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Gerald G. Kamau v. East Penn Mfg. Co.

February 28, 2013


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


Gerald Kamau filed this employment discrimination action against his former employer, East Penn Manufacturing Company, Inc. (East Penn). Kamau alleges he was retaliated against in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 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 East Penn moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, I will grant the motion.


East Penn is a manufacturer of batteries with its corporate office and largest manufacturing facilities located in or near Lyon Station, Pennsylvania. Doc. No. 24-3 ¶

1. Kamau began working at East Penn in 2004. He progressed through a series of higher level jobs, eventually rising to machine operator, the last position he held at East Penn. Each progression was accompanied by a wage increase. Id. ¶¶ 2-3.

A. The Tire Deflation Incidents

On September 22, 2009, Kamau met with Jason Huey, assistant plant manager, and Tony DiBenedetto, personnel coordinator. Id. ¶ 5. At the meeting, Kamau claimed that on June 25, July 22, August 20, and September 14, 2009, he had an "almost" flat tire after his car was parked in the East Penn employee parking lot. He also told Huey and DiBenedetto that on September 14 he had the tire checked and there was nothing wrong with it. Id. ¶ 6. Kamau told Huey and DiBenedetto that on September 22 he noticed following his shift that the air pressure in his car's right rear tire was again low. Although Kamau did not know who was responsible, he suspected co-workers Bill Hoier, Lance Parnoski, Seth Lorah, Mike Schaeffer, and possibly his immediate supervisor, Mike Zentner. Id. ¶ 7. Kamau claimed these individuals were responsible because he had an argument several months before with Schaeffer, who maintained friendships with Hoier, Parnoski, Lorah, and Zentner. Id. ¶ 8. Huey and DiBenedetto offered Kamau the option of switching parking lots and locker rooms. Kamau declined but said he would think about it. Kamau also told Huey and DiBenedetto he was going to transfer out of his department. Id. ¶ 10.

The next day, September 23, Huey talked with Zentner about Kamau's allegations. Neither Zentner nor Schaeffer was aware of anyone letting air out of Kamau's tire. Id. ¶ 11. Zentner said he would monitor the situation and increase his surveillance of the employees in his work area. East Penn's security department, which monitors and patrols the grounds and parking lots, was also notified about Kamau's complaint and directed to increase surveillance of the area where he parked. As a matter of routine, DiBenedetto also notified his superior, personnel director Alison Snyder, about Kamau's complaint. Id. ¶ 12.

At Kamau's request, he met with Snyder on September 30. Willie Garcia and Keith Schlegel, personnel coordinators, were also present. Snyder wanted Garcia and Schlegel at the meeting because they both worked on the third shift, could monitor the situation, and help Snyder with the investigation of Kamau's allegations. Id. ¶ 13. Kamau requested the meeting with Snyder to address the alleged tire deflation incidents. In the meeting, Kamau claimed that nothing had been done to address his complaint since his meeting a week earlier with Huey and DiBenedetto. Id. ¶ 14. Kamau repeated his claim that his car tires continued to lose air while parked in East Penn's parking lot. Kamau stated that he never found the tires flat or slashed, and there was no sign of nails or other objects in the tires. Id. ¶ 15. Kamau claimed that the air pressure in his tires was lowered from approximately 30 psi to 28 psi and that Ross Pinter, a fork lift driver, was responsible, although Kamau never noticed Pinter leave his work area for any extended period of time. Id. ¶ 16.

Snyder asked Kamau for information about his vehicle. She told him that East Penn would take measures to keep his car under surveillance while it was in the parking lot. Id. ¶ 17. Snyder asked Kamau if he wanted to transfer to a different building, location, or department. Kamau declined the offer, saying that he liked his current job, shift, and plant location, and would prefer to transfer at his own will to a job that he wanted to bid on. Id. ¶ 18. Snyder assured Kamau that if he did transfer, it would be to a similar job with the same pay and benefits. Kamau again refused. Snyder also asked Kamau if he wanted to park in a reserved parking area directly next to the building in which he worked. Kamau declined this offer as well. Id. ¶ 19. Finally, Snyder asked Kamau if he wanted to park in another location on the complex, which would not be close to his department or where other co-workers in his department parked, but within reasonable walking distance to the building in which he worked. Kamau again refused her offer. Id. ¶ 20. Kamau stated that the supervisors in his department did nothing to help him and were out to get him. When Snyder asked Kamau for specific examples to support his allegations, Kamau offered none. Id. ¶ 21. Snyder concluded the meeting by telling Kamau that East Penn would tighten surveillance and security in the area where he parked his car and that if he saw or heard anything suspicious, he should contact her or his supervisors immediately. Snyder gave Kamau her business card with her cell phone number and told him to contact her at any time he felt he had a problem. Id. ¶ 22.

Following the September 30 meeting, Snyder directed Garcia to interview the employees Kamau named. They all denied Kamau's accusations. Snyder heard nothing further from Kamau regarding the matter until early December 2009. East Penn was never able to determine if someone was in fact deflating Kamau's tire. Id. ¶ 23.*fn3

B. Concern Recommendation

In a meeting on December 10, 2009, Kamau told Snyder that there were at least 100 people following him from work every day. He also told her that he was being stalked by an unknown person and followed by the police, and that small amounts of air were again being let out of his tires by unknown persons. Id. ¶ 29.*fn4

Snyder became concerned about Kamau's fitness for duty and decided to recommend to him that he seek professional counseling with Concern Counseling Services (Concern), East Penn's employee assistance program (EAP) provider, for an evaluation. Kamau refused. Id. ¶ 30. Snyder decided not to force the issue at that time. Kamau continued to work his regular schedule without any change in his wages, benefits, or working conditions and without reporting any further incidents to East Penn. Id. ¶ 31.

C. Locker Theft Incidents

On December 29, 2009, Kamau went to Zentner and reported that on two occasions someone had broken into his locker. Kamau told Zentner that if it happened again, he would only tell Zentner "on his way out of here." Id. ¶ 32. Zentner was concerned about Kamau's remarks and felt threatened by them, although David Guiles, personnel representative, interpreted Kamau's remarks merely as an intention to resign.

Kamau wrote about this incident in his work journal, claiming that not only was Hoier's mother present, but also Hoier's grandmother, Lorah's father, and Lorah's grandfather. Kamau believed all these individuals had been sent by Hoier and Lorah to "possibly check and find anything illegal or odd about [him]." Id. ¶ 27. In a journal entry dated October 2, 2009, Kamau claimed to have found a screw in his tire, which he believed had been deliberately inserted while he was at work by a co-worker. Id. ¶ 28.

That same day, Guiles and Mike Rasool, personnel representative, met with Kamau to investigate the allegations he reported to Zentner. Id. ¶ 33. Kamau told Rasool and Guiles that on two occasions about a month before someone broke into his locker. The only item missing, according to Kamau, was a wash cloth. No other items were taken. There was no sign of forced entry to Kamau's locker. Id. ¶ 34. Kamau told Rasool and Guiles that one of his co-workers on either side of his locker was responsible. Kamau believed that one of the two had obtained his locker combination by looking over Kamau's shoulder. Id. ¶ 35. In response to his allegations, Kamau was offered the opportunity to move to another plant in the same job. He declined the offer and then said to Rasool, "It's like Osama bin Laden. He multiplies and trouble follows him." Id. ¶ 36. Rasool and Guiles asked Kamau if there was ...

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