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Alice Mascarini, Lourdes Costoso, Levi v. Quality Employment Services : & Training (A.K.A. Quest

January 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


This is a civil action filed by plaintiffs Alice Macarini, Lourdes Costoso, Levi Rambler, Jenna Walters, and Morgan Witman alleging numerous violations of federal and state law following the termination of their employment with defendant Quality Employment Services and Training (a.k.a. Quest, Inc.) ("Quest"). Presently before the court is a partial motion (Doc. 12) to dismiss certain state law claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a motion to strike pursuant to Rule 12(f), and a motion for a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e). For the reasons that follow, the court will deny the motion in its entirety.

I. Background*fn1

This case arises out of numerous incidents that occurred between 2007 and 2010 while plaintiffs were employed at Quest. Plaintiff Alice Mascarini ("Mascarini") began employment with Quest in 2004 as a Vocational Instructor. (Doc. 8 ¶ 21). In 2007, Quest promoted her to the position of Assistant Director Vocational Services, and in 2008 she served as Interim Director Vocational Services for a period of three months. (Id.) Her employment with Quest ended in June 2009. (Id.). Plaintiff Lourdes Costoso ("Costoso") worked for Quest from January 2008 until May 2009 as a Vocational Instructor, during which period she was directly supervised by Mascarini. (Id. ¶ 22). Plaintiff Jenna Walters ("Walters") was employed by Quest as a Programs Specialist from 2008 until April 2009. (Id. ¶ 25). Plaintiff Morgan Witman ("Witman") worked for Quest for five and one-half years until April 2010, first as a Program Specialist and later as the Director of Specialized Services. (Id. ¶ 26). Plaintiff Levi Rambler ("Rambler") was employed by Quest for twenty seven (27) years until his discharge in January 2010. (Id. ¶ 75).

Defendants are Quest, a vocational rehabilitation facility that provides employment training and sheltered workshops (id. ¶ 12), the Quest Board of Directors, and the following named managers and supervisors: Penelope Samuelson ("Samuelson"), President or Vice President of the Board of Directors (id. ¶ 14), Joseph Kristoback, President of the Board of Directors (id. ¶ 15), Verna Morris ("Morris"), Executive Director of Quest (id. ¶ 16), Hollie Manwiller, Interim Executive Director or Chief Financial Officer of Quest (id. ¶ 17), Joseph Hylton ("Hylton"), Director of Vocational Services for Quest (id. ¶ 18), and Michael Weidman ("Weidman"), Maintenance Supervisor for Quest (collectively "the Quest defendants"). (Id. ¶ 19).

In 2007, Mascarini reported to the Board of Directors, and then President of the Board, defendant Kristobak, that an intimate relationship between Weidman and the current Executive Director was affecting the management of Quest. (Id. ¶ 27). She alleged that Weidman received preferential treatment and favoritism and that management tolerated the inappropriate conduct and harassment engaged in by him. (Id.) Mascarini claims that Weidman's behavior included "rude and offensive sexually derogatory name-calling," such as "Bitch" and "Whore," directed at women including her and Costoso. (Id.)

After reporting the conduct, Mascarini avers that Weidman retaliated against her. (Id. ¶ 28). Weidman purportedly threatened Mascarini, stating "That bitch will pay" and engaged in daily profane name-calling and threats, as well as refusing to perform his maintenance duties for her. (Id. ¶¶ 28-29). Mascarini asserts that she again reported this behavior to the Board of Directors, President Kristobak and Interim Executive Director Manwiller, but no action was taken to remedy the behavior. (Id. ¶ 30).

In October or November of 2008, after defendant Morris assumed the position of Executive Director of Quest, Mascarini reported to her that Weidman exhibited an uncontrollable temper and rage and that he continued to engage in profane name-calling. (Id. ¶ 32). Mascarini further reported that Weidman assaulted a participant of the vocational rehabilitation at Quest with a flashlight. (Id.) According to Mascarini, Morris took no action against Weidman either with respect to his behavior towards Mascarini, or the alleged assault, the later of which Mascarini asserts, Quest was required to report to the Lebanon County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Program and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. (Id. ¶¶ 33-35). Rather than addressing the situation, the Quest defendants threatened Mascarini's employment if she continued to complain to the Board of Directors about Weidman's behavior. (Id. ¶ 36). She states that the Quest defendants instituted a "hands off" policy with respect to Weidman. (Id.)

Subsequent to Mascarini reporting to Morris, she avers that Weidman's conduct intensified, becoming violent and physically threatening: Weidman would angrily pound on Mascarini's desk, throw tools, and refer to her as "bitch" and "whore" daily. (Id. ¶ 38). Mascarini also claims she observed inappropriate name-calling and harassment by Weidman directed towards other women, specifically plaintiff Costoso, and reported his behavior. (Id. ¶ 39). Plaintiffs contend that Costoso and other employees similarly reported Weidman's threats against Mascarini. (Id. ¶ 40). Plaintiffs aver the Quest defendants continued to ignore the complaints, tolerating Weidman's conduct. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 40).

Due to the working conditions, Mascarini tendered her resignation to Quest in March 2009, but she subsequently withdrew her resignation after receiving promises from Morris that conditions would change and that there would be no contact between her and Weidman. (Id. ¶ 43). In May 2009, Quest discharged plaintiff Costoso without seeking the input of Mascarini, Costoso's direct supervisor. (Id. ¶ 47). Mascarini voiced her disagreement with the decision to the Quest defendants. (Id.). Mascarini was subsequently shunned by the directors and managers who would not communicate with her. (Id. ¶ 48). Instead, Manwiller, Hylton, Morris and Weidman allegedly made false accusations that Mascarini sabotaged work orders and supposedly reported the accusations to staff, participants of Quest's rehabilitation and vocational training, and contracted vendors. (Id. ¶ 49). Mascarini claims she suffered anxiety, depression and emotion distress as a result. (Id. ¶ 49).

The hostile behavior culminated on June 12, 2009, with an alleged physical assault by Weidman. Mascarini alleges that while on the dock at the Quest warehouse, Weidman lunged at her, raised his arm and hand and threatened: "I outta back-hand you off the fuckin dock." (Id. ¶ 50). Mascarini immediately reported the incident to the defendant managers who, she claims, did nothing. (Id. ¶ 51). On June 15, 2009, Mascarini claims she submitted a follow-up complaint to Morris and her direct supervisor Hylton, as well as reporting Weidman's conduct to Lebanon County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Program. (Id. ¶ 52). On June 18, 2009, Mascarini informed Morris she could no longer work for Quest if they took no action to remedy the harassment or protect her. (Id. ¶ 53). Mascarini alleges that only after she reported Weidman's conduct to Lebanon County did Morris initiate an investigation. (Id. ¶ 54). Quest tasked Programs Specialist (plaintiff) Walters with the investigation to be conducted in conjunction with Lebanon County personnel. (Id. ¶ 55). The result of the investigation, plaintiffs claim, was a finding that Weidman was physically abusive, and an admonishment from the Department of Public Welfare for Quest's failure to follow statutory reporting procedures. (Id. ¶¶ 54-55).

On June 25, 2009, Mascarini received written notice from Morris that she had been terminated by Quest. (Id. ¶ 57). An Unemployment Compensation Board of Review concluded that Mascarini was entitled to benefits because Mascarini "had a reasonable fear for her safety" and "has shown cause of a necessitous and compelling nature for quitting." (Id. ¶ 58; Id. Ex. B). On October 8, 2009, Mascarini filed charges of discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Id. Ex. D). The EEOC issued Mascarini a notice of right to sue on July 19, 2010. (Id. Ex. G).

Plaintiff Costoso, was directly supervised by Mascarini. She is a "black-skinned Hispanic female" who, plaintiffs state, was the sole Hispanic employee in the Vocational Unit at Quest. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 23). During her time at Quest, plaintiffs aver that Costoso was known as "the Black lady on the floor." (Id. ¶ 23). Plaintiffs contend that Weidman referred to Costoso as "fat assed black bitch" and regularly mocked her slight Hispanic accent. (Id. ¶ 38). Mascarini purportedly reported this behavior, but again the Quest defendants did nothing. (Id. ¶ 39). Plaintiffs assert that the behavior was perpetuated when defendant Hylton became Director of Vocational Services: he too referred to Costoso as a "fat assed black bitch" and mocked her accent as well as engaging in other name-calling and profane sexual references to women and minorities. (Id. ¶¶ 41-42).

According to the complaint, on May 1, 2009, Hylton accused Costoso of psychologically abusing a program participant. (Id. ¶ 44). Plaintiffs further aver that Hylton spread the accusation to all staff and participants at Quest, as well as to Samuelson, Kristobak, Morris, and Manwiller, and others in the community. (Id. ¶¶ 61, 62, 63). Plaintiffs assert that this accusation was false. (Id. ¶¶ 44, 46).

Plaintiff Walters, who as Program Specialist was tasked with investigating allegations of abuse towards participants in the vocational training (id. ¶ 25), was assigned to investigate the allegation. (Id. ¶ 45). Plaintiffs aver that defendant Manwiller instructed Walters to make a finding of abuse against Costoso despite Walters' contrary conclusion at the end of her investigation. (Id.) As a result, on May 4, 2009, Quest fired Costoso on grounds of program participant abuse. (Id. ¶46). When Costoso sought unemployment compensation, an unemployment compensation board referee decision concluded that "[Costoso] did not engage in any verbal abuse with the client." (Id. Ex. C). Costoso filed charges of discrimination against Quest with the PHRC and the EEOC on October 8, 2009. (Id. Ex. E). The EEOC issued her notice of right to sue on July 19, 2010. (Id. Ex. G).

Walters and Witman testified under subpoena at the Unemployment Compensations Board hearings of Mascarini and Costoso. (Id. ¶¶ 68, 69). At the Unemployment compensation referee hearing for Mascarini, she testified that a month after her discharge she encountered Rambler; Rambler informed her that Weidman had been discharged from Quest. (Id. ¶¶ 59, 73).

Subsequent to the hearing, plaintiffs aver that Manwiller, Morris, and Hylton accused Rambler of wrongdoing, lying about his time cards and refusing to do vocational work and allegedly published these accusations to Quest staff. (Id. ¶ 75). Plaintiffs assert that these allegations were false. (Id. ¶ 79). One month later, on January 27, 2010, Quest discharged Rambler, stating that his position was eliminated for economic reasons. (Id. ¶ 75; id. Ex. F). Plaintiffs claim that Rambler, age 61 and the most senior employee of Quest, was not offered alternative available work, but was instead replaced by a younger worker. (Id. ¶¶ 75, 76). Rambler received his notice of right to sue from the EEOC on July 19, 2010. (Id. Ex. G).

Plaintiffs further allege that beginning in September 2009, when Walters was subpoenaed and testified at Costoso's hearing, Manwiller, Samuelson, Kristobak, and Morris ceased business communications with Witman, excluded her from Board meetings and removed her work duties. (Id. ΒΆ 70). Then, in February 2010, Walters and Witman cooperated in Quest's internal investigation of the ...

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