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Kurschinske v. Meadville Forging Co.

June 21, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, Sean J., J.


Presently pending before the Court is Defendant, Meadville Forging Company's Motion for Summary Judgment.


Plaintiff, Virginia Kurschinske, was hired by Defendant on January 5, 2004. Def. Ex. A, Plaintiff's Dep. p. 16. At all relevant times during her employment, Gary Klink was Defendant's plant manager. Plaintiff initially worked the first shift under the direction of Mike Delycure and Don Moyer. Id. at p. 46. In May 2004, Plaintiff was switched to the second shift, and her supervisors were Mark Lewis and Scott Windsor, who were designated as "group leaders." Id. at p. 48. According to Plaintiff, pornographic materials surfaced on the second shift and she was subjected to some workplace misconduct, but was not offended by it. Id. at pp. 73; 107.

Plaintiff was subsequently switched to the third shift in September 2004, and testified, as set forth in more detail below, that the display of pornographic materials became more "hard core" and her male co-workers' offensive conduct escalated. Id. at pp. 45; 82; 94-95. According to Plaintiff, she repeatedly reported the alleged misconduct to her supervisors and/or group leaders to no avail. Id. at pp. 93; 98; 118; 132-133; 141. Plaintiff also complained to Klink, who subsequently held a meeting in December 2004 and informed all shifts that pornography was no longer permitted. Id. at p. 120; Def. Ex. B, Klink Dep. p. 9. Plaintiff claims that notwithstanding Klink's directive, her male co-workers continued to display pornography and she became the target of retaliatory conduct, which she also reported to management. Def. Ex. A, Pl. Dep. pp. 124-128; 137; 225; Def. Ex. D, p. 10.

On January 5, 2005, Plaintiff received a two-day suspension without pay for causing a disruption during her shift with another female co-worker which had occurred in November 2004. Def. Ex. A, Plaintiff's Dep. p. 151; Def. Ex. C. According to Plaintiff, this suspension was the "straw that broke the camel's back" and she ultimately resigned because she "could not work under those conditions." Def. Ex. A, Plaintiff's Dep. Pp. 202; 204; 207.

Plaintiff subsequently brought the instant action against Defendant, alleging gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000c et seq. and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. Specifically, Plaintiff claims she was subjected to a hostile work environment and was retaliated against as a result of her complaints. She also seeks damages based upon a claim of constructive discharge. Defendant has moved for summary judgment with respect to all claims. For the following reasons, the motion will be denied.


Summary judgment is proper "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). In order to withstand a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [each] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In evaluating whether the non-moving party has established each necessary element, the Court must grant all reasonable inferences from the evidence to the non-moving party. Knabe v. Boury Corp., 114 F.3d 407, 410, n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Matsuchita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.574 (1986)). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587).


We direct our attention first to Plaintiff's hostile environment claim. To establish a successful claim for hostile work environment discrimination based upon sex under Title VII and the PHRA, an employee must show that: (1) she suffered intentional discrimination because of her sex; (2) the discrimination was severe or pervasive; (3) the discrimination detrimentally affected her; (4) the discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person of the same sex in that position; and (5) the existence of respondeat superior liability. Jensen v. Potter, 435 F.3d 444, 449 n.3 (3rd Cir. 2006) implied overruling on other grounds recognized by Moore v. City of Philadelphia, 461 F.3d 331 (3rd Cir. 2006); Weston v. Pennsylvania, 251 F.3d 420, 426 (3rd Cir. 2001). In determining whether a work environment is hostile, the totality of the circumstances must be considered, including the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, its severity, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating or a mere offensive utterance, and whether it reasonably interferes with an employee's work performance. Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993).

Defendant argues that Plaintiff's hostile environment claim fails because there is insufficient record evidence to create a triable issue of fact as to the severity or pervasiveness of the conduct. Further, Defendant argues that there is no evidence that Plaintiff was detrimentally affected by the allegedly offensive conduct. Finally, Defendant contends that Plaintiff cannot establish respondeat superior liability because of the effectiveness of its remedial action. At this point, a brief recitation of the evidence marshaled by Plaintiff in support of her claims is appropriate.

Plaintiff testified at deposition that after she was switched to the second shift in May 2004, she observed graphic pornography at her group leader's work station while they were alone at the plant. Def. Ex. A, Plaintiff's Dep. p. 74; 77. Shortly after switching to the third shift in September 2004, she observed hard core pornography at the plant manager's son's work station. Id. at pp. 94-95. In late September 2004, Plaintiff testified that graphic pornography was left on the windshield of her car. Id. at p. 140. In October 2004, male co-workers flipped through pornographic magazines in her presence and on one occasion made comments such as "look at those knockers" or "nice beaver." Id. at p. 87. A co-worker also shoved a pornographic magazine in close proximity to her face and stated "hey bitch, don't you wish you looked like that huh?" Id. at p. 108. In September or October 2004, male co-workers taped pornographic pictures on ...

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