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Holt v. Roadway Package Systems

August 21, 2007

OWEN C. HOLT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROADWAY PACKAGE SYSTEMS, INC. (FAG), DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Owen C. Holt ("Holt") brings this action alleging discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color and national origin, as well as failure to reasonably accommodate an unspecified disability, against his former employer, FedEx Ground Package System ("FedEx Ground"), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. FedEx Ground now moves for summary judgment. For the reasons stated, FedEx Ground's motion is granted and the complaint is dismissed.

Holt had been employed by FedEx Ground, and its predecessor, for five years. On June 24, 2002, FedEx Ground terminated Holt's employment, citing performance issues including Holt's consistent and repeated failure to arrive to work on time, failure to work the required number of hours, failure to complete paperwork accurately, failure to create or maintain personnel files for subordinates, and delegation of certain of his duties to others.

Two weeks after his termination, Holt filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR") alleging discrimination. That complaint was referred to the EEOC, which made no finding of discrimination but issued a right- to-sue letter which Holt received on March 5, 2004. This complaint was timely filed on May 28, 2004.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On July 7, 1997, Holt, an African-American man of Jamaican descent, was hired by FedEx Ground's predecessor as a Pickup and Delivery ("P&D") Coordinator at the company's Rochester Terminal. Ultimately, Holt was promoted to the position of Service Manager II in January of 2002. In that capacity, Holt was responsible for overseeing outbound shipments on the terminal's loading dock, the unloading and check-in of packages arriving from other FedEx Ground facilities, the assignment and supervision of package handlers and data entry employees, and the engagement of independent contractors to pick up and deliver packages. Holt was supervised by Terminal Manager Bryce Newton ("Newton").

Following Holt's assumption of the Service Manager II position, Holt was repeatedly reprimanded by Newton for failing to arrive to work on time and for leaving work without completing his assigned responsibilities. Newton requested that Holt begin reporting to work on time in six separate discussions between January 9, 2002 and January 31, 2002. Nonetheless, Holt admits that prior to January 31, 2002 he was often late for work, and estimates that from January 31, 2002 until the date of his termination in June 2002, he arrived late to work every single day -- 100% of the time. (Dkt. #36, Exh. C).

Holt also admits that he did not consistently work the full ten (10) hours required for his shift, instead working an average of only eight (8) or nine (9) hours. Newton reprimanded Holt and requested that he work the full ten-hour shift in five separate discussions between January 17, 2002 and January 31, 2002. (Dkt. #36, Exhs. D, H, I).

On February 14, 2002, Holt contacted FedEx Ground's Regional Human Resources Manager, Jayne Powell, and complained that Newton was being overly critical of his timeliness, hours worked, and performance. Holt, Powell and Newton met to discuss Holt and Newton's difficulties. As a result of the discussion, Holt and Newton agreed that in order to accommodate the work schedule of Holt's wife and attendant child-care needs, Holt's report-to-work time would be adjusted to 3:00pm instead of 2:30pm. At the close of the meeting, Powell proposed that Holt and Newton "turn over a new leaf" with respect to their working relationship. Holt and Newton thereafter met, shook hands and pledged to start anew with no hard feelings.

Despite their temporary truce, it is undisputed that Holt continued to arrive after his designated 3:00pm start time and to work abbreviated shifts thereafter, and Newton upbraided Holt on several occasions for tardiness, failing to work a full shift, failing to complete Daily Data Reconciliation (a process used to confirm that independent contractor paperwork and FedEx Ground computers accurately reflected the delivery of packages), failing to timely assemble personnel files for new subordinate employees, and for generating allegedly incomplete, incorrect and even allegedly falsified written reports and other paperwork.

On April 29, 2002, Newton wrote a memo to his supervisor, Assistant Regional Director of Operations Bill McDermott, stating that he believed Holt lacked integrity and that his performance issues were jeopardizing the quality of service that FedEx Ground's Rochester Terminal strived to provide. Newton recommended that Holt be terminated. Pursuant to FedEx Ground's policies, Newton's termination recommendation was reviewed by the FedEx Ground Human Resources Department and Legal Department, after which it was determined that Holt should be afforded additional time to improve his performance.

On June 13, 2002, Holt found what he considered to be sensitive information concerning his employment on a printer in the office, which he believed Newton had printed. Holt called Powell, complaining that he suspected Newton was trying to gather evidence in order to "get rid" of him. Powell suggested that Holt discuss his performance issues with Newton directly. Holt confronted Newton, stating that he believed Newton was scrutinizing his performance and documenting their interactions, and vowed to do the same.

On June 24, 2002, after confirming that Holt's attendance, time records and paperwork had not improved, FedEx Ground terminated Holt's employment.

In his complaint, Holt claims: (1) discriminatory termination; (2) failure to promote; (3) failure to provide him with reasonable accommodations; (4) harassment based on unequal terms and conditions of employment; and (4) retaliation for complaining about discrimination or harassment that had been directed toward him. Specifically, Holt claims that his supervisor, Newton: (1) whistled "Dixie" in and around the office; (2) frequently cursed in the office; (3) would "harass and badger" Holt over his arriving to work late and leaving early, and other performance issues, causing him to feel alienated; (4) refused to permit Holt to delegate managerial responsibilities to his subordinates; (5) micromanaged Holt and checked reports of the hours he had worked, but did not do so for other managers; (6) frequently accused Holt of misreporting productivity numbers and doing the "bare minimum to get by"; (7) punished other managers less often, and less severely, for mistakes than Holt; (8) reassigned Holt to a different shift, with the knowledge and intent that Holt's personal family schedule would make it difficult for him to get to work on time; and (9) permitted one of Holt's co-workers to frequently flatulate in Holt's presence. Holt also complains that an independent contractor hired by FedEx Ground called him a "boy" and a "porch monkey," that a fellow manager once referred to another facility as being "nigger rigged" and described Jamaica, Holt's country of origin, as a "Third World Country," and that another co-worker criticized the sentiments expressed in Reggae music. It is undisputed that Holt never complained to FedEx Ground management or human resources personnel about any of these actions or comments, with the exception of the "porch monkey" comment, which Holt claims he reported to his then-supervisor and to a former Terminal Manager, Frank Rome. Holt is unaware of whether the independent contractor was ever disciplined over that incident.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment in ...


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