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Arakaki v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

March 31, 2017

KEITH Y. ARAKAKI, Plaintiff,
v.
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Postmaster General; UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' AMENDED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 29)

          Helen Gillmor United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Keith Y. Arakaki filed a Complaint alleging claims of discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., against his employer, the United States Postal Service and Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan.

         Defendants moved for summary judgment as to each of Plaintiff's claims.

         Plaintiff withdrew his discrimination claims.

         Plaintiff opposes summary judgment on his claim alleging unlawful retaliation.

         Defendants' Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 29) is GRANTED.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 15, 2015, Plaintiff Keith Y. Arakaki (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint against Defendants United States Postal Service and Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan (collectively, “Defendants”). (ECF No. 1).

         On October 12, 2016, Defendants filed an amended MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 29), MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 29-1), and DEFENDANTS' CONCISE STATEMENT OF FACTS IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 30).

         On October 24, 2016, Plaintiff filed PLAINTIFF KEITH Y. ARAKAKI'S EX-PARTE MOTION TO EXTEND DEADLINE TO FILE OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, FILED OCTOBER 12, 2016. (ECF No. 32).

         On October 25, 2016, the Court filed a Minute Order granting Plaintiff's motion for extension of time to file his Opposition. (ECF No. 33).

         On November 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed PLAINTIFF KEITH Y. ARAKAKI'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 35) and PLAINTIFF KEITH Y. ARAKAKI'S CONCISE STATEMENT OF FACTS IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, FILED OCTOBER 12, 2016 (ECF No. 36).

         On December 13, 2016, Defendants filed their REPLY MEMORANDUM IN FURTHER SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. (ECF No. 37).

         On January 17, 2017, the Court held a hearing on Defendants' Amended Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 44).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's Employment with the United States Postal Service

         In August 2002, Plaintiff Keith Y. Arakaki (“Plaintiff”), an Okinawan male, began his employment with Defendant United States Postal Service (“Postal Service”). (Declaration of Keith Arakaki (“Arakaki Decl.”) at ¶ 1, attached to Pla.'s Concise Statement of Facts (“CSF”), ECF No. 36-1).

         Beginning in 2010, Plaintiff worked as a Supervisor of Maintenance Operations at the Postal Service's Processing Distribution Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Id. at ¶¶ 1; 3). Plaintiff was assigned to the second of three shifts, which started at 6:00 a.m. and ended at 2:30 p.m. (Id. at ¶ 1).

         In April 2014, Bonnie Tomooka (“Tomooka”), a Manager of Maintenance Operations, was assigned to the second shift. (Declaration of Bonnie Tomooka (“Tomooka Decl.”) at ¶ 3, attached to Defs. CSF, ECF No. 30-1). With the transfer, Tomooka became Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. (Id. at ¶ 3; Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 4). From May 2014 through September 2014, Tomooka also held supervisory responsibilities for the first and third shifts, as she was the Manager of Maintenance Operations of the three shifts during that period. (Declaration of Gaylen Yonamine (“Yonamine Decl.”) at ¶ 2, Defs. CSF, ECF No. 30-3).

         According to Tomooka, she neither worked nor had any significant interaction with Plaintiff prior to becoming his immediate supervisor. (Tomooka Decl. at ¶ 3, ECF No. 30-1). Plaintiff disputes Tomooka's assertion, stating that he had worked and interacted with Tomooka prior to her transfer to the second shift. (Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 2, ECF No. 36-1).

         Plaintiff claims that Tomooka disliked him prior to becoming his supervisor. Plaintiff also claims that in April 2012, Tomooka's supervisor, Gaylen Yonamine (“Yonamine”) told him that Tomooka may be “going after” or “gunning after” him when she becomes his supervisor, and that Plaintiff should inform Yonamine if such behavior arose. (Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 5, ECF No. 36-1; EEO Investigative Affidavit of Gaylen Yonamine (“Yonamine EEO Affidavit”) at p. 23, attached as Ex. 2 to Pla.'s CSF, ECF No. 36-4). Yonamine indicates that he communicated his concern because Tomooka disapproved of Plaintiff's friendship with another employee. (Id. at p. 23).

         Tomooka's Planned Rotation of Maintenance Supervisors

         In early May 2014, Tomooka proposed a plan to temporarily rotate all supervisors who had worked on only one shift to another shift for a period two to three months. Tomooka indicates that the plan arose from her observation that there was a lack of teamwork and cohesion between the three shifts, as employees failed to grasp the different responsibilities associated with each shift. (Tomooka Decl. at ¶ 15, ECF No. 30-1). Tomooka informed Yonamine and Chuck Lum (“Lum”), the local union president who also served as the Postal Service's acting Human Resources Manager, of her plan. Both Yonamine and Lum approved the plan. (Yonamine Decl. at ¶ 4, ECF No. 30-3; Lum Decl. at ¶ 9, ECF No. 30-2; Tomooka Decl. at ¶ 16, ECF No. 30-1).

         Tomooka's rotation plan involved four Supervisors of Maintenance Operations, including Plaintiff. (Tomooka Decl. at ¶ 20, ECF No. 30-1). Tomooka sought to reassign Plaintiff from the second shift to the third shift, which began at 2:00 p.m. and ended at 10:30 p.m. Gordon Yoshimura, a Supervisor of Maintenance Operations who was regularly assigned to the third shift, was scheduled to switch positions with Plaintiff on May 10, 2014. (Id. at ¶ 17).

         Shortly after learning of Tomooka's plan and before May 10, 2014, Plaintiff informed her that he would be unable to move to the third shift because of family care concerns. (Id. at ¶ 18). Tomooka responded by delaying the effective date of Plaintiff's shift change to August 2, 2014, and advancing the effective dates of two other Supervisors of Maintenance Operations' shift changes from August 2, 2014 to May 10, 2014. (Id. at ¶ 18).

         Plaintiff's Complaint About Tomooka

         Plaintiff alleges that on May 20, 2014, he overheard co-workers stating that Tomooka was trying to get him terminated from the Postal Service. (Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 24, ECF No. 36-1). Plaintiff shortly thereafter complained of the conversation, and Yonamine set up an informal mediation involving himself, Plaintiff, and Tomooka. The mediation occurred on May 23, 2014, during which Tomooka denied making any of the statements Plaintiff attributed to her. (Tomooka EEO Investigative Affidavit at pp. 2-3, Ex. 1 of Pla. CSF, ECF No. 36-3). At the mediation, Plaintiff also complained of Tomooka's plan to temporarily reassign him to the third shift. (Id. at p. 3). Plaintiff asked Yonamine to pursue the Initial Management Inquiry Process (“IMIP”), which is an internal procedure designed to resolve workplace conflicts. (Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 10, ECF No. 36-1). Plaintiff subsequently sent an IMIP request via e-mail to Lum. (Lum Decl. at ¶ 3, ECF No. 30-2).

         The Initial Management Inquiry Process

         On June 4, 2014, Lum met with Plaintiff and Tomooka pursuant to Plaintiff's IMIP request. (Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 12, ECF No. 36-1). Tomooka again denied stating that she was trying to get Plaintiff fired from the Postal Service. (Id. at ¶ 13; Lum Decl. at ¶ 5, ECF No. 30-2; Ex. G of Pla. CSF, ECF No. 30-14). Lum attests that both Plaintiff and Tomooka indicated that they had met prior to speaking with him to resolve the issue. (Lum Decl. at ¶ 6, ECF No. 30-2). Tomooka attests that Plaintiff told her “that he could work with me, and I understood the matter to be resolved.” (Tomooka Decl. at ¶ 7, ECF No. 30-1). Lum concluded that no further action was necessary. (Lum Decl. at ¶ 6, ECF No. 30-2).

         Plaintiff's Assignment to Work on July 4, 2014

         During the week of June 21-27, 2014, Tomooka held a staffing meeting with the three Supervisors of Maintenance Operations who were regularly assigned to the second shift, including Plaintiff. The purpose of the meeting was to determine which of the three Supervisors of Maintenance Operations would work on July 4, 2014, a federal holiday. (Tomooka Decl. at ¶ 9, ECF No. 30-1). The second shift operates with reduced staffing on federal holidays, but one Supervisor of Maintenance Operations is required to work on those days. (Id. at ¶ 8).

         Tomooka states that at least one Supervisor of Maintenance Operations typically volunteers to work on a federal holiday, as he or she would earn either additional pay or annual leave. (Id. at ¶ 9). At the meeting, however, none of the three Supervisors of Maintenance Operations volunteered to work on July 4, 2014. (Id.) Tomooka then selected Plaintiff to work on July 4, 2014. According to Tomooka, Plaintiff was chosen because he worked on the fewest number of holidays over the past ten holidays and had the lowest seniority of the three second-shift Supervisors of Maintenance Operations. (Id. at ¶ 10). Tomooka states that the methodology she used to pick Plaintiff was her usual practice. (Id.)

         Plaintiff does not dispute that he was the least senior and had worked the fewest number of holidays among the three Supervisors of Maintenance Operations, but indicates that when Tomooka previously worked as the Manager of Maintenance Operations for the first and third shifts, she worked as a stand-in during the holidays when no Supervisor of Maintenance Operations was available. (Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 15, ECF No. 36-1). After Tomooka announced her decision to schedule Plaintiff to work on July 4, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a request to use his annual leave on July 3, 2014, and a separate request to earn annual leave in lieu of holiday pay for July 4, 2014. Tomooka approved both requests. (Leave Request Form, Ex. A of Defs. CSF, ECF No. 30-8; Tomooka Decl. at ¶ 11, ECF No. 30-1).

         Tomooka's Implementation of the Temporary Shift Rotation

         On July 8, 2014, Tomooka emailed the four SMOs who were subject to the temporary tour change (Teranishi, Yoshimura, Kanana, and Plaintiff) reminding them that the initial two SMOs would return to the original tours on August 1, 2014 and the next two supervisors would swap tours from August 2, 2014 to October 31, 2014. (Ex. C of Defs. CSF at p. 1, ECF No. 30-10).

         Between July 8, 2014 and July 17, 2014, Plaintiff asked that his regular day-off schedule be carried over to his third shift assignment. (Tomooka Decl. at ¶ 20, ECF No. 30-1). Plaintiff's regular days off during the second shift were Saturday and Sunday. (Id.) On July 17, 2014, Tomooka responded that Plaintiff would not be able to keep his regular day-off schedule, as the other Supervisor of Maintenance Operations for the third shift's days-off were Sunday and Monday, and at least one Supervisor of Maintenance Operations was needed to work during the third shift on Sundays. (Id.; Ex. C of Defs. CSF at p. 1). Tomooka offered to work in Plaintiff's place for some of the Sundays on which he was scheduled to work, and asked Plaintiff to provide her with the dates he would require an accommodation. (Ex. C of Defs. CSF at p. 2).

         On July 23, 2014, Plaintiff responded by listing 21 work dates for which he sought accommodation for the period between August 2, 2014, and October 31, 2014. (Id. at p. 5). Plaintiff also indicated “[t]here might be some other day(s) that I cannot foresee at this time.” (Id.) On the same date, July 23, 2014, Tomooka replied to Plaintiff's request. She stated that while she would be able to work in his place for the first two Sundays of his new shift assignment, she would be unable to accommodate him on the remaining requested dates. (Id. at p. 6). Tomooka instructed Plaintiff to submit leave requests for the remaining dates, which would be approved subject to the Postal Service's staffing needs. (Id.) Plaintiff responded by expressing his dissatisfaction with Tomooka's response, stating that the arrangement caused him significant hardship. (Id. at p. 9). Plaintiff did not accept Tomooka's offer to work in his place for the first two Sundays of his new shift assignment. (Id. at p. 13).

         Plaintiff's Application for a Promotion

         On July 27, 2014, Plaintiff applied for a promotion to become a Manager of Maintenance Operations. (Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 25, ECF 36-1; Manager of Maintenance Operations posting, Ex. E of Defs. CSF, ECF No. 30-12).

         Plaintiff's Long-Term Absence from Work

         On August 1, 2014, the day before his scheduled temporary reassignment to the third shift, Plaintiff informed Tomooka via e-mail that he was feeling ill. (Tomooka Decl. at ¶ 27, ECF No. 30-1). Plaintiff left work on the same day and did not return until June 29, 2015. (Id. at ¶¶ 24; 30).

         On August 5, 2014, Plaintiff submitted documentation concerning his absence to the Human Resources Department but did not provide that same information to Tomooka. (Id. at ¶ 28; Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 28, ECF No. 36-1).

         Plaintiff's Formal Complaint

         On August 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed a formal Equal Employment Opportunity complaint. (Arakaki Decl. at ¶ 7, ECF No. 36-1). Plaintiff's declaration, while difficult to understand, appears to indicate that the formal complaint's allegations concerned the alleged May 20, 2014 conversation he stated he overheard, Tomooka's act of assigning him to work ...


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