United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
PONSFORD P. DOE, Plaintiff,
APRIA HEALTHCARE GROUP INC., Defendant
For PONSFORD P. DOE, Plaintiff: GERALD JAY POMERANTZ, LEAD ATTORNEY, GERALD POMERANTZ & ASSOCIATES PC, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
For APRIA HEALTHCARE GROUP INC., t/d/b/a APRIA HEALTHCARE, Defendant: MONICA T. HOLLAND, MCELROY DEUTSCH MULVANEY CARPENTER LLP, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.
Plaintiff Ponsford P. Doe brings this race discrimination action against his former employer, Defendant Apria Healthcare, Inc. Plaintiff claims his employment was terminated on the basis of his race, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. In addition, he claims Defendant retaliated against him for complaining of Defendant's alleged racial
discrimination in the workplace, also in violation of § 1981. Defendant has moved for summary judgment and, for the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 2010, Defendant, a home respiratory services and medical equipment provider, Def.'s Br. 1, brought Plaintiff, an African American male, on as a temporary worker and later hired him as a full-time employee based on the quality of his work. Am. Compl. ¶ 7. Plaintiff was a " filler," whose job responsibilities included filling cylinders with liquid oxygen, a product regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (" FDA" ). Def.'s Br. 1. Plaintiff alleges discrimination by his supervisors, including: (1) not allowing non-white employees to use the bathrooms outside of breaks without special permission (while white employees were free to use them); (2) reprimanding non-white employees for speaking during working hours (while white employees were free to speak); and (3) requiring non-white employees to change into work gear before clocking in while allowing white employees to clock in before changing. Am. Compl. ¶ 8
After becoming a full-time employee, Plaintiff complained of the discriminatory behavior to his supervisor, who told Plaintiff that " if he didn't like the rules that he should leave." Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff claims that in November 2010 he was called a " monkey" by a coworker but supervisors took no action. Id. ¶ 12. In June 2011 Plaintiff submitted an electronic workplace survey complaining of discrimination and insufficient advancement opportunities. Id. ¶ 13. In July 2011, allegedly due to his survey comments and the quality of his work, he was promoted to a position of greater responsibility. Id. ¶ 14. Throughout this time, Defendant's employees continued their discriminatory conduct, about which Plaintiff complained to his supervisors periodically. Id. ¶ 16.
" On or about September 4, 2012, Plaintiff was called into the supervisor's office, where he was informed that he had made record-keeping mistakes and that he was discharged." Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff allegedly requested to see the mistakes, but his supervisor denied his request and ordered him to leave the premises. Id. ¶ ¶ 18-19. Plaintiff believes that these mistakes were pretextual and his termination actually resulted from unlawful racial discrimination and retaliation. Id. ¶ 22.
Accordingly, Plaintiff's pleads the following claims: hostile work environment (Count I), unlawful termination (Count II), and retaliation (Count III). Id. ¶ ¶ 25-27. On July 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed his Complaint (ECF No. 1) in federal court, which he amended on August 22, 2013 (ECF No. 3). On October 11, 2013, Defendant filed its Amended Answer. ECF No. 10. After obtaining discovery, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on August 21, 2014 (ECF No. 18), to which Plaintiff responded on September 15, 2014 (ECF No. 19). The motion is ripe for disposition.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (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 party who must " set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
A. Unlawful Termination