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Lakesia Trent v. Test America

April 30, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.


Plaintiff, Lakesia Trent, who is African-American, asserts against defendant Test America, Inc.*fn1 claims for race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and claims of race discrimination pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 951, et seq. As against defendant Aerotek Scientific, LLC, plaintiff asserts claims of race discrimination pursuant to Section 1981 and the PHRA.*fn2 I have before me motions for summary judgment by TestAmerica (Dkt. No. 47) and Aerotek (Dkt. No. 48), plaintiff's omnibus response thereto (Dkt. No. 53), TestAmerica's reply (Dkt. No. 55) and revised statement of undisputed material facts (Dkt. No. 56), Aerotek's reply (Dkt. No. 57), plaintiff's supplemental memorandum of law addressing additional depositions (Dkt. No. 64), and TestAmerica and Aerotek's replies to plaintiff's supplemental memorandum (Dkt. Nos. 67 and 68). For the reasons that follow, I will grant defendants' motions.


Aerotek "is engaged in the business of supplying quality temporary staffing services on a contract basis to various clients." Dkt. No. 48-4 at ECF p. 6.*fn3 TestAmerica, an "analytical laboratory for environmental testing services," Dkt. No. 47-1 at ¶ 1, was a client of Aerotek. Dkt. No. 48-1 at ¶ 4. Plaintiff was Aerotek's employee, id. at ¶ 8, and was temporarily assigned to analyze environmental samples for the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) for TestAmerica at its King of Prussia, Pennsylvania location from October 2007 through August 2008. Id. at ¶¶ 17, Plaintiff began working with Aerotek to find a job placement in October 2007. Id. at ¶ 8. Jeremiah Pinto, an Aerotek recruiter, contacted her about a position with TestAmerica. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiff then had a face to face meeting with Pinto where he explained Aerotek's role as a staffing company. Id. at ¶ 10. As plaintiff explained, she understood that Aerotek would act as a "negotiator" and as her "talking resume" and "basically help [her] as much as they can to find a position" with a company or employer. Id. at ¶ 11. After her meeting with Pinto, plaintiff requested that she be scheduled for a meeting with TestAmerica. Id. at ¶ 12. She then had an in-person interview for a PCB Analyst Lab Technician position with Marge Slater, TestAmerica's Organics and Inorganics Laboratory Manager. Id. at ¶ 13.

During plaintiff's interview with Slater, they discussed plaintiff's resume and her prior work experience as a GC analyst for Lionville Laboratories, Inc. and as a PCB analyst for Weidmann-ACTI, Inc.. Dkt. No. 56 at ¶ 6. Slater ultimately told plaintiff that she "was highly interested" in hiring her. Id. at ¶ 7. Slater advised Aerotek that she wanted plaintiff to work at TestAmerica in a temporary capacity. Id. Pinto contacted plaintiff after her interview and formally offered her the PCB Analyst position at TestAmerica. Id. at ¶ 16.

Plaintiff submitted a completed I-9 form, background check information and other preemployment paperwork to Aerotek. Id. at ¶ 22. She was presented with an employment agreement pursuant to which Aerotek "offer[ed] to employ [plaintiff] in the capacity of Technician . . . at its client, Test America . . . for services with the latter for a temporary period." Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. Plaintiff executed the employment agreement on or around October 16, 2007. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff testified that she understood that she would be an employee of Aerotek and not TestAmerica and that her assignment at TestAmerica was temporary in nature. Id. at ¶¶ 11-12. Plaintiff was to "look solely to AEROTEK for all employee benefits in connection with [her] employment under [the employment a]greement." Id. at ¶ 10. Aerotek would pay Trent for her services at TestAmerica based on timesheets approved by TestAmerica. Dkt. No. 48-1 at ¶ 23. Specifically, Aerotek paid plaintiff $19.00/hour for work performed at TestAmerica, less withholdings and deductions. Dkt. No. 56 at ¶ 24. Aerotek also provided medical benefits to plaintiff. Dkt. No. 48-1 at ¶ 23. Further, Aerotek, and not TestAmerica, provided plaintiff with workers' compensation coverage. Dkt. No. 56 at ¶ 23.

Plaintiff began working at TestAmerica on October 29, 2007. Dkt. No. 48-1 at ¶ 17. Her job duties included analyzing soil and water samples and providing the results of her analysis to TestAmerica's clients. Id. at ¶ 19. TestAmerica determined her eight-hour shift work schedule. Id. at ¶ 21. TestAmerica employees trained her and assigned, directed, controlled and supervised her work. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff reported to Slater. Id. at ¶ 18.

Plaintiff was the only individual responsible for analyzing PCBs at TestAmerica during her assignment. Dkt. No. 56 at ¶ 18. At the time, however, three other analysts worked in the Organics and Inorganics Department: Adrian Orsati, Brad (last name unknown) and Amanda Heyser. Id. at ¶ 18. Adrian and Brad were permanent TestAmerica employees during most, if not all of plaintiff's assignment. Id. at ¶ 19. Amanda began at TestAmerica as a temporary worker placed by a staffing agency other than Aerotek, but became a permanent TestAmerica employee by March 2008. Id. at ¶ 19.

On February 13, 2008, Slater emailed Shea to express her concern about plaintiff's hourly rate -- "by far the most paid for anyone through a staffing agency." Dkt. No. 48-1 at ¶ 34. Slater expressed dismay because plaintiff did not have a college degree, a preferred qualification for TestAmerica laboratory analysts and because plaintiff lacked training that TestAmerica had expected she would have based on her past experiences. Id. at ¶ 35. Slater requested that Aerotek work out an arrangement to lower plaintiff's agreed-upon hourly rate. Id. at ¶ 34. Aerotek, however, did not agree to lower plaintiff's rate at any time during her placement at TestAmerica. Id. at ¶ 37.

At some point during her tenure at TestAmerica, plaintiff's relationship with Slater soured. Id. at ¶ 24. Plaintiff contends that her race was the reason for the change. Id. at ¶ 24. Plaintiff claims that on or around February 15, 2008, she asked Slater for help calibrating instruments and Slater told her "I don't have time for this" and that plaintiff should already know how to calibrate the instruments. Dkt. No. 56 at ¶ 31. Despite her complaints about Slater, plaintiff testified that she does not believe that Slater's comments were related to her race. Id. at ¶ 32. Further, plaintiff did not complain to anyone at TestAmerica about Slater's comments. Id. Nor did she ever complain to anyone at TestAmerica that she felt she was being discriminated against or treated differently because of her race. Id. at ¶ 82.

On or around April 10, 2008, a TestAmerica client took three Organics and Inorganics lab analysts, all of whom were permanent TestAmerica employees at the time, out for lunch. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34. Slater did not invite plaintiff to join them. Id. at ¶ 33. Plaintiff has not identified any other meals to which she was not invited. Id. at ¶ 38. Immediately prior to the lunch, Slater had spoken with plaintiff regarding her belief that plaintiff was not completing her work assignments promptly. Id. at ¶ 35. Plaintiff admits that she did not always complete her assignments in a timely manner, explaining that "[i]f something does take me longer than anyone else, it's because I simply don't know what I'm doing." Id. at ¶ 36.

Plaintiff further contends that on or around April 18, 2008, while Amanda was a permanent TestAmerica employee, Slater provided instrument maintenance training to Amanda but that Slater did not provide her with the same training. Id. at ¶ 46. Plaintiff concedes, however, that she received other training from TestAmerica during her assignment and further allows that she has no idea whether her race factored into the decision not to give her the same maintenance training as Amanda. Id. at ¶ 49. Further, when plaintiff asked Slater for training regarding TestAmerica's protocol for producing and putting out PCBs, Slater responded "no problem. Do you want to come in early like around 6 when I get here? And I'll go over whatever you feel as though you don't know." Id. at ¶ 50.

Plaintiff asserts, however, that after Slater had trained her, she concluded that Slater had not given her the correct information and "[s]o [she] questioned it. And that's when [Slater] started acting differently towards [her]." Id. at ¶ 50. She contends that Slater's "attitude changed because [plaintiff] questioned her." Id.

Plaintiff contends that Slater invited her to department meetings at the beginning of her assignment, but that as time progressed, she was not invited to three department meetings. Id. at ΒΆ 44. At her deposition plaintiff conceded that she has no idea whether race played any role ...

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