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Fernando Gonzalez, et al v. Molded Acoustical Products of Easton

March 27, 2013

FERNANDO GONZALEZ, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MOLDED ACOUSTICAL PRODUCTS OF EASTON, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs Fernando Gonzalez, Gerardo Loaiza, and Jessica Delgado (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed this employment discrimination action against Molded Acoustical Products of Easton, Inc. (MAP); Ron DePack, MAP plant manager; and John D'Amico, Jr., MAP president (collectively, Defendants). Plaintiffs allege violations 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. Defendants moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, I will deny the motion in part and grant it in part.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

MAP hired Gonzalez, Loaiza, and Delgado, all of whom are Hispanic, in 1988, 1982, and 2000, respectively. Doc. No. 44 ¶¶ 11, 20, 26. All three were laid off in December 2008, along with more than 100 other MAP employees, due to the global economic downturn. Id. ¶¶ 17, 24, 31, 48; Doc. No. 45-1 ¶ 47. DePack conducted the layoffs and indicated to Plaintiffs that they would be probably called back to work in early 2009. Delgado Dep. at 73-74; Gonzales Dep. at 95; Loaiza Dep. at 33.

By letters dated April 23, 2009, John Hanni, MAP's vice president of finance, formally terminated Plaintiffs' employment "because no recovery to [MAP's] former workload is likely in the near future." Doc. No. 45-4, Exs. 1-3. Hanni's letter indicated that "[t]his [decision] is not a reflection on your value as an employee[, and] it does not mean that you will never be rehired by MAP." Id. Hanni concluded, "If and when [MAP is] in a position to offer your job back to you, [MAP] will contact you to see if you are available." Id.

By August and September 2009, MAP's financial condition had improved slightly, and it hired three new floor managers. Doc. No. 44 ¶¶ 51, 56; Kuypers Dep. at 57-58. None had worked for MAP previously, and all were Caucasian. Doc. No. 44 ¶ 56; Kuypers Dep. at 63-64. Plaintiffs were not contacted about returning to MAP at that time. MAP hired two more floor managers, both Caucasian and new to MAP, in April and May 2010. Plaintiffs were not contacted at that time either.

In August 2010, Hanni contacted Plaintiffs about returning to MAP. None agreed to return because all had found new jobs. Delgado Dep. at 97; Gonzalez Dep. at 18-19; Loaiza Dep. at 64.

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

A. Failure to Hire (Counts I, II, and IV)

Plaintiffs do not contend their layoffs in December 2008 or their terminations in April 2009 were discriminatory. To the extent Plaintiffs were ever pursuing a hostile work environment claim, they abandoned it in opposition to Defendants' motion. Doc. No. 45-2 at 6. Thus, the sole issue before me is whether Defendants' failure to rehire Plaintiffs as floor managers in August and September 2009 and in April and May 2010 was discriminatory under Title VII, § 1981, and the PHRA. Compl. ¶¶ 25-28.*fn2

Absent direct evidence, disparate treatment claims under Title VII, § 1981, and the PHRA are analyzed pursuant to the burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Jones v. Sch. Dist. of Philadelphia, 198 F.3d 403, 410 (3d Cir. 1999).

1. Prima Facie Case

McDonnell Douglas first requires the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. 411 U.S. at 802. In the failure-to-hire context, a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that (1) he belongs to a protected class; (2) he applied and was qualified for the position; (3) he was subject to an adverse employment action despite being qualified; and (4) under circumstances that raise an inference of discriminatory action, the employer continued to seek out individuals with qualifications similar to the plaintiff's to fill the position. Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 763 (3d Cir. 1994); Sarullo v. U.S. Postal Serv., 352 F.3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2003). Defendants contest the prima facie case only as to plaintiffs Loaiza and Delgado.

i. Delgado's Prima Facie Case

Defendants argue that Delgado's prima facie case fails because she was a pocket leader, not a floor manager, and no pocket leaders were hired in August and September 2009 or in April and May 2010. Doc. No. 44-12 at 7.*fn3 Initially, this argument misconstrues Delgado's claim. Delgado is challenging her non-hiring for five floor manager positions. Doc. No. 45-2 at 7. That ...


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