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Kelly Young v. J.B. Hunt Transport

February 13, 2013

KELLY YOUNG,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
J.B. HUNT TRANSPORT, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Kelly Young filed this employment discrimination against her employer, J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. (J.B. Hunt). She claims J.B. Hunt retaliated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.,and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 P.S. § 951, et seq.*fn1 J.B. Hunt moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, I will grant J.B. Hunt's motion.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

J.B. Hunt has employed Young as a truck driver since August 2008. Young Dep. at 27:13--29:13. In March or April 2010, one of Young's co-workers made a motion toward Young simulating oral sex. Young did not report the incident at that time. On May 17, 2010, the same co-worker called Young a "fucking bitch" in front of other co-workers and a customer, and told the customer "don't let her blow you, she will spit it back in your face." Young reported both incidents to her supervisor that same day. Doc. No. 22 ¶¶ 20-21. J.B. Hunt promptly investigated Young's claims and took appropriate action against the accused co-worker. Id. ¶ 23.

Young has been involved in several workplace and safety related incidents during the course of her employment with J.B. Hunt. On March 23, 2010; November 26, 2010; and February 17, 2011, Young's tractor recorded "hard brake events." Young was given additional coaching after each event. Id. ¶¶ 19, 30, 31. On May 29, 2010, Young was observed "veering" toward the shoulder of the road and cleaning her mirrors and windows while driving. She was required to complete safety training. Id. ¶ 24.*fn3 On June 21, 2010, Young was involved in a collision. The following day, Young was suspended without pay for three days and placed on probation for three months. Id. ¶ 25.*fn4 On October 20, 2010, Young allegedly violated J.B. Hunt's conflict-of-interest policy by discussing on company property the jewelry business she was involved in with a co-worker. Id. ¶ 28.*fn5 On October 26, 2010, Young was cited by the Connecticut Department of Transportation for having faulty rear tail lights. She was required to complete training on equipment inspections. Id. ¶ 29. On March 3, 2011, Young was involved in a "safety incident" while making a delivery. Three door hinges broke when a bungee cord snapped, allowing a rear door to swing loose and strike the delivery dock. That same day, Young was suspended without pay for one day, placed on probation for six months, and cautioned to be "more aware of wind conditions and [to] verify the condition of the bungee cord when securing the trailer door." Id. ¶ 32.*fn6 Finally, on March 10, 2011, Young was observed traveling at speeds too fast for weather conditions, failing to maintain the proper following distance behind other vehicles, and failing to safely change lanes. She was required to complete safety training. Id. ¶ 33.*fn7

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate when "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" only if it might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). For an issue to be "genuine," a reasonable fact-finder must be able to return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Id.

A party moving for summary judgment always bears the initial burden of informing the Court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing relevant portions of the record, including depositions, documents, affidavits, or declarations, or showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or showing that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Summary judgment is therefore appropriate when the non-moving party fails to rebut the moving party's argument that there is no genuine issue of fact by pointing to evidence that is "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 Corp., 477 U.S. at 322; Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 852 (3d Cir. 1992).

Under Rule 56, the Court must draw "all justifiable inferences" in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The Court must decide "not whether . . . the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other but whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented." Id. at 252. The nonmoving party cannot avert summary judgment with speculation or conclusory allegations, such as those found in the pleadings, but rather, must present clear evidence from which a jury can reasonably find in its favor. Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. N.E. for M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999).

III. DISCUSSION

Courts analyze retaliation claims under Title VII and the PHRA pursuant to the burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Moore v. City of Philadelphia, 461 F.3d 331, 342 (3d Cir. 2006); Gomez v. Allegheny Health Services, Inc., 71 F.3d 1079, 1084 (3d Cir. 1995) ("The [PHRA] is construed consistently with interpretations of Title VII."). To survive summary judgment, a plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of retaliation by showing (1) a protected activity, (2) a materially adverse action, and (3) a causal link between the protected activity and the materially adverse action. Krouse v. Am. Sterilizer Co., 126 F.3d 494, 500 (3d Cir. 1997). If the plaintiff makes out a prima facie case, the burden of production "shifts to the employer to advance a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason" for its conduct. Id. If the employer advances such a reason, the burden of production shifts back to the plaintiff "to convince the factfinder both that the employer's proffered explanation was false, and that retaliation was the real reason for the adverse employment action." Id. at 501. The burden of persuasion remains at all times with the plaintiff. Id.

A. Prima Facie Case

1. Protected Activity

Title VII protects employees who oppose discriminatory ...


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