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Nguyen v. McDonald's

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 9, 2013

JACQUELINE NGUYEN, Plaintiff,
v.
MCDONALD'S, Defendant.

OPINION

SUSAN D. WIGENTON, District Judge.

Before this Court is Defendant New Mad Corporation's d/b/a McDonald's[1] ("Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). This Court, having considered the parties' submissions, decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. FACTUAL HISTORY

Pro se Plaintiff Jacqueline Nguyen ("Plaintiff") is Defendant's former employee. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Defendant is a franchisee of the McDonald's Corporation and operates a franchise located at 1075 Route 1, Edison, New Jersey. (Def.'s Answer ¶ 3.) From January 2012 until February 20, 2012, Plaintiff worked in Defendant's employ. (Def.'s Br. Ex. D, Def.'s Answer to Plaintiff's Interrogatories.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant created a hostile work environment and discriminated against her on the basis of her race, color, national origin, sex, and religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). ( See generally Compl.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant discriminated against her due to her disability in violation of the Americans with Disability Act ("ADA") and based on her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10; Pl.'s Br. 22-26.) Finally, Plaintiff claims Defendant retaliated against her and committed tortious interference with her future employment. (Pl.'s Br. 28-29.)

Prior to Plaintiff commencing employment with Defendant, she underwent surgery to release her left carpal tunnel. (Def.'s Br. Ex. C, Deposition of Robert M. Lombardi, M.D. ("Lombardi Dep.") at Tr. 20:14-20 (Feb. 5, 2013).) The surgery was conducted by Dr. Robert M. Lombardi ("Dr. Lombardi"), and occurred on November 4, 2011. ( Id. ) According to Plaintiff, Dr. Lombardi warned her that "you'll break your skin and never heal" if she was not careful with her hand. (Def.'s Br. Ex. B, Deposition of Jacqueline Nguyen ("Nguyen Dep.") at Tr. 47:2-3 (Sept. 11, 2012).) More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Lombardi directed her to keep her hand from "a lot of wetness, hot, stressing, or cold burn or hot burn." ( Id. at 46:18-25.) In contrast, Dr. Lombardi testified he last saw Plaintiff on November 18, 2011, and he released her at that time with no restrictions on her activities. (Lombardi Dep. at Tr. 24:6-8; 25:21-26:14.)

Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to various forms of discrimination while in Defendant's employ. In support of her discrimination claim based on race, color, and national origin, Plaintiff alleges that she was Defendant's only Asian employee, and that she was consequently treated differently from other similarly situated employees. (Nguyen Dep. at 30:24-32:19.) For instance, according to Plaintiff, Javier Rojas ("Rojas"), one of Defendant's managers, discriminated against her by providing uniforms and additional training to Defendant's "Spanish" employees, scheduled them more hours, and allowed them to take more breaks. (Nguyen Dep. 70:10-72:23.) The undisputed facts, however, show that Mandeep Thind ("Thind"), another manager of Defendant's, is of South East Asian/Indian descent and was responsible for creating Defendant's work schedule. (Def.'s Br. Ex. F, Deposition of Mandeep Thind ("Thind Dep.") at Tr. 26:3-5 (Nov. 26, 2012).) Additionally, Defendant's work schedule for the January 5, 2012 through February 17, 2012 period shows that Plaintiff's hours were comparable to other part-time employees. (Def.'s Br. Ex. E.) Plaintiff also alleges she was the only employee assigned to clean Defendant's lobby. (Nguyen Dep. at Tr. 50:3-51:1.) The uncontroverted evidence, however, shows that some of Defendant's other employees were also assigned to clean the lobby. (Def.'s Br. Ex. E.)

Furthermore, Plaintiff contends that Defendant's male employees were assigned more hours per week than she was. (Compl. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff also claims that younger "Spanish" females were given more hours than her. (Nguyen Dep. at Tr. 32:14-33:5.) The undisputed evidence shows, however, that both male and female employees were scheduled more hours than Plaintiff, and that Plaintiff's hours were comparable to other part-time employees, irrespective of age or gender. (Def.'s Br. Ex. E.)

Plaintiff's hostile work environment claim is predicated on an incident with Rosa Graca ("Graca"), another manager. (Nguyen Dep. 98:13-100:5.) Plaintiff alleges that Graca touched her breasts, pointed an "air hose" at her private area, and made inappropriate sexual remarks to her. ( Id. ) Plaintiff maintains that this incident occurred on January 29, 2012, at approximately 11:00 a.m. ( Id. at 42:15-43:3; 98:1-12.) According to Defendant's work schedule, however, neither Plaintiff nor Graca worked on January 29, 2012. (Def.'s Br. Ex. E.)

Plaintiff last worked in Defendant's employ on February 17, 2012. (Def.'s Brief Ex. I, Certification of Maria Monteiro In Support of Defendant's Notice of Motion for Summary Judgment ("Monteiro Cert.") ¶ 2 (March 28, 2013).) Although she was scheduled to work thereafter, Plaintiff missed her subsequent shifts without providing any notice to Defendant. ( Id. ¶ 4.) After Plaintiff missed additional shifts on February 21 and February 23, 2012, Defendant listed Plaintiff as having been terminated effective on February 20, 2012. ( Id. ¶ 5.)

After Plaintiff's employment with Defendant ended, she attempted to secure other employment. ( See generally Nguyen Dep. at Tr. 78:15-88:9.) These attempts were apparently unfruitful. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's failure to train her as a cashier, coupled with Rojas's comments to her prospective employers that she was not employed as a cashier with Defendant, give rise to a tortious inference with future employment cause of action. ( Id. ) Other than Plaintiff's assertions, the record of devoid of any evidence in this regard.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 9, 2012, Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this matter, alleging various theories of employer-based discrimination during her employment with Defendant. (Dkt. No. 1.) After the completion of discovery, the Defendant filed the instant summary judgment motion on April 1, 2013, arguing that Plaintiff cannot sustain her burden of establishing a prima facie case on any of her causes of action. (Dkt. No. 46.)

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party must show that if the evidentiary material of record were reduced to admissible evidence in court, it would be insufficient to permit the nonmoving party to carry its burden of proof. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

Once the moving party meets the initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmovant who must set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial and may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings. See Shields v. Zuccarini, 254 F.3d 476, 481 (3d Cir. 2001). The court may not weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but rather should determine whether there is a genuine issue as to a material fact. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In doing so, the court must construe the facts and inferences in "a light most favorable" to the nonmoving party. Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 501 U.S. 496, 521 (1991). The nonmoving party "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions' to show the existence of a genuine issue." Podobnik v. United States Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325). If the nonmoving ...


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