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BENNY v. COMMONWEALTH

November 22, 2005.

JUDITH BENNY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT SOMERSET, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KIM GIBSON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case comes before the Court on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Corrections, State Correctional Institution at Somerset's (hereinafter "Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 20). Specifically, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 the Defendant has moved to dismiss Count III (sexual discrimination claim) of Judith Benny's (hereinafter "Plaintiff") Complaint arguing, inter alia, that no genuine issues as to any material facts exist in the case sub judice. (Document No. 20). The Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted as to Count III of the Plaintiff's Complaint for the following reasons.

JURISDICTION

  Jurisdiction of the above-captioned civil action is proper in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in that the Plaintiff's cause of action arises under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000(e), et. seq. Jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C.S. § 1343(4) and 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000(e)-5(f), and a right to sue letter was issued by the U.S. Department of Justice on March 4, 2003 and received on March 10, 2003. Venue in this Court for the case sub judice is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C.S. § 1391(b), because the claim arose in this judicial district, and pursuant to 28 U.S.C.S. § 2000(e)-5(f)(3), as the alleged unlawful employment practice was committed in this judicial district.

  FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  The evidence of record, as uncontroverted or otherwise taken in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff is as follows:

  Beginning on or about February 1998, the Plaintiff began her employment with the Defendant as a food service instructor.*fn1 (Document No. 25). During her employment, the Plaintiff avers that she has performed her duties in a satisfactory manner. Id. However, the Plaintiff alleges that at various times she has been subjected to unwelcome sexual overtures by male members of the Defendant's management. Id. Additionally, the Plaintiff claims that she has "been subjected to a consistent and pervasive pattern of discriminatory and oppressive treatment at the hand of Defendant's agents because she is a woman." Id.

  Plaintiff asserts that she complained of the sexual discrimination to superior officials of Defendant. Id. Indeed, the Plaintiff argues that the Defendant was aware of the behaviors of male management officials but failed to take action and condoned the offensive behavior. Id. The offensive behavior exhibited by the male employees were intimidating to the Plaintiff, and she argues that the behavior would have been offensive to any reasonable woman under the same circumstances. Id. The uncontested offensive behavior documented by the Plaintiff and brought to the attention of her superiors are the following instances:
(1) 12/26/97, [a male co-worker] yelled `you don't give a F*ck about no one but your own F*cking self' . . . [and] slammed the door closed[;]
(2) On 05/02/98 I[t] was stated who was I blowing again in reference to the overtime issue[;]
(3) On 05/08/98 `The remark was made who's dick am I blowing to get all the overtime[;]
(4) On July 25 at 2:15 Sat., `They always complain about patting people down. They always say there are to [sic] many women in here.'
(5) [A male co-worker] made bets with other male employees regarding Plaintiff and sexual acts.
(Document No. 25, Exhibit B, pp. 5-6). The Plaintiff argues that these instances in conjunction with the alleged pattern of conduct displayed by the Defendant set forth a clear pattern of sexual discrimination. (Document No. 25). In fact, according to the Plaintiff, the entire record in the case sub judice is replete with examples of a continuing pattern of sexual discrimination. Id. In particular the Plaintiff alleges that a male co-worker, Donald Lepley, displayed egregious conduct toward the Plaintiff. Id.

  STANDARD

  The Court shall render summary judgment "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Id. at 248, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202. All inferences must be drawn, and all doubts resolved, in favor of the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962). On a motion for summary judgment, the moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). To defeat summary judgment, the non-moving party must respond with facts of record that contradict the facts identified by the movant and would support a favorable jury finding. Id. at 321 n. 3, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The party opposing summary judgment may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but must set forth specific facts, presenting affirmative evidence showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202.

  The parties must also adhere to the McDonnell Douglas scheme of shifting burdens of production, which controls the analysis of individual disparate treatment claims brought under Title VII and the PHRA. See generally McDonnell Douglass Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 800-06, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), and clarified in Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). Specifically, disparate treatment claims follow a well-established three-step "burden-shifting" approach. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, supra.

  Initially, a non-movant, generally the plaintiff, must establish a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation. Then, the movant or defendant must rebut an inference of wrongdoing with evidence of a legitimate, non-discriminatory, non-retaliatory reason for the action taken. Weston v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 251 F.3d 420, 432 (3d Cir. 2001). If a defendant successfully meets this burden in a discrimination or retaliation case, then the burden of production shifts back to the plaintiff to present evidence of pretext, or show that the discrimination played a role in the defendant's decision-making, and the discrimination had a determinative effect on the outcome. Weston, 251 F.3d at 432. Noting the inimical consequences of discrimination in the workplace, the Third Circuit cautions district courts against granting summary judgment to an employer when its intent is at issue, particularly in discrimination cases. Goosby v. Johnson & Johnson Medical, Inc., 228 F.3d 313, 321 (3d Cir. 2000).

  TITLE VII CLAIMS

  Pursuant to the statutory language of Title VII, it is unlawful for any employer "to discriminate against any individual with respect to his [or her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's . . . sex." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). A sexual discrimination claim under Title VII must establish that the sexual harassment was either so pervasive as to create a hostile work environment and change the conditions of employment, or if the sexual harassment constituted a quid pro quo sexual discrimination. In the ...


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