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Donaldson v. Lensbouer

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 18, 2017

JANINE DONALDSON and KIMBERLY MCKENZIE, Plaintiffs,
v.
RONALD LENSBOUER and SOMERSET COUNTY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Kim R. Gibson, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 41) filed by Defendant Somerset County, with respect to the claims asserted against it in the amended complaint filed by Plaintiffs Janine Donaldson and Kimberly McKenzie (ECF No. 13). Plaintiffs are former employees of the Somerset County jail. As it relates to the County, their amended complaint alleges claims for hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §§ 951-963 (“PHRA”), and a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a violation of their right to bodily integrity.[1] The motion has been fully briefed (ECF Nos. 42, 46, 50) and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         II. Jurisdiction and Venue

         The Court has jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

         III. Factual Background

         A. Donaldson

         Donaldson began working as a part-time corrections officer (“CO”) at the jail in 2009. (ECF No. 43 ¶¶ 1, 4). She became full-time on May 15, 2010, and the following January, she began working the 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. shift. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 7). The chief CO during that shift was Ronald Lensbouer. (Id. ¶ 8). Before she became a full-time CO, Donaldson had met Lensbouer in passing and had no problems with him. (Id. 43 ¶ 10). But sometime after Donaldson started working full-time (she does not specifically remember when), Lensbouer began making inappropriate comments to her. (Id. 43 ¶ 11). The comments were “[u]sually regarding [her] boobs, ” and eventually became “an everyday occurrence.” (Donaldson Dep. at 68:11, 84:18-21, ECF No. 44-1; ECF No. 43 ¶ 14). On one occasion, Lensbouer said something about Donaldson's “ass and he said, don't worry, I like fat asses; my wife's ass is fat.” (Donaldson Dep. at 84:11-12, ECF No. 44-1).

         At first, Donaldson brushed off the comments. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 13). Later, however, she started to tell Lensbouer “that's enough.” (Id. ¶ 16). In response, Lensbouer would laugh and say things like, “Oh, we're friends. We're just friends.” (Donaldson Dep. at 81:11-12, ECF No. 44-1). Donaldson could not recall anyone else at the jail besides Lensbouer making inappropriate comments to her. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 17).

         Sometime in the middle of 2012, Lensbouer's conduct started to become physical. (Id. ¶ 23). As Donaldson described it:

I remember times that I would be - we had a book in the control room that we had to fill out whenever an inmate c[a]me in or left. I'd be over the filling it out and he'd walk past me, behind me, between me and my desk and his left hand would come - left or right, whatever way he was would, would just come right across my backside.
Or if I was sitting at the control … If I would turn around and be watching the cameras or the board, he'd come and sit beside me. If somebody would call a door, we had to push the button for the doors to be opened from the control room. Well, he'd act like he was pushing one of the doors and come up and take his right hand right across my chest and try to press the doors.

(Donaldson Dep. at 90:19-24 - 91:1-11, ECF No. 44-1). According to Donaldson, this type of conduct happened “[a] lot, ” i.e., “[a] couple times a week.” (Id. at 91:13, 91:18). “There was never a day that I worked with him that something … was not said or [done], ” she testified. (Donaldson Dep. at 91:25 - 91:1-2, ECF No. 44-1).

         The most significant incident occurred in November 2012. Donaldson was working in the control room when Lensbouer approached her and “[b]acked [her] up against the wall.” (Id. at 86:2). Then he “[t]ook his right and put it down the back of [her] pants.” (Id. at 86:2-3). Donaldson does not “remember if [Lensbouer's hand] was under [her] underwear or over it[, ]” but she does recall that his hand “was so far down that it was past the anal part …” (Id. at 86:9-13). After Lensbouer put his hands down her pants, Donaldson pushed him away and left the room. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 25).

         Before this incident, Donaldson had not reported any of Lensbouer's conduct to anyone at the jail or anyone outside the jail, including her husband. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 29-31). Sometime in either late December or early January, however, she told the jail's warden, Gregory Briggs, about the incident in the control room. (Id. ¶ 32). After Donaldson reported the incident to Briggs, she had no further contact with Lensbouer. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40). On April 4, 2013, she resigned from the jail, and returned to her former job. (Id. ¶ 42).

         Donaldson testified that she sought medical treatment following Lensbouer's harassment. (ECF No. 47 ¶ 340). Specifically, she was referred to Victim's Services by the Somerset Borough Police Department and attended counseling sessions with Marlene Suto-Walters and Heather Hay at Mary Berge & Associates between March and August 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 351-53).

         B. McKenzie

         McKenzie began working as a CO in 2001. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 47). In 2010, Lensbouer started making comments about McKenzie's physique, saying things like “[s]how me your tits. Give me a shot. Nice ass.” (Id. ¶ 54). As McKenzie put it, the comments were “[c]onstantly about the boobs” and occurred on a “nonstop” basis - “three or four times one day, and twice the next ….” (Id. ¶¶ 54, 60). In the beginning, McKenzie never told Lensbouer to stop, but she did say things like, “‘You're disgusting' or ‘that's not funny.'” (McKenzie Dep. at 111:6-7, ECF No. 44-4). She considered the comments offensive. (Id. at 111:18). However, she never reported them to anyone. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 78).

         In early 2011, Lensbouer's behavior toward McKenzie turned physical. (Id. ¶ 66). On an unspecified date in 2011, Lensbouer reached from behind McKenzie and felt her breast. (Id. ¶ 67). Following this incident, McKenzie did not say anything to Lensbouer; she just moved away. (Id. ¶ 68). Nor did she report this incident to anyone at the jail. (Id. ¶ 80). In the ensuing months, Lensbouer touched McKenzie's breasts or backside approximately once every two weeks or a couple of times per month. (Id. ¶ 69). In May 2012, Lensbouer told McKenzie “I love you, ” which prompted her to tell him to stop. (McKenzie Dep. at 114:4-8, ECF No. 44-4).

         In December 2012, Lensbouer stuck his hands “[v]ery, very low” down the back of McKenzie's pants and “pulled [her] underwear clear up” while the two were alone in the control room. (Id. at 147: 13-14). McKenzie kicked Lensbouer in the leg to get him to back away. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 75). She did not immediately report this incident, however. (Id. ¶ 83). On January 4, 2013, McKenzie was interviewed as part of the investigation into Donaldson's allegations, and she informed Briggs and Deputy Warden Adele Bauer about her problems with Lensbouer, including the incident in the control room. (Id. ¶ 84).

         Like Donaldson, McKenzie was referred to Victim Services by the Somerset Borough Police Department. From there, she was referred to Mary Berge & Associates, where she received counseling from August 2013 until March 2014. (ECF No. 47 ¶ 344). Since the alleged harassment, she has experienced anxiety, panic attacks, and depression and started taking Xanax and Effexor. (Id. ¶¶ 341, 343).

         C. The County's Response

         After receiving the report from Donaldson, Briggs removed Lensbouer from his duties as a chief CO and moved him to the second floor of the jail to try to separate him from Donaldson and McKenzie, who worked on the first floor. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 136). Briggs then began an investigation, during which he interviewed all of the jail's female staff members to determine whether they had any similar experiences with Lensbouer. (Id. ¶ 131). Aside from McKenzie, no other female staff members came forward. Briggs also interviewed Lensbouer, who “admitted that [he and Donaldson] were horseplaying and [that] they did that all the time.” (Bauer Dep. at 60:5-9, ECF No. 44-13). He also admitted to giving “wedgies” to both Plaintiffs, which he described as “a brother-sister [thing].” (Briggs Dep. at 65:15, ECF No. 44-14).

         On January 11, 2013, Briggs removed Lensbouer from his chief duties until March 4, 2013, and directed him to attend the County's sexual harassment course. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 140). According to the County, this was considered a “last chance” for Lensbouer. (Id. ¶ 141). Sometime thereafter, the Somerset Borough Police Department began its own investigation of Lensbouer's conduct. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 142; ECF No. 47 ¶ 337). At that point, Lensbouer was moved to a different shift from McKenzie. (Donaldson had already resigned). Eventually, Lensbouer was charged with indecent assault and other crimes stemming from the incidents with Plaintiffs. (ECF No. 47 ¶ 338). Thereafter, he was placed on administrative leave. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 143). He later resigned.

         D. Alleged Harassment of Other Female Jail Employees

         1. JoAnn Rheel

         Rheel worked at the jail in 2010 and 2011 as a part-time CO. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 162). During that time, Lensbouer made what Rheel described as “snide” comments to her. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 164). He would also stare at her breasts and tell her that her nipples looked like “snuff cans.” (ECF No. 47 ¶ 224). Rheel also overheard Lensbouer make comments about other female employees' breasts. Rheel testified that Lensbouer's comments made her feel dirty, and she eventually quit working at the jail because she felt uncomfortable. (ECF No. 47 ¶ 225-26). However, she did not report Lendsouer's conduct. (ECF No. 43 ¶¶ 166, 168).

         2. Alice McCartney

         McCartney worked as a nurse at the jail from September 2006 until August 12, 2012. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 171). On unspecified dates during that time period, Lensbouer told McCartney that she was beautiful and that he wanted to have a relationship with her. (Id. ¶ 173). On one occasion, he asked to see her breasts. (Id. 43 ¶ 174). McCartney did not report this incident to anyone. (Id. ¶ 175).

         3. Jessica Rogers

         Rogers worked at the jail from October 2007 to March 2010, during which time Lensbouer made comments about her breasts “two or three times.” (ECF No. 47 ¶ 228). He referred to Rogers' breasts as “knockers, ” and commented about their size. (Id. ¶ 229). Rogers also alleged that Lensbouer once pinched her buttocks and would make sexually charged comments about other women on a daily basis in her presence. (Id. ¶ 232).

         4. Darryl Marker (née Maust)

         Marker worked part-time at the jail for two-and-a-half years, before leaving in 2011. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 193). A few months into her employment, Lensbouer began making comments about her breasts and grabbing her breast and buttocks. (Id. ¶ 195). Marker testified that Lensbouer groped her approximately six times per week. (Id. ¶ 197). During one incident, he placed Marker's hand on his crotch. (ECF No. 47 ¶ 239). Toward the end of Marker's employment at the jail, Lensbouer allegedly cornered her in the property room and asked her to remove her shirt. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 198). She refused, so Lensbouer grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back into the room, attempting to forcibly remove her shirt. (Id. ¶¶ 199, 200).

         The next day, Marker told her then-fiancé, Scott Marker, about the incident. (ECF No. 43 ¶ 201). Scott Marker reported the incident to his brother, Jimmy Marker, who was a County commissioner at the time. (Id. ¶ 202). Jimmy Marker, in turn, reported the incident to the jail's then-warden, Tom Perrin. (Id.). Soon thereafter, a meeting was held between Darryl Marker; Vince Pavic, who was in charge of human resources at the jail; Bauer; and Perrin. (Id. ¶ 203).

         An investigation ensued, with Darryl Marker and Lensbouer both submitting written statements to the warden. (ECF No. 47 ¶ 250). In her statement, Darryl Marker described Lensbouer's comments, the incident when he placed her hand on his crotch, and the incident in the property room. (Id. ¶ 251). During the investigation, Perrin also spoke with Jessica Rogers, who described the comments Lensbouer had made to her while she worked at the jail and also prepared a written statement. (Id. ¶ 254). Lensbouer was questioned, as well. (Id. ΒΆ 256). He admitted that he made sexual remarks to Marker on ...


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