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Cleary v. CBRL Group

July 31, 2007

PATRICK CLEARY, PLAINTIFF
v.
CBRL GROUP, D/B/A CRACKER BARREL RESTAURANT, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 24). Having been fully briefed and argued, this matter is ripe for disposition.

I. Background

The plaintiff brought this employment discrimination suit against his former employer, CBRL Group d/b/a Cracker Barrel Restaurant on October 31, 2005, after the company terminated his employment as general manager of their Fogelsville, PA restaurant. (See Complaint (Doc. 1)). Plaintiff alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e) et seq., and raises the same claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 P.S. §§ 951 et seq. The plaintiff seeks relief in the form of reinstatement to a position of equal duties and responsibilities, front pay, back pay, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and costs.

Plaintiff began working for Cracker Barrel in 1996. (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (hereinafter "Defendant's Statement of Facts")*fn1 (Doc. 26) at ¶ 11).*fn2 He transferred to the Fogelsville, PA branch in 2002. (Id. at ¶ 23). Supervisor Jim Donaldson transferred plaintiff to Fogelsville due to his previous success at the Hamburg restaurant, which included a general manager of the year award. (Id. at ¶ 20, 23). Donaldson wanted the plaintiff to assume more responsibility as he progressed along the managerial track. (Id. at ¶ 23). Upon plaintiff's arrival, the Fogelsville restaurant showed improvement, winning the company's highest award for hospitality. (Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (hereinafter "Plaintiff's Response") (Doc. 35)*fn3 at 1; 2).

On July 17, 2002, a female employee, Pamela Cichonski, notified management that the plaintiff had made lewd comments and asked her to kiss him. (Pamela Cichonski Deposition, Attached as Exhibit C to Defendant's Statement of Facts (Doc. 26-4) (hereinafter "Cichonski Dep.") at 45; Cichonski Dep. Exs. 1, 2.). Donaldson conducted an investigation. (Cichonski Dep. at 42; Cichonski Dep. Ex. 2.) The plaintiff acknowledged he had an inappropriate conversation with Cichonski.

(Plaintiff's Deposition, Attached as Exhibit A to Defendant's Statement of Facts (Doc. 26-2) (hereinafter "Plaintiff's Deposition") at 130; Plf. Dep. Exs. D, F) The company placed him on final written notice and told that any further inappropriate behavior would result in discipline up to and including termination. (Id. at 121; Plf. Dep. Ex. D). In October 2002 two different female employees alleged that the plaintiff had improperly touched them. (Id. at 141,149). In neither instance did the plaintiff admit culpability (Id. at 144, 146; Plf. Dep. Ex. I, J), nor did the company discipline him after an investigation. (Plf. Dep. at 149; Plf. Dep. Ex. K). In June 2003 Donaldson reprimanded the plaintiff for visiting a bar where employees regularly congregate and allegedly buying one employee a beer and another employee shots of alcohol. (Plf. Dep. at 155, 156; Plf. Dep. Ex. M). Donaldson warned the plaintiff that the company's fraternization policy prohibited such acts. (Plf. Dep. Ex. M). Cracker Barrel's fraternization policy reads, in pertinent part:

"Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restricts fraternization between employees to avoid either the practice or appearance of favoritism, sexual harassment or conflict of interest. . . Inappropriate familiarity with subordinates is prohibited. Subordinates must not be addressed with familiar terms. . . subordinates must not be subjected to sexually suggestive language or behavior." (Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 4).

The company again did not discipline the plaintiff. ( Plf. Dep. at 171; Plf. Dep. Ex. M).

On March 9, 2004 Donaldson suspended the plaintiff with pay while he investigated a new claim of sexual harassment from another female employee. (Id. at 172, 173, 180; Plf. Dep. Ex. N). Stacy Gallagher claimed that the plaintiff asked her to remove her clothing and gave her a greeting card signed "WYD" (which she took to mean "who's your daddy") (Stacy Gallagher Deposition, Attached as Exhibit D to Defendant's Statement of Facts (Doc. 26-5) (hereinafter "Gallagher Deposition") at p. 82, lines 5 to 18; Gallagher Dep. Ex. 1). She alleged the plaintiff may have called her at home (Gallagher Dep. Ex. 1) and followed her home, all of which she did not desire. (Gallagher Dep. at 82; Gallagher Dep. Ex. 1). The plaintiff admitted to Donaldson that he sent the greeting card and discussed personal matters with Gallagher. (Plf. Dep. at 199, 203, 204, 208, 210; Plf. Dep. Ex. P; Gallagher Dep. at 65, 66). Donaldson terminated the Plaintiff on March 19, 2004. (Plf. Dep. Ex. Q; Plaintiff's Response at 1).*fn4 Another male filled the plaintiff's former position. (Complaint at ¶ 15).

Plaintiff claims that his subordinate employees conspired against him because Donaldson sent him to Fogelsville to correct operational problems. (See Plaintiff's Response at 2). The plaintiff also contends that while at Fogelsville the female staff initiated conversations of a sexual nature with him and that he reported these conversations to his supervisor, Jim Donaldson, to no effect. (Id.) He alleges that Gallagher should have been disciplined because she pursued him and called him outside of work hours. (See Id. at 2, 8, 9). Plaintiff argues that the defendant discriminated against him because the company disciplined male managers for dating female subordinates but did not similarly punish female managers for the same offense. (See Id. at 10, 16, 17). Additionally, the plaintiff argues that male managers were disciplined for violating the fraternization policy for dating female subordinates but the female subordinates were never disciplined. (See Id.). In September 2004, plaintiff dual filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging sexual discrimination in his discharge. (Complaint at ¶ 6). In March 2005 the PHRC's investigation found no probable cause to support the inference that he was discharged due to his sex. (Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 58). In September 2005 the PHRC mailed plaintiff a right-to-sue notice. (Complaint at ¶ 7). On October 31, 2005 the plaintiff filed a complaint (Doc.1) against his former employer, CBRL Group d/b/a Cracker Barrel Restaurant. In his complaint the plaintiff alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e) et seq., and raises the same claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 P.S. §§ 951 et seq. (Complaint at ¶ 1). The plaintiff seeks relief in the form of reinstatement to a position of equal duties and responsibilities, front pay, back pay, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and costs. (Id. at ¶ 22, 25).

II. Jurisdiction

As this case is brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e), et seq., we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district court shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws. or treaties of the United States.") We have pendant jurisdiction of ...


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