United States District Court, D. Delaware
M. LaRosa, Esquire of LaRosa & Associates, Wilmington,
Delaware. Counsel for Plaintiff. Of counsel: Christine E.
Burke, Esquire of Karpf, Karpf & Cerutti, P.C., Bensalem,
C. Weiss, Esquire, Whitney C. Cloud, Esquire, and Laura
Hatcher, Esquire of United States Attorneys Office,
Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant.
ROBINSON, Senior District Judge
Naisha Pantoja ("plaintiff') sued Megan Brennan (the
"defendant"), in her capacity as postmaster general
of the United States Postal Service (the "Postal
Service"), for violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964. (D.I. 1) Plaintiff alleges that the
Postal Service, as her former employer, subjected her to
religious discrimination by: (1) failing to provide
reasonable accommodation; and (2) terminating her in
retaliation for complaints of discrimination. (D.I. 1 at ¶
28; D.I. 30 at 1) Defendant has moved for summary judgment.
(D.I. 26) The court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
parties broadly agree about the events that occurred, and
occasionally present conflicting versions of certain details.
Nevertheless, defendant has, for purposes of this motion,
assumed that plaintiff's version of the facts is true.
(D.I. 27 at 2) More important, the court finds that those
factual disputes, where they exist, are not material to
resolving defendant's motion for summary judgment.
The Duties and Expectations of City Carrier
April 5, 2014, the Postal Service hired plaintiff as a City
Carrier Assistant for the Lancaster Ave. station. (D.I. 28-15
at -217) City Carrier Assistants are temporary employees
hired on a one-year trial basis to determine whether they
merit a career position. (D.I. 28-1 at 2; D.I. 28-2)
Lancaster Ave. station is a busy office with 60-70 mail
carriers and dozens of mail routes. (D.I. 28-21 at 15:8-15,
13:8-23) The duties of City Carrier Assistants require
"arduous exertion, " resulting in some City Carrier
Assistants leaving before the end of their term. (D.I. 28-19
at 59:1-23; D.I. 28-2 at -208)
Carrier Assistants are treated differently than career
employees. (D.I. 28-1 at 8-9) A supervisor may request to
remove a City Carrier Assistant from the Postal Service for
"just cause" based on the first infraction.
(Id.) For smaller infractions, a supervisor may
conduct a pre-disciplinary interview and then choose whether
to issue discipline such as a letter of warning. (D.I. 28-21
at 15:22-24, 16:10-24) A supervisor does not need higher
management approval to issue discipline; however, the
supervisor generally seeks approval when requesting
suspension or removal. (Id. at 17:2-8) In addition,
City Carrier Assistants are not eligible for uniforms until
they achieve certain work milestones. (D.I. 28-1 at pp. 4-5)
In the interim, they are permitted to wear work-appropriate
clothing. (Id.) Plaintiff testified that she
generally wore a khimar and garb or sweats to
work. (D.I. 28-19 at 51:11-25)
Plaintiffs Disciplinary Issues
had several disciplinary issues in the summer of 2014. On
July 11, 2014, plaintiff did not deliver an assigned route.
Per the disciplinary structure for City Carrier Assistants,
Supervisor Lewis conducted the pre-disciplinary interview and
thereafter issued plaintiff a letter of warning dated July
18, 2014. (D.I. 28-3) A week later, on July 24, 2014,
Supervisors Pollard-McGrath and Carpenter issued another
letter of warning to plaintiff for failing to scan route
markers. (D.I. 28-4)
August 8, 2014, Supervisor Carpenter assigned plaintiff a
route and gave her "Red Plums" (advertisements) to
deliver. (D.I. 28-19 at 124-128) Plaintiff questioned her
assignment, because she thought the Red Plums should have
been delivered the day before while she was out.
(Id.; D.I. 28-16 at -151) This led to a meeting with
plaintiff, Supervisor Carpenter, Postmaster Maher, and
Manager Toombs. (D.I. 28-19 at 124-128) Plaintiff alleges
that during the meeting, Supervisor Carpenter had an
attitude, Postmaster Maher grabbed her shoulder, and all
three were yelling at her. (Id.) Plaintiff does not
allege that any official made any discriminatory comments,
questioned her clothing, or questioned her religion during
the meeting. After the meeting, plaintiff left the postal
station citing health issues and did not return to work for a
week. (Id. at 177:20-24; D.I. 28-15 at-217)
August 22, 2014, plaintiff went to the Lancaster Ave. station
to collect a form for her doctor to sign so she could return
to work. (D.I. 28-19 at 179:5-17, 181:13-182:8) Upon her
arrival, Supervisor Pollard-McGrath assigned her a route.
(Id. at 187:11-188:25) Plaintiff informed Supervisor
Pollard-McGrath that she was there only to collect a form for
her doctor's appointment that day. (Id. at
183-184) Although there appeared to be some confusion as to
whether plaintiff's appointment was canceled, ultimately
Supervisor Pollard-McGrath told plaintiff she should go to
the doctors and then come back to work, but make sure she
changed her clothes before she came back, because she
"wasn't properly dressed to deliver the mail."
(D.I. 28-14 at -175) Plaintiff said at the time she had
"her garb on[;] face showing." (Id.)
Plaintiff's appointment with the doctor did not ...