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Kastanidis v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 26, 2018




         Plaintiff Christina Kastanidis (“Kastanidis”) commenced this action against her employer asserting claims for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 42 USC § 2000e-2 (“Title VII”) (See Doc 1) Defendant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services[1] (“Department”) moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (Doc 24)

         I. Factual Background & Procedural History[2]

         Kastanidis worked for several agencies of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in various capacities since 2001. The Department first employed Kastanidis in November 2001 in the Lancaster County Assistance Office. (Doc. 25 ¶ 1; Doc. 25-1 at 6). On March 3, 2003, Kastanidis transferred to the Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Adjudication, Workers' Compensation. (See Doc. 25-2 at 28, 46; Doc. 25-3, Kastanidis Dep. 13:25-15:1, Mar. 27, 2017 (“Kastanidis Dep.”)).[3] The Commonwealth maintains an anti-sexual harassment policy applicable to all state employees. (See Kastanidis Dep. at 202-03). When she began employment with the Department of Labor and Industry in 2003, Kastanidis acknowledged receipt of the Commonwealth's anti-sexual harassment policy and grievance procedure and attended sexual harassment training. (Doc. 25 ¶¶ 3-4; Doc. 25-2 at 30, 34).

         On February 11, 2012, the Department hired Kastanidis to serve as administrative assistant to the director of the Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services (“the Bureau”). (Doc. 25 ¶ 5). Andrew Snyder (“Snyder”) served as the Bureau's director during Kastanidis' employment therewith. (Id.) Kastanidis avers that the Department failed to provide an anti-sexual harassment policy to her when she assumed the position of administrative assistant. (Doc. 30 ¶ 2). She also claims that she did not sign an acknowledgment form concerning same. (Id. ¶ 3).

         A. Office Conduct

         During approximately four weeks of employment by the Bureau, Kastanidis claims there were multiple instances of inappropriate workplace conduct that contributed to a hostile work environment. The bulk of this conduct took the form of inappropriate jokes and comments by Snyder. (See Kastanidis Dep. 28:8-12). For example, Kastanidis and clerk typist Avery Romain (“Romain”) walked to get lunch one afternoon, (id. at 34:17-22; Doc. 25-4, Snyder Dep. 29:19-21, July 31, 2017 (“Snyder Dep.”); Doc. 25-7, Phillips Dep. 22:4-12, July 26, 2017 (“Phillips Dep.”)), and Snyder drove by, honked his horn, and shouted “are you two dating now? Are you two holding hands?” (Kastanidis Dep. 35:1-12). On another occasion, Snyder, Kastanidis, and a male Bureau field worker waited together for the elevator to exit the building, and Snyder asked Kastanidis and the field worker if they were leaving together. (Id. at 35:16-36:4). When Kastanidis said no, Snyder responded “does [he] need you to walk him to his car? Are you his bodyguard now?” (Id. at 36:5-7). Again Kastanidis replied no, and Snyder allegedly rejoined “[o]h, I'm sure he would want you guarding his body.” (Id. at 36:7-8).

         Kastanidis recalls hearing Snyder tell Michelle Phillips (“Phillips”), the director of the Bureau's Division of Health Services, not to “get [her] underwear in a bunch.” (Id. at 36:21-23; Doc. 25-2 at 23). Snyder then purportedly said to Phillips “[o]h that's right, you wear . . . those old granny underwear.” (Kastanidis Dep. 36:23-25). Phillips testified that Snyder and another director made the comment about her “granny panties” when she reached for a piece of paper and the top of her briefs were momentarily exposed. (Phillips Dep. 67:14-68:3). Kastanidis was offended by how Snyder spoke about other office employees. (Kastanidis Dep. 37:5). Snyder allegedly demeaned male and female coworkers frequently, and Kastanidis recalled him describing multiple employees as “asshole[s]” and once referring to a female employee as a “bitch.” (Id. at 37:6-13). He frequently told a story about facility financial manager Elizabeth Henry (“Henry”) waking up wearing Snyder's pants after an evening of drinking with him. (Id. at 135:2-14; Snyder Dep. 197:19-198:13).

         Kastanidis ate lunch in the Bureau's breakroom intermittently. (Kastanidis Dep. 29:15-19). One afternoon, Kastanidis, Snyder, and Romain ate lunch in the breakroom as an episode of “The Voice” played on the television. (Id. at 29:19-24; Snyder Dep. 180:25). Kastanidis commented that the show was “okay” and Snyder reportedly responded “it doesn't matter what you think because . . . [the hostess's] tits are right there . . . they're right in your face the whole time.” (Kastanidis Dep. 30:1-8). Snyder denies ever using that word and avers that he actually said the hostess “needs to cover up because it is hard to watch that TV show with as much cleavage as she has out.” (Snyder Dep. 180:25-181:11). On another occasion in the breakroom, Kastanidis inquired as to the proper attire for a meeting Snyder asked her to attend. (Kastanidis Dep. 30:9-20). Snyder allegedly turned to Romain, chuckled, and replied that she should wear “buttless chaps.” (Id. at 30:20-24). Kastanidis claims that Snyder made racial slurs in the breakroom and stated that she “never worked in a professional environment” in which such expletives as “bitch, ” “fuck, ” and “tits, ” were so “openly spoken.” (Id. at 31:5-15; Doc. 25 ¶ 10).

         Snyder instructed Kastanidis to assist Romain in assembling paperwork and packets of literature for a regional directors meeting because Romain would “fuck it up.” (Kastanidis Dep. 38:1-9). Some contributing employees failed to submit their materials to Kastanidis on time. (Id. at 38:11-15, 64:6-65:17). When Snyder discovered mistakes in the way packets were assembled, he became frustrated and asked Kastanidis “what's wrong with you?” and said “even an idiot could do this.” (Id. at 39:22-23, 40:1-2).

         Kastanidis attended weekly conference calls about at-risk youth with Snyder and various directors and facilities managers. (Id. at 40:12-41:4). Following a report of alleged sexual abuse of juveniles by facility personnel, Snyder allegedly commented that “[t]hey were asking for it.” (Id. at 41:12-42:2). On a separate occasion, Kastanidis struggled to recall a name and stated “it's on the tip of my tongue.” (Id. at 43:16-24). Snyder responded “speaking of on the tip of your tongue.” (Id. at 43:25-44:1). Kastanidis was offended and disgusted by Snyder's comment. (Id. at 44:1-10).

         In another incident, Snyder directed Kastanidis to purchase dictation equipment worth several hundred dollars using the Department credit card. (Id. at 51:15-24). Kastanidis testified that Snyder said “if there's a problem with approval or anything, you don't take no for an answer . . . you're my girl and don't let anyone tell you no.” (Id. at 51:25-52:2). She felt that comment was inappropriate. (Id. at 52:8-10). Snyder denies saying “you're my girl.” (Snyder Dep. 181:15-18). Snyder once offered to drive Kastanidis to her car. (Doc. 25 ¶ 12). Kastanidis felt Snyder's offer was inappropriate and unnecessary since she parked only a block from work, but recognizes it might have been simply a kind gesture. (Kastanidis Dep. 45:16-46:10). Kastanidis felt uncomfortable with Snyder's physical proximity to her personal space at least once, but there is no evidence Snyder ever touched or placed his hands on her. (Doc. 25 ¶¶ 6, 8, 25).

         Kastanidis received an email early in her tenure as Snyder's administrative assistant from Nick Barelet (“Barelet”), a program specialist supervisor, shortly before Barelet left the Bureau. (Kastanidis Dep. 32:2-9, 33:12-14, 34:4-9; Snyder Dep. 139:6-11). Barelet allegedly offered to assist Kastanidis with directions around the area in the event of a detour, accident, or traffic. (Kastanidis Dep. 33:14-18). In describing what routes to take, Barelet referenced traveling “under a bridge” and offered to take Kastanidis for a ride to show her the route. (Id. at 33:19-24). Kastanidis forwarded Barelet's email to Snyder who allegedly told Kastanidis that she “must have given [Barelet] vibes.” (Id. at 33:25-34:3). When Kastanidis denied giving Barelet “anything, ” Snyder replied “well, you must have given him something . . . perhaps an STD.” (Id. at 34:4-7). Snyder refutes making this comment. (Snyder Dep. 181:12-14).

         After Kastanidis forwarded the email to Snyder, he responded by email that he would “take care of [Barelet]” and “take care of the situation.” (Kastanidis Dep. 42:11-14). Snyder forwarded the Barelet email to the director of the Bureau's Division of Administration and Quality Improvement. (Id. at 42:15-16; Doc. 25-2 at 23). Kastanidis avers that Snyder brought the email up at the weekly director's meeting and pointed out to everyone that “[Barelet] wanted to take [her] under the bridge” and that Kastanidis must have “done something to encourage [Barelet to] com[e] back.” (Kastanidis Dep. 42:17-24). She claimed that Snyder portrayed the situation as “a rendezvous with [Barelet] under the bridge.” (Id. at 42:24-43:1).

         B. Statewide Director's Meeting

         At Snyder's direction, Kastanidis attended a three-day, statewide director's meeting in Danville, Pennsylvania in early March 2012. (Doc. 25 ¶ 14; Doc. 30 ¶ 14). Snyder and Kastanidis traveled together in his government vehicle. (Doc. 25 ¶ 15). Snyder allegedly pointed out a sign for the gentlemen's club Mustang Sally's to Kastanidis during the drive to the meeting. (Kastanidis Dep. 86:18-23, 87:6-9; see also Doc. 25-8, Gregor Dep. 90:1-5, June 8, 2017 (“Gregor Dep.”)). Snyder disputes this allegation, adding that Mustang Sally's is not along the route he and Kastanidis took to Danville. (Snyder Dep. 171:6-22, 172:8-9).

         Snyder indicated during the car ride that at these conferences, people usually get together in the evenings to drink and socialize in the hotel rooms. (Kastanidis Dep. 82:3-7). Snyder then shared a story about a past overnight conference he attended with his former supervisor. (Id. at 81:22-82:12). Snyder stated that his supervisor invited him to her hotel room and attempted to sleep with him. (Id. at 82:12-83:4). Kastanidis claims that Snyder said this kind of behavior is not uncommon at these overnight meetings and that “bosses do sleep with their assistants.” (Id. at 83:5-14). Snyder allegedly said that he “could see that happening to a very attractive woman like Ms. Kastanidis.” (Doc. 33 at 23). Kastanidis retorted that she wanted Snyder to be proud of the work she did as his assistant but that she would not sleep with him. (Kastanidis Dep. at 84:9-11).

         Snyder disputes Kastanidis' claim that he was trying to seduce her in the car. (Snyder Dep. 173:1-10). According to Snyder, the Barelet email came up during the ride to Danville and Snyder inquired whether Kastanidis wanted him “to go anywhere with it.” (Id. at 138:5-12, 139:2-18). Snyder maintains that Kastanidis declined his offer to help but agreed that Barelet's email was inappropriate. (Id. at 138:7-15, 139:14-18). Kastanidis also purportedly shared that she had been sexually harassed almost every day at her previous job. (Id. at 139:19-22). Snyder avers that he told the story of his female supervisor sexually harassing him in the hotel room years ago as a way to connect with Kastanidis. (Id. at 138:16, 139:22-140:18). He allegedly explained to Kastanidis that he struggled to work with his former supervisor after that incident and that Kastanidis was “going to be okay in this office.” (Id. at 140:20-24).

         En route to Danville, Snyder and Kastanidis stopped at a facility for female juveniles for a meeting to secure additional after-care program funding. (Kastanidis Dep. 88:16-89:18, 90:5-19). At the facility, Kastanidis overheard Snyder speaking with two male managers about a female juvenile who had been rehabilitated and reintegrated back into her community. (Id. at 90:24-91:3). The men were discussing the juvenile's report to her probation officer that facility workers “forced . . . the female juveniles . . . to perform oral sex and have sex with the workers.” (Id. at 91:19-24). Snyder allegedly joked to the male managers that “we don't pay them to have sex with [the workers, ] [t]hey have sex with us for free, ” referring to the female juveniles. (Doc. 25 ¶ 16).

         After arriving at the hotel, Kastanidis attended a retirement dinner at a nearby restaurant for facility maintenance manager Dean Fetterholf at Snyder's insistence. (Id. ¶ 17; Doc. 30 ¶ 17; Doc. 25-2 at 25). Snyder allegedly introduced Kastanidis by saying “[s]peaking of naked women, Christina, come here, I wanted to introduce you to [Mr. Fetterholf].” (Doc. 25 ¶ 18; Doc. 30 ¶ 18 & n.6). Later that evening, Russell Zemanek (“Zemanek”), director of the Bureau's Division of Program and Employee Development, beckoned Kastanidis to the restaurant's bar area. (Kastanidis Dep. 103:16-104:5; Doc. 25-2 at 23). At the bar, Snyder introduced Kastanidis to the Department's deputy secretary, Richard Gold (“Gold”). (Kastanidis Dep. 104:10-13; Snyder Dep. 216:21-217:6; Doc. 25-9, Lutinski Dep. 90:12-15, Aug. 11, 2017 (“Lutinski Dep.”)). Gold purportedly “walked around [Kastanidis] looking her up and down” and exclaimed “holy fucking shit. . . . What did you say when you saw her, Andy? Hire, hire, hire.” (Gregor Dep. 75:9-13; Kastanidis Dep. 104:10-19; cf. Lutinski Dep. 90:15-19). Gold then said “welcome aboard” to Kastanidis and informed her that “[Snyder] is impotent.” (Kastanidis Dep. 105:2-4; Gregor Dep. ...

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