Pennsylvania Record

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Third Circuit backs Philadelphia in reverse racism lawsuit


By Nicholas Malfitano | Jun 24, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled that a worker's reverse racism complaint against the city of Philadelphia and its Older Adult Services office had no merit.

After the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment to the defendants, the Third Circuit did the same on appeal, before judges Cheryl Ann Krause, Anthony J. Scirica and Richard L. Nygaard.

According to the complaint, plaintiff Nicola Argentina was a member of the South Philadelphia Older Adults Center (SPOAC) until May 2015, when he received a letter stating that he was immediately being expelled from SPOAC because of “continued non-compliance with center policies and procedures.” As a result, Argentina subsequently filed suit against both the city of Philadelphia and its Older Adult Services director Barbara Gillette.

“Argentina alleged in his amended complaint that defendants ‘subjected him to verbal and psychological abuse, bullying, and they made allegations [of] misconduct, all of which was motivated by their racial animus against him, a Caucasian man,’ as well as by their desire to retaliate against [him] for his attempts to expose defendants’ racism,” according to the Third Circuit.

The amended complaint raised civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. Sections 1981, 1982, 1983, 2000(a), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The district court dismissed most of the complaint’s counts and granted summary judgment to the defendants on the remaining counts, reasoning on the Section 1982 count against Gillette, “plaintiff’s principal argument…appears to be that the court should infer racial animus because defendant Gillette displeased plaintiff and because defendant Gillette and plaintiff are not of the same race. The court declines to do so,” plus a lack of Monell-supported evidence to his claim on the additional Section 1982 count against the city.

On appeal, Argentina first argued the district  ourt erred in largely granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, but to support that same argument he only said that a “higher and impermissible burden” was imposed on him and identified no claim-specific flaws in the district  ourt’s analysis.

“Argentina next argues that there was evidence of Gillette’s racial animus against him sufficient to overcome summary judgment on the Section 1982 claim," the Third Circuit ruled.. "But he does not identify what that evidence might be, and we have found no such evidence in the record.

“It was thus appropriate for the district court to grant summary judgment to Gillette on Argentina’s Section 1982 claim. Argentina’s remaining arguments lack merit entirely and warrant no further explanation. Accordingly, for the reasons given in this opinion, we will affirm.”

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 19-1348

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:17-cv-02908

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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