack of candor during the investigation due to Plaintiff's initial denial that his badge had been used to let others into or out of the facility. (Id.; Ex. B to Franklin Decl. at 1-2.)

In an oral response to the charges, Plaintiff told Franklin that employees on Tour 1 routinely clocked out at one time but took lunch at another, and Plaintiff claimed that management knew of this practice. (Def. Stmt. of Mat. Facts ¶ 18.) Franklin asked Lenora Woods, Plaintiff's supervisor, about this assertion. (Id. ¶ 19.) Woods advised Franklin that employees were not permitted to clock out at one time and take lunch at another, and stated that she had given talks to employees about this issue. (Franklin Decl. ¶ 22.)

On December 21, 2010, Franklin sent Plaintiff a "Letter of Decision." (Ex. C to Franklin Decl.) In that letter, Franklin advised Plaintiff that he was sustaining all three charges against Plaintiff and that the first sustained charge alone (i.e., that Plaintiff had been outside the facility without authorization, while still on the clock and getting paid) was sufficient to warrant Plaintiff's removal from his job at the Postal Service. (Id. at 1.) Franklin further advised Plaintiff that he was in fact being removed, and that his removal would take effect two days after Plaintiff's receipt of the letter. (Id.)

In February 2011, Franklin obtained time clock records for the four employees with whom Plaintiff worked in the maintenance stockroom on Tour 1. (Def. Stmt. of Mat. Facts ¶ 21.) Franklin found no evidence in those records that those employees had been outside the facility for extended periods of time while still on the clock and without specific authorization from a supervisor. (Id. ¶ 22.)

Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a pro se complaint in August 2011.*fn1 His Complaint alleges his termination from employment was not for the alleged disciplinary infractions, but because he is a Muslim. He therefore asserts a religious discrimination claim under Title VII. ...

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