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Morris v. Cornell & Co.

August 16, 2006

GLENN D. MORRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORNELL & COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



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

OPINION

Plaintiff Glenn D. Morris ("Morris") brings the instant action against his former employer, Defendant Cornell & Company ("Cornell"), alleging race discrimination, age discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"),*fn1 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA").*fn2 Cornell moves for summary judgment.

I.

Morris, a forty-seven year old African American man, joined the District Council of Northern New Jersey Ironworkers ("Union") apprenticeship training program in September, 2000. During the three to four year training program, apprentices receive training from the District Council at specific training sites, and also assist journeymen and foremen at actual job sites.

Cornell, a construction firm in the business of erecting steel and concrete structures, was subcontracted to erect the steel framework of the Goldman Sachs Building ("the Project"), located on the Hudson River across from New York City in Jersey City, New Jersey. Steel erection of the project commenced in June, 2001, and continued through June, 2003. When the Project began, Cornell initially employed six ironworkers at the site. As the construction progressed, Cornell gradually hired more workers, reaching a peak of 114 journeymen, 20 foremen and 18 apprentices hired to work daily on the Project in April, 2002.

Cornell hired Morris as an apprentice in September, 2001. At that time, eight apprentices had been previously hired to work on the Project. Morris was first assigned to a "bolting-up" gang and later to a "fieldwork" gang.*fn3 During his tenure on the project, Morris claims that his "upward mobility" as an apprentice was hindered by the discriminatory motives of supervisors and management when they did not allow him to work in a variety of capacities on the project or provide him with proper on the job training.

Morris temporarily lost his job with Cornell in May, 2002. Cornell claims that the termination was due to Morris's absenteeism, although Morris insists that the termination was the continuing result of a discriminatory work environment. During this hiatus from work, Morris went to the union hall to find work, as he was required to do according to the terms of the apprenticeship program. While at the hall, Morris informed a secretary that he was terminated based upon his race, however, he did not file any formal complaints or reports based on the allegations. Morris was rehired by Cornell approximately a week later.

Cornell laid off Morris on or about January 24, 2003. At that time, the Project was nearing completion, with a projected completion date in June, 2003, and twenty-four ironworkers were employed, including four apprentices. After Morris and four other employees were laid off (one apprentice and three journeymen), nineteen employees remained, including two apprentices. The two remaining apprentices were both younger than Morris and Caucasian. Upon the completion of the project on June 20, 2003, all remaining employees were laid off. In all, thirty-three apprentices were employed by Cornell during the course of the Project, at least twenty of which were laid off due to decreasing workloads.

Cornell maintains that it used the performance evaluations from October 29, 2002, to decide which apprentices would be laid off or retained after January 24, 2003. These performance evaluations were completed for each of Cornell's apprentice employees, on which work habits, attitude, attendance, punctuality and other general comments were recorded. Morris received satisfactory evaluations during the period leading up to his lay off. The two apprentices who were retained by Cornell yielded higher marks in productivity and in other areas on the October 29, 2002, evaluations.*fn4 Morris asserts that the performance evaluations were merely pretexts for Cornell's discriminatory motives.

Morris filed charges against Cornell with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on or about October 30, 2003. He received a right to sue letter on or about June 24, 2004. Morris timely filed the instant Complaint in this Court on September 20, 2004.

II.

"Under Rule 56(c), summary 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)).

The court must construe the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party when deciding a motion for summary judgment. Pollock v. Am. Tel & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). The role of the court is to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial, not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter. . . ." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). "[A] party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere ...


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