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McRae v. Potter

June 12, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge



Plaintiff, Paul McRae ("McRae"), a United States Postal Service employee, brings this employment discrimination and retaliation suit against the United States Postmaster General, John E. Potter ("Postmaster General"). McRae alleges violations of Title VII and breach of a settlement agreement which was negotiated after he filed five complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").*fn1 The Postmaster General moves for summary judgment on all counts.


McRae has been a Postal Service employee for over 20 years. He has worked his way up from letter carrier to hold various supervisory positions, including Officer-In-Charge positions at various post offices. McRae unsuccessfully applied for Postmaster positions at both the Penns Grove and Pitman, New Jersey, post offices. He alleges that he was not selected because of his race and gender (McRae is an African American man) and in retaliation for his prior EEOC complaints.

In 2000 and 2001, McRae filed five separate complaints with the EEOC alleging various Title VII and age discrimination violations.*fn2 On September 18, 2001, McRae and the Postmaster General entered into a settlement agreement covering all five complaints ("Settlement Agreement"). Among other things, the Settlement Agreement stated that McRae "will be assigned to as [sic] Officer-In-Charge of Pennsgrove [sic], New Jersey [Post Office] pending resolution of a nationwide R.I.F.*fn3 ongoing on this date . . . . [McRae] and all candidates for the Pennsgrove [sic] Postmaster position will be interviewed and [McRae] will be given favorable consideration for the vacancy." (Pls. Ex. B)

McRae, three other men and one woman participated in the competitive selection process for the Penns Grove Postmaster (pay grade EAS-20) position in the fall of 2002. At the time, McRae was the Customer Service Supervisor and temporary Officer-In-Charge at the Penns Grove post office, with a pay grade of EAS-16. (Defs. Ex. 8) The other candidates were: Richard Delp, Officer-In-Charge of the Penns Grove post office (EAS-20);*fn4 Daniel Yacucci, Postmaster of the Frankford, Delaware, post office (EAS-18); Donna Volzone, Manager of Customer Service and Officer-In-Charge at the Newark, Delaware, post office (EAS-19);*fn5 and Edward McWilliams, who withdrew from consideration before interviewing for the position. (Id.) These five candidates were selected for interviews from a larger pool of applicants. Pursuant to postal regulations, a three-person Applicant Review Committee recommended the five candidates as "the best qualified" for "final consideration" after reviewing each applicant's Form 991, which contains basic information about an applicant's education, work history, and specific knowledge, skills, and abilities.*fn6 (Defs. Exs. 7, 13)

The "selecting official,"*fn7 Denise Mason, conducted interviews of the four remaining candidates. Mason selected Donna Volzone, a white woman, for the Penns Grove Postmaster position.*fn8 In Mason's memorandum recording her evaluations of the candidates and selecting Volzone for the position, she states:

After interviewing all the applicants . . . I am selecting Donna Volzone for the position of Postmaster, Penns Grove, NJ.

Donna Volzone has 16 years of service. During Donna's three year tenure as OIC [Officer-In-Charge] Newark Del. Donna made significant changes which increased productivity in the office. Donna was extremely well prepared for the interview and provided numerous improvements that she would make to the office that could enhance productivity and improve community perception

Paul McRae is currently the Supervisor Customer Service Penns Grove. Paul has 19 years of service. Paul was moderately prepared for the interview. Paul could not answer questions related to base hours and the earned hour program when asked. Paul stated that changes needed to be made in the office however he didn't do so as OIC because he was not the Postmaster.

(Defs. Ex. 8)

Based on these events, McRae asserts claims of breach of the Settlement Agreement, race and gender discrimination, and retaliation for his EEOC activities.

Less than a month after McRae was passed over for the Penns Grove Postmaster position, the Postal Service published a vacancy announcement for the Postmaster position at the Pittman, New Jersey, post office. The same competitive selection process occurred whereby applicants were initially screened by the Applicant Review Committee,*fn9 although this time McRae was not selected to be among the five finalists. Mason ultimately selected Richard Delp, a white male, for the position.

The Applicant Review Committee reviewed all application forms submitted. The forms do not indicate an applicant's race. Moreover, McRae does not assert that any of the committee members knew him.

Based on these events, McRae asserts Title VII claims of race discrimination and retaliation for his EEOC activities.


"[S]ummary judgment is proper 'if 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 a judgment as a matter of law.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c))). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pollock v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). The role of the Court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

"'With respect to an issue on which the non-moving party bears the burden of proof, the burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing'-- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'" Conoshenti v. Public Serv. Elec. & Gas, 364 F.3d 135, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex). "The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . 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." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) (A party ...

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