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EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION v. ROSE CASUAL DINING

March 5, 2004.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
v.
ROSE CASUAE DINING, E.P., d/b/a APPEEBEE'S NEIGHBORHOOD GRILL & BAR; DANIEEEE RIEEEI v. ROSE CASUAE DINING, E.P., JAMIE RUCKEE, SUSAN PURCEEE, STACEY BARTHOEOMEW, DEXTER VOEPE, and BRIAN MARKS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD B. SURRICK, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Presently before the Court is Defendants Rose Casual Dining, E.P. d/b/a Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar, Jamie Ruckle, Susan Purcell, Stacey Bartholomew, Dexter Volpe, and Brian Mark's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 27.) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.*fn1

I. Background*fn2

  On or about October 25, 2001, Plaintiff Danielle Rielli was hired as a manager — trainee by Defendant Rose Casual Dining, E.P. ("Rose Causal"), at their Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania facility. (Doc. No. 12 ¶ 10.) Rielli alleges that almost immediately after she was hired, she was subjected to a sexually hosfile work environment by the management and other employees of Rose Casual. (Id. ¶ 11.) When Rielli complained to the assistant general manager, Susan Purcell, about the sexually hosfile work environment at the Bloomsburg facility, she responded that Rielli would have to deal with it. (Id. ¶ 12.) When Rielli complained to the general manager, Stacey Bartholomew, she laughed and questioned Rielli's sexual orientation. (Id. ¶ 13.)

  Determined to become a restaurant manager, Rielli continued to endure the sexual harassment until she finished the kitchen training and transferred to Rose Casual's Audubon facility to begin "front of the house" training. (Id. ¶ 15.) On or about November 23, 2001, at the Audubon orientation meeting, Rielli explained the difficulties she encountered at the Bloomsburg facility and that she did not feel fully prepared to be a restaurant manager. (Id. ¶ 16.) Rielli promised the general manager, Scott Larsen, that she would do anything to make up for the deficiencies in her training in Bloomsburg and was assured by Larsen that she would be successful. (Id. ¶ 17.) On November 27, 2001, Rielli met with the manager and training coordinator, Dexter Volpe, and informed him of the sexual harassment that she endured at the Bloomsburg facility. (Id. ¶ 18.) Volpe expressed concern and told Rielli that he was going to refer the matter to the human resources department and make them aware of her allegations. (Id. ¶ 19.) On November 29, 2001, Rielli met with two human resources employees, Paul Rockelmann and Paul Trzaska, to discuss the sexual harassment Rielli endured at the Bloomsburg facility. (Id. ¶ 20.) Trzaska told her that he was aware of complaints at the Bloomsburg facility and that she was not the first one to make such a complaint. (Id.)

  On December 3, 2001, Rielli attended Rose Casual's holiday party. (Id. 123.) Upon entering the party, the Bloomsburg manager, Jamie Ruckle, immediately approached Rielli and grabbed her posterior while commenting on how good she looked. Ruckle then removed Rielli's name tag and dropped it down her cleavage. Ruckle continued to pursue Rielli throughout the night, grabbing her and making repeated sexual comments towards her. (Id.) On December 4, 2001, Rielli returned to work and again complained to Volpe about Ruckle's sexually harassing behavior. (Id. ¶ 25.) Volpe commented that Ruckle "was doing that to everyone," not just Rielli. (Id. ¶ 26.) Less than three hours later, Rielli was informed that she was being terminated because she did not fit in. (Id ¶ 27-29.)

  Rielli alleges that Defendants subjected her to a sexually hosfile work environment and retaliated against her when she complained about the sexual harassment. She seeks relief under 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. CONS. STAT. § 951, et seq. ("PHRA"), and raises other state law claims.*fn3

 II. Legal Standard

  Summary judgment is appropriate "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 judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there are no facts supporting the non-moving party's legal position. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-324 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party who "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, 587 (1986). "The nonmoving party . . . cannot rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to support its claim," Townes v. City of Phila., No. Civ. A. OO-CV-138, 2001 WL 503400, *2 (E.D. Pa. May 11, 2001) (quoting Fireman's Ins. Co. v. DeFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982)). Rather, the party opposing summary judgment must go beyond the pleadings and present evidence through affidavits, depositions, or admissions on file to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe the evidence and any reasonable inferences therefrom in the non-movant's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists only when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

 III. Discussion

  A. Sexually Hosfile Work Environment

  Defendants contend that Plaintiffs cannot meet the standard for establishing a claim for hosfile work environment discrimination under Title VII. Title VII makes it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). This language is not limited to solely prohibiting discrimination that is "economic" or "tangible." Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 20 (1993) (citing Meritor Sav. Bank. FSB v. Vinson. 477 U.S. 57, 67 (1986) (internal quotations omitted)). "When the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment, Title VII is violated." Harris. 510 U.S. at 20 (internal quotations and citations omitted). To establish a prima facie case of hosfile work environment, plaintiff must show: (1) the employee suffered intentional discrimination because of his or her sex;*fn4 (2) the discrimination was pervasive and regular; (3) the discrimination detrimentally affected the employee; (4) the discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person of the same sex in that position; and (5) the presence of respondeat superior. Suders v. Easton. 325 F.3d 432, 441 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Andrews v. City of Phila., 895 F.2d 1469, 1482 (3d Cir. 1990).

  1. Discrimination Must be Pervasive and Regular

  To survive a motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff must raise a genuine issue of material fact such that a trier of fact could conclude that the discrimination was pervasive and regular.*fn5 Andrews. 895 F.2d at 1482. The Third Circuit has held that "[h]arassment is pervasive when `incidents of harassment occur in concert or with regularity.'" Id. at 1484 (quoting Lopez v. S.B. Thomas, Inc., 831 F.2d 1184, 1189 (2d Cir. 1987)). The Supreme Court has emphasized that the harassment "must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment." Meritor. 477 U.S. at 67 (quotation omitted). Whether an environment is hosfile and therefore actionable can be determined only by looking at all the circumstances, including "the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance." Harris. 510 U.S. at 23. ...


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