190 F.3d 151 (3rd Cir. 1999), 98-5150, Iadimarco v Runyon

Docket Nº:98-5150
Citation:190 F.3d 151
Case Date:September 08, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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190 F.3d 151 (3rd Cir. 1999)




No. 98-5150

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

September 8, 1999

Argued: February 9, 1999

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey D.C. Civil No. 95-cv-05873 District Judge: Hon. Garrett E. Brown, Jr.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Robert W. Beattie, Esq. (Argued) Beattie & Murray 800 Riverview Dr., Suite 103 Brielle, NJ 08730 Attorney for Appellant.

Dorothy J. Donnelly, Esq. (Argued) Office of United States Attorney 402 East State Street Room 502 Trenton, NJ 08608 Attorney for Appellee

Before: Becker, Chief Judge, McKee, Circuit Judges Lee, District Judge[*]


McKEE, Circuit Judge.

We are asked to review the District Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States Postal Service, and against its employee, Charles Iadimarco.

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Iadimarco filed an action under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act alleging "reverse discrimination" after he was denied a requested promotion within the Postal Service. The District Court ruled that Iadimarco had not established a prima facie case of illegal discrimination. The court also ruled in the alternative that, assuming Iadimarco had established a prima facie case, he had not rebutted the defendant's race-neutral explanation for the challenged employment decision. For the reasons that follow, we hold that Iadimarco established a prima facie case under Title VII. We also hold that he produced sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the defendant's explanation was a pretext for illegal discrimination. Accordingly, we will reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

In 1992, the Postal Service undertook a national reorganization in which many jobs were consolidated or eliminated. After the reorganization, managerial employees were informed that they had to submit a "991 form" to indicate their preferences for available jobs. Employees could apply for positions as long as they were within six EAS levels for processing and distribution positions. Charles Iadimarco, a White male, submitted a 991 form indicating his preference for three positions: Manager of Inplant Support at Kilmer (EAS 21), Manager of In-plant Support at Trenton (EAS 21), and Manager of In-plant Support at Monmouth (EAS 19).

After the Kilmer and Trenton jobs were filled by White males, Iadimarco contacted Robert Towler, the selecting official for Monmouth, about the Monmouth position. Towler had rated each of the 41 applicants for the Monmouth position according to a "knowledge, skills and abilities" matrix ("KSA") that was part of the applicants' 991 form.1 Iadimarco was one of only three candidates for the Monmouth position who received a rating of "superior" in every KSA category.

The District Court found that Towler interviewed Iadimarco for the Monmouth position in March 1993, though the issue was disputed. In any event, Iadimarco claims that Towler told him that he (Iadimarco) would be selected for the position pending approval of Henry Pankey, Towler's supervisor. However, on March 25, 1993, and again on April 1, 1993, Towler requested permission to re-post the Monmouth position. At trial, Towler testified that the other two top candidates for the Monmouth position had been placed in other positions before the Monmouth position could be filled, and he did not think that Iadimarco should be promoted by "default." According to Towler, he therefore re-posted the position rather than merely hiring Iadimarco who was then the only applicant remaining who had received a superior rating in every KSA category. Iadimarco alleges that Towler re-posted the position because Towler was having difficulty getting Iadimarco's name past Pankey. Iadimarco's contention is based upon his belief that Pankey wanted to hire a minority applicant for the Monmouth

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position to diversify the work place.2 Iadimarco's assertion is based in large part upon a memorandum that Pankey issued to all plant managers and installation heads in December of 1992 (the "diversity memo"). The memo stated:

As we proceed to fill vacancies, I want to ensure that very serious consideration is given to the issue of diversity -- I cannot emphasize this point more strongly. The management teams in our plants should reflect the composition of our workforce and communities if we are to benefit from the contributions that minorities, women, and ethnic groups can bring to our decision making processes and the social harmony that this will instill in our work environment.

Your personal commitment is needed -- if there are any questions on this matter, please feel free to contact me.

Although Pankey admitted signing this memo, he denied writing it.

On or about March 25, 1993, Iadimarco and Towler discussed placing Iadimarco into the position of Operations Support Specialist (EAS 16) in the Monmouth facility. Iadimarco claims that he did not accept the position, but Towler testified that Iadimarco did accept it. Nonetheless, it is undisputed that Iadimarco did accept the position of Operations Support Specialist in the Trenton facility in early March or April. Thereafter, Toni Williams, a Black female, was promoted to Acting In-plant Support Manager for the Monmouth facility. Towler formally announced Ms. Williams' selection as the In-plant Support Manager approximately two weeks later.

On May 28, 1993, Iadimarco initiated a proceeding before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because he believed that he had been denied the Monmouth position because he is a White male. The complaint was eventually heard by an Administrative Law Judge who agreed that Iadimarco had been the victim of illegal race and gender discrimination. However, the ALJ's findings were rejected by the EEOC. The agency concluded that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination because he had accepted another position before being denied the In-plant Manager position at Monmouth. Iadimarco then filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey alleging illegal racial discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Following discovery, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Postal Service and against Iadimarco. This appeal followed.3

II. Discussion

A. The District Court's Decision.

The District Court concluded that it had to apply the ever-present burden-shifting analysis announced in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). In conducting that analysis, the District Court noted a split among the courts of appeals in "reverse discrimination" cases as to the prerequisites of a prima facie case required of a White male. See Dist. Ct. Op. at 5, n.2, and cases cited therein. The court stated that although "the Third Circuit has yet to address this issue, most of the [district] courts in this Circuit have required plaintiffs to first establish background circumstances that support an inference that the defendant employer is "the unusual employer who discriminates

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against the majority." Id. (quoting Wallick v. AT & T Communications Inc. , 1991 WL 635610 at *6 (D.N.J. 1991) ("Although Title VII .. . prohibits discrimination against a majority group, `it makes little sense, within the historical context of the Act, to infer discrimination against [the majority] in the same way that discrimination is inferred against [minorities].' ")). The District Court quoted Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150 (D.C. Cir. 1993), in observing that evidence of "background circumstances" "can be divided into two general categories: (1) evidence indicating that the particular employer at issue has some reason or inclination to discriminate invidiously against [W]hites, . . . . and (2) evidence indicating that there is something `fishy' about the facts of the case at hand that raises an inference of discrimination." Harding, 9 F.3d at 153.4

The District Court then held that Iadimarco did not "sustain his burden of showing the requisite background circumstances," Dist. Ct. Op. at 6, under Harding. The court held that "plaintiff has failed to present any evidence to show that he was more qualified than Williams." Id. at 7. In reaching that Conclusion, the court rejected Iadimarco's request that it examine the job applications of the two competing candidates and find that he was more qualified than Williams. The court stated "[p]laintiff does not . . . explain . . . how his application exhibits that he has `superior qualifications than Williams.' Moreover, from examining the applications, this Court is unable to determine that plaintiff had `superior qualifications.' " Id.5

The District Court reasoned that the mere fact that both Pankey and Towler were Black was "insufficient to show background circumstances supporting the suspicion that the defendant is the unusual employer who discriminates against the majority." Dist. Ct. Op. at 8. We agree that the race of the selecting officials is not a sufficient circumstance to establish a prima facie case of discrimination by itself. Although the race and/or gender of the individual(s) responsible for a hiring decision is certainly relevant, it is insufficient to establish a prima facie case of discrimination without more.

In holding that Iadimarco had not presented any evidence of discrimination other than the race of Pankey and Towler, the District Court rejected Iadimarco's assertion that the diversity memo was a "smoking gun." See Appellee's Br. at 22. The District Court held that the memo was...

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