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Hartley v. Pocono Mountain Regional Police Dep't

March 24, 2009

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



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

(JUDGE VANASKIE)

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Debra L. Hartley has moved for a new trial following a jury verdict finding that she had failed to prove that she was discriminated against on the basis of gender in the terms and conditions of her employment with Defendant Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department (the "Police Department"). Ms. Hartley contends that she was prejudiced by this Court's decision at the close of trial to allow Defendants to withdraw their plainly inadvertent admission in their pleadings that she had been discharged constructively. She also contends that a new trial is warranted based upon (a) the Court's failure to submit to the jury a retaliation claim arising out of Defendants' opposition to her unemployment compensation application; (b) various evidentiary rulings that purportedly limited her proof; and (c) the dismissal of the punitive damage claim against Defendant John P. Lamberton, the Chief of the Police Department. Discerning no error that renders the jury's verdict a miscarriage of justice, the Court will deny the motion for a new trial.

I. BACKGROUND

In November of 1998, Ms. Hartley was hired as a Police Officer with the Police Department, a regional law enforcement agency comprised of four municipalities. On July 30, 2003, Plaintiff delivered to Chief Lamberton her letter of resignation. Claiming disparate treatment on the basis of gender and a sexually hostile work environment that compelled her to quit her employment, Ms. Hartley brought this litigation against the Police Department and Chief Lamberton on September 16, 2004.

In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that she: was subjected to discrimination in the terms and conditions of her employment, including but not limited to:

a) not being backed up by fellow (male) officers, unlike similarly situated male offers;

b) being given a less consistent shift schedule than similarly senior or less senior male officers;

c) being given far fewer weekends off than similarly senior or less senior male officers;

d) being required to perform more diverse and more duties than similarly positioned male officers;

e) being subjected to unfounded disciplinary charges; and

f) having disciplinary charges handled in such away as to deprive her of the right to respond.

(Dkt. Entry 8, ¶ 9.)*fn1 Defendants answered these averments found in paragraph 9 of the Amended Complaint by asserting that they were conclusions of law to which no response was required, but to the extent that a response may be required, the averments were denied. (Dkt. Entry 10, ¶ 9.)

The Amended Complaint also alleged:

14. The discrimination and work place harassment endured by plaintiff was severe and pervasive, such that the terms and conditions of her employment was [sic] affected.

15. A reasonable woman, working under the conditions to which plaintiff was subjected, would have found the conditions harassing and intolerable.

16. The Defendants' actions and failures to act when faced with gender discrimination of plaintiff Hartley created a sexually hostile environment.

17. On or about July 30, 2003, Plaintiff Hartley was constructively discharged.

Defendants' Answer asserted that the averments of paragraphs 14 through 16 presented conclusions of law for which responses were not required, but to the extent that responses were required, the averments were denied. (Dkt. Entry 10, ¶¶ 14-16.) Contrary to the denials of harassing and intolerable conditions alleged in paragraphs 14 through 16 of the Amended Complaint, however, Defendants' Answer admitted the averment of paragraph 17 of the Amended Complaint that Plaintiff was discharged constructively.

Following the completion of discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment. The Statement of Material Facts accompanying the summary judgment motion stated that Ms. Hartley had submitted a letter of resignation on July 30, 2003. The Affidavit of Defendant Lamberton also referenced "plaintiff's voluntary resignation in July of 2003 . . . ." (Dkt. Entry 39, ΒΆ 3.) Defendants' summary judgment motion vigorously assailed the sufficiency of Plaintiff's ...


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