The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle District Judge
Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment brought by Defendant John Potter, United States Postmaster General [Docket Item 37]. Plaintiff Johnniemae Green, a United States Postal Service ("USPS") employee, asserts that Defendant discriminated against her based on race and gender when it placed a white, male employee in Plaintiff's preferred job and gave Plaintiff her third choice position. Plaintiff also asserts that she was subjected to a hostile work environment. She seeks relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Action of 1964.*fn1
Defendant argues that Plaintiff has not offered sufficient evidence to rebut Defendant's proffered non-discriminatory explanation for the employment decision, that she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies regarding any hostile work environment claim, and further that no reasonable fact-finder could find that she was subjected to a hostile work environment. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment in its entirety.
The relevant evidence in the record with be presented herein, with all facts construed in favor of Plaintiff as the non-moving party. Plaintiff, an African American woman, has been a USPS employee since November 1980. (Green Decl. ¶¶ 1-2.) Beginning in February 2003, Plaintiff became a Manager, Distribution Operations ("MDO") at the Philadelphia Logistics and Distribution Center ("Philadelphia L&DC") in Swedesboro, New Jersey. (Green Dep. at 33; Stewart Decl. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff was assigned to Tour 3, a shift which generally lasted from late afternoon until after midnight, and was grade EAS-21 (meaning Executive and Administrative Salary level 21). (Green Dep. at 33-35; Stewart Decl. ¶ 5). As MDO for Tour 3, Plaintiff was responsible for managing all automated, mechanized, and manual mail processing and distribution operations. (Green Decl. ¶ 10.)
In April 2004, USPS sent Brian Stewart to Philadelphia L&DC to be the acting plant manager (the position became permanent in July 2004). (Stewart Dep. at 20.) For the first few weeks after Stewart's arrival, Stewart made no effort to meet Plaintiff, though as a general rule the first thing a plant manager would do on arriving at the plant would be to meet those who directly report to the manager. (Green Dep. at 76.) Concerned that she would have problems working with Stewart, Plaintiff called Andy Keen in the USPS human resources department and told him that she believed Stewart to be "biased." (Id. at 77, 81-82.) Mr. Keen told Plaintiff to discuss her concerns with Stewart. (Id. at 78-79, 82.) Two weeks after he arrived Stewart held a staff meeting that Plaintiff attended.*fn2 (Id. at 41-42.) At this meeting
Plaintiff met Stewart for the first time, though everyone else in the meeting had already met Stewart.*fn3 (Id.)
Soon after Stewart arrived at the Philadelphia L&DC, the USPS Philadelphia District Manager told Stewart that the facility had a high error rate for processing and dispatch of Priority Mail and informed him that he needed to fix the problem promptly. (Stewart Decl. ¶ 6; Stewart Dep. at 44.) To correct the problem, Stewart created an assignment for a Quality Improvement Manager ("QIM") which was to be a temporary or "detail" assignment. (Stewart Dep. at 49.) Within two or three weeks after his arrival, Stewart asked Plaintiff to take the QIM position and she accepted. (Green Dep. at 35, 43-44.) Stewart testified that he asked Plaintiff to take the position because when they discussed the assignment she expressed interest and because she had experience on Tour 3 (Stewart Dep. at 53); Stewart wanted an existing MDO who was familiar with the facility (Stewart Decl. ¶ 7). The QIM position was generally a day shift, or Tour 2, but Plaintiff officially kept her Tour 3 MDO position with the same EAS-21 compensation.*fn4 (Stewart Decl. ¶ 8.)
As QIM Plaintiff no longer had managerial authority. (Green Decl. ¶ 20.) Four months after she began her detail Plaintiff asked Stewart to return her to her Tour 3 MDO position and Stewart told her "not at this time," because he wanted her to learn about staffing. (Green Dep. at 83-84.) During the first three months of 2005, Plaintiff twice asked Stewart to return to her permanent job and Stewart refused both times. (Green Dep. at 86-87; Green Dep. Exh. 2.) On April 8, 2005, Plaintiff made another request and this time Stewart arranged a meeting. (Green Dep. Exhs. 3 & 4.) Stewart again told Plaintiff that he wanted her to remain in QIM, explaining that while quality had improved somewhat, it had declined again, and he wanted Plaintiff to learn more about staffing and plant support. (Green Dep. at 97-99.) Finally, in December 2005, Plaintiff asked Stewart to return to her permanent assignment and Stewart declined because it was the holiday season and he assigned Plaintiff to manage operations in an annex building. (Green Dep. at 101; Stewart Decl. ¶ 17.)
Plaintiff states that while she was on her QIM detail, she "was regularly excluded from staff or MDO meetings, or both, whereat discussions and reviews relevant to plant distribution and processing operations were held." (Green Decl. ¶ 17.) Other managers and supervisors, who were not African American, attended these meetings. (Id. ¶ 18.) According to Plaintiff, discussions at these meetings were relevant to the questions asked during her subsequent job interview with Stewart. (Id. ¶ 17.)
In mid-January 2006, Stewart was placed on a detail in the USPS Area Office in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. (Stewart Dep. at 95; Stewart Decl. ¶ 18.) Frank Pierantozzi, a white male, became acting plant manager at the Philadelphia L&DC. (Stewart Dep. at 95-96.) One day while Pierantozzi was acting manager, Plaintiff took her hair out of braids (her usual hair style) and wore a ponytail, and Pierantozzi told her that he liked her hair better in a ponytail. (Green Decl. at 126.)
In a memorandum dated December 22, 2005, the USPS Chief Human Resources Officer announced that management staffing at the various L&DCs would be restructured, eliminating EAS-21 MDO positions so that current managers would have to apply for the newly created positions. (Def. Exhs. 3-10.) The restructure created four new MDO positions: (1) MDO, EAS-22, Tour 3 (sometimes referred to as "Lead MDO"); (2) MDO, EAS-20, Tour 1; (3) MDO, EAS-20, Tour 3; and (4) MDO, EAS-19, Tour 2. (Id.) Current MDOs who held EAS-21 positions and who were hired for EAS-20 positions would keep the same salary. (Id.) Applicants were required to complete PS Form 991, Application for Promotion or Assignment, for each position and mail the forms to the USPS Human Resources Office for the Eastern Area by May 10, 2006. (Id.) Plaintiff submitted applications for all four MDO positions and cannot remember whether she communicated, in writing or otherwise, her preferences to anyone. (Green Dep. at 135-36.) She preferred the MDO positions in this order, from highest preference to lowest preference: (1) MDO, EAS-22, Tour 3 (Lead MDO); (2) MDO, EAS-20, Tour 3; (3) MDO, EAS-20, Tour 1; and (4) MDO, EAS-19, Tour 2. (Id. at 134-35.)
While Stewart, as plant manager for Philadelphia L&DC, was responsible for filling the new MDO positions, USPS Human Resources determined who was qualified to apply for each position. (Stewart Decl. ¶ 23.) Stewart had the "option of designating a review committee or personally interviewing every applicant" and he chose to make the selections himself. (Stewart Dep. at 107-08.) On June 9, 2006, Stewart interviewed the seven eligible applicants for the Lead MDO position; five white male applicants, including Thomas Bissell, one white female applicant, Therese Bonhage, and Plaintiff. (Id. at 132-133; Stewart Decl. ¶ 30.) For each interview Stewart asked each applicant a set of questions he had composed and kept contemporaneous notes. (Def. Exhs. 19-25.) According to Stewart's notes, Plaintiff gave incorrect responses, or gave no response, to thirteen out of twenty-five questions. (Def. Exh. 22.) For one question, she gave an answer of 3.5%, when the correct answer was 4%. (Id.) Stewart found that Thomas Bissell gave only one incorrect answer -- he failed to note that an employee who arrives at work with alcohol on his ...