United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Barry Fischer United States District Judge.
before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendants, SCI-Fayette, Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections (“SCI-Fayette”), Joseph Trempus
(“Trempus”) and Brian Coleman
“Defendants”). (Docket No. 29). For the reasons
that follow, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will
December 1, 2016, Christy Ashton (“Plaintiff”)
filed suit against her employer, SCI-Fayette, along with
Coleman, who was the former Superintendent at SCI-Fayette,
and Trempus, who was the Intelligence Captain at SCI-Fayette.
Plaintiff originally asserted claims against all Defendants
for subjecting her to a sexually hostile work environment
(Count I) and retaliating against her (Count II) in violation
of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as the same
under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
(“PHRA”) (Count III). Plaintiff also asserted an
invasion of privacy claim against Trempus (Count IV).
response to Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim, Plaintiff withdrew the Title VII
claims against Coleman and Trempus, the PHRA claim against
SCI-Fayette and the invasion of privacy claim against
Trempus. (Docket No. 10). The Court entered an Order on March
20, 2017, dismissing Counts I and II against Coleman and
Trempus, dismissing Count III against SCI-Fayette and
dismissing Count IV in its entirety. (Docket No. 11).
February 16, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment as to Plaintiff's remaining claims. (Docket No.
29). Plaintiff indicated in her Opposition Brief that she was
withdrawing her sexual harassment claim set forth in Counts I
and III as to all Defendants. (Docket No. 37 at 3). The Court
entered an Order on April 17, 2018, dismissing Count I in its
entirety and dismissing Count III as it relates to sexual
harassment. (Docket No. 40).
31, 2018, the Court held oral argument on Defendants'
summary judgment motion as to Plaintiff's only remaining
claim for retaliation (Count II against SCI-Fayette and Count
III against Coleman and Trempus). (Docket No. 42). At that
time, Plaintiff's counsel confirmed that she had
abandoned all claims asserted against Coleman. (See
infra at 9, n.7). The Court subsequently entered an
order dismissing the retaliation claim against Coleman (Count
III) and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against him in
its entirety with prejudice. (Docket No. 43).
have argued in briefing and at oral argument that summary
judgment should be entered in their favor because Plaintiff
has failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation.
(See Docket No. 30 at 13-16). Even if Plaintiff had
done so, Defendants contend that they had legitimate,
non-retaliatory reasons for their employment actions, which
Plaintiff has failed to rebut. (See id. at 16-17).
Plaintiff counters that she has met her prima facie burden,
and Defendants' stated reasons for their employment
actions were nothing more than a pretext for retaliation.
(See Docket No. 37 at 3-7).
parties indicated at oral argument that they did not wish to
submit any supplemental briefing on the issues raised by
Defendants' summary judgment motion. Accordingly, the
matter is now ripe for disposition.
2001, Plaintiff began working at the Department of
Corrections (“DOC”) as a clerk typist, a position
she still holds at present. (Defs.' Concise Statement of
Undisputed Material Facts (hereinafter, “Defs.'
SUMF”) (Docket No. 31) ¶ 1; Pl.'s Counter
Statement of Material Facts (hereinafter, “Pl.'s
CSMF”) (Docket No. 36) ¶ 1). As relevant here,
Plaintiff worked at SCI-Greene from 2005 to 2009, and she has
worked at SCI-Fayette from September 14, 2013, to the
present. (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 2; Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 2).
Coleman was the Deputy Superintendent at SCI-Greene until
March 2008, and then he became Superintendent at SCI-Fayette,
where he remained until July 2015. (Defs.' SUMF
¶¶ 3, 4; Pl.'s CSMF ¶¶ 3, 4). Trempus
was the Intelligence Captain at SCI-Fayette in 2015, when the
events at issue took place. (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 6;
Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 6).
alleges that Coleman made unwanted sexual advances toward her
when she worked at SCI-Greene years earlier, but she admits
that she never complained about Coleman's conduct at any
time. (Compl. (Docket No. 1) ¶ 13; Defs.' SUMF
¶ 11; Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 11). Nevertheless, after
Plaintiff transferred to SCI-Fayette's Education
Department in 2013, Plaintiff alleges that she was
reprimanded for tardiness in retaliation for previously
refusing Coleman's sexual advances. (Compl. ¶¶
18, 20, 24). Plaintiff admits, however, that she was tardy on
five occasions, and there was no change in her employment as
a result of the reprimand. (Defs.' SUMF ¶¶ 27,
28, 30; Pl.'s CSMF ¶¶ 27, 28, 30).
further alleges that Corrections Officer (“CO”)
Dan Gregg made unwanted sexual advances toward her in January
2015. (Compl. ¶ 25). After Plaintiff declined CO
Gregg's advances, she alleges that an unknown employee of
SCI-Fayette called the wife of CO William Zosky, claimed that
Plaintiff was having a sexual relationship with CO Zosky, and
provided the personal telephone number for Plaintiff's
husband, Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”)
Trooper Jason Ashton. (Compl. ¶¶ 26, 31; Defs'
SUMF ¶ 31; Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 31). Plaintiff asserts
that her husband's personal telephone number was
disclosed to the unknown employee in retaliation for her
previous refusal of Coleman's sexual advances. (Compl.
February 4, 2015, Plaintiff submitted to Trempus a written
statement alleging sexual harassment against CO Gregg.
(Defs.' SUMF ¶ 37; Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 37).
Plaintiff claims that she subsequently was reassigned to the
Medical Department, yet CO Gregg was not disciplined, and
Trempus did not investigate her complaint in retaliation for
her previous refusal of Coleman's sexual advances, filing
the complaint against CO Gregg and cooperating in the
internal investigation of another employee's sexual
harassment claim. (Compl. ¶¶ 38, 39, 42, 43).
Plaintiff's claim that no investigation occurred, Trempus
took statements from her and CO Gregg relative to the
complaint. (Trempus Dep. (Docket No. 32-3, Ex. 4) at 58-60;
Pl.'s Stmt. of 2/4/15 (Docket No. 32-4, Ex. 9); CO
Gregg's Stmt. of 2/5/15 (Docket No. 32-4, Ex. 26)). In
addition, on February 12, 2015, Plaintiff met with Tina
Walker, who was SCI-Fayette's Field Human Resources
Officer. (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 58; Pl.'s CSMF ¶
58). Plaintiff stated that she did not feel threatened or
feel that she faced a hostile work environment, but Walker
told Plaintiff to contact her if that changed. (Defs.'
SUMF ¶¶ 59, 62; Pl.'s CSMF ¶¶ 59,
62). SCI-Fayette subsequently turned over the investigation
of Plaintiff's complaint against CO Gregg to the
DOC's Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence
(“OSII”) as part of a larger ongoing
investigation of misconduct in the Education
Department. (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 64; Trempus Dep.
at 60-61, 85). OSII ultimately was unable to substantiate
Plaintiff's claim against CO Gregg. (Defs.' SUMF
¶ 70; Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 70).
Plaintiff was transferred to the Medical Department,
supervisor removed the telephone from her desk because she
frequently used it for personal calls. (Defs.' SUMF
¶¶ 80, 81; Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 80). Plaintiff
disputes this, claiming that the telephone was removed in
retaliation for previously refusing Coleman's sexual
advances, filing the complaint against CO Gregg and
cooperating in the other internal investigation. (Compl.
¶¶ 44, 46). Nevertheless, there was a telephone
available for Plaintiff's use outside of her office door,
and her desk telephone was subsequently restored. (Defs.'
SUMF ¶¶ 82, 85; Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 85).
March 25, 2015, Plaintiff sent an email to Trempus, with a
copy to her husband's PSP email address, complaining
about the investigation of her claim against CO Gregg and
asking her husband to inquire at his barracks in case she
wanted the PSP to get involved in the investigation.
(Defs.' SUMF ¶¶ 89, 90, 93; Pl.'s CSMF
¶¶ 89, 90, 93). Trempus then called Trooper
Ashton's PSP supervisor to tell him that the DOC was
handling the investigation and that Trooper Ashton should not
be involved in it. (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 96; Pl.'s CSMF
¶ 96). Although Trempus testified that he called Trooper
Ashton's supervisor to prevent outside meddling in the
OSII investigation, (see Trempus Dep. at 128-134,
138), Plaintiff claims that he did so in retaliation for her
filing the complaint against CO Gregg. (Compl. ¶ 50).
August 2016, Plaintiff applied for a mail inspector job at
SCI-Fayette, but she was not hired for it. (Defs.' SUMF
¶¶ 114, 117; Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 114). Plaintiff
claims that a less qualified candidate was hired for the job,
but she admits that her only prior experience was filling in
at another mailroom fifteen years earlier and her work as a
clerk typist. (Compl. ¶ 52; Defs.' SUMF ¶ 119;
Pl.'s CSMF ¶ 119). Plaintiff contends that she was
not awarded the position in retaliation for previously
refusing Coleman's sexual advances, filing the complaint
against CO Gregg and cooperating in the other internal
investigation. (Compl. ¶ 54).
is still employed as a clerk typist in SCI-Fayette's
Medical Department, her salary and benefits have not been
reduced, and she has not received any discipline other than
the reprimand for tardiness in 2013. (Defs.' SUMF
¶¶ 121-123; Pl.'s CSMF ¶¶ 121-123).
However, Plaintiff alleges that her work performance is
overly scrutinized and she is assigned more work than other
similarly situated employees in retaliation for previously
refusing Coleman's ...