Nicholas Malfitano Jan. 13, 2016, 2:10pm


ALLENTOWN – A federal court granted summary judgment to Advance Auto Parts on Monday, in a race discrimination case filed against it by a former employee of Hispanic descent.

Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl ruled plaintiff Luis Lorenzo Mojica “relied in part on his own subjective inference that his supervisor had discriminatory motives, which does not constitute evidence.”

Schmehl added Mojica offered evidence of some white employees receiving favorable treatment by his former employer, but didn’t have the necessary information to connect those incidents to his own situation.

Mojica, originally from the Dominican Republic, was employed with Advance Auto Parts as a General Warehouse Worker for exactly one year, from May 9, 2011 to May 9, 2012. Mojica’s direct supervisors reported to Jeff Campbell, Third Shift Production Manager.

Mojica pointed to four incidents during his tenure which he said reflected racial discrimination on the part of the defendant: his not being allowed to use break or “gap” time by Campbell during a shift; being disproportionately assigned to heavy work zones; not being able to drive power equipment to the conveyor belt area; and finally, being expected to complete a job in the system log after already preparing to leave for the day. 

In that last incident, Mojica did not complete the job and left the facility.

Mojica argued white colleagues of his were not subject to these same workplace procedures and, in fact, Mojica was fired in May 2012, in direct response to his decision to leave on that day in question.

In March, Mojica filed the lawsuit, bringing claims for discrimination, hostile environment, wrongful termination related to his national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), as well as a race discrimination claim. In response, Advance Auto Parts filed a motion for summary judgment against Mojica.

Under Title VII and the PHRA, a plaintiff must show that (1) they are a member of a protected class, (2) they were qualified for the position they sought to attain or retain, (3) they suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) the action occurred under circumstances that could give rise to an inference of intentional discrimination.

Schmehl said, “The only real question on any of the claims in this case is whether plaintiff has put forward evidence supporting the existence of discrimination claim.”

Schmehl added the record was “woefully devoid of facts that would support the necessary elements of plaintiff’s claims”, and Mojica’s unsupported statements involving comparators not identified more specifically than as “white guys” would not suffice.

“We need to know who these employees were, along with their positions and other information, in order to determine if there are any ‘differentiating or mitigating circumstances,’ which might include, for instance, their seniority and history with the company,” Schmehl said. “It is plaintiff’s burden to identify them so that any determination whatsoever can be made as to their similarity. He has failed to carry that burden.”

Schmehl concluded by granting summary judgment for Advance Auto Parts.

“This leaves no legally cognizable evidence to ground an inference of discrimination. Plaintiff thus cannot support a prima facie case on any of his claims, and the court will grant summary judgment in favor of defendant,” Schmehl said.

The plaintiff is represented by Joel Weisberg of McCarthy Weisberg Cummings, in Harrisburg.

The defendant is represented by Andrew Lafiura and Katharine Thomas Batista of Jackson Lewis, in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 5:15-cv-01418

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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