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Crosby v. State Correctional Institute Greensburg

July 19, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, District Judge


Plaintiff, Tonka Crosby ("Plaintiff"), initiated this action against Defendant State Correctional Institute Greensburg ("Defendant" or "SCI Greensburg"), alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII") and a pendent state claim under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 951, et seq. ("PHRA").

Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 28) seeking the entry of judgment in her favor as to her prima facie claim of retaliation, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 25) seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's claims in their entirety. After careful consideration of the parties' submissions and for the reasons set forth below, both motions are denied.


A. Factual Background

Unless otherwise indicated, the following material facts are undisputed.

Plaintiff began her employment with SCI Greensburg as a Corrections Officer Trainee on or about April 30, 2001. Approximately one year later, she was promoted to Corrections Officer 1. Plaintiff is currently employed as a Corrections Officer 1.

On or about July 28, 2004, Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging sexual harassment and retaliation stemming from a December 2003 incident in which another Corrections Officer, Jeff Porch, allegedly slapped Plaintiff on her buttock. (Docket No. 31-6). In 2005, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court as a consequence of the alleged incident with Officer Porch and other alleged instances of harassment and a hostile work environment. (Docket No. 31-1). In February and March 2006, the parties filed a Stipulation for Dismissal of the 2005 lawsuit after reaching a settlement in the case. (Docket No. 31-8).

Plaintiff filed another Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on December 3, 2007, alleging, inter alia, that she was being retaliated against because of her prior EEOC filing. (Docket No. 31-8). In her Complaint in this lawsuit, Plaintiff likewise purports to raise claims for harassment in retaliation for her July 2004 EEOC filing. Among other things, Plaintiff's Complaint addresses discipline she received as a result of an altercation with another corrections officer on November 11, 2006 and the service upon her of a notice of a pre-disciplinary conference ("PDC")*fn1 on October 1, 2007. The Complaint also alleges that Plaintiff was subjected to terms and conditions of employment to which other similarly situated employees were not, including: interception of misconducts; completion and/or modification and/or signing of paperwork not required of others; being disciplined for being out of uniform by not wearing a hat; and leave abuse. (Docket No. 1).

1. November 11, 2006 Incident

On November 11, 2006, Plaintiff and another female corrections officer, Officer Baskin, were assigned to work in the visiting room at SCI Greensburg. While working in the visiting room, Plaintiff and Baskin engaged in a verbal confrontation. The Security Department staff began a fact finding investigation into the incident. One of the officers involved in the investigation states that the Security Department Staff, specifically Captain Richard Bell, attempted to have an inmate change his version of events to implicate Plaintiff. See Docket No. 31-23.

A PDC was held, after which Plaintiff was issued a written reprimand, which she grieved, and which was modified to a verbal reprimand after six months, to be removed from her file one year from the date of issuance, provided there were no intervening incidents of a similar nature.*fn2

Michael Miteff -- then a Corrections Officer 1 at SCI-Greensburg who represented Plaintiff on a number of occasions in his capacity as Union Steward -- states in an affidavit that after the PDC, Captain Bell said to him "You fucked me, I could have fired her." (Docket No. 31-4).

2. October 1, 2007 Incident

On October 1, 2007, Plaintiff was on security duty at Shadyside Hospital guarding an inmate who was a patient there. On that date, Lieutenant Berberick arrived and advised her that he needed to see her in the hall and that he was ordered to serve her with PDC paperwork. Plaintiff claims that Berberick raised his voice and argued with her about her cell phone and that Plaintiff and the inmate were upset and embarrassed.*fn3 Berberick admits that Plaintiff was upset about receiving the PDC notice. Plaintiff also contends that there is no policy providing for service of a PDC notice outside of the SCI-Greensburg facility*fn4 and points to Berberick's testimony that Plaintiff's PDC notice was the only one during his thirteen-year career that he had served outside the prison facility. (Docket No. 31-3, at 11-12).

The PDC at issue concerned comments that Plaintiff allegedly made to another SCI Greensburg employee on September 10 and 17, 2007. The PDC took place on October 3, 2007. On November 3, 2007, Plaintiff called off work and advised the individual to whom she spoke, Lieutenant Kuhn, that she was calling off due to work-related stress. Plaintiff contends she called off as a result of the manner in which she had been served with the PDC paperwork. On November 19, 2007, Licensed Clinical Social Worker Stephen Brunetti diagnosed Plaintiff as suffering from Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood and stated in his report that "Tonka notes employment stressors are the primary source of her symptoms." (Docket No. 31-13).*fn5

Plaintiff also filed a workers' compensation claim alleging that she suffered a work-related stress injury as of November 3, 2007 due, at least in part, to the service of the PDC notice on October 1, 2007. Plaintiff was not provided with paperwork to be completed for her workers' compensation claim until 35 days after her first day off from work. Plaintiff's workers' compensation claim was denied. According to Soltis, the claim was denied because Plaintiff did not provide sufficient information.

Plaintiff contends that she intended to return to work on January 2, 2008, but was unable to do so because of her anxiety. Plaintiff did return to work on her next scheduled day. Plaintiff used ...

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