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Munoz v. World Flavors, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 30, 2019

DAVID MUNOZ, Plaintiff,


          SCHILLER, J.

         Defendant On Site Personnel, LLC, a temporary employment agency, hired David Munoz and assigned him to work as a temporary employee at Defendant World Flavors, Inc. Munoz's tenure with both companies was brief. After just twelve days at World Flavors, he was fired. On Site Personnel did not reassign him to any other job sites. Munoz claims that, during his short stint at each of the companies, he was subjected to sex discrimination, a hostile work environment, and retaliation under Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”). Both On Site Personnel and World Flavors (collectively, “Defendants”) have moved for summary judgment. Because Munoz has failed to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination or proffer sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could rule in his favor on his other two claims, the Court will grant both motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Munoz was hired by On Site Personnel on October 27, 2015; one week later, On Site Personnel assigned him to work as a temporary employee at World Flavors. (Def. World Flavors' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [World Flavors' SUF] ¶¶ 1-3.) On his twelfth-and final-day at World Flavors, November 20, 2015, Munoz had a verbal fight with a coworker. (Id., Ex. B, Dep. of David Munoz [“Munoz Dep.”], at 78-79.) According to Munoz, the coworker wanted to use a table that Munoz was using to package heavy bags, but Munoz believed that it would be unsafe to continue packaging without the table. (Id. at 44-46.) Because of the disagreement over the table, Munoz complained to his supervisor Anthony Ross; Ross, in turn, instructed Munoz to use a different table and packaging machine. (Id. at 46.) Later that morning, both parties agree that World Flavors had dismissed Munoz. (World Flavors' SUF ¶ 19.) Rather than reassign Munoz to another work site, On Site Personnel also fired him. (Munoz Dep. at 18.)

         According to Defendants, Munoz was fired that morning because of his altercation and refusal to follow Ross's instructions. Ross's supervisor, Russell Perry, testified that Ross reported Munoz's conduct to him. (World Flavors' SUF, Ex. H, Dep. of Russell Perry [“Perry Dep.”], at 20-21.) After speaking with Ross about the incident, Perry dismissed Munoz and two other temporary World Flavors employees involved in the argument. (World Flavors' SUF ¶¶ 17, 19.) Munoz and the other two men left the World Flavors building by approximately 10:30 a.m. (Id. ¶ 19.) Perry documented the circumstances of the firing in a contemporaneous memo. (Id., Ex. J, Russell Perry Memo dated Nov. 20, 2015.) On Site Personnel's time sheets for November 20, similarly show that Munoz and the two other temporary employees worked only until 10:30 a.m. on that date. (Id., Ex. C, On Site Personnel Timesheets.)

         Despite admitting that he was fired in the morning after he got into an argument with his coworker, Munoz contends that he was fired because he reported sexual advances to World Flavors' Human Resources Department during the afternoon of November 20. (Pl.'s Resp. to World Flavors' SUF ¶ 18.) Munoz testified that, throughout his tenure at World Flavors, Perry sexually harassed him. Specifically, Munoz testified that Perry brushed his shoulder and hand; asked him about his tattoos; looked at him “[l]ike a guy looks at a girl when they want to do something with them;” tried to flirt with him; and stated that he was a “good specimen of what a sexy man should look like.” (Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [“Pl.'s SUF”] ¶¶ 1-2, 5, 8-9.) On the afternoon of November 20, Munoz contends that he reported this behavior to World Flavors by calling a phone number for the Human Resources Department that was listed on the wall of the cafeteria. (Munoz Dep. at 26, 42, 46.) Although there is no record of this phone call or Munoz's complaint, Munoz testified that the person he spoke with indicated that they documented the report and would let the owner of World Flavors and the staff at On Site Personnel know about the incident. (Id. at 42.) Approximately one hour after making this report regarding Perry's conduct, Munoz contends that Perry called him into his office and dismissed Munoz from World Flavors. (Id. at 42.)


         Summary judgment is appropriate when the admissible evidence fails to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). Material facts are those “that could affect the outcome” of the proceeding, and “a dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine' if the evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011). When the movant does not bear the burden of persuasion at trial, it may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to carry its burden of persuasion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Thereafter, the nonmoving party demonstrates a genuine issue of material fact if it provides evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable finder of fact to find in its favor at trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         In reviewing the record, “a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor.” Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994). The court may not, however, make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in considering motions for summary judgment. See Reves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); see also Goodman v. Pa. Tpk. Comm'n, 293 F.3d 655, 665 (3d Cir. 2002).


         Munoz sued Defendants for sex discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment under Title VII and the PHRA.[1] Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts. Because Munoz has failed to proffer sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could rule in his favor on any of his claims, the Court grants Defendants' motions.

         A. Sex Discrimination

         Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. Sex discrimination claims under Title VII are subject to the familiar burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Atkinson, 460 F.3d at 454. The McDonnell Douglas analysis includes three steps. First, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. Once this is established, the burden shifts to the defendant to “articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason” for the adverse employment action. Id. At the third step, the plaintiff must have “a fair opportunity to show that [the defendant's] stated reason for [the plaintiff's] rejection was in fact pretext.” Id. at 804. Although the burden of production shifts at each stage of the analysis, “[t]he ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all times with the plaintiff.” Texas Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53 (1981).

         To establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was qualified for the position in question; (3) he suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) that adverse employment action gives rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination. Jones v. Sch. Dist. of Phila., 198 F.3d 403, 410-11 (3d Cir. 1999). Here, Defendants contest only the fourth element of the prima facie case, arguing that, aside from Munoz's own subjective belief that he was discriminated against on the basis of his sex, there is no evidence in the record that he was treated differently than nonmembers of his protected class. (World Flavors' Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. [“World Flavors' Br.”] at 6.) In response, Munoz simply points out that Defendants have conceded that he meets all but the last prong of the prima facie case, that “[t]he only genuine issue of material fact is whether nonmembers of the protected class were treated more favorably under the ...

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