Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Obergantschnig v. Saw Creek Estates Community Association, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 17, 2013

HEIKE OBERGANTSCHNIG, Plaintiff,
v.
SAW CREEK ESTATES COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION, INC., JAMES ANDREWS, PEGGY GOTTSCHAU and ARTIE FURMAN Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. CURTIS JOYNER, J.

Before the Court are Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 17), Plaintiff’s Response thereto (Doc. No. 18), and Defendants’ Reply in further support thereof (Doc. No. 19). For the reasons below, summary judgment is GRANTED on all of Plaintiff’s claims.

II. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of Plaintiff Heike Obergantschnig’s employment at Saw Creek Community Association (“Saw Creek”), a planned residential community association in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. (Def. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts at 1 (“Def. Facts”)). Ms. Obergantschnig was employed as a Dispatch Officer in Saw Creek’s Public Safety Department from January 2008, id. at 3, until January 10, 2011. Id. at 10. Brian Kaiser, with whom Plaintiff worked regularly, was employed as a Watch Commander in the same department. (Def. Motion for Summary Judgment at 11).

Plaintiff alleges that, in 2008 or 2009, Mr. Kaiser rubbed her shoulders and asked her out on dates multiple times. (Def. Ex. C at 157). Plaintiff did not report these actions to Saw Creek management at the time. Id. In mid-2009, Plaintiff began dating Aaron Brown, a Watch Commander. Id. at 126. Relations between Mr. Kaiser and Ms. Obergantschnig, as well as between Mr. Kaiser and Mr. Brown, subsequently deteriorated. Id. at 127-129. In the fall of 2009, Mr. Kaiser told Plaintiff that she should have slept with him before she slept with Mr. Brown, and that Mr. Kaiser could not “do her” now that Plaintiff was involved with Mr. Brown. Id. at 157.

On August 12, 2010, in response to an email setting a general Public Safety Department meeting, Plaintiff wrote to Peggy Gotschau, the Human Resources Manager, and Artie Furman, the Assistant Director of the Public Safety Department, explaining that she did not want to attend the meeting because she assumed it concerned issues she was having with Mr. Kaiser. (Def. Facts at 4). In this email, Plaintiff requested a meeting with Ms. Gottschau alone, or one with Ms. Gottschau and Mr. Furman. (Pl. Additional Statement of Undisputed Facts at 11 (“Pl. Facts”)). Plaintiff raised her complaints about Kaiser, which detailed problems in their work relationship, in her email. These included complaints of Mr. Kaiser’s using a sarcastic tone of voice when speaking to Plaintiff, referring to her as part of a “vicious trio, ” accusing Plaintiff of not answering the radio in a timely fashion, and prohibiting Plaintiff from making personal calls at work while he did make personal calls. (Def. Ex. I). The email also mentioned that Mr. Kaiser had stated in the presence of two other employees that Plaintiff had been “a hooker in New York.” (Def. Facts at 4). Mr. Furman replied to Plaintiff’s email stating that they could meet, and that “our doors are always open.” Id.

Ms. Gottschau scheduled a meeting for August 13, 2010, with Mr. Furman, Mr. Kaiser, Plaintiff, Mr. Andrews, Director of the Public Safety Department, and herself. Id. at 5. The reason Ms. Gottschau chose to involve Mr. Andrews and Mr. Furman in the meeting, and not have one with Plaintiff alone, was “[b]ecause that’s kind of how we roll here. We’re very transparent. If there are issues, we put them on the table. And everybody involved, especially these kinds of . . . petty issues, that’s how we discuss them.” (Pl. Facts at 12; Def. Response to Pl. Facts at 8).

During the meeting, Mr. Kaiser stated that he had no recollection of calling Plaintiff a hooker, but said he was sorry if he had done so. (Def. Motion for Summary Judgment at 5). Mr. Kaiser was warned by Mr. Andrews and Ms. Gottschau that behavior such as the hooker comment was inappropriate and would not be tolerated. (Def. Facts at 5). Plaintiff did not raise in the meeting any issues outside of those already mentioned in her August 12th email. Plaintiff was uncomfortable speaking freely with Mr. Kaiser present, and believed Mr. Furman and Mr. Andrews to be allied with Mr. Kaiser due to their relationship outside of work. (Pl. Response to Def. Statement of Undisputed Facts at 3 (“Pl. Response to Def. Facts”)). Plaintiff did not ask for a subsequent meeting with Ms. Gottschau without Mr. Kaiser present, because “they seemed to brush [the previous meeting] off, ” (Def. Ex. C at 169), and “they were trying to wrap it up without letting me talk.” Id. at 168-69.

In September and November of 2010, Mr. Kaiser stated to Plaintiff or to other employees[1] that Plaintiff had been “railroaded”[2] by every Saw Creek employee and that Plaintiff was having an affair with former Security Director Joe Farrell. Id. at 160. On a different occasion, Mr. Kaiser put his arms around Plaintiff’s waist for a couple of seconds and told her that she was “too skinny” while the two of them were in the dispatch office. Id. at 158. Mr. Kaiser further made statements to Mr. Brown that Plaintiff was “using him [Mr. Brown], ” that she was a “slut, ” (Pl. Facts at 10) and called her a prostitute, hooker, and cunt. (Def. Ex. D at 57). Mr. Kaiser made these comments to Mr. Brown both at work and outside of work. (Def. Ex. D at 58). Once they began, “the sexual comments”[3] were “continuous[]” throughout Plaintiff’s employment and beyond her termination. (Pl. Facts at 10; Def. Ex. C at 237-38). Mr. Brown maintains that he reported these inappropriate comments to Mr. Andrews, who took no action, (Def. Ex. D at 50-51), while Defendants deny that Mr. Brown reported the statements to Mr. Andrews (Def. Response to Pl. Facts at 10). Plaintiff herself did not make any complaints to Saw Creek management regarding sexual acts or comments made by Mr. Kaiser during this time period. (Def. Facts at 6).

However, during September-November 2010, Plaintiff did make several complaints about Mr. Kaiser, all of which concerned their work relationship. Id. For example, Plaintiff alerted management to the fact that Mr. Kaiser had asked her not to assign a report number to an incident, a request violating Saw Creek protocol (Def Ex. M), and Mr. Kaiser refused to chase an ATV that was driving dangerously when Plaintiff reported the incident to him. (Def. Ex. C at 190-191). Plaintiff also lodged a similar complaint about another co-worker, Dana Rutledge. (Def. Facts at 7; Pl. Facts at 4). In late November 2010, Mr. Andrews called a brief meeting with Plaintiff, Mr. Kaiser, Mr. Brown, and Ms. Rutledge, and informed them that he believed the four of them were allowing personal issues to spill over into the workplace. Id. at 7-8. He told them to stop immediately or risk termination. Id. Also in October or November 2010, Plaintiff asked Mr. Andrews to make scheduling changes so that Plaintiff would not have to work with Mr. Kaiser. (Pl. Facts at 13). Mr. Andrews did make a change, but it was only temporary, and Plaintiff and Mr. Kaiser worked together again thereafter. Id.; (Def. Facts at 9).

On December 31, 2010, Plaintiff sent an email to Mr. Martin and Ms. Gottschau. The email contained complaints about Mr. Kaiser and detailed further problems in their work relationship. In the email, Plaintiff wrote that “the work environment at this point is just beyond toxic, ” and stated that Mr. Kaiser “has made it known that he wants to get me fired or that anyone who will say anything against him will be fired . . . I’m afraid there’s gonna be some form of retaliation from him.” (Def. Ex. P).

As a result of this email, Mr. Andrews recommended to David Martin, Saw Creek’s General Manager, that Plaintiff be terminated. (Def. Facts at 9). Andrews wrote that his recommendation was based on the fact that “it became clear to us that nothing short of termination for the people that Obergantschnig did not want to work with would satisfy her. We tried mediation and conflict resolution. We tried other manners. And we just felt that Obergantschnig was not doing her part in mitigating these problems.” Id. On January 10, 2011, Plaintiff was terminated. Id. at 10. In June 2011, Mr. Kaiser was terminated for violating his personal improvement plan and for violating warnings he had received about keeping personal issues out of the workplace (Def. Ex. B at 46; Def. Ex U). Mr. Brown was terminated for similar reasons in March of 2013 (Def. Ex. D at 16; Def. Ex. B at 43-44).

On May 23, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against Saw Creek and individual defendants Ms. Gottschau, Mr. Andrews, and Mr. Furman. On August 23, 2012, Plaintiff filed a complaint in federal court, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1991 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relation Act, 43 Pa. C.S.A. § 951 et seq. (“PHRA”).

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Michaels v. New Jersey, 222 F.3d 118, 121 (3d Cir. 2000); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Under the rule, a Court must look beyond the bare allegations of the pleadings to determine if they have sufficient factual support to warrant their consideration at trial. In re Phillips Petroleum Securities Litigation, 881 F.2d 1236, 1243 (3d Cir. 1989).

In considering a summary judgment motion, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences from the facts must be drawn in favor of that party as well. Mobilio v. Division of Law and Public Safety of New Jersey, 413 Fed.Appx. 520, 524-25 (3d Cir. 2011). “Material” facts are those that might affect the outcome of the suit under the substantive law governing the claims made. Hart v. Electronic Arts, Inc., 717 F.3d 141, 148 (3d Cir. 2013). An issue of fact is “genuine” only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury cold return a ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.