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Hartley v. Pocono Mountain Regional Police Dep't

March 22, 2007

DEBRA L. HARTLEY, PLAINTIFF
v.
POCONO MOUNTAIN REGIONAL POLICE DEPARTMENT AND JOHN P. LAMBERTON, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This is a gender discrimination case arising out of Plaintiff Debra L. Hartley's employment as a Police Officer with Defendant Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department, a regional law enforcement agency comprised of four municipalities. Plaintiff and Defendants, the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department and John P. Lamberton, its Chief of Police, have filed objections to a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation addressing Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The Magistrate Judge proposed that the motion be granted with respect to Plaintiff's claims of denial of equal protection and procedural due process, both of which were brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He recommended denying summary judgment on Plaintiff's hostile work environment claim brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., as well as on her claims of retaliation brought under Tile VII and § 1983.

Plaintiff objects to the recommendation that summary judgment be granted on her equal protection claim presented under § 1983. Defendants object to all recommendations adverse to their position.

Where, as here, objections are filed to a Report and Recommendation addressing a dispositive motion, the District Judge must review de novo those aspects of the Report and Recommendation to which the objections relate. See Scerbo v. Orifice, No. 3:06-CV-0676, 2006 WL 3762000, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 20, 2006). As to those aspects of the Report and Recommendation to which no objection is made, however, the District Judge is required only to review the record for "clear error." Id.; Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 377-78 (M.D. Pa. 1998).

No party has objected to the recommendation that summary judgment be granted on the procedural due process claim presented in Count V of the Amended Complaint. Discerning no error in this recommendation, I will adopt it. The record has been reviewed de novo with respect to all other claims presented by Plaintiff.

Defendants object to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the evidence of record is sufficient to withstand summary adjudication of the hostile work environment claim. In particular, Defendants contend that inappropriate weight was attributed to an alleged occasion when pornography was purportedly visible on a computer within the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department. Defendants correctly observe that Plaintiff did not mention this incident during her deposition. Defendants expressed concern that the Magistrate Judge believed that they had admitted this occurrence, asserting that they "in no way concede that any [such] incident occurred. . . ." (Brief in Support of Defendants' Objections to Report and Recommendation, Dkt. Entry 45, at 8.)*fn1

Defendants contend that the evidence, viewed in its totality, is insufficient to support a finding by a rational fact-finder that Plaintiff was exposed to a sexually hostile work environment at the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department.

Five factors are to be assessed in considering a claim of employment discrimination based upon a hostile or abusive work environment:

(1) the plaintiff suffered intentional discrimination because of her gender;

(2) the discrimination was pervasive or severe;

(3) the discrimination adversely affected the plaintiff;

(4) the discrimination would have detrimentally affected a reasonable person of the same protected class in that position; and

(5) the existence of respondeat superior liability. See Shahin v. College Misericordia, No. 3:CV-02-0925, 2006 WL 2642355, at *11 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 13, 2006). A careful review of the entire record confirms the existence of facts sufficient to warrant submission of each of these issues to a jury, even if there were no occasions when Plaintiff was exposed to pornography at the police station.

Plaintiff has identified three fellow patrol officers as the perpetrators of a pattern of discriminatory and sometimes abusive behavior. This conduct included a public rebuke by one of those officers (Hartley Dep. at 63-69); the refusal of these officers to accept her as a backup (id. at 71-72); their failure to back her up when she was out on calls (Yakscoe Dep. at 26; Miller Dep. at 10, 26-27); and their falsely accusing her of various misconduct. (Hartley Dep. at 70-81, 101-03, and 122; Miller Dep. Tr. at 12-13.) While there was no evidence of sexual advances or derogatory or demeaning comments directed to Plaintiff, she did testify that she had been told on one occasion by a supervising officer that police work is "a man's job." (Hartley Dep. at 86-87.) She was also informed that the three officers in question regularly complained about her to others and referred to her in disparaging terms on the basis of gender. (Hartley Dep. at 91-104.) Furthermore, Plaintiff presented evidence suggesting that more was required of her when she was assigned as the Department's D.A.R.E Officer than ...


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