The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dubois, J.
On December 9, 1999, plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint against the
defendant alleging that the Postal Service did not act upon allegations
of co-worker sexual harassment. Following appointment of counsel,
plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on January 21, 2000, alleging a
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and
42 U.S.C. § 1981a. On April 27, 2000, the Court denied Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss, or,
in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, without
prejudice. The defendant was granted leave to file a second motion for
summary judgment after the completion of discovery.
Presently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment with supporting affidavits and exhibits (Document No. 15, filed
Aug. 31, 2000), Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law In Opposition to
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment with supporting exhibits
(Document No. 17, filed Sept. 21, 2000), Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's
Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Document No. 18, filed Sept. 27, 2000) and Supplement to
Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 19, filed Sept.
29, 2000). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary
Judgment will be granted, and judgment will be entered in favor of the
This case stems from allegations of sexual harassment which occurred
while the plaintiff was working for the United States Postal Service. In
1985, plaintiff began working for the Postal Service as a letter
carrier. Dep. of Donna M. Dougherty, July 26, 2000 ("Ex. D-A"), p. 25. In
1995, after sustaining a shoulder injury on the job, she was assigned to
permanent limited duty as a clerk in the visitor registration room,
alternatively called the access room, located on the first floor in the
main lobby of the Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center, also
referred to as the 30th Street Station facility. The access room is
described as being very small, like a small box, approximately 12 feet by
10 feet in dimensions. Dep. of Karen Sudyka-Weinberg, Aug. 8, 2000 ("Ex.
P-A"), pp. 11-13. Plaintiff's duties in the access room involved
distributing temporary badges to fellow employees who did not have
permanent badges. She shared those duties with, among others, Anita
Alexander, a co-worker. Ex. D-A, pp. 28-31; Ex. P-A, pp. 9-10. During the
period in which the harassment was alleged to have occurred, the access
room was under the supervision of a supervisor trainee, officially
classified as a 204-B Supervisor, Karen Sudyka. Ex. P-A, p. 6.
In March 1998, Joseph Engram was assigned to work with plaintiff and
Ms. Alexander in the access room. Engram had previously been suspended
for 13 months for threatening another supervisor, and had been described
by management as having a problem with supervision. Dep. of Joseph
Engram, Aug. 8, 2000 ("Ex. D-B"), pp. 36-47; Ex. P-A, pp. 16-17.
Plaintiff testified that from May 11, 1998 through May 25, 1998, Mr.
Engram would solicit her attention by singing and would then proceed to
rub his crotch which smiling at her. Ex. D-A, pp. 108-09. According to
plaintiff, Mr. Engram would rub his crotch for a few seconds — the
"time it would take [her] to turn, look, and look away." Ex D-A, p. 109.
Mr. Engram denied engaging in the conduct alleged by plaintiff. Ex. D-B,
pp. 48-49. Ms. Alexander also denied witnessing this conduct. Dep. of Anita
Alexander, Aug. 8, 2000 ("Ex. D-C"), p. 17.
On June 1, 1998, there was a confrontation between plaintiff and Mr.
Engram about which plaintiff testified that Mr. Engram pointed his finger
directly in her face and stated that plaintiff was making claims of
sexual harassment because plaintiff "wanted him." Ex. D-A, pp. 120-21.
During this incident, Ms. Sudyka was present and asked plaintiff to
prepare a written statement. Ex. D-A, pp. 121-22. Ms. Sudyka testified
that she separated plaintiff and Mr. Engram, but Ms. Sudyka did not talk
to Mr. Engram at the time "because I was told that there was a sexual
harassment committee, that I would just take Donna's statement and that
was . . . all I was told to do." Ex. P-A, pp. 27-28. Plaintiff testified
"Once I make this letter, they [Ms. Sudyka and Ms. Parrot] said `this
kind of makes it official,' or something." Ex. P-A, pp. 122.
Rhonda Parrot, a senior manager, subsequently interviewed plaintiff,
Mr. Engram, Ms. Alexander and others and initiated an investigated that
was conducted by Edward Lugo, an Employee Assistance Counselor. Defendant
asserts that the investigation ended without any findings because there
were no corroborating witnesses to Mr. Engram's alleged harassing
conduct. On the subject of witnesses, although Ms. Alexander denied
seeing Mr. Engram harass plaintiff, Officer Fetko testified she told him
she might have seen Mr. Engram grab his crotch. Dep. of Officer Michael
J. Fetko, Aug. 8, 2000 ("Ex. P-B"), Attach. F1, pp. 2-3.
According to Officer Fetko, when he told Ms. Sudyka that Ms. Alexander
told him she had seen Mr. Engram grab his crotch, "She understood what I
was saying, but she told me that it was no longer in her hands, that the
matter had been taken to a different level." Ex. P-B, p. 11. On November
2, 1998, Officer Fetko, at the request of Ernestine Jenkins who worked in
Employee Assistance, submitted a written report covering Ms. Alexander's
statements. That ended his involvement in the investigation. Ex. P-B,
pp. 11-13. When Ms. Sudyka was asked whether she knew whether the
investigation ended or whether there were any written findings, she
testified that she did not know. Ex. P-A, p. 38. Plaintiff testified that
after giving her statement, she was never contacted by Mr. Lugo. Ex.
D-A, p. 142.
Between June 1, 1998 and June 22, 1998, when plaintiff left the Postal
Service on disability, she testified that Engram "was stalking me." Ex.
P-A, p. 149-50. Although he was assigned to another floor, "he found a
way every day at least once to be around, or for me to see him, or to be
at the door." Ex. P-A, pp. 149-52. Those incidents "were enough to send
me over the edge." Ex. P-A, p. 153.
Plaintiff wrote to a Senior Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints
official, Processing Specialist, Alexander Branch, on October 22, 1998,
regarding her allegations of harassment by Mr. Engram. Ex. D-A, p. 88;
Letter from plaintiff to Alexander Branch, Oct. 22, 1998 ("Ex. D-D"). On
May 26, 1999, plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") about the harassment. EEO Complaint of
Discrimination in the Postal Service, May 26, 1999 ("Ex. D-F"); Decl. of
Robinn A. Reed, ¶ 6. On September 9, 1999, the EEOC dismissed her
complaint as untimely, saying she failed to contact an Equal Employment
Opportunity ("EEO") counselor within 45 days of the alleged harassment.
Dismissal of Formal EEO Complaint, Sept. 9, 1999, Case No.
1-C-191-0031-99 ("Ex. D-H"); Decl. of Robinn A. Reed, ¶ 7.
"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[,]" summary judgment shall be
granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The Supreme
Court has explained that Rule 56(c) requires "the threshold inquiry of
determining whether there is the need for a trial — whether, in
other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be
resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved
in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Therefore, "a motion for
summary judgment must be granted unless the party opposing the motion can
adduce evidence which, when considered in light of that party's burden of
proof at trial, could be the basis for a jury finding in that party's
favor." J.E. Mamiye & Sons, Inc. v. Fidelity Bank, 813 F.2d 610, 618 (3d
Cir. 1987) (citing Anderson and Celotex Corp.).
In considering a motion for summary judgment, the evidence must be
considered in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d
142 (1970) (quoting United States v. Diebold, 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82
S.Ct. 993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962)). However, the party opposing summary
judgment "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).
Therefore, "[i]f the evidence [offered by the non-moving party] is merely
colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be
granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). On the other
hand, if reasonable minds can differ as to the import of the proffered
evidence that speaks to an issue of material fact, summary judgment
should not be granted.
In its Motion for Summary Judgment, defendant raises two main arguments
— that plaintiff did not exhaust her administrative remedies and
has shown no equitable reason why the exhaustion requirement should be
tolled, and that plaintiff's hostile work environment claim is not a
cognizable Title VII cause of action. Those arguments will be addressed
A. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies
1. Exhaustion Within 45-Day Period
"It is a basic tenet of administrative law that a plaintiff must
exhaust all required administrative remedies before bringing a claim for
judicial relief." Robinson v. Dalton, 107 F.3d 1018, 1020 (3d Cir.
1997). The exclusive remedy for employees of the United States Postal
Service who allege discrimination in the workplace is Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16. Plaintiff's §
1981 claim for workplace discrimination is analyzed under the same
framework as Title VII. See Stewart v. Rutgers, The State University,
120 F.3d 426, 432 (1997). Pursuant to regulations issued under Title
VII, "[a]n aggrieved person ...