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Murray v. Beverage Distribution Center

November 23, 2010

DARYL MURRAY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BEVERAGE DISTRIBUTION CENTER, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiff Daryl Murray, an African-American male, asserts that Defendant Beverage Distribution Center, Inc. ("BDCI") and its co-Defendants, various officers and vice presidents of the company, have repeatedly refused to hire him, based on discriminatory and retaliatory reasons in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination ("NJ LAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq.*fn1 Defendants move for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion will be granted.

I.

BDCI, located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, provides administrative and warehouse services for Pepsi Cola and other soft drink companies. During 2007 and 2008, BDCI was looking to fill three positions in its Management Information Systems ("MIS") Department. (Wilkinson Dep. p. 76-81; Bonanno Dep. p. 33-34) During this same period of time, BDCI used two different recruiting companies-- first the Work Place Group ("WPG") and later, Source One-- to collect resumes and screen candidates for the open positions. Murray's claims in this suit are solely based on BDCI's failures to hire him in 2008. However, as both parties explained at oral argument on the Motion, Murray's prior interactions with Defendants must be considered to place the present claims in their proper context.*fn2

The First Incident

On January 8, 2007, Murray sent his resume in response to WPG's internet posting for an "MIS Project Manager" position at BDCI. (Def's Statement of Undisputed Facts and Plaintiff's Response thereto (collectively, "SUF"), ¶ 38*fn3 ) Two days later, Sara Salvatore, a recruiter with WPG, contacted Murray by telephone. (Salvatore Dep. p. 12; Murray Dep. p. 207) With regard to that conversation, Murray testified,

[Salvatore] started by saying that she was contacting me in response to the position. She started to briefly talk about the position and she immediately wanted... me to complete an assessment... she wanted to send me something to complete and I immediately put the brakes on the conversation by letting her know that... I had already applied to [BDCI] in November 2006 and had not gotten a response back. [Also,] I let [Salvatore] know that I had some concerns about their hiring practices, and that's when [she]... confirmed that Gwen Dolceamore and Bonnie Poller were the two hiring managers.... I asked [Salvatore] to please go back and talk to Gwen Dolceamore, because it was my perception that Gwen Dolceamore had a problem with me based on my race and based on my gender coupled with my qualifications, because she had previously told me that I was overqualified.*fn4

(Murray Dep. p. 207-08) Salvatore's version of the conversation is substantially similar. (See Salvatore Dep. p. 33-34)

Salvatore testified that after that telephone call, she did not contact anyone at BDCI regarding Murray's qualifications and did not further consider Murray's candidacy because of what she perceived to be his "poor attitude on the phone." (Salvatore Dep. p. 33-34)

On February 7, 2007, when Murray had not heard back from Salvatore, he emailed her to inquire about the status of his application. (Defs' Ex. 11) After Salvatore replied that BDCI had narrowed its search to two candidates and had "completed interviews," Murray responded,

I am curious to know how [BDCI] has narrowed the selection down to 'two candidates' given the fact that I was never interviewed, and given the fact that I have been waiting several weeks for you to personally get back to me concerning your conversations with [Gwen Dolceamore and Bonnie Poller] concerning my specific application and resume. Especially given the fact that I have a long history of adverse dealings with your client with respect to my credentials and prior applications for employment.

Also, to insure [sic] that [BDCI] has not committed any violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Act, I am interested in knowing whether either of the two candidates are (1) African-American; (2) both women; and whether your client considered and/or interviewed any qualified African American males for the position.

If not, you may consider putting [BDCI] on notice that a Complaint under the New Jersey LAD statute will likely be forthcoming.

I look forward to your belated response.

Thank you.

(Defs' Ex. 11)

WPG's internal records indicate that on the following day, Salvatore changed Murray's application status to "Not Qualified" and "closed" his application. (Pl's Ex. 5) The accompanying explanation reads, "[t]his candidate has placed us on notice that he will be pursuing legal action against us and [BDCI]. Thus we can no longer communicate with this individual." (Id.)

Around this same time, in early February, Mila Edelman, Salvatore's supervisor, contacted Defendant Jeff Stanley, BDCI's Senior Vice President of Human Resources, regarding Murray's telephone call and subsequent email communication with Salvatore. (Stanley Dep. p. 58-61)*fn5 Stanley, in turn, called Murray to discuss Murray's "concerns and frustrations." (Stanley Dep. p. 62-63)*fn6 Stanley testified that he understood Murray to be uninterested in "resolv[ing] this case without taking legal action." (Id.)

With regard to this same conversation with Stanley, Murray states,

I first identified myself as a black male. I also expressed... that I had previously applied for employment with [BDCI] in November 1985, June/July 2000, July 2005, and in November 2006 and after consideration of the treatment I received I believed that my applications were rejected by Gwen Dolceamore because of her sexist attitude toward males in general and her racist attitude toward black males, particularly me.... I made it clear to Mr. Stanley that I was not interested in any hush money or out of court settlements but that I was only interested in receiving an equal opportunity for employment and securing a good paying job with benefits for which I was qualified to fill and do.

(Murray Cert. ¶¶ 47, 49)

Weeks later, on March 7, 2007, Murray filed a formal complaint of discrimination against BDCI with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights. (Defs' Ex. 1)*fn7 Murray and BDCI then engaged in the Division's mediation process throughout May and June of 2007 but were ...


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