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Butler v. BTC Foods, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 30, 2014

JERMAINE BUTLER
v.
BTC FOODS, INC., d/b/a BETTY THE CATERER

MEMORANDUM

L. FELIPE RESTREPO, District Judge.

Jermaine Butler ("Plaintiff") sues BTC Foods, Inc. ("Defendant") for employment discrimination under federal and state law, stemming from an alleged discriminatory termination. Now before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment on each of Plaintiff's claims. For the reasons below, the motion will be granted, in part.

I. FACTS

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff, a 35-year-old male, worked for Defendant from January of 2007 to January of 2011. Pl.'s Statement of Facts ("SOF") ¶ 1-2, ECF No. 25. Plaintiff began as a part-time "helper, " aiding in the food delivery arm of Defendant's business. Id. ¶ 2; Pl.'s Dep. 41:19-43:2, ECF No. 25-2. In 2008, Plaintiff was promoted to a full-time shipper and receiver, the position he held until his separation. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 4-6.

In March of 2010, Plaintiff sustained a double hernia, caused by the "frequent bending, squatting and heavy lifting he was required to perform" for Defendant. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. In May of 2011, Plaintiff received surgery to repair the hernia and missed six weeks of work in order to recover. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. After returning to work in July of 2011, Plaintiff allegedly continued to have some trouble lifting, bending, squatting, and walking. Pl.'s Dep. 75:7-76:6, 77:11-80:21. Plaintiff alleges that he never felt more than "80 percent" better, but continued to work anyway, because he had to "provide for [his] family, " Pl.'s Dep. 76:11-17. He further alleges that his pain included "sharp pains" when walking or when bending down for extended periods. Id. at 80:13-21.

In November of 2010, the fire alarm at Defendant's worksite was triggered. BTC 61-62, ECF No. 27. Plaintiff, allegedly at the instruction of others, and in response to the long-sounding noise, cut the fire alarm in the kitchen, where he worked. Id.; Pl.'s Dep. at 90:21-96:7. In response to this problematic decision, Defendant and Plaintiff's union agreed to transfer Plaintiff to another employment site. BTC 61. Plaintiff's transfer did not occur, and in January of 2011 he allegedly informed his direct supervisor, Gerome Markopoulos, that he was continuing to experience pain related to his hernia surgery and would "likely need to take time off again." Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 16. Approximately one week later, Plaintiff's employment with Defendant was terminated. Id.; BTC 9.

According to Defendant, Plaintiff voluntarily resigned his position, and there is no dispute that Plaintiff signed a letter of resignation. BTC 9. According to Plaintiff, he was forced or tricked into resigning. Pl.'s Dep. 109:6-115:21. The record contains an "incident report" that Defendant prepared, dated January 25, 2011. BTC 9. The incident report states that because Plaintiff started missing a number of work days for court appearances, Defendant "felt obligated to seek more information as to the nature of all the court appearances." Id. As a result, it allegedly discovered that Plaintiff has "a number of serious [criminal] records, " that predated his employment. Id. Defendant then allegedly reviewed his employment application, which incorrectly stated that he had no convictions within the last ten years. Id. Thus, because the application "clearly state [sic] that any falsification of this application is grounds for dismissal, " Defendant had "no other alternative but to release [Plaintiff]." Id.

In fact, Plaintiff's employment application is a somewhat peculiar mixture of forthrightness and deception. For example, Plaintiff did indeed check a box noting that he was not convicted of any crimes in the preceding ten years. BTC 10. Yet, at the same time, under "previous employment, " Plaintiff provided "S.C.I. Coal Township, " where he listed his supervisor as "Redd, " and his job description as "cook (prep)/general help." S.C.I. Coal Township stands for the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township, and is in fact the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania correctional institution where Plaintiff was imprisoned. Id.

At his deposition, where he apparently was without aid of the employment application that he made four years prior, Plaintiff discussed in detail his application and an alleged conversation with Mr. Markopoulos, which occurred one year after Plaintiff started working for Defendant. In this alleged conversation, Mr. Markopoulos raised the question of what "S.C.I. Coal Township" meant on his employment application. Pl.'s Dep. 104:18-107:8. Plaintiff alleges that he acknowledged his lie, and Mr. Markopoulos told him that this would not be a barrier to his continued employment. Id. Plaintiff continued to work for Defendant, and even received a promotion after this conversation.

Accordingly, to the extent Plaintiff was involuntarily separated from his employment, he believes that the stated reason was pretext, and that he was dismissed due to the continued pains in his legs and/or his notice to his supervisor one week prior that he thought he would have to take additional medical leave.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment will be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A genuine issue exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id. at 248.

When deciding a motion for summary judgment, a court must draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. at 255; Hugh v. Butler Cnty. Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 267 (3d Cir. 2005) (citations omitted); see also Crawford v. Beard, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 887, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 19, 2005) (citing Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992)). Thus, summary judgment is appropriate if, after reviewing the evidence and making all ...


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