United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT,
ECF NO. 24 - GRANTED IN PART, DENIED IN PART
F. LEESON, JR. United States District Judge
Lamia Meky brought this action against her former employer,
Defendant Jetson Specialty Marketing Services, Inc., alleging
violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e - e-17, for sexual harassment,
hostile work environment, and retaliation, of the Family and
Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654
(“FMLA”), for retaliation and interference, and
of Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 Pa.
Stat. §§ 260.1-260.45 (“WPCL”). Because
Jetson has satisfied its obligations under the WPCL, summary
judgment is granted in its favor as to that claim. Summary
judgment is also granted in part as to Meky's FMLA
interference claim, to the extent that it is based on
Jetson's alleged failure to provide paperwork, because
there is no evidence that Meky was prejudiced by the alleged
violation. The Motion is denied in all other respects.
2012, Jetson entered into an agreement for temporary staffing
with Hobbie Personnel Services. Through Hobbie, Meky began
working for Jetson on January 27, 2014. On July 2, 2014, Meky
became a permanent employee with Jetson.
October 2014, Meky complained of sexual harassment by her
supervisor Robert Billings, who resigned from employment
the end of 2014, Meky requested to take four weeks of leave
the following summer because her mother needed surgery, but
Meky was subsequently informed that she was not eligible for
early 2015, Meky had an incident with another employee in
which the other employee was alleged to have threatened her
with a pair of scissors. Weeks later, on February 27, 2015,
Meky reported feeling uncomfortable working around this
employee and left work early. An investigation was conducted
into her decision to leave work before the end of her shift
and, on March 9, 2015, Meky was terminated.
filed the instant action on March 3, 2016. Compl., ECF No. 1.
On November 21, 2016, Jetson filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 24. Jetson
contends that summary judgment should be awarded on the Title
VII sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims
because the record establishes that it promptly investigated
Meky's sexual harassment complaint, and the alleged
violator quit three days later. Jetson further argues that
the Title VII retaliation claim should be dismissed because
there is no evidence of a causal link between Meky's
complaint of harassment and her termination six months later,
and also that there were non-discriminatory reasons for her
termination. Next, Jetson contends summary judgment should be
granted on the FMLA interference claim because Meky would not
have been eligible for FMLA benefits during the period for
which she sought leave. Jetson further argues that to the
extent the interference claim is based on its alleged failure
to provide FMLA paperwork, Meky was not prejudiced. As to the
retaliation claim under the FMLA, Jetson asserts that there
is no evidence of a causal link between Meky's request
for FMLA leave in late 2014 and her termination in March 2015
and, as with her Title VII retaliation claim, that there were
non-discriminatory reasons for the termination. Finally,
Jetson contends that it has paid Meky for all unused vacation
hours, and therefore the WPCL claim should be dismissed. Meky
filed a response in opposition to the Motion on December 9,
2016, Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 27, and Jetson filed a reply
on December 16, 2016, Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 29.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate ‘if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'”
Heard v. Waynesburg Univ., 436 F. App'x 79, 79
n.1 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). A disputed
fact is “material” if proof of its existence or
nonexistence might affect the outcome of the case under
applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material
fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party. Id. at 257.
party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing
the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Once such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must
go beyond the pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers
to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate
specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324;
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (stating that the non-moving party
“must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”). The
party opposing the motion must produce evidence to show the
existence of every element essential to its case, which it
bears the burden of proving at trial, because “a
complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of
the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other
facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
The court must consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).
Title VII - Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work
establish a hostile work environment claim against an
employer based on sexual harassment, an employee must prove
that: (1) she suffered intentional discrimination because of
her sex; (2) the discrimination was pervasive and regular;
(3) the discrimination detrimentally affected her; (4) the
discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person
of the same sex in that position; and (5) the existence of
respondeat superior liability. Huston v. P&G Paper
Prods. Corp., 568 F.3d 100, 104 (3d Cir. 2009). To prove
the existence of respondeat superior liability under the last
element, a plaintiff must “demonstrate that the
employer failed to provide a reasonable avenue for complaint,
or, if the employer was aware of the alleged harassment, that
it failed to take appropriate action.'” Weston
v. Pennsylvania, 251 F.3d 420, 427 (3d Cir. 2001).
on the fifth element, Jetson argues that it should be granted
summary judgment because the undisputed evidence shows that
Meky has failed to establish the existence of respondeat
superior liability. Specifically, Jetson contends that its
prompt and remedial action eliminates its liability for
Billings's conduct. See Young v. Temple Univ.
Hosp., 359 F. App'x 304, 309 (3d Cir. 2009)
(affirming the grant of summary judgment in an employer's
favor on hostile work environment and constructive discharge
claims because the employer “took prompt and adequate
remedial actions to address [the] harassment”).
Jetson's actions were “prompt, ” however,
depends on the timing of Meky's complaint against
Billings, which is contested.
undisputed that on October 31, 2014, Meky emailed the
Director of Human Resources Heather Horvath about needing to
address an “imperative issue, ” which Horvath
forwarded to Human Resources Generalist Caleb Spess an hour
later. Emails dated Oct. 31, 2014, R. 284, ECF No. 24-6.
Spess testified that within hours of receiving the email, he
began investigating the allegations by interviewing both Meky
and Billings. Spess Dep. 124:6-11, ECF No. 24-11.
Specifically, Spess interviewed Meky on Friday, October 31,
2014, and Billings on Monday, November 3, 2014. Id.
A second meeting with Billings was scheduled for Tuesday,
November 4, 2014, but he quit before the meeting concluded,
which ended the investigation. Horvath Dep. 138:9-140:13, ECF
testified that Meky had not previously complained to him
about Billings, see Spess Dep. 98:11-20; however,
Meky asserts that the October 31 email was not her first
complaint. Meky testified that on October 4, 2014, she sent
an email to Horvath detailing Billings's physical contact
“with young girls” at work and her increasing
feelings of discomfort around him, but that nothing was done.
Meky Dep. 53:12-54:12, 118:15-20; Email dated Oct. 4, 2014,
ECF No. 28-6. Meky further testified that prior to October
31, 2014, she had spoken with her managers Melissa Kline and
Rudolph Preletz about the problems she was having with
Billings. Meky Dep. 46:10-21, 53:12-25, 56:24-57:8. Kline,
however, testified that Meky never brought any concerns to
her about Billings. Kline Dep. 75:13-76:4, ECF No. 24-12.
light of the disputed issues of fact as to whether Jetson was
aware of Meky's sexual harassment complaint prior to
October 31, 2014, its request for summary judgment on the
sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims is
denied. See Neely v. McDonald's Corp., 340 F.
App'x 83, 89 (3d Cir. 2009) (“Any dispute regarding
the promptness and adequacy or appropriateness of
management's remedial action is a factual issue for the
jury to decide.”); Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d
641, 644 (3d Cir. 2007) (explaining that it would be proper
for a court to grant summary judgment where the employer
undertook an investigation of an employee's complaint
within a day of being notified, but that a jury should decide
whether the actions of an employer that waited three months
before taking action were prompt and adequate); Lawrence
v. Schuylkill Med. Ctr. E., No. 3:11-CV-1339, 2012 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 114344, at *48-49 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 14, 2012)
(concluding that the case presented a jury question as to
whether the employer's action was prompt because the
employer did not respond to an initial sexual harassment
complaint for two weeks, after additional complaints were
Title VII - Retaliation
is sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Meky has made
a prima facie case of
establish a prima facie case of retaliation under Title VII,
a plaintiff must show that: ‘(1) she engaged in
activity protected by Title VII; (2) the employer took an
adverse employment action against her; and (3) there was a
causal connection between her participation in the protected
activity and the adverse employment action.'”
Selvato v. SEPTA, 658 F. App'x 52, 56 (3d Cir.
2016) (quoting Nelson v. Upsala Coll., 51 F.3d 383,
386 (3d Cir. 1995)). Jetson argues that Meky has not
satisfied the third element of a prima facie case of
retaliation because more than four months passed between her
sexual harassment complaint on October 31, 2014, and her
termination on March 9, 2015, and there is no other evidence
linking the events. This argument fails.
testified that when she received her termination letter, she
asked the Human Resources Director, Horvath, who was aware
that Meky had lodged a sexual harassment complaint against
Billings a few months earlier, why she was being terminated.
Meky Dep. 89:8-90:13. According to Meky, Horvath informed her
that she had “been so annoying, ”
“complain[ed] too much, ” and asked for
“too many personal” days off. Id. A jury
could infer from this testimony that Horvath was referring to
the sexual harassment complaint when she told Meky that she
complained too much, which is direct evidence of a causal
link. See Jackson v. University of Pittsburgh, 826
F.2d 230, 236 (3d Cir. 1987) (“There is simply no rule
of law that provides that a discrimination plaintiff may not
testify in his or her ...