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Tillison v. Capitol Bus Co.

July 8, 2008

CARLA TILLISON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAPITOL BUS COMPANY, D/B/A CAPITOL TRAILWAYS INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sylvia H. Rambo

MEMORANDUM

This case arises in an employment context. Plaintiff Carla Tillison sues her former employer, Capitol Bus Company, d/b/a Capitol Trailways Inc. ("Capitol"), alleging that she was subjected to a racially and sexually hostile work environment and constructively discharged in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). Before the court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A. Facts

Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the facts are as follows.

1. Capitol Trailways

Capitol is a bus company with its offices, garages, and a shop located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Robert "Skip" Becker Dep. 12, 52, June 6, 2007.) Capitol employs about 100 people, including about a dozen mechanics and cleaners who work the third shift overnight. (Id. 12.) The company is owned by three individuals: Joshua Bennett, Joseph Wrabel, and H. Robert "Skip" Becker. (Id. 9.) In 2003, Bennett was the President of Capitol and Becker was the Vice President of Human Resources. (Id.) Brian Boughter was the Director of Maintenance for all shop employees. (Brian Boughter Dep. 11, June 20, 2007.) William "Bill" Long was the third shift supervisor. He worked directly under Boughter. (William Long Dep. 21, April 25, 2007; Boughter Dep. 19.)

2. Non-Discrimination Policies

At the time Tillison was employed by Capitol, the company had three company policies concerning workplace behavior: the Sexual Harassment Policy, the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, and the work rules for the shop.

The Sexual Harassment Policy provided as follows:

Any employee, regardless of gender, who has a complaint of sexual harassment at work, concerning anyone-including supervisors, co-workers, or visitors-must bring that complaint to the attention of the Vice President of Human Resources. In the event that Vice President is a responsible party to a sexual harassment complaint, the problem should be addressed to the President of the company. The company will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment. * * * Where a complaint exists, employees are encouraged to take full and reasonable advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the company. (Tillison Dep. Ex.3.)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Policy provided as follows: Capitol Bus Company does not tolerate discrimination or sexual harassment of any nature by its managers or employees. If you believe you have been the subject of discrimination or sexual harassment, you should immediately bring the matter to the Company's attention. You may discuss the matter with any member of management, including the owners. No employee shall be subject to retaliation. This open door policy is in addition to the rights you have under the labor contract if you are a member of the bargaining unit, and rights you have under federal, state and city laws.

(Id. Ex. 2.) The work rules for the shop, provided as follows:

Capitol Bus Company does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any nature by its manager or employers. If you believe you have been the subject of discrimination or harassment, you should immediately bring the matter to the company's attention. You may discuss the matter with any member of management, including the owners. (Id. Ex. 4.)

When new employees are hired, they are asked to sign and review the documents. However, employees are not given a copy of either the Sexual Harassment or the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy to keep. Instead, the policies are stored in each employee's personnel file, which is kept in a locked file drawer in the office of the Vice President of Human Relations. (Boughter Dep. 58.) In order to see the policies stored in the personnel file, an employee must make a written request to the Vice President of Human Resources to see the file. (Id. 58.) Additionally, the administrative offices are closed and locked during the third shift. (Becker Dep. 26.) On the other hand, shop employees are permitted to keep a copy of the shop rules, and another copy is stored in a three ring binder in the break room. (Boughter Dep. 59-62.)

Capitol provided no formal sexual harassment or non-discrimination training to any of its supervisory employees. (Becker Dep. 48.) According to Becker the issue was occasionally mentioned in informal safety meetings, but no specific training was provided because "we've never recognized a need, so it's not then something that we have responded to under any other circumstance." (Becker Dep. 49:5-7.)

3. Plaintiff's Employment at Capitol

In September 2003, Capitol hired Tillison as a bus cleaner on the third shift at the Harrisburg terminal. (Tillison Dep. 32-33, May 2, 2007.) On the day she was hired, Boughter asked Plaintiff to review and sign a number of employment forms, including the Sexual Harassment Policy, the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, and the work rules for the shop. Altogether, Boughter spent 20-25 minutes reviewing approximately 20 forms with Plaintiff. (Boughter Dep. 22.) Although Boughter does not specifically remember explaining the Sexual Harassment policy to Plaintiff, he says that he developed a routine by which he would "explain it to them in layman's terms." (Boughter Dep. 51:20-23.) "I explained it so they understood it, . . . [a] form, you know, always has a bunch of words that a lot of times people don't understand in layman's terms." (Id. 52:12-16.) "I usually had them laughing when I'd explain the forms, you know. So they understand, you know, so it sinks in." (Id. 52:19-22.) According to Plaintiff, Boughter did not explain the policies to her, but just asked her to sign them. (Tillison Dep. 31.) Plaintiff complied with Boughter's request, and the signed copies of the Sexual Harassment and Equal Employment Opportunity policies were placed in Plaintiff's employment file which is stored in a locked filing cabinet in Becker's office, which is located in Capitol's administrative offices. (Boughter Dep. 58.) It was Tillison's understanding that it was Capitol's policy that sexual harassment should be reported to management. (Tillison Dep. 33-34, 37.)

Plaintiff worked the third shift from 11 p.m. until 7:00 a.m., under the immediate supervision of Bill Long. (Tillison Dep. 29; Long Dep. 57-58.) As Director of Maintenance, Boughter supervised the work of both Plaintiff and Long.

(Boughter Dep. 11.) Boughter typically worked from 5 or 6 a.m. until 1 to 5 p.m., and he remained on call at all times. (Id.) Plaintiff worked as a house cleaner, and it was her job to clean the interior of the buses. (Long Dep. 28.) There was a high turnover of employees working the third shift, but there were typically about a dozen at any time. (Id. 43.) During the time Plaintiff worked at Capitol, there were only two other women on the third shift, Nancy Hale, a white woman in her mid-50's and Rochelle Richardson, an older African-American woman. (Id. 40, 42.)

Although the shop rules prohibit it, vulgar language "was all around. It was in the garage, in the break room, pretty much everywhere." (Id. 86:17-19.) As Long explained, "There's a lot of stuff said in the lunchroom when they're in there, I mean because you're dealing with ex cons and there's a lot of things that are . . . you know, they use a lot of vulgar language. Try not to in front of women, but it happens in there." (Id. 79:21-80:3.) Language included words such as "fuck" (id. 80), "cunt" (id.), and "tits" (id.). Employees also talked about having sex. (Id. 80; Tillison Dep. 102.) As Long explained, "it's general conversation" in the lunchroom at Capitol. (Long Dep. 81:3-5.) Long contributed to the vulgar discussion. For instance, he discussed visiting strip clubs with another employee, Vinny Ammons, in the lunchroom while Plaintiff was present. ...


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