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Houser v. Visionquest National Ltd.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 22, 2018

DONALD HOUSER, YVETTE BRAXTON, WILLIAM HOUSER, SANTELL MILLER, and Plaintiffs
v.
VISIONQUEST NATIONAL LTD., Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          Kane Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Visionquest National Ltd.'s motion for reconsideration. (Doc No. 68.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 29, 2017, this Court issued a Memorandum and Order (Doc. Nos. 66, 67), denying the motions for summary judgment filed by Defendant Visionquest National Ltd. (“Visionquest”), as to the claims of Plaintiffs Donald Houser, Yvette Braxton, and William Houser.[1] At the same time, the Court referred this case to Magistrate Judge Carlson for mediation proceedings. (Doc. No. 67.) On December 13, 2017, Visionquest filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's November 29, 2017 Memorandum and Order (Doc. No. 68), with a brief in support (Doc. No. 69). Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to Visionquest's motion on December 28, 2017 (Doc. No. 72), and Visionquest filed its reply brief on January 11, 2018 (Doc. No. 73).

         Meanwhile, Magistrate Judge Carlson conducted mediation proceedings and reported to this Court that Visionquest had reached a settlement as to Plaintiffs William Houser and Yvette Braxton's claims. Accordingly, the Court issued a sixty-day Order dismissing the claims of those plaintiffs on March 12, 2018. (Doc. No. 74). Visionquest's motion for reconsideration, now addressing only the claims of the sole remaining Plaintiff in this action, Donald Houser, remains pending and is ripe for disposition.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion for reconsideration is a device used “to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). Such motions “must rely on one of three major grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence not available previously; or (3) the need to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Holsworth v. Berg, 322 Fed.Appx. 143, 146 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting N. River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). A motion for reconsideration is not an appropriate mechanism to “attempt to convince the court to rethink a decision it has already made.” Williams v. Standard Fire Ins. Co., 892 F.Supp.2d 615, 624 (M. D. Pa. 2012) (citation omitted). Nor may it be used to “raise new arguments or present evidence that could have been raised” prior to the Court's decision. Coulter v. Unknown Prob. Officer, No. 12-cv-2067, 2013 WL 3863938, at *2 (M.D. Pa. July 24, 2013) (citation omitted), aff'd, 562 Fed.Appx. 87 (3d Cir. 2014). Motions for reconsideration are to be granted sparingly. Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         In its motion for reconsideration, Visionquest relies on neither an intervening change in controlling law nor the availability of new evidence not available previously as the basis for its motion; rather, it relies exclusively on what it maintains are clear errors of law and fact in the Court's Memorandum and Order denying its motion for summary judgment as to Donald Houser's race discrimination and retaliation claims. (Doc. No. 69 at 9-24.) Specifically, Visionquest argues that in denying its motion for summary judgment, this Court committed a clear error of law or fact by: (1) concluding that evidence of Donald Houser's dishonesty on his employment application was most appropriately considered in connection with the Court's analysis of the pretext stage of the McDonnell Douglas three-step burden shifting framework, as opposed to the qualification prong of Plaintiff's prima facie case (Doc. No. 69 at 9-16); (2) finding that, based on the record before it, Donald Houser had pointed to evidence sufficient to support a reasonable factfinder's inference that unlawful discrimination motivated Visionquest's decision to terminate him, and that Visionquest's articulated reason for terminating him was pretextual (id. at 16-19); and (3) finding that, construing all facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, Donald Houser had pointed to evidence sufficient to support a reasonable factfinder's inference that Visionquest terminated his employment in retaliation for engaging in potentially protected activities (id. at 19-24). The Court addresses each argument in turn.[2]

         A. Plaintiff's Prima Facie Case

         Visionquest argues that the Court misapplied Third Circuit precedent when it held that:

[C]onsideration of DHouser[3]'s dishonesty on his employment application during Plaintiff's prima facie case would deny him the opportunity to show that Defendant's proferred nondiscriminatory reason is pretext. Therefore, this Court declines to find DHouser unqualified due to his dishonesty on his employment application. Evidence of DHouser's dishonesty is properly analyzed during the second and third parts of the McDonnell Douglas test.

(Doc. No. 66 at 13.)

         Specifically, in its motion, Visionquest maintains that under Third Circuit precedent, it is “appropriate to consider a plaintiff's qualifications for a position during the prima facie stage when such qualifications involve objective criteria.” (Doc. No. 69 at 9-10.) As to the qualification prong of the prima facie case, in its motion for summary judgment, Visionquest relied exclusively on Nelson v. DeVry, Inc., No. 07-4436, 2009 WL 1213640 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 23, 2009), in arguing that Donald Houser could not establish that he was qualified for the position from which he was terminated. Visionquest relied on Nelson in arguing that “[w]hen an employee violates a ...


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