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Jones v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 16, 2019

MARGIE FLORES JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, POSTMASTER GENERAL, U.S. POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant.

          JOSE LUIS ONGAY ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF MARGIE FLORES JONES.

          DANIEL J. GIBBONS ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT MEGAN J. BRENNAN, POSTMASTER GENERAL, U.S. POSTAL SERVICE.

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This case concerns allegations of employment discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race, and national origin. Presently before the Court is Defendant Megan Brennan's Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend her Amended Complaint.

         For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and deny Plaintiff's Motion to Amend.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court takes its facts from the parties' statements of material facts. The Court will note relevant disputes.

         Plaintiff Margie Flores-Jones was a Level 20 Postmaster at the Glassboro, New Jersey Post Office in 2008 when she applied for a Level 22 Postmaster position at the Vineland, New Jersey Post Office. Plaintiff is a Puerto Rican woman who was 56 years old at the time of her application. Up to that point, Plaintiff had a 38-year career with the Postal Service. During that time, she had served as postmaster of Maple Shade, New Jersey; Glassboro; Wilmington, Delaware and Vineland (serving there for approximately nine years). Although the Court will not list them, the Court notes Plaintiff received numerous awards for her work and has had an admirable career of public service to the Postal Service.

         Plaintiff was not the only applicant. She was one of three, which included Daniel Herzog (white, male, and 52 years old at the time of application) and Raymond Goss. Both of the other applicants also had long, successful careers with the Postal Service, with Herzog serving for 32 years at the time and Goss for 23 years. All three individuals were interviewed by Post Office Operations Manager, Denise Mason ("POOM Mason"), and District Manager, Joanna Korker ("DM Korker"). The interviews took place on September 10 and 15, 2008.

         POOM Mason selected Herzog for the position and DM Korker concurred in the selection.[1] POOM Mason contemporaneously drafted a memorandum that explained her reasoning for the selection of Herzog and generally summarized the qualifications of each applicant, their performance in the interviews, and the reasons for her selection (the "Selection Memo").[2] The Selection Memo stated the following concerning Plaintiff:

Margie Flores Jones has been with the postal service for 38 years. She is the Postmaster of Glassboro N.J. EAS-20. Margie holds a master's degree from Marymount University and she stated in her interview that she is currently working on her Doctorate Degree. Margie was well spoken during the interview however she could not answer questions related to EXFC grouping reports, the district's current performance in EXFC and last mile failures. Margie could not answer questions related to the assumptions that go into the calculation nor could she answer how dps factors into the cdpom calculation. When asked how Vineland was doing in cdpom Margie did not know and began to fumble through her papers. Margie was previously the Postmaster of Vineland until she left that position in August 2006. When Margie left Vineland she was 3.2% over plan and 2.0% over sply ytd in function 2. She was .5% over plan and .7% to sply ytd in function 4. She ended the year 1.1 % over plan and 5.2% over sply in salaries and benefits. When she arrived in Glassboro the office was 3.3% to plan and -.7% to sply ytd in function 2. Function 4 was .7% to plan and -3.2% to sply ytd. Currently in Glassboro Margie is 2.5% over plan and -.5% to sply ytd in function 2. She is .9% over plan and -3.8% to sply ytd in function 4[.] When Margie arrived the TOE in Glassboro was -1.8% to plan and a cell 13 on the NPA. Currently the office is .6% over plan and a cell 3 NPA. This has resulted in the overall score for the office to decrease from 8.40 to 3.80. Margie provided an incorrect assessment of the overall VOE score in Vineland she stated that the office was currently at 56.3 ytd when in fact they are at 61.9 ytd. She also stated that Glassboro's VOE has increased since her arrival however it has decreased from 68.8 to 67.9. Margie provided an incorrect assessment of the revenue for Vineland, she stated that it was down $159, 172.00. Her response was far above the actual amount. She stated that TOE was an area of opportunity when in fact the office is currently trending positively by .7%. When asked why I should select you Margie talked about her education and just reiterated what was on her application. Margie did not visit the office prior to the interview.[3]

POOM Mason let Plaintiff know of her decision on September 19, 2008 via telephone and followed up with a letter formally memorializing the decision on October 1, 2008.

         On December 31, 2008, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging that she had not been selected for the position because of her age, race, and national origin.[4] A hearing was held before Administrative Judge Julie Procopiow Todd ("AJ Todd") on June 11 and 18, 2013 on these claims. A sex discrimination claim was not included in her complaint but was referenced in a written closing argument made after the hearing and again on administrative appeal.

         After concluding administrative proceedings, Plaintiff brought her claims in this Court by complaint on February 16, 2017. Plaintiff filed claims under Title VII for race, national origin, [5] and sex discrimination and under the ADEA for age discrimination. She amended the complaint on February 28, 2017 and Defendant answered on May 12, 2017. Discovery ensued.

         On June 21, 2018, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff responded and filed a Motion to Amend the Amended Complaint on August 20, 2018. Both motions are fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         This Court possesses jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         B. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that" 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits if any,' . . . demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of 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, 322-23 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56).

         An issue is "genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. "In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidencexis to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'" Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255) .

         Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 ("[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact."); see Singletary v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001) ("Although the initial burden is on the summary judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, 'the burden on the moving party may be discharged by "showing"-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case' when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof." (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325)) .

         Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. A "party opposing summary judgment 'may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the . . . pleading[s].'" Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). For "the non-moving party[] to prevail, [that party] must 'make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" Cooper v. Sniezek, 418 Fed.Appx. 56, 58 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322) . Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257.

         C. Summary Judgment

         Defendant presents three arguments favoring dismissal of Plaintiff's claims. First, Defendant argues Plaintiff's sex discrimination claim must be dismissed because this Court does not possess jurisdiction to adjudicate it. Second, Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to state a prima facie claim for age discrimination. Third, Defendant argues Plaintiff has not established that the legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for not promoting Plaintiff were mere pretext.

         Before determining the merits of each of these arguments, this Court will first address Defendant's second argument concerning the age discrimination claim. In her opposition brief, Plaintiff withdraws her age discrimination claim. (Pl.'s Opp'n Br. 3.) Therefore, this Court will grant Defendant's request to dismiss this claim.[6] This Court will address the other two arguments in turn.

         a. Whether this Court Possesses Subject Matter Jurisdiction over the Sex Discrimination Claim

         Defendants argue this Court does not possess subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's sex discrimination claim and therefore must dismiss it. Defendant reasons that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies because she never raised the issue of sex discrimination in ...


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