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Goodrich v. Tonelli's Pizza Pub

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 1, 2019



          DuBois, J.


         In this sex discrimination case, plaintiff Michael Goodrich alleges that defendants terminated his employment as a bartender on the basis of his sex and replaced him with a female bartender. The Complaint asserts sex discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e) et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 951 et seq. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion is granted.


         Plaintiff was hired by defendant Tonelli's Pizza Pub (“Tonelli's”) in May 2012 to work full-time as a bartender. See Defs. SOF ¶¶ 11-12. Tonelli's is operated by defendant Randa Enterprises, Inc.[1] Defs. Mem. Mot. Summ. J. 1 n.1.

         At all times during his employment at Tonelli's, plaintiff worked with between two and five other “main” bartenders, a group that included men and women and full-time and part-time employees. See Defs. SOF ¶¶ 13, 14. There was some turnover of the bartending staff during plaintiff's employment. For example, two part-time male bartenders left Tonelli's during plaintiff's employment-Mike Rose left to get married and Jeff Clark left to move to Colorado. See Id. ¶ 15. According to plaintiff, a female bartender, Jena Marshall, took over some of Clark's shifts after his departure. See Defs. Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A, Pl. Dep. 43:16-19. Plaintiff also testified that another male bartender was fired, and Tonelli's hired a female bartender to take his place. Id. at 42:14-43:13.

         By the end of his employment with Tonelli's, plaintiff was one of two “primary bartenders” who typically evenly split twelve of the fourteen weekly bartender shifts. See Defs. SOF ¶ 16. The other “primary bartender” was Marshall. Id.

         Plaintiff was terminated on June 29, 2015. Defs. SOF ¶ 1; Pl. Opp. Defs. SOF ¶ 1. He contends that he received a voicemail on that date from the Tonelli's General Manager, Larry Barksdale, stating that Tonelli's was “going in a different direction.” Defs. SOF ¶ 84. Defendants assert that plaintiff had to be sent home from work early on June 29, 2015, “because of a bad attitude and difficulties with the staff, ” culminating in an argument with Barksdale in which plaintiff told Barksdale “to just fire him.” Id. ¶ 87. According to defendants, plaintiff's behavior on that date was “the last straw after many previous instances of rude behavior and poor performance.” Id. ¶ 88. Plaintiff summarily denies these allegations and states that he was never subject to “any written discipline” during his three years of employment. Pl. Opp. Defs. SOF ¶¶ 87-90.

         Plaintiff applied for unemployment benefits on the day of his termination. Defs. SOF ¶ 1; Pl. Opp. Defs. SOF ¶ 1; Pl. Dep. 23:23-24:4. As the reason for his termination, plaintiff wrote “insubordination.” Defs. SOF ¶ 1; Pl. Dep. 25:5-6. When asked about this description during his deposition, plaintiff testified, “The only thing they would accept was insubordination. I had nothing to put down. I had to put something down.” Pl. Dep. 25:5-7.

         Plaintiff testified that about one week after his termination, he received a text message from Marshall, stating she had taken over plaintiff's shifts.[2] Defs. SOF ¶ 37. Plaintiff claims that Marshall “replaced” him. See Pl. Mem. Opp. Defs. Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl. Mem. Opp.”) 6. Defendants maintain that after plaintiff's termination Dan Lineberger, a male, was trained to become a bartender and eventually took over many of plaintiff's shifts. See Defs. SOF ¶¶ 31, 60.

         Plaintiff filed a claim of sex discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on August 5, 2015, based on the text from Marshall. See Pl. Dep. 53:10-25. Plaintiff testified that thereafter, on two separate occasions when he was interviewing with prospective employers-Nabrasa and Bar Louie-the interviewers told plaintiff that when they contacted Tonelli's for a reference for plaintiff, Tonelli's told the interviewer “[t]hat they were going with a new format and they didn't want men behind the bar anymore.” See Id. at 50:2-8. Defendants deny that Tonelli's had such a policy. Defs. SOF ¶ 24.

         Plaintiff filed the Complaint on December 21, 2017, asserting sex discrimination claims under Title VII and the PHRA. On February 18, 2019, defendants filed the pending Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 11). Plaintiff responded to the Motion on March 18, 2019 (Document No. 12) and filed exhibits associated with his response on March 19, 2019 (Document No. 13). Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is thus ripe for decision.


         The Court will grant a motion for 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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material when it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is ...

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