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Sosa v. Chertoff

March 21, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas


Plaintiff, Mahoma Sosa ("Sosa"), a former United States Federal Air Marshal ("FAM"), brings this Title VII employment discrimination suit against her former employer, Transportation Security Administration.*fn1 Sosa asserts that she was subjected to a hostile work environment, and ultimately terminated from her employment, on account of her race (Hispanic), national origin (Puerto Rican), and gender (female). The government moves for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the government's motion will be granted.*fn2


During June and July, 2003, Sosa participated in "Phase II" training at the FAM training center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.*fn3 The training program consisted of four weeks of training in firearms proficiency, aircraft countermeasures proficiency, FAM tactics proficiency, and physical fitness. (Phase II Student Handbook, Sosa Ex. 7). After trainees passed Phase II training, they graduated to placements in field offices and were placed in "operational flight status." (Id.).

On July 31, 2003, Sosa received formal notice that she had failed Phase II training and was therefore terminated from service with the Federal Air Marshals. (Sosa Ex. 6). The notice states,

This is a notice that you are being terminated from your position and from the Federal Service effective the date of this letter, because you failed Phase II training in Atlantic City. Specifically, on July 17, 2003, you did not achieve a qualifying score in your Tactics training. You received counseling and remedial training that afternoon and on July 18, 2003, you were re-evaluated, but did not receive a qualifying score. You were retained for an additional week of training and you were again evaluated on July 24, 2003. During the evaluation you did not receive a passing score. This action is being taken in accordance with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Human Resources Management Letter 300-2, Interim Policy on Probationary Period. . . .

On April 24, 2003, you signed the line "I ACCEPT THE POSITION" on an offer of Employment Letter that stated, "All Federal Air Marshals must serve a probationary period to be completed 12 months after the granting of credentials" . . . Your Expected Appointment under these conditions was effective May 4, 2003. The purpose of the probationary period is to serve as the final step in the interview and examination process of new employees. (Id.).

A memorandum dated July 28, 2003, from Mitch Levin, Branch Chief of Tactics training, to Bob Clark, Assistant Director of FAM Training, details Sosa's performance in Tactics training. Sosa was first tested on July 17, 2003, and received a score of 10 out of a possible 100 points.*fn4 A passing score was 85 points. (Levin Ex. 1). Sosa received counseling and remedial training and was retested the following day, July 18, 2003. She only scored 40 points. (Id.; Sosa Ex. 3). She was counseled again, and then received an additional week of training with a new class of trainees. (Levin Ex. 1). On July 24, 2003, she failed the evaluation a third time, with a score of 75. (Id.). Sosa claims that Levin, a Caucasian male, discriminated against her on account of her race, national origin, and gender, by unfairly grading her on the Tactics evaluation.

Sosa also claims that she suffered a hostile work environment while she was training at the Atlantic City facility. Specifically, she complains that two of the Physical Training instructors, Mark Royer and Serge Potapov, both Caucasian males, constantly made "vicious" and "demoralizing" comments to Sosa in front of her fellow trainees.

Sosa claims that both men targeted her with insults related to her physical fitness, and required her to do extra physical training. According to Sosa, Potapov would single her out to do push-ups and sit-ups in front of the class. (Sosa Dep. at 89). On one occasion, when Sosa was the last trainee to finish a training run, Potapov allegedly said, "Always behind, always waiting for your freaking ass, I'm tired of this shit." (Sosa Dep. at 92). During another run, Royer allegedly said to Sosa, "You're weak. You don't belong here. You know you want to quit. Why don't you do us a favor and do it." (Id. at 98). At some other unspecified time, Sosa claims Potapov told her that "[his] grandmother was tougher than [her]." (Sosa Ex. 9)

Lastly, Sosa complains of an incident that occurred in the cafeteria. She states that Potapov "screamed" at her in the cafeteria for eating "a half philly cheese steak sandwich and a Diet Coke." (Id.). According to Sosa, Potapov yelled that he "could not believe after all the exercising and information provided in nutritional classes, that [Sosa] would be eating that kind of garbage." (Id.). Then he allegedly said, "Just get out of my face. You make me sick." (Id.).

Sosa filed her EEO Complaint on February 4, 2004, and then filed the instant suit on December 5, 2005.


"[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 ...

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