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ALLEN v. NATIONAL R.R. PASSENGER CORP.

March 13, 2000

MARTHA ALLEN, PLAINTIFF,
V.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lowell A. Reed, Jr., Senior District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM

Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation has filed a motion for summary judgment in the two above-captioned matters, which sound in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51, et seq., and Pennsylvania tort law. Upon consideration of defendant's motion (Document No. 17 in Case No. 98-3421), plaintiff's response (Document No. 19 in Case No. 98-3421), the memoranda submitted therewith, and the evidence, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Martha Allen had worked for defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak") for 14 years without incident. An electrician by trade, Allen was employed at Amtrak's Wilmington Maintenance Facilities in Delaware. The job seemed to be going well for Allen, but that changed when Larry Platt arrived.

Platt's conduct generally took on a more subtle, but no less peculiar, form after Platt's time-card related complaint to her foreman. Platt began to "glare" at Allen (Allen Deposition I, at 79), "watch" her, and follow her around the workplace. (Id. at 114, 117). Allen would go to the bathroom and emerge to find Platt waiting outside. (Id. at 114). Allen testified that this behavior was "scarier" to her than the time card conduct. (Id.). Allen told her union representative about Platt's following and staring, but did not report it to her foreman or any other Amtrak official at that time. (Id. at 117-19).

In April 1996, Platt briefly touched or rubbed Allen's ear while she was speaking with a co-worker. (Allen Deposition I, at 87). A week and a half later, Allen reported this incident to her foreman, Heath. (Allen Deposition I, at 102); Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit A, Deposition of Martha Allen, Feb. 5, 1999, at 45 ("Allen Deposition II").

At some point in April 1996, Allen and another woman who had complained of harassment by Platt in 1988 met with Amtrak official Christina Marks to report Platt's conduct. (Allen Deposition I, at 159). Allen then met with Amtrak plant manager Jim Weisinger, who suggested that he might "take [Platt] out of service" or suspend him. (Id. at 178). Allen responded that she did not want Platt to be taken out of service or fired. (Id. at 179; Allen Deposition II, at 56).

Allen's complaint triggered an investigation by Amtrak's Equal Employment Opportunity representative, Sheila Davidson. (Allen Deposition II, at 57; Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, Tab 2, Declaration of Sheila Davidson, at ¶ 6) ("Davidson Declaration"). Davidson interviewed Allen and Platt, as well as other women who were rumored to have been harassed by Platt. (Allen Deposition II, at 61-62; Davidson Declaration, at ¶ 7, 8, 9). Based upon her investigation, Davidson concluded that there were insufficient grounds to formally charge Platt, as much of the complained-of conduct had occurred at least four years earlier. (Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit A, Allen Deposition, Feb. 18, 1999, at 261 ("Allen Deposition III"); Davidson Declaration, at ¶ 10). However, Davidson and Amtrak officials met with Platt, described the complaints that had been received about his conduct, explained Amtrak's sexual harassment policy to Platt, and warned him that he would be judged by the standards set forth in the policy. (Allen Deposition III, at 262; Davidson Declaration, at ¶ 11).*fn1

Platt's staring and following behavior resumed when Allen returned to work in July 1996. On one occasion, when Platt was following Allen, she entered the women's locker room. (Allen Deposition III, at 269). Platt banged on the door, and when Allen did not respond, Platt opened the door and walked into the room. (Id.). Allen was clothed, sitting on a table. (Id.). Platt said nothing, gave Allen "sort of like a smirk and turned around and walked out." (Id. 269-70). Allen informed her union representative of this incident, but did not tell any Amtrak officials. (Id. at 274). In addition, Allen's co-workers teased her about Platt, suggesting that he "wanted her." (Allen Deposition III, at 299).*fn3

Soon after the locker room incident, Allen took another leave of absence from August 1996 to February 1997, and again from May 1998 to November 1998.*fn4

The two separate actions brought by Allen are based on the same set of factual circumstances, and therefore both of the actions, No. 98-3421 and No. 99-130, will be considered here together.

II. ANALYSIS

According to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law," then a motion for summary judgment must be granted. The question before the Court at the summary judgment stage is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 251-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court's role at summary judgment is not to weigh the evidence, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial; that is, an issue upon which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the non-moving party's favor. See id. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2511.

The moving party "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The nonmoving party must then "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the `depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553.

In deciding whether there is a disputed issue of material fact, the "inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts . . . must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 994, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962)).

A. Title VII

A plaintiff seeking to establish employer liability for a sexually hostile work environment must establish the ...


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