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Johnson v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 11, 2016



          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Khalilah Johnson (“Johnson” or “Plaintiff”) brings this action against Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. (“UPS”), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t § 20-696 (“FEPA”). Plaintiff claims that her employer, UPS, retaliated against her after she sought an accommodation for her religious beliefs.

         Plaintiff originally asserted Title VII and FEPA violations, as well as various state law claims sounding in contract, against UPS, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (“International Union”), and Teamsters Local Union No. 355 (“Local 355”). See generally Amended Compl., ECF No. 3. On June 30, 2015, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion (ECF No. 30) and Order (ECF No. 31) granting the International Union’s and Local 355’s respective Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 8 & 10), and granting in part and denying in part UPS’s Corrected Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 14). Specifically, this Court dismissed Counts I-VI, but denied UPS’s Motion only as to the religious accommodation retaliation alleged in Count VII. See generally Mem. Op. As this Court explained, the alleged retaliation “took the form of assignment to less desirable and more burdensome routes” after Johnson’s May 2013 accommodation request. Id. at 22.

         After a lengthy period of discovery, Defendant UPS filed the pending Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 41). The parties’ submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Defendant UPS’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 41) is GRANTED. UPS is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the final remaining claim, Count VII.


         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); see also Hardwick ex rel. Hardwick v. Heyward, 711 F.3d 426, 433 (4th Cir. 2013).

         A. UPS Employment

         In 2008, Defendant UPS hired Plaintiff Khalilah Johnson as a “part-time inside unloader” or “package handler” at the UPS facility located on Vero Road in Baltimore, Maryland (the “Baltimore building”). Khalilah Johnson Dep. 73:12-17; 74:4-11, ECF No. 41-3. Upon her employment at UPS, Plaintiff joined Local 355, the Baltimore chapter of the International Union. Id. 74:12-20; see also Amended Compl. ¶¶ 9, 16. As with all members of Local 355, a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between UPS and Local 355 established all terms and conditions of her employment. Johnson Dep. 74:12-75:4.

         As a package handler, Johnson was tasked with “sorting, loading and unloading packages onto and off of UPS vehicles.” Kevin Garvey Decl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 41-4;[1] accord Johnson Dep. 73:23-24. On February 14, 2009, Johnson began to take on some driving work in addition to her duties as a package handler. Johnson Dep. 78:13-79:4. In June 2009, she officially became a “regular temporary package driver” (“Reg-Temp driver”). Id. 79:5-7. As a Reg-Temp driver, Johnson generally acted as a substitute for regular drivers or provided extra help delivering packages when needed. Garvey Decl. ¶ 5. A Reg-Temp driver is not a full-time position, as it exists only in the months of June through December. Johnson Dep. 79:8-19. Moreover, the governing collective bargaining agreement does not confer full-time seniority to Reg-Temp drivers. Id. 80:6-9.

         Johnson continued in this position until May 2012, when she became a full-time driver. Id. 80:12-14. She was assigned to the Harbor Center, one of several UPS delivery centers within the Baltimore building. See, e.g., id. 74:4-11. The Harbor Center has approximately sixty to seventy full-time drivers, who service sixty-five to seventy set delivery routes. Id. 85:2-4; Thomas Reinhardt Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 41-5.[2] Routes were assigned via a bidding process wherein each year, drivers bid on specific routes that were awarded based on seniority. Johnson Dep. 81:18-82:5. Drivers who did not receive fixed routes acted as “cover” drivers for drivers with fixed routes who were absent from work. Id. 80:15-91:9; Charles Kurtz Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 41-6;[3] accord Tony Freeman Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 41-7.[4] As such, the assignments will vary according to which drivers are absent. Kurtz Decl. ¶ 4; Freeman Decl. ¶ 4. Under this system, Plaintiff worked as a cover driver from May 2012 until December 2014. Johnson Dep. 80:15-18; 82:6-12. In January 2015, she had accrued sufficient seniority to win a bid for a fixed route-Route 52C. Id. 82:12-15.

         Cover driver routes are assigned by “Full-Time On Road Supervisors” on the basis of need-On Road Supervisors determine which routes are missing their regular drivers and then assign cover drivers to those particular routes. See, e.g., Kurtz Decl. ¶ 3. In 2013, On Road Supervisor Charles Kurtz directed the assignment of cover drivers for the Harbor Center. Id. ¶¶ 2, 5. When a regular driver is on a previously-scheduled vacation, then an On Road Supervisor assigns a cover driver prior to the regular driver’s absence. Id. ¶ 5. If, however, the On Road Supervisor does not have prior notice of the regular driver’s absence, then the assignment is made the morning of the day in question. Id. Cover drivers are responsible for checking the assignment list posted each day. Johnson Dep. 91:11-19.

         Package loads for each UPS truck are set by the “Full-Time Package Dispatch Supervisor” using forecasting data based on historical and current trends. David Kulp Decl. ¶¶ 3-4, ECF No. 41-9;[5] accord John Oxendine Decl. ¶¶ 3-4, ECF No. 41-10.[6] In 2013, David Kulp acted as the Package Dispatch Supervisor, while John Oxendine has held that title from March 2015 onward.[7] Kulp Decl. ¶ 2; Oxendine Decl. ¶ 2. Ideally, each package load would necessitate a “plan time”[8] of 8-9.5 hours, although a driver’s plan time on a particular day could fall outside of this range. Kulp Decl. ¶¶ 5, 8, 10. A driver who exceeded the plan time for his route was “over allowed, ” however the driver still received compensation for all time worked on that particular day. Id. ¶ 5; Johnson Dep. 114:23-115:8. This payment includes overtime pay, which is triggered after eight hours of work. Kulp Decl. ¶ 5.

         To optimize the efficiency of deliveries, the Package Dispatch Supervisor may alter the number of stops during the day. Kulp Decl. ¶ 9; accord Oxendine Decl. ¶ 9. In that event, an additional driver may be sent to assist the assigned driver by taking a portion of the remaining packages. Kulp Decl. ¶ 9; accord Oxendine Decl. ¶ 9. Package Dispatch Supervisors determined only the package load for a particular route, and not the driver assignments. Kulp Decl. ¶ 11. After Package Dispatch Supervisor determined the appropriate package loads, a “preloader” would put the respective packages on the truck assigned to that route. Robert Hatcher Decl. ¶¶ 3, 5, ECF No. 41-8.[9]

         B. Religious Accommodation and Alleged Retaliation

         Johnson, a Seventh Day Adventist, observes a Sabbath that begins at sundown on Friday. Johnson Dep. 349:20-25; see also Amended Compl. ¶ 105. In May 2013, she and her husband, Michael Johnson, who is employed as a full-time driver assigned to the Harbor Center, [10] submitted formal accommodation requests in which they asked that they not be required to work past sundown on Fridays. Garvey Decl. ¶ 4; see also Amended Compl. ¶ 105. UPS granted the accommodation request. Johnson Dep. 165:8-166:10. Under the accommodation, Plaintiff (and her husband) do not work on Fridays between October 1 and April 1, even after they have exhausted vacation days and paid time off. Id.; Garvey Decl. ¶ 4. From April 2 through September 30, Plaintiff works on Fridays, but her assignments are adjusted to allow her to end working before sundown. Garvey Decl. ¶ 4; Johnson Dep. 165:8-166:10. Plaintiff claims that it was “[p]ossibl[e]” that she had worked past sundown on a Friday, but she “[could] not recall” if she had actually done so and “believe[s] [she] did not.” Johnson Dep. 352:6-12.

         As set forth supra, Johnson alleges that UPS began to retaliate against her, but not her husband, for their religious accommodation request.[11] This retaliation consisted of assignments to the “worst” routes and the overloading of packages on her truck. Although Johnson claims that this treatment also occurred prior to the May 2013 accommodation request, see, e.g. Johnson Dep. 254:17-22, the present action concerns her assignments on five separate occasions only: June 26, 2013; August 5, 2013; September 30, 2013; October 23, 2013; and December 2, 2013.[12] Johnson Dep. 292:8-22; Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 14, 4, ECF No. 41-16 (UPS Interrogatory & Plaintiff’s Supplemental Answer). On those days, she does not contend that her assignment to the route itself was retaliatory. See, e.g., Johnson Dep. 291:20-292:7. Rather, she claims that her assigned route was retaliatory because it ...

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