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Broadway v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

January 24, 2018

ERIC C. BROADWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          JAMES C. DEVER III Chief United States District Judge.

         On August 15, 2016, Eric C. Broadway ("Broadway" or "plaintiff') filed a pro se Title VH religious discrimination claim against United Parcel Service, Inc. ("UPS" or "defendant") in Wake County Superior Court [D.E. 1-1]. On September 16, 2016, UPS removed the action to this court [D.E. 1]. On August 30, 2017, UPS moved for summary judgment [D.E. 15] and filed a memorandum in support [D.E, 16]. On October 4, 2017, Broadway responded in opposition [D.E. 20]. On October 18, 2017, UPS replied [D.E. 21].[1] As explained below, the court grants UPS's motion for summary judgment.

         I.

         In May 2013, Broadway began working for UPS as a part-time loader. See Pl.' s Dep. 60, 64 [D.E. 16-3]; Grant Decl.¶25 [D.E. 16-1]. In the fall of2013, Broadway applied to be a cover driver. See Pl's Dep. at 64, 67-68; Grant Decl. ¶ 25. Cover drivers are part-time employees who "cover" for full-time package car drivers when they are absent or when UPS experiences an unusually high workload. See Pl's Dep. at 64-65; Grant Decl. ¶ 25. In October 2013, before starting as a cover driver, Broadway requested an exception to the UPS Appearance Standards Code. See Coates Decl. ¶7 [D.E. 16-2]; Pl's Dep. at 120. Broadway is a Rastifarian and wears his hair in dread locks. On October 24, 2013, Broadway completed a religious accommodations request. See Pl's Dep. at 99; Coates Decl. ¶ 8. On November 22, 2013, UPS granted Broadway's accommodation request concerning the UPS appearance standards. See Pl's Dep. at 121; Coates Decl. ¶ 8.

         In the summer of 2014, UPS assigned Broadway to work as a regular temporary driver at UPS's Raleigh Metro Center, and Broadway reported to supervisor Frederick Fuller ("Fuller"). See Fuller Decl. ¶¶ 7-8 [D.E. 16-7]. On June 16, 2015, Fuller conducted scan-check audits on approximately fourteen drivers, including Broadway. See Id. ¶ 18. The scan-check audit showed discrepancies in Broadway's package deliveries. See Id. ¶¶ 18-20; Grant Decl. ¶¶ 26-27. Specifically, the scan-check audit showed that Broadway had service failures, with eight packages recorded as "not found." See Fuller Decl. ¶ 18. UPS uses a "not found" code when there has been a "misload" (i.e., the package was supposed to be on the driver's package car, but was not actually loaded due to an error in the preloading process). See Grant Decl. ¶ 23. In addition, the daily discrepancy report for June 16, 2015, showed that Broadway had recorded 21 packages (8 from the scan-check audit and 13 others) as "not found" and therefore not delivered on June 16, 2015. See Fuller Decl. ¶ 19; Grant Decl. Exs. 3 & 4. Pursuant to UPS policy, Fuller investigated these service failures. See Fuller Decl. ¶ 20.

         Fuller concluded that recording "not found" for the eight scan-check audited packages was unusual because the packages had physically been loaded on Broadway's package car before Broadway's departure for the day. See Id. ¶ 19. Fuller asked Package Dispatch Supervisor, Timothy Sill, to examine Broadway's package car to see if any packages were still on the car. See Id. ¶ 20; Sill Decl. ¶ 4 [D.E. 16-8]. Sill not only found the eight packages that appeared in the scan-check audit report, but also twelve other packages that Broadway recorded as "not found" and had not delivered. See Fuller Decl. ¶ 20; Sill Decl. ¶¶ 4-5. Fuller concluded that Broadway had improperly recorded the 20 packages as "not found." See Fuller Decl. ¶ 21.

         On June 17, 2015, Fuller met with Broadway and Broadway's union steward to discuss Broadway's service failures. See Id. ¶ 22; Pl's Dep. at 165. Broadway attempted to explain why he recorded so many packages as "not found, " even though the packages were on Broadway's package car. See Fuller Decl. ¶¶ 22-23; Pl's Dep. at 168-69. Fuller did not find Broadway's explanation credible given that four of the packages were so large that Broadway would have had to walk around the packages to access other packages that Broadway delivered on June 16, 2015. See Fuller Decl. ¶ 23. Moreover, during the meeting, Broadway never acknowledged the full scope of recording so many packages as "not found." See Id. ¶ 24.

         Because 20 packages were still on Broadway's package car when Broadway returned to Metro Center and because Broadway recorded those packages as "not found, " Fuller concluded that Broadway failed to deliver the packages and falsely claimed that the packages were "not found." See Id. ¶¶ 27-28. Fuller then decided to begin the process under the collective bargaining agreement to terminate Broadway's employment for violating UPS's procedure concerning package delivery and violating UPS's honesty in employment policy by creating inaccurate records about packages that UPS entrusted to him. See Id. ¶ 29. Before beginning the discharge process, Fuller reviewed the circumstances with the UPS labor department to ensure there was "good cause" for the discharge. See id; Grant Decl. ¶ 26.

         On July 1, 2015, UPS and the union held a local hearing concerning Broadway. See Fuller Decl. ¶ 30; Grant Decl. ¶ 27. At the local hearing, Broadway admitted that he wrongly recorded four packages, but was not forthcoming about the scope of his misconduct. See Pl's Dep. at 182; Fuller Decl. ¶¶ 30-31; Grant Decl. ¶ 27. After the local hearing and pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, the union scheduled an AAPGC panel hearing for the week of August 22, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland. See Grant Decl.¶ 28. Broadway did not attend the AAPGC panel hearing. See id.; Pl's Dep. at 183. Instead, before the hearing, the union business agent told the UPS labor manager that Broadway would resign if UPS converted his termination for dishonesty into a resignation for personal reasons. See Pl's Dep. at 183-85; Grant Decl. ¶ 28. In accordance with Broadway's request, UPS agreed to convert his termination into a resignation. See Pl's Dep. at 183-85; Grant Decl. ¶ 28. The union representative then told the panel that the case had been settled/withdrawn. See Pl's Dep. at 183-85; Grant Decl. ¶ 28.

         On September 9, 2015, Broadway filed an EEOC charge alleging religious discrimination. Pl's Dep. at 210; (Ex. 24) p.E. 16-6] 12. Specifically, Broadway alleged that UPS terminated his employment because of his Rastifarian religion. See Ex. 24. On May 10, 2016, the EEOC dismissed Broadway's EEOC charge. Pl's Dep. 211-12; (Ex. 25) p.E. 16-6] 13.

         II.

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and applies well-established principles under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Scott v. Harris. 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett 477 U.S. 317, 324-26 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-55 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate "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); see Anderson. 477 U.S. at 247-48. The party seeking summary judgment must initially demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact or the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. Once the movant meets its burden, the nonmoving party then must affirmatively demonstrate that there exists a genuine issue of material fact for trial. See Matsushita. 475 U.S. at 587. "[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson. 477 U.S. at 249. Conjectural arguments or a "scintilla of evidence" will not suffice. See id. at 249-52: Beale v. Hardy. 769 F.2d 213.214 (4th Cir. 1985) ("The nonmoving party., .cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another."). "[T]here must be evidence on which the [fact finder] could reasonably find for the [nonmoving party]." Anderson. 477 U.S. at 252. In evaluating material submitted in support of or in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, the court may reject inadmissible evidence (such as hearsay). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4); Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 962 (4th Cir. 1996).

         Title VII prohibits an employer from terminating an employee "because of such individual's ... religion." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). A plaintiff may establish such a Title VII violation in two ways. First, a plaintiff may demonstrate through direct evidence that illegal discrimination motivated an employer's adverse employment action. See, e.g., Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins., 416 F.3d 310, 318 (4th Cir. 2005). Alternatively, a plaintiff may proceed under the burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See generally Hill v. Lockheed Martin Logistics Mgmt., Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 284-85 (4th Cir. 2004) (en banc), abrogated in part on other grounds by Univ. of Tex. Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar. 570 U.S. 338(2013).

         Direct evidence is evidence from which no inference is required. To show religious discrimination by direct evidence, a plaintiff typically must show discriminatory motivation on the part of the decisionmaker involved in the adverse employment action. See Id. at 286-91. Such direct evidence would include a decisionmaker's statement that the decisionmaker terminated the plaintiff due to his religion. See Id. at 3 03. The decisionmaker must be either the employer's formal i decisionmaker or a subordinate who was "principally responsible for, " or "the actual decisionmaker behind, " the allegedly discriminatory action. Reev ...


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