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WILLIAMS v. PENN. STATE POLICE LIQUOR CONTROL

August 14, 2000

SHARON R. WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF
V.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE-BUREAU OF LIQUOR CONTROL ENFORCEMENT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Now before the Court is the motion of defendants the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement of the Pennsylvania State Police, James P. Corcoran, Mary Lou Corbett, Robert Hickes, Alfred Campbell, Bettina Bunting, and Thomas Bickta for summary judgment as to the claims of plaintiff Sharon Williams, who claims defendants engaged in unlawful and unconstitutional discrimination against her on the basis of her race, sex, and disability. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Williams is an African American woman who has been employed as a liquor enforcement officer with the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement of the Pennsylvania State Police ("Bureau") since 1982.*fn1 Among her duties as a liquor enforcement officer are the investigation of violations of Pennsylvania laws and regulations related to the sale and consumption of alcohol, conducting undercover surveillance of establishments serving alcohol, leading and assisting in raids of such establishments, participating in prosecutions for alcohol-related violations, and training others to perform the duties of a liquor enforcement officer. (Plaintiffs' Exh., Vol. 3, Tab. 1, Job Description, Sharon R. Williams, May 30, 1996; Identification of Essential Job Functions, Sharon R. Williams). Her job involves "consuming, or feigning the consumption of, alcoholic beverages." (Id.). Plaintiff is a recovering alcoholic.

Williams alleges that since October 1995, she has been subjected to discrimination and harassment by the individual defendants, James P. Corcoran, Mary Lou Corbett, Robert Hickes, Alfred Campbell, Bettina Bunting, and Thomas Bickta (collectively, the "individual defendants"), and the Bureau, on the basis of her race, sex, and disability. The conduct of which plaintiff complains includes three formal actions taken by the Bureau with the participation of some or all of the individual defendants: (1) in April, 1996, she was suspended for 15 days without pay after an investigation into her practice of leaving the office prior to end of her shift and conducting personal business during work hours; (2) in February 1997, she was presented from returning to work after an extended leave of absence and forced to take an additional 11 days of sick leave; (3) in 1998, she was placed on restricted duty, assigned to a desk, and ordered to relinquish her badge, gun, and state vehicle.

Plaintiff also claims that defendants have discriminated against her in less formal ways: denying her opportunities to receive training; presenting false information in investigations and at hearings; initiating unfounded and retaliatory investigations; giving her low marks on performance evaluations; issuing written reprimands; behaving confrontationally toward her; publicly degrading and humiliating her; giving her undesirable and dangerous work assignments; and ignoring her complaints of harassment and discrimination.

Plaintiff asserts claims against the Bureau under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. §§ 951, et seq. ("PHRA"). She also asserts against the individual defendants constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and 1983 and aiding and abetting claims under the PHRA. All defendants have moved for summary judgment.

II. ANALYSIS

In deciding a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "the test is whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and, if not, whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Medical Protective Co. v. Watkins, 198 F.3d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994)). "As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Furthermore, "summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is `genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

On a motion for summary judgment, the facts should be reviewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962)). The nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, and must produce more than a "mere scintilla" of evidence to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact and avoid summary judgment. See Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of North America, Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

A. Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

Plaintiff argues that the Bureau discriminated against her on the basis of a disability in violation of the ADA and the PHRA. In particular, she claims the Bureau regarded her as suffering from the disability of alcoholism and took adverse employment actions against her because of that disability.

Casting a shadow over plaintiffs' ADA claim is the doctrine of state immunity from suit embodied in the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. That shadow has lengthened considerably in a series of recent Supreme Court cases addressing the authority of Congress to abrogate states' sovereign immunity. See Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 120 S.Ct. 631, 145 L.Ed.2d 522 (2000); Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd. v. College Say. Bank, 527 U.S. 627, 119 S.Ct. 2199, 144 L.Ed.2d 575 (1999); Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 119 S.Ct. 2240, 144 L.Ed.2d 636 (1999); Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 116 S.Ct. 1114, 134 L.Ed.2d 252 (1996).

Just days ago, in Lavia v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 224 F.3d 190 (3d Cir. 2000), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit extended the holdings of those Supreme Court cases to the ADA by holding that the suits against states and their agencies under the ADA are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. See id., slip op., at 24, ___, Lavia compels me to the conclusion that the Bureau, which is part of the Pennsylvania State Police and a state agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,*fn2 is immune from suit under the ADA, and therefore summary judgment will be granted as to plaintiffs' ADA claim.

The same analysis and result applies to plaintiffs' disability-based discrimination claims against the Bureau and the individual defendants under the PHRA. While the PHRA has been held to waive Pennsylvania's immunity from suit in state court, see Mansfield State Coll. v. Kovich, 46 Pa.Cmwlth. 399, 407 A.2d 1387, 1388 (1979), that waiver does not subject Pennsylvania to a PHRA suit in federal court, see Irizarry v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Transp., No. 98-6180, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5890, at *13 (E.D.Pa. Apr. 19, 1999); McLaughlin v. State System of Higher Educ., No. 97-1144, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4325, at *17 n. 4 (E.D.Pa. Mar. 31, 1999); Fitzpatrick v. Pennsylvania, 40 F. Supp.2d 631, 635 (E.D.Pa. 1999). Indeed, Pennsylvania law, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8521(b), is quite explicit on this point: "Nothing contained in this subchapter shall be construed to waive the immunity of the Commonwealth from suit in Federal courts guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States." Thus, a plaintiff may never pursue a PHRA claim against Pennsylvania or its agencies in federal court. For that reason, plaintiffs' claims pursuant to the PHRA will be dismissed without prejudice.*fn3

B. Discrimination Based on Race and Sex

Plaintiff alleges that the Bureau violated Title VII in three ways. First, plaintiff alleges that the Bureau retaliated against her for filing a discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Second, plaintiff asserts she was treated differently because of her race and gender. Third, plaintiff claims she was ...


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