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Jennifer A. Sencherey v. Stout Road Associates

February 11, 2011

JENNIFER A. SENCHEREY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STOUT ROAD ASSOCIATES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tucker, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

February ___, 2011

Presently before the Court is Defendant, Stout Road Associates, Inc.'s Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc.16 ); Plaintiff, Jennifer A. Sencherey's Response in Opposition thereto (Doc. 18 ) and Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Response in Opposition, which the Court will treat as a Motion For Leave to Reply (Doc. 19). Upon careful consideration of the parties submissions and exhibits thereto and for the reasons set forth below the Court will grant the Motions.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises from a charge of employment discrimination filed by Plaintiff Jennifer A. Sencherey ("Plaintiff") against Defendant Stout Road Associates, Inc. t/a Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue ("Defendant") with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") on or around April 3, 2008. At issue is whether Defendant is liable for discriminating against Plaintiff on the basis of her sex, race and/or national origin. Also, at issue is whether Plaintiff was wrongfully terminated by Defendant in violation of Pennsylvania common law.

A. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff, a black female born in Ghana, West Africa, was employed by Defendant as an at-will employee, in the capacity of a night auditor. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 3,7.) Defendant is in the business of operating a hotel known as the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff's employment with Defendant began on August 24, 2006. (Compl. ¶ 7.) In her capacity as a night auditor, Plaintiff was responsible for inter alia supervising Defendant's front desk employees, reviewing and auditing all accounting receipts, records and transactions, and processing customer check-ins and check-outs. (Compl. ¶10.) Plaintiff alleges that, while employed at the hotel, she was subjected to a pervasive and regular pattern of harassment and discrimination by Defendant's agents, servants, and/or employees, including the Front Office Manager, Catherine Stafford, and the Human Resources Director, Carla Thomas. (Compl. ¶¶ 13, 19.) Specifically, Plaintiff avers that despite her numerous requests she was denied a performance evaluation. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.) Plaintiff believes that Defendant's denial of her requests was purposeful so as to prevent her from receiving a salary increase. (Compl. ¶ 16.)

Sometime in or around November, 2007, Plaintiff went out on maternity leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA").*fn1 Subsequently, on or around January 22, 2008, approximately one month after giving birth, Plaintiff alleges that she received a phone call at home from Stafford demanding her immediate return to work and threatening termination if she failed to do so. (Compl. ¶ 19.) According to Plaintiff, at that time, she was bleeding profusely from having given birth and was not yet medically released to return to work. (Compl. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff further alleges that Thomas' actions caused Plaintiff to sustain stress blisters. (Compl. ¶ 19.) On or around February 15, 2008, while Plaintiff was still on maternity leave, Stafford notified Plaintiff that her maternity leave was over and her doctor's notes would not be accepted regardless of her medical condition. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶¶ 20-21.) See also Stafford Dep. 60: 16-18.( testifying that she advised Plaintiff that "[t]he terms of the family leave, the time had expired and she was required to come back to work after that.") During that conversation, Stafford also notified Plaintiff that her employment was terminated. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 20.)

Plaintiff further alleges that she was treated differently than Regy, (last name unknown, male) who was employed as Defendant's front desk supervisor and who was permitted to take multiple extensive medical leaves of absence, was frequently absent, but nonetheless, was permitted to return to his position whenever he so desired. (Compl. ¶ 27.) The Complaint goes on to allege that Lindsy, last name unknown, who was employed as Defendant's gift shop clerk, "went on maternity leave approximately the same time as Plaintiff, but was compelled and ordered by Defendant to cut short her maternity leave to approximately six (6) weeks in duration and was not permitted to utilize her entitled full duration of her maternity leave." (Compl. ¶ 30.)

Plaintiff alleges that she was discharged due to her sex, country of origin, and race. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant also discharged her in retaliation for reporting Thomas for her refusal to permit Plaintiff to include her newborn child in her insurance benefits. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff's claims against Defendant are based on the following theories: (1) the tort of wrongful discharge (Count I); (2) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a)-(c) (Count II); (3) violation of sections 5(a) and 9 of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ,43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951 et seq. (Count III); and (4) violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq. (Count IV). In support of counts one through four, Plaintiff boldly alleges that "being born black and born a West African National from the Country of Ghana and treated badly by the Defendant, by and through its agents, servants and/or employees, at all material times hereto, constitutes both race and ethnic discrimination. (Compl. ¶¶ 38,53,57,68.) (emphasis added)

In support of Count II, violation of Section 1981, Plaintiff makes the following averments: Plaintiff's protected class is race, Black and ethnicity a West Africa National from the Country of Ghana and Plaintiff was subjected to intentional discrimination solely because of her ancestry and/or ethnic characteristics. (Compl. ¶ 42.)

Plaintiff was harassed on a consistent and constant basis, whereby Plaintiff was most frequently harassed by Defendant's agent servant and/or employee, Catherine Stafford (Caucasian), Front Office Manager, but also by Defendant's agent servant and/or employee, Carla Thomas.... either directly or through their condoning the actions of the harassers. (Compl. ¶ 44.)

Examples of harassment include but are not limited to the following:

(a) Plaintiff was required to perform tasks alone which normally have two (2) or more co-employees assigned to them. (eg. When a co-worker went out on maternity leave in May, 2005 the Plaintiff was expected to take over her duties in addition to her own).

(b) Defendant's agents, servants and/or employees ignored the Plaintiff's repeated requests for help while pregnant and then they would criticize Plaintiff.

(c) [Defendant] purposely overworked Plaintiff by failing to hire an adequate number of auditing workers and failing to provide Plaintiff with a chair while pregnant.

(d) [Defendant] refus[ed] [] Plaintiff permission to utilize the bathroom facilities while working and insisted and ordered Plaintiff to lift heavy accounting records, while pregnant. (Compl.¶ 45.)

With respect to Count III of the Complaint, violation of the PHRA, Plaintiff repeats the above allegations and includes that on or about February 15, 2008, Defendant's harassment reached new levels when Plaintiff was called by Stafford and told that her doctor's note legitimizing her absence due to post-partum medical complications would be unilaterally rejected and was further informed that "[y]ou no longer have a job, that it was too late and that's it, based on her pregnancy, race and ethnicity." (Compl. ΒΆ 61.) Without including any supporting facts, Plaintiff further alleges that the "racial animus necessary for liability [under the PHRA] was based not only on ...


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