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Clark v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 4, 2013

FRANK CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL #98, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.

Plaintiff Frank Clark brings this employment discrimination action against his former employer, Defendant International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local #98 (“Local 98”). Clark claims that his employment was terminated on the basis of his race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Local 98 has moved for summary judgment, and, for the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion in its entirety.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Clark, an African-American, began working for Local 98 as an office helper in 2006, while he was home in the Philadelphia area on a break from college. Clark Dep. 16:13-18, ECF No. 13-4. He became a full-time employee on March 17, 2008. Compl. ¶ 18, ECF No. 1. From shortly before he started working full time until the termination of his employment, Clark worked with two co-workers – Kevin Corazo and Brian Young – both of whom are Caucasian. Clark Dep. 29:16-19. Clark, Corazo, and Young were all supervised by Bob Poston, who would assign the three of them duties each morning, such as cleaning the union hall, stocking supplies, and setting up for events. Poston Aff. ¶ 5, ECF No. 13-4; Clark Dep. 28:22-24.

For Corazo and Young, those duties occasionally included making deliveries using Local 98-owned vehicles or personal vehicles. Poston Aff. ¶¶ 7, 10. Clark, however, was not authorized to make deliveries, as his license was suspended at the time he was hired, and Local 98 requires its employees to provide verifiable proof that they possess a valid driver’s license before performing any work-related driving functions. Clark Dep. 46:23-47:1; Poston Aff. ¶ 8; Dougherty Aff. ¶ 9, ECF No. 13-4. Although his driving privileges were later restored, Clark did not inform Poston of that fact. Clark Dep. 49:22-50:3. Accordingly, Clark was never officially authorized to operate a vehicle as part of his job duties. Furthermore, Clark admits that Poston never assigned him a duty that involved driving, nor did Poston instruct him to drive somewhere on behalf of Local 98. Poston Aff. ¶¶ 14, 17; Clark Dep. 70:20-71:1, 94:16-24.

Nonetheless, Clark testified that he did in fact perform some driving duties for his employer. Specifically, Clark explained in his deposition that he and his coworkers would “take turns driving” once Clark’s license was no longer suspended. Clark Dep. 73:8-9. He also began submitting gas receipts to Local 98 for reimbursement, as his coworkers did. Id. at 76:5-77:23. Although no supervisor had given him permission to do so, Clark says that his coworker, Kevin Corazo, explained the reimbursement procedure to him and told him that he could submit his receipts. Id. at 77:8-78:17. In April and May of 2008, Clark submitted $290 worth of receipts for reimbursement, which were signed off on by Tim Browne, an executive board member of Local 98. Def.’s Mot. Summ. J., Exs. 10-16, Petty Cash Receipts, ECF No. 13-5; Def.’s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 36, ECF No. 13-2.

Then, on May 22, 2008, Clark asked a different Local 98 board member to sign off on a reimbursement request. Clark Dep. 112:4-12. That board member declined to do so, and later that day Clark received an urgent voicemail from Poston, his supervisor. Id. at 112:21-24. Poston informed him that he was not supposed to be submitting his gas receipts for reimbursement, and that he had to meet with the business manager the following Monday. Id. at 113:1-11. At that meeting, the manager accused Clark of stealing from the union and terminated his employment. Id. at 119:10-22.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In July 2008, Clark filed a timely written charge of discrimination against Local 98 with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The EEOC issued Clark a right-to-sue letter on or about July 18, 2012.

On October 16, 2012, Clark filed his complaint in this matter. Local 98 answered on November 21, 2012 (ECF No. 3), and then moved for summary judgment following the completion of discovery (ECF No. 13). Clark responded on June 29, 2013 (ECF No. 17), and the matter is now ripe for disposition.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by ‘the mere existence’ of some disputed facts, but will be denied when there is a genuine issue of material fact.” Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd. , 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the litigation, and a dispute is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248.

The Court will view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. “After making all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party’s favor, there is a genuine issue of material fact if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party.” Pignataro v. Port Auth. , 593 F.3d 265, 268 (3d Cir. 2010). While the moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, meeting this obligation shifts the burden to the nonmoving ...


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