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Veronica M. Pankey v. Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation

March 29, 2011


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



In this case, plaintiff Veronica Pankey alleges that her employer, defendant Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation ("PHDC"), (1) subjected her to a hostile work environment, (2) disciplined her unfairly because of her race and gender and (3) retaliated against her for filing discrimination claims. Presently before the Court is PHDC's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.


Plaintiff is an African-American woman who began work in 1988 for the PHDC, a non- profit corporation that provides housing-related services to low- and moderate-income Philadelphia residents. (Def.'s & Pl.'s Statements of Undisputed Facts ("SUF") ¶¶ 1, 4.) Over the years, she worked her way up from Account Clerk to her current position of Accountant II. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.)

In or about 1990, Pankey joined Local 1971 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees ("Local 1971"), the union that represents most non-managerial employees in PHDC. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 13.) The union also represents employees of two other employers: the City of Philadelphia's Office of Housing and Community Development ("OHCD") and the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia ("RDA"). (Id. ¶ 11.) The employees in each of the three organizations are separate bargaining units and negotiate separate collective bargaining agreements with their respective employers. (Id. ¶ 12.) Pankey was elected president of Local 1971 in August 2004, (id. ¶ 16), and served in that capacity until January 2010. (Pankey Dep. at 229.)

A. Pankey's Clock-In Practice

From about the time she started work at the PHDC, Pankey performed the same routine each morning she went to work: she exited her car outside of the downtown Philadelphia building that houses PHDC's offices, walked to her desk, dropped off her belongings, clocked in, returned to her car, drove until she found a permanent parking space and then walked back to the office. (Id. at 80-81.) As of 2007, she worked on the 17th floor of the building, meaning her routine included riding the elevator down 17 flights and then up again after clocking in but before she settled in to do her work. (Id. at 85-88.) Pankey's superiors allege that the routine led to her starting work 20 to 45 minutes after she clocked in, (See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. K at PHDC 0114), although Pankey states that "the times could vary." (Pankey Dep. at 82.)

In spring 2007, Pankey's supervisor, James Quinn, instructed her to cease her practice of clocking in and then leaving to look for a parking space. (SUF ¶ 35.) Thereafter, Quinn would observe Pankey in the morning to see if she was following his instructions. (SUF ¶ 22.) Pankey asserts that Quinn would make a face at or comment to her when he observed her engaging in her morning parking routine. (Pankey Dep. at 78.)

B. Pankey-Quinn Altercation

Later that year, on August 9, 2007, another employee in Pankey's department, Roslyn McCall, complained to Pankey about being assigned work she believed should have been assigned to another department. (Pankey Dep. at 97-98.) Pankey approached Quinn in his office to discuss the assignment. (Id. at 103.)

During the conversation, Pankey spoke in a "tone of firmness and aggressiveness," (id. at 102), and stated, inter alia, that "the other fiscal department staff who have been spending extra hours to complete assignments are jackasses for doing so." (Id. at 109.) At least two PHDC employees not in Quinn's office heard Pankey utter a profanity. (Perez Decl. ¶ 10; Hinkle Decl. ¶ 7.)

The next day, PHDC issued Pankey a one-day suspension. (SUF ¶ 46.) She served the suspension on August 14, 2007. (Id. ¶ 62.) The same day, Pankey filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), alleging discrimination and harassment stemming from the suspension and the comments about her parking practices. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. K at PHRC 0453-58.)

C. Pankey's Union Retaliation Complaint

In May 2008, Pankey amended her EEOC and PHRC complaints to include a charge that the PHDC retaliated against her for filing the original complaint. (Id. at 0131-37.) Specifically, Pankey alleged that shortly after she filed the original complaint, the PHDC changed its longstanding policy of allowing union presidents who were actively working to take "no charge" paid leave during work hours for union functions related to the OHCD and RDA, in addition to the PHDC. (Pankey Dep. at 224-35.) "No charge" paid leave is time an employee is excused from work and receives pay without having to use her personal paid leave. (SUF ¶ 98.) The PHDC maintains that its policy was to grant "no charge" leave only for PHDC-related union activities. (See, e.g., Yurkow Dep. at 50-51.) Otherwise, employees had to use their paid leave time or take leave without pay.

D. The Present Action

Plaintiff initiated the present action on August 28, 2009, filed an Amended Complaint on January 8, 2010 and a Second Amended Complaint on January 22, 2010. On September 1, 2010, defendant moved for summary judgment. The motion was ...

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