A SEPTA electrician claiming he was passed over for promotion because of his race has struck out in his appeal of the dismissal of his lawsuit.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a Philadelphia federal judge’s ruling dismissing Jamar Boykins’ racial discrimination and retaliation claims against the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
Boykins, who is black, sued after being denied a management position for which SEPTA said he was the seventh most qualified out of a field of 11 applicants. He applied for another three promotions and was offered an interview for one, but declined to attend, according to Judge Anthony Scirica’s opinion. When he was denied interviews for the other two, Boykins amended his discrimination complaint to include retaliation.
Boykins argued that SEPTA’s reasons for granting a promotion to a white colleague, James Schneider, over him were “new found” and inconsistent, including claiming that the job was construction-related and that Boykins had no construction experience. Scirica said the issue was raised for the first time on appeal, and thus waived.
“Regardless, a review of the record reveals no inconsistencies, and the value SEPTA placed on Schneider’s construction experience can hardly be characterized as ‘new found,’” Scirica said. “Where the employer asserts it hired the ‘best qualified’ candidate, a plaintiff must show ‘that the defendant’s selection process and criteria were filled with such inconsistencies that the employer’s claim that it was seeking the “best qualified” candidate was a sham.’ Boykins cannot make such a showing here, primarily because he can point to no actual inconsistencies.”
Boykins also claimed that hiring panel member Gerald McGovern used prejudicial reasons for hiring Schneider.
“If anything, the record contradicts the discriminatory motives Boykins attributes to McGovern. Of the panel members, McGovern gave Boykins the highest ranking he received. McGovern was also the hiring manager for Position #15-071 (which Boykins also applied for) and, in that instance, SEPTA selected an African-American for the promotion,” Scirica said.
Lastly, Boykins argued that SEPTA hasn’t hired a black maintenance manager in 20 years in the building and bridges department, where he applied, and stressed that all maintenance managers in his department prior to 2015 were white.
“Here, Boykins does not provide a basis for his statement that no African-Americans have been hired as maintenance managers in 20 years in the building and bridges department,” Scirica said. “Furthermore, while the record supports Boykins’ contention that the four maintenance managers reporting to McGovern were Caucasian, the trial judge explained that ‘the race of prior persons promoted is meaningless without evidence regarding whether African-American applicants were denied the promotion or the relative qualifications of the applicants.’”
Gaetan Alfano of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti represents SEPTA and declined to comment on the ruling.
Reached Wednesday, Boykins’ attorney, Olugbenga O. Abiona of Philadelphia, said, “I want to review it.”