United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
CEPHAS B. JIMMY, Plaintiff,
EL WYN, Inc., Defendant.
PETRESE B. TUCKER, District Judge.
Presently before the Court are Defendant Elwyn, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 21), Plaintiff Jimmy's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. 22), Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 25), and Plaintiff's Reply Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 26). Upon consideration of the parties' motions with briefs and exhibits, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED IN PART AND GRANTED IN PART.
I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Because the Court writes primarily for the parties, The Court sets forth only those facts that are relevant to its conclusion. Cephas B. Jimmy ("Jimmy") began working with Elwyn, Inc. ("Elwyn"), a company providing caretaking services for those with developmental disabilities, on or around February 4, 2002 as a Residential Living Staff ("RLS"). From the period of February 2002 to January 2009, Jimmy states that he was consistently told by Elwyn that he was a good employee. (Compl. at if ¶11.) On or around January 16, 2009, Jimmy gave an oral deposition in a case brought by a former employee of Elwyn named Sarangbe Keita ("Ms. Keita"), who was then suing the company for national origin discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation under common law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). (Pl.'s Ex. D and P-36.)
Jimmy alleges that after his testimony he was admonished for his statements by his then supervisor, Ellen Williamson ("Ms. Williamson"). (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at if 8.) Jimmy asserts that after he gave this testimony, which was perceived as favorable to Ms. Keita, he was called a "bad employee" by management and subjected to derogatory name-calling by supervisors at Elwyn. (Compl. at ¶12.) Furthermore, Jimmy contends that he was given some of the most difficult tasks to complete and was sent home repeatedly when he complained. (Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Mot. Summ. J. at 3.)
The RLS position at Elwyn, Jimmy claims, required the supervision of clients needing varying levels of care as determined by the company's behavioral specialists. (Pl.' s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 3.) Elwyn clients who were a danger to themselves and to others were considered "one-on-one" clients while those that needed to be visible at all times were called "field-of-vision" clients. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Every RLS received a book of clients assigned to him or her and was responsible for those clients during his or her shift. (Pl.' s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 4.) An RLS' duties also included taking clients to the hospital, running errands, and possibly performing further tasks assigned by a supervisor. An RLS may also be asked by a co-worker or supervisor to monitor the client of another RLS temporarily. (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 5; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 5.)
On July 15, 2009, Jimmy states, he was asked to transport a wheelchair-bound patient to a hospital appointment. (Compl. at 15; Answer at 15; Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 15; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 15.) Jimmy asked for map directions and the assistance of another staffer and refused to complete the task unless another staff member was provided. (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 15; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 15.) Jimmy was denied the additional staffer and the parties disagree as to whether Elwyn policy required the additional help. (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 15; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 15.) Ms. Williamson then suspended Jimmy for three days for refusing to perform a reasonable task, a suspension which Jimmy claims was based on a false charge. (Compl. at 15; Answer at 15; Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 15; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 15.)
Jimmy maintains he was sent home three more times in 2009 after his deposition. (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 16.) This included a September 2009 suspension that occurred after a supervisor sent Jimmy on a special assignment while Jimmy was looking after patient Jerry Jackson ("Mr. Jackson"). (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 17; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 17.) During the assignment, another staffer was supposed to be watching Mr. Jackson while Jimmy was away. This staffer failed to supervise Mr. Jackson however, and the patient was found wandering in a neighboring building. (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 17; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 17.) The parties disagree as to whether the other staffer involved was punished as well. (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 17; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 17.) Jimmy alleges that he frequently made complaints regarding his suspensions, which he perceived of as retaliatory. (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 17-19.)
On August 23, 2010, Elwyn hired Rene Russell ("Ms. Russell") as a Unit director and Jimmy's new supervisor. (Russell Dep. at 5:15-6:13.) Months later, on December 22, 2010, Jimmy contends that he was caring for patients already on his book, including a field-of-vision client, when he was asked to take care of an additional field-of-vision client named Napoleon Tucker ("Mr. Tucker"). (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 22.) Mr. Tucker was a man over 60 years in age but suffered from "moderate mental retardation and Paranoid Schizophrenia." (Pl.'s Ex. P-4.) In addition, Mr. Tucker had the mental age of a nine year-old and had acted out violently on occasion. (Id.) Jimmy asserts that he was given this assignment by Elwyn Supervisor Amanda David ("Ms. David") even though he complained that he already had a field-of-vision client for whom he was caring. (Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 22.) Jimmy further states that Mr. Tucker could not sit with Jimmy's other patients because of Mr. Tucker's violent tendencies. (Id.) As a result, Jimmy says, Mr. Tucker was left in a dining room at Smith Hall Facility while Jimmy's other patients were gathered in another room. (Id.) Jimmy then contends that Mr. Tucker shut the door to the dining room, which prompted Jimmy to open the door and attempt to place a stopper under it to prop it open. (Id.) Ms. Russell then saw his actions, Jimmy claims, and accused him of placing the stopper under the door in order to keep Mr. Tucker trapped in the dining room. (Id.) Ms. Russell gave Jimmy a verbal warning and asked Ms. David to send him home pending an investigation. (Id.) On January 7, 2011, after an investigation into the matter, Elwyn terminated Jimmy for failing to provide an "appropriate level of supervision" for Mr. Tucker and for "implementing an unauthorized restraint" on Mr. Tucker's freedom. (Compl. at ¶ 18; Pl.'s Ex. P-22; Pl.'s Concise Statement of Disputed Facts at ¶ 22-23.) Jimmy denies any such action. (Compl. at ¶ 19.)
On December 27, 2011, Jimmy filed a Complaint with the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for national origin discrimination in violation of Title VII, race discrimination in violation of§ 1981, race/national origin discrimination in violation of the PHRA, retaliation in violation of Title VII, retaliation in violation of the PHRA, and retaliation in violation of§ 1981. These claims were based on both the July 2009 suspension and Jimmy's ultimate suspension and termination in December 2010 and January 2011, respectively. On October, 1, 2012, this Court, in response to a motion to dismiss by Elwyn and a motion for clarification by Jimmy, issued an order marking the July 2009 incident as time-barred as the basis of a separate claim for recovery. After a period of discovery, Elwyn submitted a Motion for Summary Judgment, which was followed by supporting documents from both parties. The motion contends, among other arguments, that each of the claims presented by Jimmy should be dismissed as Jimmy has not met his burden of establishing prima facie discrimination and retaliation claims. The Court's analysis follows.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment is awarded only when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter oflaw." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sweeney, 689 F.3d 288, 292 (3d Cir. 2012). A factual dispute between the parties will not defeat a motion for summary judgment unless it is both genuine and material. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49 (1986); Dee v. Borough ofDunmore, 549 F.3d 225, 229 (3d Cir. 2008). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Fakete v. Aetna, Inc., 308 F.3d 335, 337 (3d Cir. 2002).
The moving party must show that if the evidentiary material of record were reduced to admissible evidence in court, it would be insufficient to permit the non-moving party to carry its burden of proof. See Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). Once the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56, "its' opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e), the opposing party must set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial and may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings. See Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 295 (3d Cir. 2007).
At the summary judgment stage the court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but rather to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted); Jiminez v. All American Rathskeller, Inc., 503 F.3d 247, 253 (3d Cir. 2007). In doing so, the court must construe the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Horsehead Indus., Inc. v. Paramount Communications, Inc., 258 F.3d 132 (3d Cir. 2001). The court must award summary judgment on all claims unless the non-moving party shows through affidavits or admissible evidence that an issue of material fact remains. See, e.g., Love v. Rancocas Hosp., 270 F.Supp.2d 576, 579 (D.N.J. 2003); Koch Materials Co. v. Shore Slurry Seal, Inc., 205 F.Supp.2d 324, 330 (D.N.J. 2002).
Elwyn has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that: (1) Jimmy's claims of national origin discrimination under Title VII and the PHRA (Counts I and III) fail because Jimmy has failed to provide evidence that creates an inference of discrimination and Jimmy has not shown that Elwyn's non-discriminatory reason for its actions was pretextual; (2) Jimmy's claims of race discrimination under § 1981 (Counts II and VI) fail because Jimmy has provided only facts that support a national origin discrimination claim and such actions are not available under§ 1981; and (3) Jimmy's claims ofretaliation under Title VII and the PHRA (Counts IV and ...