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BROWN v. RUNYON

April 24, 1998

REGINALD K. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
MARVIN T. RUNYON, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KEYS

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

 This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Reginald Brown worked for the United States Postal Service ("Postal Service") from 1979 until his termination on June 16, 1995. (Defendant's 12(M) Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute [Def.'s 12(M)] P 1.) Mr. Brown's employment record reflects four reprimands for attendance problems during his tenure with the Postal Service. (Plaintiff's 12(N)(3)(b) Statement of Additional Facts [Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b)] P 2.)

 During the events leading up to this dispute, Mr. Brown was assigned to the Austin Station as a mail carrier. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 1.) Mr. Brown's direct superior at the Austin Station was Berita Campbell, a customer service supervisor. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 3.) Jacquelyn Walker Glenn, Assistant Supervisor, also possessed disciplinary authority over Mr. Brown. (Def.'s 12(M), Ex. 4, P 3.) The manager, and ultimate disciplinary decision-maker, at the Austin Station was John Sims. (Def.'s 12(M) P 20.) In late 1994 and early 1995, Mr. Brown and Ms. Campbell experienced conflict in their working relationship. Ms. Campbell made comments directed at Mr. Brown including "you're not acting like a man," and "why don't you be a man about it." (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 4.) Mr. Brown complained to his union steward and the Postal Service's Employee Assistance Program ("EAP") about the comments made by Ms. Campbell. *fn1" (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 5.) However, at his deposition, Mr. Brown was unable to recall when Ms. Campbell made the comments or whether she treated him differently than other mail carriers she supervised. (Def.'s 12(M) PP 25, 26.)

 It appears that these comments were made some time before the March 23, 1995 incident that led to Mr. Brown's suspension and his eventual termination of employment. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) PP 4-6.) A few weeks prior, Mr. Brown decided to sell one of his Postal Service uniform coats to a new part-time Postal Service employee, Asyia Woodley, for $ 75. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P6.) At the time the coat agreement was made, Ms. Woodley was assigned to the Austin Station, however, she was transferred to a different station -- Garfield Station -- at least a week before March 23, 1995. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b), Ex. D at 7-8; Def.'s 12(M) P 5.)

 Mr. Brown asserts that he gave the coat to Ms. Woodley in exchange for $ 50 in early March, and that the remaining $ 25 was to be paid later. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 6.) Ms. Woodley asserts that she gave a $ 50 down payment to Mr. Brown in early March, but that Mr. Brown did not deliver the coat until March 23, 1995. *fn2" (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) PP 7, 8.)

 Since this case is at the summary judgment stage, the Court will construe the facts in the light most favorable to Mr. Brown. Regardless, in either version, on March 23, 1995, Ms. Woodley decided that the coat did not meet her expectations and she refused to pay the final $ 25 owed to Mr. Brown. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) PP 10, 12.)

 That day, Ms. Woodley and Mr. Brown quarreled about the coat deal while they were still on Postal Service property, in the Austin Station building. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) PP 10-12.) During the argument, Ms. Woodley was "off the clock," however, Mr. Brown was "on the clock" (i.e. on duty). (Def.'s 12(M) P 5; Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 38.) The argument traveled outside, as they walked to Ms. Woodley's car, parked off Postal Office property near an Amoco gas station. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 13; Def.'s 12(M) P 4.) Apparently, since the coat deal had broken down, Mr. Brown wanted Ms. Woodley to take him to a currency exchange where he could get $ 50. Then Mr. Brown intended to return Ms. Woodley's $ 50 payment so that he could keep his coat. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b), Ex. D at 15.)

 They never made it to the currency exchange. After walking to the car, a fight ensued. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) PP 13-17.) Each party accuses the other of being the aggressor in the physical altercation. *fn3" (Id.) Testimony of witnesses to the fracas does not clear the fog of conflicting accounts. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) PP 28-33; Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b), Ex. G.) Nonetheless, it is clear that the fight ended after Mr. Brown hit Ms. Woodley on the shoulders twice, she fell to the ground, and he walked away. *fn4" (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) PP 14, 30.)

 Ms. Woodley then returned to the Austin Station and reported the incident to Ms. Campbell. (Def.'s 12(M) P 6.) The Postal Inspector's office and the police department were notified of the altercation. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) PP 19-20.) Mr. Brown returned to Austin Station to "punch" his time card, which would take him "off the clock." (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 40.) Before punching his time card, Mr. Brown encountered Ms. Campbell, but they did not discuss the incident that had occurred between him and Ms. Woodley. (Id.)

 After Mr. Brown had punched out, Moutrie Salter, the Postal Inspector, arrived at the Austin Station, and took a statement from Ms. Woodley. (Def.'s 12(M) PP 8-9.) The Postal Inspector also interviewed Gustavo Zavala, an Amoco gas station attendant, who witnessed part of the physical altercation. (Def.'s 12(M) P 10.) Mr. Zavala did not sign any statements at that interview. *fn5" (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 28; Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b), Ex. H at 22.)

 The next day, Mr. Brown's superiors -- Ms. Campbell and Mr. Sims -- signed a "Notice of Emergency Placement In Off Duty Status" document, and suspended Mr. Brown. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 41.) The document explained that Mr. Brown was suspended because he had engaged in a physical altercation, with another employee, while on the clock. *fn6" (Id.) That day, Ms. Woodley filed criminal misdemeanor charges against Mr. Brown. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b), Ex. F.) These charges were later dismissed in state court.

 It was not until March 29, 1995, six days after the parking lot fight, that the Postal Inspector scheduled an interview with Mr. Brown to discuss the altercation. (Def.'s 12(M) P 13.) At the scheduled meeting, the Postal Inspector requested that Mr. Brown sign a waiver of rights form. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 45.) Mr. Brown refused to sign the form and the interview was canceled. (Id.) Although neither the Postal Inspector nor anyone at the Postal Service ever took a formal statement from Mr. Brown, he remained suspended until May 6, 1995, when he received a "Notice of Removal." (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 47.) The notice was signed by Jacquelyn Walker Glenn and John Sims. (Id.) The notice indicated that Mr. Brown was terminated because he "physically assaulted" Ms. Woodley "while in postal uniform." (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b), Ex. N.) The termination was effective on June 16, 1995. (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) P 47.)

 Mr. Brown filed Step 1, 2, and 3 grievances with the Postal Service; however, they were all denied by the Postal Service. *fn7" (Pl.'s 12(N)(3)(b) PP 49-51.) On November 14, 1995, a hearing on the grievances was held before an arbitrator. (Def.'s 12(M) P 28.) Based considerably on the Postal Inspector's report, Ms. Woodley's statement, and the Austin Station manager's termination decision, the arbitrator concluded that Mr. Brown was the aggressor in the March 23, 1995, altercation and, therefore, denied Mr. Brown's grievance. (Def.'s 12(M), Ex. 3, United States Postal Serv. v. National Assoc. of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO, Case Nos. J9ON-4J-D95059721 GTS-6721 and J9ON-4J-D95061655 GTS-6722, at 12-14 (1995) (Erbs, Arb.).)

 On September 26, 1996, Mr. Brown filed a complaint in federal district court. Count I of his Complaint alleged sexual discrimination in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16 ("Title VII"), and count II sought reversal of the arbitrator's ruling. On ...


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