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John Jones v. Gemalto

March 25, 2013


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


Plaintiff, John Jones, has brought this action against his former employer, Gemalto, Incorporated, asserting claims for racial discrimination in employment pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted.


A. Jones's Employment with Gemalto Incorporated

Jones, who is African American, began working for Gemplus Corp. as a machine operator at its Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania facility in October 1996. (Compl. ¶ 3; Ans. ¶ 3; Patel Decl. ¶ 5.) On June 1, 2006, Gemplus Corp. merged with Axalto, Inc. and was renamed Gemalto, Incorporated (the two companies are henceforth referred to jointly as "Gemalto"). (Patel Decl. ¶ 5.) Gemalto's Montgomeryville Facility produces smart cards, Subscriber Identity Modules, e-passports, and PVC cards, such as credit cards. (Wright Decl. ¶ 3.) From 1999 until his termination, Jones was a Feeder Operator ("Feeder") in the Printing Department of Gemalto's Cardbodies Group, which produces credit cards. (Patel Decl. ¶ 8; Wright Decl. ¶¶ 5-6.) Feeders work as assistants to the lithograph Press Operators (also referred to as "pressmen"). (Wright Decl. ¶ 11.) Jones's responsibilities as a Feeder were to read the job jacket, help the Press Operator prepare jobs, load the feeder with PVC stock, supply the printer with ink, mount and put ink into the printing plates, and help the Press Operator keep the printer running. (Jones Dep. at 18-19, 50; Patel Decl. ¶ 8.) Jones worked on a four-color Heidelberg printing press that printed 72 credit cards per sheet of PVC, using up to four colors at a time. (Jones Dep. at 24-26; Patel Decl. ¶ 8.)

The Printing Department is managed by Ed Vega. (Wright Decl. ¶ 8.) Employees in the Printing Department are directly supervised by Process Team Coaches who are assigned to each shift. (Id. ¶ 9.) Jones worked on the first shift, which was supervised by Andrew Lopez. (Id. ¶ 9; Jones Dep. at 45-46.)

Jones held a poor opinion of Vega and believed that he mistreated the majority of the Printing Department's employees. (Jones Dep. at 82-88.) According to Jones, Vega yelled at and cursed the majority of the employees in the Printing Department and blamed them for things that they did not do. (Id. at 82-83, 85-87.) Vega had many altercations with employees over the years, and often threatened to fire his employees. (Id. at 102-03.) Over the years, Vega threatened to fire all of the employees in the Printing Department. (Id. at 104.) Vega also threatened several employees with physical violence. (Id. at 105.) During one meeting, a year or two before Jones was fired, Jones witnessed Vega throw a calculator that hit a Printing Department employee. (Id. at 106-07.)

B. Gemalto's Training Procedures for the Printing Department

Prior to September 30, 2010, Printing Department employees did not receive any formal training, only undocumented "on the job" training. (Patel Decl. ¶ 9.) Jones had sought training to become a Press Operator before the Printing Department instituted its formal training program. In 2001, Jones's then supervisor, Joe Kaszan, instructed two pressman, Ron Glassberg and Joe Depalma, to train Jones. (Jones Dep. at 122-23.) Glassberg and Depalma both refused to train Jones to run the printing presses. (Jones Dep. at 116-20.) Jones did not complain to anyone about not being trained at that time. (Id. at 123-24.) Another supervisor, Joe Speiser, recommended that Jones be trained to operate the Heidelberg press. (Patel Dep. at 103-07.) He did not receive this training. (Id. at 104-05.) Later, in the 2006-07 time period, Vega wanted Jones to be trained as a backup pressman and told Glassberg to train Jones, but Glassberg still refused to train him. (Jones Dep. at 125-26, 128.) Jones believes that he missed out on opportunities to be promoted because he did not get this training. (Id. at 131.)

On September 30, 2010, Joseph Wright, Operations Manager for the Cardbodies production unit in Gemalto's Montgomeryville Facility, and Joe Kamin, another Operations Manager for Gemalto, held a meeting attended by all Printing Department employees, during which they introduced a formalized training system for printers called the Career Path Training System for Printers. (Wright Decl. ¶¶ 2, 12.) During the meeting, Jones indicated that he liked the Career Path concept and complained that he had not received the training he desired in the past. (Id. ¶ 13.)

C. Jones's Complaints of Racial Discrimination

On September 30, 2010, after the Career Paths meeting, Jones complained to Wright about racial discrimination at Gemalto. (Jones Dep. at 143, 145.) Jones told Wright that his manager had instructed Press Operators to train him, and that he believed that he had not received this training because of his race. (Id. at 143-44) Wright told Jones that everyone in the group was supposed to be given a chance to be trained. (Id. at 146.)

On October 5, 2010, Jones spoke with Michele Giordano, the Director of Human Resources for Gemalto's Montgomeryville Facility, regarding the comments he made during the September 30, 2010 Career Path meeting about his inability to obtain training. (Id. at 155-56.)

Jones told Giordano that he believed that he and other African American employees were being discriminated against and that he was considering speaking with an attorney.*fn1 (Id. at 156.) Jones also told Giordano about discriminatory actions he witnessed being taken against other African American employees. (Id. at 156-57.) Giordano told Jones that she would not tolerate any discrimination. (Id. at 163.) After his meeting with Giordano, Jones discussed his belief that he was being discriminated against with respect to training in separate conversations with Lopez and Vega. (Id. at 160-61.) Both Lopez and Vega dismissed Jones's concerns. (Id.)

D. Jones's Termination

On May 2, 2011, Gemalto sent Jones a letter notifying him that his employment with Gemalto had been terminated as of Thursday, April 28, 2011. (Patel Decl. ¶¶ 27-28, Gemalto Ex. 7.) Jones was fired after he: (1) engaged in a physically violent altercation with Vega on April 28, 2011; (2) left Gemalto's premises without reporting the incident to anyone associated with Gemalto or notifying anyone that he was leaving; and (3) failed to return to Gemalto on Friday, April 29, 2011 and on Monday, May 2, 2011, and failed to notify anyone at Gemalto that he would be absent on those days. (Patel Decl. ¶ 18.)

1. The altercation

The altercation began when Jones encountered Vega on his return from the bathroom on the morning of April 28, 2011. (Jones Dep. at 179-80.) According to Jones, once Vega saw him, he (Vega) began to yell and curse at him and accused him of walking around too much. (Id. at 185.) Jones followed Vega into his office and, at Vega's request, shut the door. (Id. at 188-89; Vega Decl. ¶ 8.) After Jones shut the door, Vega, who was still yelling at Jones, shoved him with both hands, and then punched him on the head. (Id. at 192, 194, 198, 200-01.) Jones responded by punching Vega on the head three or four times. (Id. at 202.) Vega kicked Jones's right knee and punched his arms. (Id. at 203-04.) Afterwards, Jones's right knee swelled up and he had bruises on his arms. (Id. at 204-05.)

The altercation between Jones and Vega lasted between 20 and 30 seconds, after which Vega fell back and Jones left the room. (Id. at 205-07.) Immediately after the altercation, a little after 11:00 a.m., Jones then left Gemalto's premises. (Id. at 208, 214.) On his way out, he passed two other employees, Bob Landue, and Mike Farrell. (Id. at 209.) He did not speak with anyone in Gemalto's Human Resources Department before he left and did not call anyone employed by Gemalto after he left the facility to discuss what had happened. (Id. at 214-15, 219, 237.)

After Jones left Gemalto, he drove to the office of his friend Louis Lombardi, a lawyer. (Id. at 219.) Lombardi called a defense lawyer, John McMahon, to represent Jones. (Id. at 222-23.) McMahon called the police and found out that charges had been filed against Jones. (Id. at 223.) The police agreed to let Jones turn himself in the next day, and Jones left Lombardi's office around 6:00 p.m. and went to Abington Hospital. (Id. at 223-24, 281.) He was diagnosed with bilateral lower arm swelling and difficulty walking. (Id. at 282.) He also sprained his wrist during the fight with Vega and his finger became swollen. (Id. at 284.) Jones was discharged from the hospital and told to take over-the-counter ibuprofen. (Id. at 285.)

2. Gemalto's investigations of the altercation

Three senior Gemalto employees investigated the altercation: Giordano, Robert Addlesberger, Regional Security and HSE Manager for Gemalto's Montgomeryville Facility; and Prakash Patel, Senior Human Resource Generalist for Gemalto's Montgomeryville Facility.

(Giordano Decl. ¶¶ 1-13; Addlesberger Decl. ¶¶ 2, 5; Patel Decl. ¶¶ 16-18.) Vega told Giordano, Addlesberger, and Patel that he had been physically attacked by Jones and that he had not provoked Jones's attack. (Giordano Decl. ¶ 11; Addlesberger Decl. ¶ 5; Patel Decl. ¶ 16.) Vega also told them that Jones hit him numerous times, including several punches to the face. (Giordano Decl. ¶ 11; Addlesberger Decl. ¶ 5; Patel Decl. ¶ 16.) All three senior employees saw Vega soon after the altercation; they saw that Vega's mouth was bloody and that he had lost several teeth. (Giordano Decl. ¶ 12; Addlesberger Decl. ¶ 5; Patel Decl. ¶ 16.) (Id.) As a result of the altercation, Vega lost three teeth, several of his other teeth were loosened, and his face and ribs were bruised. (Gemalto Ex. 20 at Gemalto415; Vega Decl. ¶ 10.) Addlesberger took Vega to the emergency room at Lansdale Hospital. (Addlesberger Decl. ¶ 6.) While Addlesberger and Vega were at the hospital, Addlesberger spoke with Montgomery Township Police officers who were investigating an assault charge against Jones arising from his altercation with Vega. (Id.) Jones was subsequently charged with aggravated assault, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, and simple assault. (Gemalto Ex. 20 at Gemalto413.)

Addlesberger subsequently assigned Farrell and Robert Green of Gemalto's Security Department to further investigate the altercation between Jones and Vega. (Addlesberger Decl. ΒΆ 7.) Farrell and Green discussed the altercation with several Gemalto employees who saw Jones leave Vega's office and also observed Vega's appearance, and the appearance of Vega's office, after Jones left. (Id.) Farrell and Green learned that "Vega suffered numerous injuries, including a severely bruised face, a bloody mouth and face and that Mr. Vega was missing three (3) front teeth. Mr. Vega's office had blood on the floor and his furniture was disheveled." (Id.) Farrell and Green completed their report on May 2, 2011, and concluded that: "Jones pushed Mr. Vega's desk into him pinning him and then punched Mr. Vega numerous times ...

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