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Anderson v. Pa State Police

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 29, 2018

ROBIN D. ANDERSON, Plaintiff
v.
PA STATE POLICE, et al., Defendants

          CONNER, C.J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCS. 62 & 64)

          WILLIAM I. ARBUCKLE, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Presently before the Court are two separate Motions by the various Defendants for Summary Judgment. These Motions require the Court to consider if the undisputed material facts of this case establish that the Pennsylvania State Police (hereinafter “the PSP”) Information Technology (“IT”) Department was a hidden bastion of overt racism in state government (Plaintiff's view) or that an underperforming minority employee chose to persistently see racism instead of opportunities for improvement (Defendant's view). There is no question that Plaintiff, the employee, frequently registered her complaints of racial discrimination. The Court is also called upon to decide if this case is barred by previous state and federal litigation.

         Because I conclude that the claims here are barred by the previous litigation, and even if they were not, the undisputed material facts do not support the employee's claims, I recommend that Defendants' motions for summary judgment be GRANTED.

         II. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. THE CLAIMS OF DISCRIMINATION

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 21) asserts claims against her former employer, the PSP, and five (5) individual Defendants: Frank Noonan (Commissioner of the PSP); Michael Shevlin (Chief Information Officer at PSP); Jerry Lenington (Director at PSP), Janice Brzana (Project Manager at PSP), and Debra Facciolo (Director at PSP.

         Plaintiff alleges that the PSP, through its “manager, supervisors, agents and employees, engaged in a pattern and practice of unlawful race discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA).” (Doc. 21, p. 1).

         B. FACTUAL SUMMARY

         In March of 2006, the PSP hired Robin Anderson as an IT Generalist Administrator. (Doc. 63, ¶ 1). She was supervised by Janice Brzana, who was supervised by Jerry Lennington. (Doc. 63, ¶ 2). Michael Shevlin was the Chief Information Officer in charge of the Bureau of I.T. (Doc. 75, ¶ 4). During Plaintiff's employment with the PSP she was disciplined numerous times for misconduct. (Doc. 63, ¶¶ 7-9, 11-17). Plaintiff was terminated effective August 26, 2013. (Doc. 63, ¶ 18). She appealed her termination to the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission, who upheld the termination. (Doc. 63, ¶¶ 19-20). Her appeal of the Civil Service Commission's decision to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court was unsuccessful on the merits. (Doc. 63, ¶ 21).

         This is the second discrimination lawsuit brought by Plaintiff against Defendants emanating from her employment with the PSP from 2006 to 2013. (Doc. 63, ¶ 22). The current case, Anderson II, [1] arises from the same factual background and claims of discrimination as an earlier case, Anderson I, [2] but adding claims of discrimination by adverse personnel actions, failure to promote, and wrongful disciplines, based in part on conduct that occurred after Anderson I was filed.

         C. TIMELINE OF EVENTS

         A timeline of these interwoven events will serve to elucidate my recommendations regarding the current motions for summary judgment. Rather than detail them in narrative form, I have chosen to submit these facts in summary chart form for the sake of clarity.

Date

Event

03/15/06

PSP hires Plaintiff (approximate date). (Doc. 63, ¶ 1).

01/31/07

Plaintiff files her first Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) & Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) Complaint, alleging unequal treatment. (PHRC No. 200604560).

04/21/08

Plaintiff files Second PHRC Complaint, alleging discrimination and retaliation. (PHRC No. 200705865).

10/01/09

PHRC Complaint No. 200604560 is closed due to "insufficient evidence."

10/01/09

PHRC No. 200705865 is closed due to "insufficient evidence"

06/08/10

Plaintiff applies for position with Department of Agriculture (“Ag. Dept.”), but is not offered the position.

07/26/10

Plaintiff files State Civil Service Commission (“SCSC”) discrimination complaint against Ag. Dept. (1:12-cv-2173-CCC, Doc. 51-1 at p. 3).

08/12/10

Plaintiff files EEOC Charge No. 530-2010-02912, alleging retaliation for filing earlier PHRC complaints. (Doc. 81, ¶ 26).

09/27/10

Plaintiff files SCSC Appeal No. 26766, alleging discrimination and retaliation concerning her demotion at PSP. (Doc. 81, ¶ 26).

12/12/10

Plaintiff files EEOC Complaint No. 530-2010-02912. (Doc. 81, ¶ 26).

01/20/11

EEOC Charge Number 530-2011-2332 claims discrimination and retaliation in Employee Performance Review (“EPR”). (Doc. 81, ¶ 26).

01/25/11

Defendant Brzana issues reprimand to Plaintiff for conduct at 12/17/10 meeting. (Doc. 82, p. 15).

03/21/11

SCSC Appeal denies Plaintiff's complaint against Ag. Dept. for discrimination.

04/11/11

Plaintiff receives annual EPR. (Doc. 63, ¶ 4).

04/15/11

Plaintiff appeals her 4/11/11 EPR to the SCSC, claiming discrimination and retaliation.

04/25/11

Plaintiff files SCSC Appeal Request Form. (Doc. 81-17).

06/15/11

SCSC denies EPR appeal, finding Plaintiff showed no discrimination.

10/20/11

Plaintiff files EEOC Complaint No. 530-2011-02332. (Doc. 81, ¶ 29).

11/01/11

Plaintiff is involved in Hit & Run accident. She later admits false reports and is suspended for five (5) days.

02/06/12

Plaintiff begins five (5) day suspension for Hit & Run false reports.

04/27/12

Plaintiff receives second annual EPR, and is rated “unsatisfactory.” (Doc. 63, ¶ 7).

04/27/12

Plaintiff appeals unsatisfactory EPR to SCSC for Level 1 discipline.

05/03/12

Plaintiff files SCSC Appeal Request Form. (Doc. 81-19).

05/29/12

Plaintiff receives a "Guidance Memorandum" regarding her behavior. (Doc. 21-1, p. 41).

06/27/12

Plaintiff files SCSC Appeal Request Form. (Doc. 81-20).

08/02/12

Plaintiff EEOC Charge No. 530-2010-02912 is dismissed for failure to present evidence of a statutory violation.

08/28/12

Plaintiff receives written reprimand for sleeping at her desk. (Doc. 21-1, p. 37).

10/19/12

EEOC Charge No. 530-2011-2332 is dismissed because no retaliation was shown.

10/31/12

Plaintiff files Anderson I (1:12-CV-02173-CCC), pro se.

11/13/12

Plaintiff files EEOC Complaint No. 530-2013-00808. (Doc. 81, ¶ 32).

11/15/12

Plaintiff issued one (1) day suspension for “conducting herself in a discourteous and insubordinate manner.” (Doc. 21-1, p. 37).

03/26/13

Plaintiff files EEOC Complaint No. 530-2013-01874. (Doc. 81, ¶ 33).

04/08/13

Attorney Krawczyk enters appearance in Anderson I. (Doc. 10).

05/09/13

Plaintiff files Amended Complaint against all Defendants in Anderson I. (Doc. 13).

05/21/13

Plaintiff files SCSC Appeal Request Form. (Doc. 81-23).

05/23/13

Plaintiff files EEOC Complaint No. 530-2013-02529. (Doc. 81, ¶ 35).

07/23/13

SCSC dismisses Plaintiff's EPR appeal. (Doc. 38-16, p. 68).

08/25/13

Plaintiff files for unemployment compensation. (Doc. 81-26).

08/26/13

PSP terminates Plaintiff. (Doc. 63, ¶ 18).

08/26/13

Plaintiff files SCSC Appeal Request Form. (Doc. 81-24).

05/08/14

Plaintiff files EEOC Complaint No. 530-2014-02104. (Doc. 81, ¶ 38).

01/14/15

Civil Service Commission denies Plaintiff's appeal of termination. (Doc. 72-1, pp. 60-61).

02/23/15

Plaintiff files Anderson II (1:15-cv-00382-CCC) pro se

03/16/15

In Anderson I, Magistrate Judge Schwab issues a Report recommending the summary judgment be granted in favor of Defendants with respect to Plaintiff's Title VII and PHRA claims. (Doc. 57).

05/14/15

Attorney Grewe from Koller Law Firm files Withdrawal of Appearance in Anderson I. (Doc. 62).

05/22/15

Defendants file second Motion for Summary Judgment in Anderson I. (Doc. 63).

10/12/15

Plaintiff files Amended Complaint in Anderson II. (Doc. 21).

12/11/15

Report recommends second Motion for Summary Judgment in Anderson I (Doc. 63) be granted. (Doc. 70).

01/01/16

Attorney Grewe granted leave to withdraw due to an irreconcilable conflict.

01/05/16

Commonwealth Court denies Plaintiff's SCSC appeal. (Doc. 72-1, p. 74).

03/16/16

Attorney Legaspi enters appearance in Anderson II for Plaintiff. (Doc. 30).

05/11/16

Chief Judge Conner grants Motions for Summary Judgment and dismisses Anderson I. (Doc. 83).

09/22/16

Parties file a partial Joint Stipulation of Dismissal. (Doc. 48).

09/26/16

Attorney Legaspi is granted leave to withdraw. (Doc. 50).

01/30/17

PSP Defendants file Answer to Amended Complaint. (Doc. 53).

03/24/17

Defendant Noonan files Answer to Amended Complaint. (Doc. 56).

06/14/17

PSP Defendants files Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 62).

06/14/17

Defendant Noonan files Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 64).

         D. CLAIMS RAISED IN THIS AMENDED COMPLAINT:

         In her Amended Complaint (Doc. 21) filed on October 12, 2015, Plaintiff raises the following claims:

Count 1 - Title VII Race Discrimination against PSP;
Count II - PHRA Race Discrimination against all defendants;
Count III - Title VII Retaliation against PSP;
Count IV - PHRA Retaliation against PSP; and
Count V - PHRA Race Discrimination and Aiding & Abetting against PSP.

         E. CLAIMS WITHDRAWN FROM THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

         On July 8, 2016, Plaintiff's then-counsel, J. Ronaldo Legaspi, filed a status report with the Court indicating that Plaintiff has “agreed to withdraw her claims brought pursuant to the PHRA in Counts II, and IV, in connection with her wrongful termination, based upon the statute of limitations.” (Doc. 40). “Plaintiff further agrees to withdraw Count V, based on aiding-and-abetting claims pursuant to PHRA.” Id. But she asserts that her PHRA claims for adverse personnel actions, failure to promote, and wrongful disciplines (apparently under Counts II and IV) remain. Id. Counts II, IV, and V were then dismissed with prejudice by Joint Stipulation on September 22, 2016. (Doc. 48).

         F. RELIEF SOUGHT:

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint seeks the following relief;

a) Damages for past and future monetary losses;
b) Compensatory damages;
c) Punitive damages;
d) Liquidated damages;
e) Emotional pain and suffering;
f) Reasonable attorneys' fees;
g) Recoverable costs;
h) Pre and Post judgment interest;
i) An allowance for negative tax consequences;
j) Permanent injunction;
k) Expungement of all negative information from PSP files; and
l) Extraordinary, equitable and/or injunctive relief under F. R. Civ. P. 64 & 65.

(Doc. 21, pp. 36-37).

         III. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate only when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, ” and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is material if it might affect the outcome of the action under applicable law, and it is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable factfinder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). The burden of proof is upon the non-moving party to come forth with “affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings, ” in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). “Such affirmative evidence-regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial-must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.” Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250-57; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587- 89, (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), (e). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action proceed. Pappas, 331 F.Supp.2d at 315. See also Johnson v. Fed. Exp. Corp., 996 F.Supp.2d 302, 311-12 (M.D. Pa. 2014), aff'd, 604 Fed.Appx. 183 (3d Cir. 2015).

         Furthermore, in cases involving allegations of employment discrimination, such as this one, the foregoing standard of review is applied with special care because the intent and credibility of parties are typically crucial. Conneen v. MBNA Am. Bank, N.A., 334 F.3d 318, 325 n.9 (3d Cir. 2003). In undertaking this review, the court avoids making credibility determinations and does not weigh the evidence, and instead must take care to accept as true the non-movant's evidence and ...


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