PHILADELPHIA – A federal judge has denied the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's motion for summary judgment in a case brought by a former employee who alleged he was subjected to racial discrimination from his supervisor.
Robert Braddock, a Delaware resident, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Oct. 22, 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against SEPTA and two of its employees, Albert Matejik and John Jamison.
The complaint accuses SEPTA of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).
Braddock, who seeks more than $100,000 in damages, claims that he was terminated from his job of 32 years as a SEPTA Yard Master in April 2011, after he complained to Matejik, his then-supervisor, that Matejik was subjecting him to racial discrimination.
The plaintiff, who is black, says he also reported the matter to SEPTA’s Equal Employment Office in April 2011 prior to his termination.
The suit alleges that the defendant’s chief officer, Jamison, discharged Braddock in May 2011 for conduct that was “insubordinate, unruly, and unprofessional.”
According to the lawsuit, Jamison told the plaintiff he was taking such action because two female employees had reported that Braddock had opened the door into a room and was observed standing in the doorway in his undergarments.
Braddock denied those allegations and claimed that he was actually fired for complaining about the discriminatory treatment.
“SEPTA accepted the false statements of the female Caucasian employees as fact, despite Plaintiff’s vehement denial of the allegations and the fact that there was no corroborating witness to such vexatious allegations,” the complaint reads.
According to the lawsuit, SEPTA had knowledge one of the female employees who lodged the complaint about Braddock’s alleged inappropriate behavior had previously berated him on the phone, when Braddock was the woman’s supervisor.
The plaintiff further alleges that SEPTA management, Matejik included, listened to an audio recording of the female employee being insubordinate to Braddock, but that she was never disciplined by the defendants.
Subsequent to his termination, Braddock retained legal counsel and appealed his termination.
During a later hearing in September 2011, it was determined that Braddock’s firing was without just cause and in violation of his due process rights.
SEPTA was then ordered to reinstate Braddock to his former position.
According to the lawsuit, Braddock claims SEPTA further retaliated against him by delaying both his reinstatement and compensation of back pay.
Braddock claims he has sustained “significant economic loss as a result of Defendants’ race discrimination and retaliatory actions.”
Nevertheless, the defendants moved for summary judgment against Braddock, claiming he has not proven he was terminated on the basis of racial discrimination, and “there is no issue of material fact regarding whether Braddock engaged in protected conduct” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or the PHRA.
The matter is now before Judge Thomas N. O’Neill, Jr.
“Defendants contend generally that Braddock’s allegations are too vague, equivocal, self-serving and not objectively reasonable to constitute protected activity under Title VII,” O’Neill wrote.
“However…defendants fall short in their contention that there are no undisputed issues of material fact regarding Braddock’s complaint of racial discrimination by Matejik to SEPTA’s EEO office prior to his termination.”
O’Neill pointed out Braddock submitted a sworn declaration testifying to the fact that he completed and sent in a complaint regarding Matejik’s alleged discrimination towards him on April 20, 2011, to SEPTA Equal Employment Officer Anthony Miller.
“Miller’s deposition has been noticed but not taken and the discovery period has not concluded,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill further noted the defendants filed a declaration from SEPTA EEO Director Lorrain McKenzie, claiming there was no record on file of Braddock reporting discrimination to the EEO office prior to his firing.
It was that key discrepancy which led O’Neill to deny the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
“Braddock’s declaration that on April 20, 2011 he complained to the EEO that Matejik racially discriminated against him and McKenzie’s declaration that the EEO lacks any record to that effect, creates a genuine disputed issue of material fact as to whether Braddock engaged in protected activity prior to his termination and thus I will deny defendants’ motion for summary judgment,” O’Neill opined.
In addition to denying the motion for summary judgment on behalf of the defendants, O’Neill called for the discovery process in this case to continue.
In addition to the $100,000 in compensatory damages, Braddock also seeks unspecified punitive damages, as well as back pay, lost benefits, interest, attorneys fees, expert witness fees and other court relief.
The plaintiff is represented by Philadelphia attorney Olugbenga O. Abiona.