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Boykins v. Septa

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 13, 2017

SEPTA, Defendant.



         In this action, Plaintiff Jamar Boykins (“Boykins”) asserts claims for race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 951-63, against his employer, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (“SEPTA”). SEPTA has moved for summary judgment on all claims. (Doc. No. 22). For the reasons that follow, SEPTA's Motion will be granted.


         Boykins has been employed by SEPTA as an electrician since December 12, 1998. Defendant's Statement of Uncontested Material Facts ¶ 1 [hereinafter “Def.'s Facts”]; Plaintiff's Responses to Defendant's Statement of Uncontested Material Facts ¶ 1 [hereinafter “Pl.'s Resp. Facts”].[1] He is an African-American. Complaint (Doc. No. 1) ¶ 9. Boykins currently serves as a first-class electrician in SEPTA's Bridges and Building Department of its Railroad Division. Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 3-4; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶¶ 3-4. SEPTA's Building and Bridges Department has two sub-departments: Maintenance and Construction. Def.'s Facts ¶ 5; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 5. The Maintenance Department is tasked with preventative maintenance and repair of stations, shops and any facilities on the regional railroad. Def.'s Facts ¶ 5; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 5. The Construction Department is tasked with new construction or construction that would be greater than a maintenance project. Def.'s Facts ¶ 5; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 5. Boykins is employed in the Maintenance Department. See Def.'s Facts ¶ 8; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 8. At the time relevant to the events at issue here, Gerald McGovern (“McGovern”) was the Assistant Director in charge of the Maintenance Department in which Boykins worked. See Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 6-8; Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶¶ 6-8. McGovern became Assistant Director in either 2005 or 2006. Pl.'s Br. Ex. F, at 13 [hereinafter “McGovern Dep.”]. In 2013, three maintenance managers reported to McGovern. See id. at 12-13. Each of those maintenance managers was Caucasian. Pl.'s Resp. Facts ¶ 7; McGovern Dep. at 12-16, 52-53.

         Under SEPTA's Employment, Hiring, Promotion and Transfer Procedures Manual, job descriptions for vacancies are prepared by the manager or supervisor who is seeking to have a job filled (the “Hiring Manager”) with the concurrence of a representative of the Human Resources Department (the “Recruiter”). Plaintiff's Concise Statement of Disputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 29-2) ¶ 33 [hereinafter “Pl.'s SDF”]; Pl's Br. Ex. P-3, at 2. SEPTA's procedures call for the Recruiter to conduct an initial screening of applications to determine which applicants are minimally qualified and for the Hiring Manager to select interviewees from those minimally-qualified applicants. Pl.'s SDF ¶ 33; Pl.'s Br. Ex. P-3, at 2. Interviews are conducted by a panel of two to five interviewers. Def.'s Facts ¶ 13; Pl.'s Br. Ex. P-3, at 4. The panel members “should be diverse.” Pl.'s Br. Ex. P-3, at 4. Prior to the interview, the Hiring Manager, in conjunction with the Recruiter, prepares questions that must be the same for all interviewees, as well as recommended responses to those questions. Id. “The recommended responses should serve as a guide in evaluating candidates' answers.” Id. The interview panel members are to determine applicants' suitability for the position “based on [the] individual's qualifications and experience, which can be assessed from responses to the questions.” Id. Each interviewer is to complete an Employment Evaluation Form, ranking the applicants. Id. at 5. At the conclusion of the interviews the individual panel members' rankings are to be combined by the Hiring Manager, and the candidate with the highest combined rating is to be offered the position. Id.

         Boykins applied for a number of positions as a maintenance manager between 2013 and 2015. He bases his claim of racial discrimination on SEPTA's failure to promote him to the position of maintenance manager in the Maintenance Department of the Railroad Division, position #14-110-EMC and failure to interview him for the positions of maintenance manager in the Maintenance Department, position #14-260-EMC, and maintenance manager in the Construction Department of the Bridges and Building Division, position #15-071-EMC. Pl.'s Br. at 1. He also contends that SEPTA failed to interview him for positions #14-260-EMC and #15-071-EMC in retaliation for his having filed a complaint of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Id.


         Under the well-established summary judgment standard, “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Summary judgment is appropriate when ‘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 judgment as a matter of law.'” Williams v. Wells Fargo Bank, No. 14-2345, 2015 WL 1573745, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 9, 2015) (quoting Wright v. Corning, 679 F.3d 101, 105 (3d Cir. 2012)).

[T]he plain language of Rule 56[a] mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be “no genuine issue as to any material fact, ” since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. The moving party is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law” because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his or] her case with respect to which [he or] she has the burden of proof.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         “By its very terms, this standard [that there be no genuine issue as to any material fact] provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id. at 248.

         When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court shall consider facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock Univ. State Sys. of Higher Educ., 470 F.3d 535, 538 (3d Cir. 2006). To prevail on summary judgment, however, “the non-moving party must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence; ‘there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].'” Burton v. Teleflex Inc., 707 F.3d 417, 425 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Jakimas v. Hoffman-La Roche, Inc., 485 F.3d 770, 777 (3d Cir. 2007)); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.


         A. Boykins Has Failed to Meet His Burden to Survive Summary Judgment on His Discrimination Claims

         Title VII racial discrimination claims are analyzed under the burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973).[2] Under that framework, a plaintiff's initial burden is to establish a prima facie case, by showing that he or she: (1) belongs to a protected class; (2) was qualified for the position; (3) suffered some form of adverse employment action; and (4) the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances that give rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination. Id. If a plaintiff makes out a prima facie case the burden shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its employment decision. Paradisis v. Englewood Hosp. Med. Ctr., __ F. App'x __, No. 16-3616, 2017 WL 728688, at *4 (3d Cir. Feb. 24, 2017) (citing Waldron v. SL Indus., Inc., 56 F.3d 491, 494 (3d Cir. 1995)). “If the defendant is able to articulate such a reason, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff, who must demonstrate that the employer's proffered reasons were merely a pretext for intentional discrimination.” Id. (citing McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 804). At that point, the plaintiff “must point to evidence which: (1) ‘casts sufficient doubt upon each of the legitimate reasons proffered by the defendant so that a factfinder could reasonably conclude that each reason was a fabrication;' or (2) allows the factfinder to reasonably conclude that ‘discrimination was more likely than not a motivating or determinative cause of the adverse employment action.' . . . A plaintiff can demonstrate the latter by ‘showing that the employer in the past had subjected him [or her] to unlawful discriminatory treatment, that the employer treated other, similarly situated persons not of his [or her] protected class more favorably, or that the employer has discriminated against other members of his [or her] protected class or other protected categories of persons.'” Id. (quoting Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 762 (3d Cir. 1994)).

         A plaintiff's subjective belief that race played a role in an employment decision is not, alone, sufficient to establish an inference of discrimination. Wilson v. Blockbuster, Inc., 571 F.Supp.2d 641, 647 (E.D. Pa. 2008) (citing Jones v. United Parcel Service, 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000)). Instead,

“[t]o discredit the employer's proffered reason ... the plaintiff cannot simply show that the employer's decision was wrong or mistaken, since the factual dispute at issue is whether discriminatory animus motivated the employer, not whether the employer is wise, shrewd, prudent, or competent. Rather, the nonmoving plaintiff must demonstrate such weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies, or contradictions in the employer's proffered legitimate reasons for its actions that a reasonable factfinder could rationally find them unworthy of credence.”

Keller v. Orix Credit All., Inc., 130 F.3d 1101, 1108-09 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Fuentes, 32 F.3d at 765). “[T]he plaintiff must point to evidence with sufficient probative force that a factfinder could conclude by a preponderance of the evidence that [discrimination] was a motivating or determinative factor in the employment decision.” Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, Div. of Sterling, Inc., 142 F.3d 639, 644-45 (3d Cir.1998). “For example, the plaintiff may show that the employer has previously discriminated against [him or] her, that the employer has discriminated against other persons within the plaintiff's protected class or within another protected class, ...

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