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Johnny A. Vaughan v. Amtrak

September 21, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy Berman Jackson United States District Judge


This matter is before the Court on plaintiff's partial motions for summary judgment [Dkt. #30, 42] and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment [Dkt. #35]. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny plaintiff's motions for summary judgment and grant defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment.


In September 2008, plaintiff, a white male born in 1950, applied but was not selected for the position of Lead Service Attendant ("LSA") with the National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak"). See Compl. ¶¶ 3--4. According to plaintiff, Amtrak's decision not to hire him "was discriminatory because it was based on [his] race and/or age." Id. ¶ 5. He brought this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.*fn1

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

"Plaintiff applied for a job as Lead Service Attendant (LSA) which duties include serving food on a train." Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. [Dkt. #30] ("Pl.'s Mot.") at 3. In relevant part, the LSA position description reads:

The Lead Service Attendant . . . is primarily responsible for creating a welcome atmosphere of hospitality for Amtrak passengers that result[s] in exceeding customer expectations. Works in a fast-paced environment on board trains. Coordinates work and supervise[s] a team of food and wait staff responsible for the provision of food and beverage service to Amtrak passengers . . . . May also work independently in certain services with no supporting staff . . . . Maintains cleanliness of rail car interior .... Functions independently while simultaneously supporting the service staff. Utilizes superior interpersonal skills to communicate clearly and effectively with passengers and crew to insure employee and customer satisfaction in both ideal and off schedule conditions . . . . Responsible for the security, sale, safe handling and accounting of food and beverage products. Strictly complies with cash and credit transaction handling procedures and protects Amtrak funds . . . . Adheres to uniform and grooming requirements[.]

Id., Ex. D (excerpt from Job Posting, AMT-VAUGHAN 000211). The position required a high school diploma or equivalent; some college or vocational training was preferred. Id. With respect to work experience, the posting read:

Some experience in a customer service or similar public contact role exhibiting responsibility, initiative, physical coordination, problem solving, creativity, and leadership characteristics. Work experience must demonstrate strong, clear and effective verbal communication and interpersonal skills, professionalism, and a customer-friendly demeanor . . . . Prior experience working in a team service environment preferred. Some experience in a food/beverage environment, cash handling, and retail inventory experience preferred. Supervisory experience in the Hotel, Restaurant and/or Travel, Hospitality industries preferred.

Id., Ex. D.

Plaintiff understood the "job description to include over 80% . . . food handling [and] customer service," and emphasized its preference for "[s]upervisory experience in the Hotel, Restaurant and/or Travel, Hospitality Industries." Pl.'s Mot. at 3. As indicated on his resume, plaintiff has managed restaurants, served as the food and beverage director for a hotel, and managed the daily operations at a banquet venue. Id., Ex. E (plaintiff's resume, AMT-VAUGHAN 000214-215). Plaintiff not only considered himself qualified for the position, but also believed that "his experience 'outshone' all other candidates." Pl.'s Mot. at 4. "[B]ased off the job duties and educational requirements and [plaintiff's] experience, [he] could not comprehend that there possibly could be 15 people that had more experience of doing this job than [him] at that time." Mem. of Law in Supp. of Def.'s Opp. to Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. & Def.'s Cross-Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. ## 34--35] ("Def.'s Cross-Mot."), Ex. 3 ("Pl.'s Dep.") at 84:14--18. His "experience as related to the job posting exceed[ed] the supervisory & food and beverage experience of all 10 alleged applicants hired combined," Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. for Violation of Title VII Rights ("Pl.'s 2d Mot.") at 4; see Pl.'s Mot. at 3, yet Amtrak "hired younger, lesser qualified individuals that were mostly African Americans after rejecting the Plaintiff." Pl.'s 2d Mot. at 2; see Pl.'s Mot. at 2.

Plaintiff posits that Amtrak "hire[d] other applicants based on job criteria that is [sic] not listed in the job posting," and deems this "evidence of willful and wanton behavior . . . with a wrongful motive and reckless indifference to plaintiffs' [sic] rights." Pl.'s Mot. at 4. He claims to have "established a prima facie case of discrimination" based on his age and race, and that Amtrak "failed to articulate a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for its actions." Pl.'s 2d Mot. at 12.

B. Amtrak's Representations

1. Hiring Procedure for the LSA Position "Amtrak was created by Congress in 1970 to take over the passenger rail services previously . . . operated by private freight railroad companies in the United States." Def.'s Cross-Mot., Ex. 4 ("Ray Aff.") ¶ 3. Its Human Resources ("HR") department "handles the recruiting for any vacancies . . . for all departments including, but not limited to, mechanical, marketing, and transportation." Ray Aff. ¶ 4. "Recruitment processes vary by position," and "[i]n 2008, the recruiting process for the [LSA] position followed a Transportation Hiring Plan that provided the number of vacancies for which [Amtrak was] to recruit over the fiscal year." Id., Ray Aff. ¶ 5. HR posted the LSA position on Amtrak's Career Rewards website; its staff attended job fairs, accepted referrals from local representatives and current employees, and accepted resumes by mail and other means. Ray Aff. ¶ 6. Amtrak received more than 800 applications for the LSA position for which plaintiff applied. Ray Aff. ¶ 8. In such circumstances with so many applicants, "it [was] unlikely that all applications would be reviewed" because HR "simply [did] not have the resources to review all 800 applications." Ray Aff. ¶ 8.

After receiving resumes, "[a] recruiter would review [them] to determine whether the candidates met the position's minimum qualifications, and if there were any 'red flags' (i.e. unexplained gaps in employment)." Ray Aff. ¶ 9. Candidates who met the minimum qualifications and for whom no "red flags" were identified were "invited to test for the position." Id., Ray Aff. ¶ 9. Each candidate was "given an orientation [during which HR] describe[d] in detail the position for which [he] applied." Ray Aff. ¶ 10. If the candidate chose to proceed with the application process, he took "a math test, a vocabulary test, and an Applicant Potential Inventory test." Ray Aff. ¶ 10. The applicant had to pass all tests to be eligible for an interview. Ray Aff. ¶ 10. Plaintiff was one of ten applicants who both met the minimum qualifications for the LSA position and passed the required tests. Ray Aff. ¶ 14.

Generally, two managers conducted each interview. Ray Aff. ¶ 12. "The managers [did] not choose whom to interview; they interview[ed] those candidates selected by [HR] who [were deemed] minimally qualified for the position and who [had] passed the required tests." Ray Aff. ¶ 11. Interviewers did not know the candidates' test scores. Def.'s Cross-Mot., Ex. 1 ("Baylor Aff.") ¶ 5. HR provided the managers with written interview questions so that each candidate was asked the same questions, Ray Aff. ¶ 11, and the managers were allowed to take notes, Baylor Aff. ¶ 6. After an interview, "the managers return the applicant materials, ...

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