Canada v. Samuel Grossi & Sons, Inc., No. 20-2747 (3d Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Canada, a Black man, worked for Grossi for 10 years. Canada suffered from back problems and claims that Grossi prevented him from accessing Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) forms and harassed him when he tried to use FMLA leave. Osorio, Grossi’s director of human resources, testified that she “let [Canada] take his FMLA” leave. Canada sued, alleging race discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 1981, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the FMLA.
Canada was terminated a month later. Grossi based the termination on text messages found on Canada’s cell phone. Grossi claims that Canada was using a locker on the shop floor which was designated as a company tool locker. While Canada was on vacation, Grossi cut the padlock off of his locker because the lockers needed to be moved. Osorio testified that she believed that the phone might have been a company phone and guessed the phone’s password. Osorio found text messages from a year earlier in which Canada appeared to have solicited prostitutes “while at work and clocked in.”
The district court granted Grossi summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed, in part. An employer’s motivation for investigating an employee can be relevant to pretext. There is a “‘convincing mosaic’ of circumstantial evidence,” which, taken as a whole and viewed in a light favorable to Canada’s case, could convince a reasonable jury that Canada was the victim of unlawful retaliation. There is also evidence that Grossi treated other employees more favorably.