Puerto Rico District Court

Employment suits need to support allegations to survive Summary Judgment

Employment suits need to support allegations to survive Summary Judgment
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Download the opinion: Gladys Serrano v. Patrick R. Donahoe

In 2012, Gladys Serrano sued Patrick R. Donahoe in his official capacity as Postmaster General, claiming to have been discriminated (age and sex) and retaliated against in her employment with the United States Postal Service. Serrano had worked at the Postal Service since 1994 and decided to retire in 2011, after learning she was to be transferred to Miami. She alleges her retirement constitutes a constructive discharge and that her former supervisor’s conduct towards her was discriminatory, created a hostile work environment, and was also done in retaliation for submitting a grievance at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

After the evidence discovery phase and the pretrial conference, Donahue moved for a Summary Judgment.¹ The court dismissed the case after Serrano failed to meet the probative standards set for plaintiffs in employment-based² suits in her opposition to Donahoe’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

Ordinarily, to contest a Motion for Summary Judgment in any case, the opposing party must provide sufficient supported evidence showing there is a genuine issue of material fact in controversy to merit going to trial.

Issue: What is the standard a plaintiff needs to meet to survive a Motion for Summary Judgment in an employment-based suit against an employer?

It is different when an employer, as defendant in an employment-based suit, moves for a Summary Judgment, demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to issues where the plaintiff has the burden of proof. In this case, the employer/defendant only needs to show there is an absence of evidence to support the plaintiff’s case. Afterwards, and in order to survive a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff must not only show there is an issue in dispute, but also that there is enough supported evidence to make the plaintiff’s allegations plausible.

The court concluded that in opposing Donahoe’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Serrano did not provide sufficient supported evidence to sustain her allegations for constructive discharge, discrimination or retaliation. In other words, the court dismissed the case without reaching trial by examining Serrano’s allegations and the evidence provided by both parties and determining, at pre-trial stage, it wasn’t enough to merit a remedy in favor of the plaintiff.

¹ In any case, summary judgment is an appropriate way to dispose of a controversy when «there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.» Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

² Discrimination, retaliation, unjustified dismissal, sexual harassment, etc.

Summary: Cristian González