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JENKINS v. TWA

May 28, 1986

WILLIE F. JENKINS, Plaintiff, against TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, INC., Defendant


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCLAUGHLIN

McLAUGHLIN, District Judge

Plaintiff, a former employee of defendant Trans World Airlines, Inc. ("TWA"), brings this discrimination action under Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq. Plaintiff, a black male, alleges that his discharge was based, at least in part, upon his race and color. The case was tried before me without a jury. The following constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 52.

 Findings of Fact

 In June 1977, plaintiff was hired as a janitor by John Tschirhart, a TWA maintenance supervisor. Plaintiff was employed by TWA for nearly six years.

 Although he worked primarily as a janitor, he was transferred periodically to a higher paying ramp service position by virtue of a job-bidding procedure which was not based upon merit. At all times relevant to this action, plaintiff was a member of the collective bargaining unit represented by the International Association of Machinists ("IAM").

 Plaintiff's employment history at TWA is replete with warnings, reprimands and other disciplinary action taken in response to his performance. Indeed, within a few months after plaintiff was hired Tschirhart became aware of complaints that the areas to which plaintiff was assigned were not being cleaned properly. Upon speaking to the lead janitor responsible for assigning work to plaintiff, Tschirhart was told that the complaints had been brought to plaintiff's attention. Regrettably, however, the complaints continued.

 During his first year of employment with TWA, plaintiff received several oral warnings -- in the presence of union representatives -- regarding his poor work performance and his insubordinate attitude. Then, in May 1978, plaintiff received a written warning detailing Tschirhart's concerns regarding plaintiff's performance (including plaintiff's unsubstantiated allegations that he was being "picked on" because he was black) and advising plaintiff that further disciplinary action would be taken unless his attitude and cooperation on the job improved. Plaintiff did not file a grievance with respect to the issuance of this letter.

 Later, in June 1981, plaintiff was reprimanded in the presence of a shop steward by still another supervisor, Jim Regan. Regan had also received complaints that the areas to which plaintiff was assigned had not been cleaned.

 In August 1981, during one of plaintiff's temporary ramp assignments, plaintiff was found to be in possession of several miniature liquor bottles which belonged to the airline. Following a hearing, Jenkins was discharged for unauthorized possession of TWA property. Jenkins thereafter filed for unemployment benefits with the New York State Department of Labor. After still another hearing, an Administrative Law Judge "ALJ") found that Jenkins had misappropriated company property. *fn1" An arbitration panel later reinstated plaintiff, but ruled that the months between his termination and the reinstatement be deemed "a penalty suspension without pay."

 In October 1982, Jenkins received a two-day suspension for his role in causing damage to an airplane cargo door. Both Mr. Clark, plaintiff's supervisor at the time, and Mr. Deyo, who wrote the disciplinary memorandum with respect to the incident, are black.

 In January 1983, Jenkins was transferred to the twilight shift in the area known as Corridor 2 of Hangar 12. Both the supervisor (Mr. Smith) and the lead janitor (Mr. Seraphin) on this shift were black. From the outset, both men complained about plaintiff's performance. Jenkins received frequent warnings from Smith for not performing his assigned tasks properly and for being outside his assigned work area without authorization. Upon being advised of this, Jenkins' union representatives held several meetings with him in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

 Despite the union's efforts, however, Jenkins' performance continued to deteriorate. In March 1983, Tschirhart was advised by a TWA maintenance coordinator that plaintiff was found sleeping on a bench during working hours. Approximately one week prior to this incident, the same coordinator had complained to Tschirhart regarding plaintiff's performance.

 With this background, I come to the incident which proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. On March 17, 1983, lead janitor Seraphin assigned plaintiff to clean the walls and fixtures in the maintenance coordinator's office. Jenkins initially refused to perform the assignment, whereupon a meeting was convened between Jenkins, Smith, and a union representative. At this meeting, plaintiff was again informed that his performance was unsatisfactory. Smith, plaintiff's supervisor, characterized plaintiff's attitude at the meeting as negative and hostile. Indeed, as he was leaving the meeting, plaintiff call Smith a "racist M.F." *fn2" On March 23, 1983, Smith issued a disciplinary memorandum (which was placed in plaintiff's personnel file) memorializing the events which occurred at the meeting and warning plaintiff that further disciplinary action could be taken if his performance did not improve. See Defendant's Exhibit O.

 On March 24, 1983, plaintiff was again assigned to clean the walls and fixtures in the maintenance coordinator's office. Later that evening, lead Seraphin told Smith that Jenkins still had not cleaned the office. Smith checked the walls in the office and noted that they were dirty. Since Smith was leaving for vacation at the conclusion of ...


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