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Kacian v. Donahoe

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 27, 2014

HILLARY A. KACIAN, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK R. DONAHOE, in his Official Capacity as the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service, Defendant

For HILLARY A. KACIAN, Plaintiff: Adam R. Gorzelsky, Susan N. Williams, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Williams Law Offices, Greensburg, PA.

For PATRICK R. DONAHOE, in his Official Capacity as the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service, Defendant: Paul D. Kovac, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office, Pittsburgh, PA.

OPINION

Page 547

KIM R. GIBSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Hillary A. Kacian brings this Title VII action against Defendant Patrick Donahoe in his official capacity as Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service. Pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 25), wherein Defendant asserts that Kacian is barred from filing suit in district court because she did not exhaust her available administrative remedies. Having considered the submissions of the parties and the applicable law, and for the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

Page 548

II. Jurisdiction

The Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because a substantial portion of the events giving rise to the claims occurred in this judicial district.

III. Background

The United States Postal Service (USPS) employed Kacian as a city carrier beginning in March 2008. (ECF No. 28-1 at 8). Kacian claims that, between the summer of 2010 and July 2011, she was sexually harassed by her immediate supervisor George LaRue. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 9, 27). She allegedly reported this harassment to another supervisor on or about July 14, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 28).

On July 19, 2011, two of Kacian's supervisors--George LaRue and Cheryl Cernetich--observed Kacian while she was driving her postal vehicle and delivering mail. (ECF No. 27 ¶ 4). Supervisor LaRue then filed an " Observation of Driving Practices" form, indicating that Kacian had committed two safety violations by (1) crossing an intersection with the driver's side door open and (2) driving without a seatbelt. (ECF No. 28-1 at 10). Kacian was fired two days later. ( Id. at 12).

The day after Kacian received her notice of termination, she contacted an EEO counselor. (ECF No. 27 ¶ 8). Kacian told the EEO counselor that she had informed USPS management about the sexual harassment and that she was thereafter " terminated from the Postal Service." (ECF No. 28-3 at 15). These allegations now form the basis of Kacian's retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[1]

Without the assistance of counsel, Kacian began the EEO counseling process. On August 24, 2011, Kacian and the USPS executed a settlement agreement in which USPS officials agreed to participate in group discussions about sexual harassment in the workplace; in exchange, Kacian agreed to waive any legal claims against the USPS. (ECF No. 28-2 at 8--11).

Kacian later hired an attorney and tried to rescind the settlement because she did not believe USPS agents had taken the terms of the agreement seriously. In a letter to the USPS's EEO Field Operations Office, Kacian stated that she wanted to " rescind the agreement and continue the [EEO] investigation." (ECF No. 28-2 at 13). On October 14, 2011, the USPS's EEO Compliance and Appeals Office issued a final agency decision, declining to reopen the investigation. (ECF No. 28-3 at 3). Kacian appealed this decision to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

On March 21, 2012, the EEOC reversed the agency's decision, finding that the settlement was void for lack of consideration. (ECF No. 28-3 at 7). In its written decision, the EEOC concluded that " the EEO complaint underlying the settlement agreement" must be reinstated. The decision also stated:

This is a decision requiring the Agency to continue its administrative processing of your complaint. However, if you wish to file a civil action, you have the right to file such action in an appropriate United States District Court within ninety ...

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