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Juvencio Gonzalez v. Temple University

April 10, 2013


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


This employment discrimination suit arises from a decision by the defendant, Temple University ("Temple"), to terminate the plaintiff, Juvencio Gonzalez, and eliminate his position without making him a new job offer. Gonzalez argues that Temple's actions were taken on account of his race and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). Temple has moved for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

After holding oral argument on March 1, 2013, the Court will grant Temple's motion.

I. Summary Judgment Record

The facts described herein are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Inferences are drawn in the light most favorable to Gonzalez, the non-moving party. Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009).

A. Plaintiff's Position at Temple

The plaintiff, Juvencio Gonzalez, is a Hispanic

American. He was born in New York and is of Puerto Rican descent.*fn1 Gonzalez was hired by Temple in 1995 as an assistant director in its Department of Community Relations ("Department"). Gonzalez remained in that job for fifteen years until his position was eliminated in 2010. DX 2 at 10-11, 35, 64-65, 114.

During his tenure at Temple, Gonzalez did not supervise or evaluate any other employees, although he did supervise student volunteers. In his final year of employment as an assistant director in the Department, roughly 80% to 85% of Gonzalez's duties related to "special events," that is, assisting individuals and groups not affiliated with Temple in their requests to rent various Temple facilities for activities and events. Gonzalez also helped run and do fundraising for a volunteer program that sent Temple students to Mexico, Belize, and Texas, and he spent approximately one week a year conducting a survey of food trucks on Temple's campus to make sure they complied with health code requirements and had all necessary licenses. Occasionally, Gonzalez would attend senior staff meetings and, "every now and then," a community relations meeting. Gonzalez's annual salary was approximately $58,000. Id. at 65-66, 115-25, 150-51.

In yearly performance reviews between 2005 and 2009, Gonzalez received overall positive evaluations. He was always rated between 3.0 and 4.0 on a four-point scale, which corresponds to performance somewhere in between "meets job expectations[,] GOOD SOLID PERFORMANCE" and "consistently far exceeds expectations." PX A (Employee Performance Development Plans). Gonzalez received annual raises and bonuses while supervised by L. Harrison Jay, Gonzalez's supervisor from 2006 to 2010, and Jay's predecessor, William Bergman. DX 2 at 133.

B. Other Members of the Department

While Gonzalez worked at Temple, there were five other employees in the Department: (1) L. Harrison Jay, (2) Andrea Swan, (3) Monica Padilla, (4) Myrtle Jackson, and (5) Willie Rodgers. Jackson worked as the Department's administrative assistant. DX 3 (8/23/12 Lawrence Dep.) at 47, 52. Rodgers served as the director of the Pan-African Studies Community Education Program ("PASCEP"), a non-credit educational program for community members. DX 2 at 27; DX 3 at 34; DX 9 (8/30/12 Padilla Dep.) at 13. Swan was one of two directors who oversaw the Department. DX 3 at 48. The portions of the record cited by the parties do not reflect the races of Swan, Jackson, and Rodgers.*fn2

Along with Swan, Jay, who is African American, served as the other director of the Department. He became the director of community relations for the Department in 2006 and, from that time forward, was Gonzalez's immediate supervisor. At some point before Jay was hired, Gonzalez learned that Jay was applying for the director of community relations position. At that time, someone in the university president's office asked Gonzalez not to apply for the director job himself and to "just play along" so that Jay could be hired as a favor to his wife. DX 2 at 59-60, 62, 71. Jay's wife is currently the dean of Temple's law school and previously served as an associate dean. DX 6 (9/11/12 Jay Dep.) at 13-14.

Padilla, like Gonzalez, was an assistant director and reported to the Department's directors. DX 9 at 7. Padilla describes her ancestry as part Hispanic, Latino, Native American, African, and European. Her mother was born in Jamaica and her father was born in the United States to Haitian parents. On the 2010 census, Padilla selected the "Some Other Race" category.

DX A (2/5/13 Padilla Decl.) ¶ 3.

C. Lawrence's Hiring

In September 2008, Kenneth Lawrence, an African

American man, was hired as Temple's Senior Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs. In that position, Lawrence was responsible for overseeing the Department of Community Relations, the office of government relations, and Temple's communications department. DX 3 at 8, 13; DX 2 at 62.

Shortly after Lawrence was hired, Gonzalez met with him so that the two men could become better acquainted and so that Gonzalez could highlight his connections with members of the Pennsylvanian and Puerto Rican governments. Gonzalez thought this conversation might create an opportunity for him to segue from community relations to government affairs, also under Lawrence's supervision. At some point during the conversation, Lawrence stated to Gonzalez that Gonzalez needed to focus on working with the community adjacent to Temple, which is predominately African American, rather than the Hispanic community. In Gonzalez's view, Lawrence had formulated the opinion that he was working more with Hispanics than the community surrounding the university because Gonzalez was vice president of a Hispanic association called Asociacion de Puertorriquenos en ...

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