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Clement v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 16, 2017



          SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Kathleen A. Clement (“Plaintiff”) filed this civil action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (“Title VII”) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq. Plaintiff alleges that she was subject to an “offensively sexual hostile work environment” and constructively discharged from her position as a Facilitator of Religious Education Programs at three parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie. ECF No. 11. Plaintiff names as defendants to this action St. Joseph and St. Michael the Archangel Parishes (the “Parish Defendants”), and the Diocese of Erie (the “Diocese”); and claims that each failed to address ongoing inappropriate sexual conduct directed at her by parish priest Fr. Daniel Kresinski.

         The Diocese and Parish Defendants have filed motions to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. ECF No. 21; ECF No. 22. The Diocese contends that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against it because she has not alleged facts establishing that the Diocese was her employer or that it employed Fr. Kresinski. The Parish Defendants contend that because Plaintiff filed a charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) identifying only the Diocese as her employer, Plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies against St. Joseph or St. Michael. The motions have been fully briefed by the parties, and are ripe for disposition. See ECF Nos. 32, 33, 47, 48. For the following reasons, the motions are denied.

         Background and Relevant Procedural History

         Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that after experiencing sexual harassment and retaliation in the course of her employment, she filed a timely charge with the EEOC and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”). The Diocese has submitted a copy of the EEOC charge to the Court as an exhibit to the motion to dismiss, and it has been reviewed by the Court as a document forming an integral part of Plaintiff's claim.[2] ECF No. 21-1. Plaintiff's charge identifies the Diocese as her Employer/Respondent, references the Parish Defendants, and states as follows:

During my employment with Respondent, I was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment based on my gender. In March 2013, Fr. Daniel Kresinski became the parish priest at St. Joseph Parish and St. Michael the Archangel Parish. When I would meet with Fr. Kresinski in his office alone, he would cup his hand under his scrotum and pull his scrotum up toward his waist. He did this every time I had to meet with him alone and would do it 6 or more times during each meeting. In or about August 2013, I reported the sexual harassment to Joseph Street, Respondent's Director of Religious Education. Mr. Street did nothing to address my complaint and advised me to “politely resign.” I then contacted Monsignor Smith, Director Priest Personnel, and met with him and Monsignor Kaza of St. Tobias, on September 24, 2013. During that meeting, I advised Monsignor Smith that I could not continue to work with Fr. Kresinski due to sexual actions. At the meeting, Monsignor Smith told me I was creditable. On October 1, 2013, Monsignor Smith met with Fr. Kresinski, who admitted to touching himself in my presence. Respondent did nothing to address Fr. Kresinski's inappropriate sexual harassment and insisted that I continue to work with him. I therefore was forced to tender my resignation on October 3, 2013.
After I resigned, I contacted and met with … [Most Reverend Lawrence T.] Persico, [Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie]. Bishop Persico indicated that he did not want me to go to the press with my complaint and asked me to sign a non-disclosure statement.

Id. Plaintiff alleges that “the EEOC issued a Determination that there is reasonable cause to believe that Defendants are an integrated enterprise/single employer and that Plaintiff was sexually harassed and constructively discharged.” ECF No. 11, p.2. Plaintiff timely filed the instant action after receipt of the agency Notification of Dismissal.

         In support of her claims against the Diocese as her “employer, ” Plaintiff's Complaint alleges facts indicating the supervisory involvement of Diocesan personnel investigating her sexual harassment claims. Plaintiff further alleges facts suggesting the unified operation of the Diocese and its parishes as a “single employer.” In particular, Plaintiff alleges:

Defendants have a high degree of operational entanglement between them.
Defendants have unity with respect to ownership, management and business functions because, among other things:
a. Clement's supervisory chain of command was split between Fr. Daniel Kresinski (the parish priest at Defendant St. Michael and Defendant St. Joseph) and Joseph Street (the Director of Religious Education at Defendant Diocese);
b. Defendant Diocese indicated that it properly had control over both Fr. Kresinski and the handling of Clement's complaint of sexual harassment;
c. Defendant Diocese owns all of the physical property and buildings of its parishes, including Defendant St. Joseph ...

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