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Juisti v. City of Chester

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 20, 2019

JOSEPH JUISTI
v.
CITY OF CHESTER, et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          Bartle, J.

         Plaintiff Joseph Juisti (“Juisti”) brings this action against his former employer the City of Chester (“City”) for reverse racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. Juisti, at the time a police officer, also asserts a claim against his former union, defendant the Fraternal Order of Police William Penn Lodge No. 19 (“FOP”), for breach of the duty of fair representation under Pennsylvania common law.

         Before the court are the motions of defendants for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         I

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate “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 also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254 (1986). We view the facts and draw all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See In re Flat Glass Antitrust Litig., 385 F.3d 350, 357 (3d Cir. 2004).

         Summary judgment is granted where there is insufficient record evidence for a reasonable factfinder to find for the nonmovant. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party]’s position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for [that party].” Id. In addition, Rule 56(e)(2) provides “[i]f a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party’s assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may . . . consider the fact undisputed for the purposes of the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

         II

         Juisti, who is Caucasian, was hired in or about April 2013 as a police officer for the City of Chester Police Department. Juisti worked in this position until January 2018, when he left work due to stress and anxiety stemming from perceived discrimination, retaliation, and harassment.

         Juisti has asserted that during the course of his employment he was denied overtime, subjected to unwarranted discipline, and otherwise discriminated and retaliated against by his supervisor, Captain Marilyn Lee, who is African American. He also claims that he was discriminated and retaliated against by Police Commissioner Otis Blair (“Blair”), who is African American, Captain William Shaw, who is Caucasian, and Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, who is African American.

         In 2013, Juisti suffered a stroke which made his eyes sensitive to light. As a result, he wears sunglasses both indoors and outdoors as needed and did so throughout his employment with the City. On August 21, 2017, Blair instructed Juisti that he could not wear while on duty the particular sunglasses he was wearing. The sunglasses at issue had white frames with prescription lenses. Blair stated that the white frames were unprofessional and made Juisti look like “the Terminator.” Juisti contacted a sergeant to tell him he would be unable to work the rest of his overtime shift because he would need to purchase new sunglasses. Thereafter, Juisti returned to work with black-framed sunglasses and continued to wear sunglasses without incident as needed for the remainder of his employment with the City.

         Blair admits that the City’s official dress code does not specifically prohibit or otherwise address white-framed sunglasses but explained that as Commissioner he has final say on what is appropriate attire for officers and that he determined Juisti’s sunglasses were inappropriate. Blair further stated in his deposition that he had previously seen Juisti wearing sunglasses with a more conservative black frame while on duty and never took issue with those.

         At least three other officers, who are all African American and non-disabled, wore sunglasses with white or different colored frames while on duty: (1) Todd Rose; (2) Roosevelt Turner; and (3) Jerome Duncan. Blair instructed Turner and Duncan not to wear such sunglasses when Blair saw them doing so. Blair never spoke with Rose regarding his sunglasses but explains that he would have done so had he seen Rose wearing such sunglasses while on duty.

         While employed by the City, Juisti belonged to the FOP. The Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) entered into between the FOP and the City provides procedures for the resolution of grievances between FOP members and the City. Grievances must be presented within ten working days of the date that the incident occurred or the date the officer could reasonably be expected to have knowledge of the occurrence. An officer must first discuss the problem with his or her immediate supervisor. If the problem is not resolved to the officer’s satisfaction, the CBA provides for a three-step “Grievance Procedure”: (1) a grievance shall be submitted by the officer in writing to the officer’s immediate supervisor, who shall meet with the officer to discuss and then respond in writing within three working days; (2) if still not satisfied, the officer may appeal within five working days to the Chief of Police, who must then meet to discuss the grievance with the officer and then respond in writing within five working days; and (3) the officer may within five working days appeal any unsatisfactory response to the Mayor or his designee, who shall meet with the officer and then issue a decision within three days.[1]

         If the grievance is not resolved through these steps, either party may elect, through written notice, to arbitrate the dispute with the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”). As an alternative to the grievance and arbitration procedures set forth in the CBA, the FOP and the City have developed a practice of informally resolving grievances through meetings. The parties would wait ...


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