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Hunter v. Stouffer Equipment Co.

September 14, 2009

SANDRA L. HUNTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STOUFFER EQUIPMENT COMPANY, AND SCOTT STOUFFER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS MEMORANDUM IS AS FOLLOWS:

Currently pending before the Court is Defendant Stouffer Equipment Company's Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 27) (the "Motion"). For the reasons stated below, the Motion shall be granted in its entirety.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Sandra L. Hunter ("Plaintiff" or "Hunter") initiated the above-captioned case by filing a two-count complaint on July 3, 2008 against Stouffer Equipment Company ("SEC") and Scott Stouffer ("Stouffer"), the principal shareholder of SEC. (Rec. Doc. 1). In Count I, Plaintiff asserts violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (1991) ("Title VII"). In Count II, Plaintiff asserts violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §§ 951-63 (1961) ("PHRA"). (Id.). A liberal reading of the complaint leads us to the conclusion that both Counts I and II are grounded in the adverse employment actions allegedly suffered by Plaintiff (i.e. denial of health care benefits and employment termination) and the allegedly hostile work environment created by Stouffer. (Id.).

Defendants filed the instant Motion, and a brief in support thereof, on January 30, 2009. (Rec. Docs. 27, 28). Plaintiff's brief in opposition was lodged on February 23 2009, (Rec. Doc. 32), and Defendants countered with their reply brief on March 9, 2009, (Rec. Doc. 34). Consequently, the instant Motion has been fully briefed and is therefore ripe for disposition.

STANDARDS OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record establishes "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

In opposing summary judgment, the non-moving party "may not rely merely on allegations of denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must ... set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party "cannot rely on unsupported allegations, but must go beyond pleadings and provide some evidence that would show that there exists a genuine issue for trial." Jones v. United Parcel Serv., 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). Arguments made in briefs "are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a factual dispute sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Twp. of Lacey, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109-10 (3d Cir. 1985). However, the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non- moving party. P.N. v. Clementon Bd. of Educ., 442 F.3d 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2006).

Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a fact finder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; there must be a genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACT

Plaintiff, a female, began her employment with Defendants as a secretary on or about October 3, 2005. (Rec. Docs. 29, 32-7 ¶ 4).*fn1 Stouffer has testified that at the time of Plaintiff's hire, SEC's policy regarding medical coverage stated that same would be discussed after the first 90 days of work and would be contingent upon an employee's work performance during that period. Stouffer Dep. 32:11-14. Stouffer further testified that the Employee Handbook (the "Handbook"), which contained that information, was not in effect during Plaintiff's employment.

Stouffer Dep. 31:15-32:10.*fn2 Nonetheless, Plaintiff testified that she received the Handbook at the time of her employment and was under the impression that she would automatically receive medical coverage after her first 90 days, free from ay contingencies. Sandra Hunter Dep. 20:4-21:20, November 12, 2008.

At her 90-day review, Stouffer allegedly informed Plaintiff that she would not be receiving medical benefits due to her inadequate job performance. Stouffer Dep. 42:9-13.*fn3 At this meeting, Stouffer allegedly informed Plaintiff that she would be reviewed again after the next 90-day increment. (Rec. Doc. 29 ¶ 18). During the week of June 12, 2006, Stouffer reevaluated Plaintiff and determined that she would not be receiving medical benefits because her job performance remained unsatisfactory. Stouffer Dep. 42:9-13.*fn4 Stouffer avers that at this time he ...


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