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Brown-Eagle v. County of Erie

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 22, 2015



MAURICE B. COHILL, Jr., Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Tecumseh Brown-Eagle brings this civil rights employment discrimination action against the County of Erie, Pennsylvania, asserting that he was unlawfully terminated from his job with the Erie County Office of Children and Youth ("OCY") in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment to which Plaintiff has timely responded. In addition, Defendant has filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Response. For the reasons stated below, we will grant Defendant's motion and dismiss this action.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

A. Factual Background

Mr. Brown-Eagle is a non-Caucasian, dark-skinned male. On November 15, 2010, he was hired by the Erie County Office of Children and Youth as a probationary employee in the position of Caseworker II. According to Mary Ann Daniels, the Director of OCY during the relevant time period, probationary status employment allows for a six-month period to determine if an employee should be retained for a permanent position. Aff. of Mary Ann Daniels, Feb. 24, 2015, ¶ 3, attached as Ex. C to Def. Appendix (ECF No. 46). Ms. Daniels also explains that a Caseworker II employee works "in the community with the children and families who are involved with the Office of Children and Youth. Caseworkers also appear in court to testify in child welfare and custody proceedings." Daniels Aff. ¶ 3.

There is no dispute that Mr. Brown-Eagle was qualified to perform the job, and that his actual performance during the time he was employed by OCY was satisfactory. Instead, the precipitating event for OCY's eventual termination of Mr. Brown-Eagle was a conversation he had with a co-worker that, in the opinion of management, revealed that Mr. Brown-Eagle may be subject to attacks on his credibility when testifying in court.

In December 2010, at an event sponsored by OCY, Mr. Brown-Eagle had a conversation with a coworker, Gerard Miller. Tr. Civil Service Comm., Brown-Eagle v. Erie County Dept. of Human Services, OCY, Apr. 26, 2011, at 73, attached as Ex. E to Def. App. (ECF No. 46). Mr. Miller testified that Mr. Brown-Eagle said that he had been abducted by aliens or had been inside a UFO. Tr. Civil Service Comm., at 73; Daniels Aff. ¶ 11; Letter from R. Perhacs to R. Bryant, EEOC, Mar. 6, 2012, ¶ 5, attached as Ex. A to Pl. Brief in Opp. Re Mot. to Dismiss (ECF No. 14). In addition, Mr. Miller testified that Mr. Brown-Eagle also said that his brother "was able to bypass the security at the Whitehouse and melt through the bars and get into the oval office and take off his clothes and burn them twice." Tr. Civil Service Comm., at 74.

Mr. Brown-Eagle denies that he had said that he had been abducted by aliens and denies that he said that his brother was in the Oval Office. He does, however admit that he, along with four other people, did witness an unexplained "light moving in the sky which appeared to quickly move away, out of sight, " Aff. of Tecumseh Brown-Eagle, April 9, 2015, ¶ 6 (ECF No. 60). He further states that the fact that he had sighted an airborne object meeting the Air Force definition of a UFO, makes him "among millions of people who have seen such a sight, " which "should not disqualify [him] from employment." Brown-Eagle Aff. ¶ 11, citing Air Force Regulation 200-2. He also explains that he told Mr. Miller that a couple of weeks after the sighting of the unexplained light in the sky, his brother, who also saw the light, "went on to the White House grounds and got arrested and committed, " and that his brother had "squeezed through the bars of the fence and went to the back door of the White House...." Brown-Eagle Aff. ¶ 6.

Mr. Miller relayed the substance of his conversation with Mr. Brown-Eagle first to his supervisor, and then to Ms. Daniels. Daniels Aff. ¶ 10-12. Ms. Daniels stated that she was concerned about the information and so "decided to look into it further by searching the Internet, " which resulted in her discovering that Mr. Brown-Eagle had spoken at The Burlington Vortex Conference, a conference involving "UFO's and other paranormal activity." Daniels Aff. ¶ 13. Based on this information, Ms. Daniels decided to recommend that Mr. Brown-Eagle be terminated, summarizing her opinion as follows:

In my judgment, as the Director of the Office of Children and Youth Services, this information about Mr. Brown Eagle could have adversely affected his credibility and that of the Office of Children and Youth Services, with both the children and families that the agency served, as well as in court when testifying. My concerns included that he might come across as someone who was not dealing in reality. I could not trust that he would be effective in performing his job.

Daniels Aff. ¶ 14.

Ms. Daniels conferred with Peter Callan, the County's Director of Personnel, and Richard Perhacs, Esquire, the County's labor solicitor about the information she had learned and her recommendation to terminate Mr. Brown-Eagle. Daniels Aff. ¶ 15. Both agreed that terminating Mr. Brown-Eagle's employment during the probationary period in light of this information was appropriate. Daniels Aff. ¶ 15. Ms. Daniels then terminated Mr. Brown-Eagle's probationary employment by letter dated January 21, 2011. Termination Letter from M. Daniels to T. Brown-Eagle, January 20, 2011 ¶ 1, attached as Ex. B to Def. App. (ECF No. 46). The termination letter did not state the reason for his termination.

B. Procedural Background

After contesting his termination with the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission, Mr. Brown-Eagle filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging discrimination on the basis of religion, race, and gender. The EEOC issued Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue on or ...

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