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Johnson v. Fed. Express Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 10, 2014

CATHALENE JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, Defendant

Order Filed: April 22, 2014

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For Cathalene Johnson, Plaintiff: Martha Sperling, Eastburn and Gray, P.C., Doylestown, PA.

For Federal Express Corporation, Defendant: Craig E. Lindberg, LEAD ATTORNEY, Federal Express Corporation, Irvine, CA; Frederick L. Douglas, PRO HAC VICE, Federal Express Corporation, Memphis, TN; Kimya SP Johnson, Cozen O'Connor, Philadelphia, PA.

For Mediator, Mediator: Nancy Welsh, LEAD ATTORNEY, Penn State Dickinson School of Law, Carlisle, Pa.

OPINION

Page 307

MEMORANDUM

Christopher C. Conner, Chief United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Cathalene Johnson (" Johnson" ) filed the above-captioned action against defendant Federal Express Corporation (" FedEx" ), alleging race and sex discrimination in violation of (1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § § 2000e et seq., as amended (" Title VII" ), (2) the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981

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(" Section 1981" ), (3) the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) (the " EPA" ), and (4) the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § § 951 et seq. (the " PHRA" ). Presently before the court in the above-captioned matter are cross-motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 67 & 71). For the reasons that follow, the court will deny Johnson's motion for partial summary judgment, (Doc. 67), and grant in part and deny in part FedEx's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 71).

I. Factual Background & Procedural History

A. Employment

Plaintiff Cathalene Johnson, an African-American female, was hired by defendant Federal Express Corporation, an international package delivery company, on November 7, 1988. (Doc. 73 ¶ 1; Doc. 92 ¶ 1). Johnson worked at FedEx's station in York, Pennsylvania for over 17 years prior to resigning on June 17, 2013. (Doc. 73 ¶ 1; Doc. 92 ¶ 1). At its York station, FedEx employs handlers, service agents, couriers, operations managers, and a senior manager. (Doc. 73 ¶ 2; Doc. 92 ¶ 2). At all times relevant to the complaint, Johnson's job title was Sr. Service Agent/Non-DOT. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 3, 5; Doc. 92 ¶ 5). Johnson voluntarily left a courier position in Huntington Beach, California in 1995 or 1996 to take the service agent position at the York station. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 7-8; Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 5-8). At that time, Johnson understood that " giving up her right to drive a truck for [FedEx] was mandatory." (Doc. 92 ¶ 8; Doc. 95 ¶ 4). As a Non-DOT service agent, Johnson is not permitted to operate a commercial motor vehicle for FedEx, and Johnson has never operated any FedEx vehicle from the York station. (Doc. 73 ¶ 20; Doc. 92 ¶ 20).

For purposes of her race and sex discrimination claims, Johnson uses Craig Pooler (" Pooler" ), a Caucasian male, as her comparator. (Doc. 73 ¶ 4; Doc. 92 ¶ 4). FedEx hired Pooler on April 20, 1981, and Pooler is the most senior employee at the York station. (Doc. 73 ¶ 4; Doc. 92 ¶ 4). Pooler's job title is Courier/DOT/CDL, meaning he is a courier certified by the Department of Transportation to operate a commercial motor vehicle and has a commercial driver's license. (Doc. 73 ¶ 4 & n.2; Doc. 92 ¶ 4).

According to Johnson, Pooler applied for a service agent position in 1997--Service Assurance Leader (" SAL" )--which the management in York awarded him. (Doc. 95 ¶ ¶ 8, 10). Johnson asserts that FedEx initially permitted higher paid employees, such as couriers, to accept SAL service agent positions as necessary to meet station requirements, (id. ¶ 9), but that FedEx eliminated the SAL position in 2001 and no longer allowed couriers to work indefinitely as service agents. (Id. ¶ 11). Johnson avers that FedEx required couriers in SAL positions to either downbid to the new Service Assurance Agent (" SAA" ) position or to return to courier duties. (Id.) Pooler did not downgrade to an SAA. (Id. ¶ ¶ 13-14). Johnson contends that Pooler functions as a service agent yet continues to receive courier pay. (Id.) Johnson asserts that the daily schedule at the York station drafted by operations manager Stacey Bupp listed Pooler as the SAA until March 2012. (Id. ¶ ¶ 15-16, 25, 74).[1]

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B. Job Duties

As a Courier/DOT/CDL, Pooler's job description states that he operates company vehicles, provides pick-up and delivery of packages and documents, meets certain internal requirements, and complies with all aspects of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.[2] (Doc. 73 ¶ 23; Doc. 92 ¶ 23). Pooler attained a Class " B" commercial driver's license (" CDL" ) after completing applicable training. (Doc. 73 ¶ 25; Doc. 92 ¶ 25). Pooler has since maintained all driving requirements. (Doc. 73 ¶ 26; Doc. 92 ¶ 26). Johnson does not have a Class " B" CDL and, after her arrival at the York station, she did not maintain any driving requirements to operate FedEx vehicles. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 25, 27; Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 25, 27).

In addition to driving duties, the Courier/DOT/CDL job description states that couriers " provide related customer service functions," " ensure that packages conform" to FedEx requirements, and " perform all other related duties as assigned" by the management. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 46-47; Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 46-47). Management has discretion to assign duties within each station based on customer and business needs and the knowledge, skills and abilities of the employees. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 47-48; Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 47-48). Under FedEx Policy 4-95, a manager may temporarily assign an employee to duties outside the scope of his or her normal responsibilities. (Doc. 73 ¶ 49). However, the parties dispute whether FedEx policy imposes a 90-day limit upon temporary assignments. (Id; Doc. 92 ¶ 49).

FedEx asserts that Pooler spends 75-80% of his time performing courier-related duties, but Johnson contends that Pooler's courier duties account for less than 30% of his time. (Doc. 73 ¶ 51; Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 4, 49). As a result, Johnson argues that Pooler does not fall within FedEx's definition of courier because he does not perform courier work a majority of the average work week. (Doc. 92 ¶ 4; Doc. 95 ¶ 48). FedEx lists Pooler's duties as: (1) sorting the packages and loading trucks, (2) processing bulk stops and bulk pickup and delivery, (3) pickup and delivery of packages, and (4) coordinating and transporting freight to and from the airport. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 50, 62-63). Johnson alleges that all employees assist with the morning sorting, and that service agents often perform other processing and coordinating duties. (Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 49, 60, 62).

FedEx states that, between 2006 and April 2013, Pooler delivered or attempted to deliver 46,738 packages to 3,282 different addresses. (Doc. 73 ¶ 52).[3] Pooler also received Safe Driving Awards for each year from 2008 to 2011. (Id. ¶ 53). Johnson contends that Pooler did not qualify to receive safe driving awards, and should not have received any such awards, because he drove fewer than 100 days per year. (Doc. 92 ¶ 53; Doc. 95 ¶ 22). According to FedEx, Pooler generally performs courier duties while assisting other couriers and operates Route 190, which is a baseline service protection route to minimize late deliveries, make bulk pickups and deliveries, and replace defective equipment. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 55-56, 58-59). Johnson disputes

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the assertion that Pooler has an assigned route. (Doc. 92 ¶ 36; Doc. 95 ¶ ¶ 23, 54). She further alleges that Pooler rarely performs driving tasks and that FedEx transparently assigned additional courier duties to Pooler after the instant action was commenced in March 2012. (Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 55, 57-59; Doc. 95 ¶ ¶ 23, 54-55, 58-61, 67; Doc. 73 ¶ 59).

FedEx maintains that Johnson's primary duty involved assistance to customers at the front counter of the station and her other duties included CSM audits, new hire training, sorting packages, and running certain reports, such as fuel audit, cash-only customer feedback, and mis-sort reports. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 17-18). Johnson disputes FedEx's contention that she worked the front counter " five days a week, eight hours per day." (Id. ¶ 17; Doc. 92 ¶ 17). Johnson asserts that she only worked at the front desk occasionally when the three service agents were not available, and that Pooler also covers the front desk as necessary. (Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 17-18; Doc. 95 ¶ 86). According to Johnson, Pooler presented a list of his responsibilities during his deposition, and almost all of the responsibilities on Pooler's list are service agent duties. (Doc. 92 ¶ 60).

C. Compensation

FedEx classifies each employee into specific categories of employment. (Doc. 73 ¶ 28; Doc. 92 ¶ 28; Doc. 95 ¶ 3; Doc. 80 ¶ 3). For compensation purposes, FedEx utilizes a Merit Hourly Job Codes system to further classify employees based on pay grade, job title, and job code; a Merit Hourly Pay Schedule provides minimum and maximum hourly rates based on job codes and external market levels. (Doc. 73 ¶ 29; Doc. 92 ¶ 29). As a Courier/DOT/CDL, Pooler has the job code R0096 and pay grade 8K; as a service agent, Johnson had the job code F0026 and pay grade 7I. (Doc. 73 ¶ 29; Doc. 92 ¶ 29; Doc. 95 ¶ 2; Doc. 80 ¶ 3).

Under FedEx's compensation structure, couriers are paid a higher hourly rate than service agents. (Doc. 73 ¶ 22; Doc. 92 ¶ 22). Prior to her resignation, Johnson earned $22.16 per hour, which is the maximum hourly rate for her pay grade. (Doc. 73 ¶ 30; Doc. 92 ¶ 30). In comparison, Pooler earns $24.38 per hour. (Doc. 73 ¶ 32; Doc. 92 ¶ 32). Management at the York station does not determine compensation. (Doc. 73 ¶ 33). Nevertheless, Johnson contends that local management may affect compensation by controlling and, in Johnson's view, manipulating the courier and service agent designations. (Doc. 92 ¶ 33).

FedEx has a written policy on distribution of overtime hours, requiring that hours be distributed as equitably as possible based on the employees' ability to perform the available work. (Doc. 73 ¶ 39; Doc. 92 ¶ 39). In accordance therewith, managements provides separate overtime sign-up sheets for couriers and service agents, and more senior employees receive the first opportunity to request overtime hours. (Id. ¶ ¶ 39-40). However, Johnson claims that local management improperly delegated the power to assign overtime hours to Pooler, which FedEx rescinded after the complaint was filed in March 2012. (Doc. 92 ¶ 61; Doc. 95 ¶ 39). According to Johnson, Pooler distributed the overtime hours to his friends before any sign-up sheet was posted and did not properly report overtime hours as assigned. (Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 39-40; Doc. 95 ¶ ¶ 20, 37, 40-45). Johnson alleges that there was only one overtime sheet for all employees at the York station. (Doc. 92 ¶ 39). Johnson also alleges that York station management told her that she could not work more than seven hours per day or sign up for overtime hours. (Id. ¶ 41; Doc. 95 ¶ ¶ 32-35). Johnson asserts that she was allowed to earn additional overtime hours in 2012 after the instant action was filed and another

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service agent was fired. (Doc. 92 ¶ 43). In 2010, 2011, and 2012, Pooler worked 314, 373, and 421.75 overtime hours, respectively, whereas Johnson worked 89.02, 95.07, and 186.71 overtime hours, respectively. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 40, 42-43, 45; Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 40, 42-43).

D. Performance

From 2001 to 2011, Johnson received excellent performance review scores ranging from 6.6 to a perfect score of 7.0. (Doc. 73 ¶ 10; Doc. 92 ¶ 10). FedEx never disciplined Johnson during her employment. (Doc. 73 ¶ 11; Doc. 92 ¶ 11).

E. Discrimination Claims

Johnson admits that she never personally heard any other employee make a racial slur, but she allegedly " knew" that other employees referred to her as a " nigger." [4] (Doc. 73 ¶ 12; Doc. 92 ¶ 12). Johnson claims that the management did not address her complaints. (Doc. 92 ¶ 12). Johnson alleges that Bupp, Pooler, and other Caucasian co-workers grew up together in York and formed a clique that controls office privileges, including overtime assignments, and excludes Johnson and other women and minority employees from social activities. (Doc. 95 ¶ ¶ 7, 17-20).[5]

Johnson never submitted written complaints of race or sex discrimination pursuant to FedEx's two internal procedures. (Doc. 73 ¶ ¶ 13-14; Doc. 92 ¶ ¶ 13-14). However, Johnson asserts that, in 2000 or 2001, she made verbal complaints to local management without success. (Doc. 92 ¶ 13). In 2010, Johnson allegedly submitted a complaint to FedEx's human resources department, but did not receive a response of any kind. (Id.)

F. Procedural History

On May 2, 2011, Johnson filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (" PHRC" ). (Doc. 73 ¶ 14; Doc. 92 ¶ 14). On March 12, 2012, Johnson filed the instant action against FedEx, alleging race and sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, Section 1981, the EPA, and the PHRA. (Doc. 1). In accordance with the court's order dated July 25, 2013 (Doc. 61) regarding dispositive motions, Johnson and FedEx filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 67 & 71). Johnson moves for partial summary judgment solely on her EPA claim for unequal pay. (Doc. 68). FedEx seeks summary judgment on all claims for the following reasons: (1) the applicable statute of limitations bars Johnson's Title VII, Section 1981, and PHRA claims; (2) FedEx is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the race discrimination claims under Title VII, Section 1981, and the PHRA; (3) FedEx is also entitled to summary judgment on the EPA claim; and (4) Johnson fails to establish a claim for punitive damages. (Doc. 72). The motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate only when " 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 factual dispute is ...


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