Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mazur v. Southwestern Veterans Center

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 7, 2019

MARGARET MAZUR, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHWESTERN VETERANS CENTER & DEPARTMENT OF MILITARY AND VETERANS AFFAIRS, Defendants.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          JOY FLOWERS CONTI SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         This racial discrimination action filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e(17) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 arises out of an incident in which $500.00 went missing from the Southwestern Veterans Center (“SWVC”) and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (“DMVA” and together with the SWVC, “defendants”). Defendants suspected that plaintiff Margaret Mazur (“Mazur”) or her coworker Sharon Warden (“Warden”) stole or lost the $500.00. Mazur alleges that she did not steal or lose the money and was unfairly disciplined and blamed for the missing money because of her race.

         Currently pending before the court is Mazur's motion for sanctions for spoliation. (ECF No. 112.) Mazur in the motion argues that defendants, her former employers, destroyed or lost evidence that is relevant to her claims of racial discrimination and retaliation and, therefore, the court should enter a default judgment against defendants or provide a negative inference jury instruction at trial. Defendants oppose Mazur's motion.

         On November 29, 2018, the court held a hearing with respect to Mazur's motion for sanctions. The court for the reasons set forth on the record denied the motion for sanctions with respect to all Mazur's arguments[1] except for her arguments that defendants lost or destroyed a bank teller sheet and handwritten notes from Mazur's predisciplinary conference On January 22, 2019, the court held an evidentiary hearing with respect to those remaining issues. (Hearing Transcript (“H.T.”) 1/22/2019 (ECF No.146).) Mazur presented the testimony of five witnesses, including herself, and entered eighteen exhibits into evidence.

         On April 6, 2019, Mazur filed proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. (ECF No. 148.) On April 22, 2019, defendants filed proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. (ECF No. 152.) On April 30, 2019, Mazur filed a reply brief. (ECF No. 153.) On May 3, 2019, defendants filed a supplement. (ECF No. 154.) The issues remaining in the motion for sanctions are now ripe to be decided by the court.

         The court based upon the record makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

         II. Findings of Fact

         FOF 1.The SWVC is a part of the DMVA. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 17.)

         FOF 2. On May 16, 2016, $500.00 went missing from the SWVC. (Ex. 2 ¶ 5.) The following day Darren Lindsay (“Lindsay”), Mazur's immediate supervisor, and Barry Lowen (“Lowen”), “Deputy Commandant” for the SWVC, initiated an internal investigation into the missing $500.00. (Id.; H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 21, 54.)

         FOF 3. A police investigation about the missing $500.00 was also initiated. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 29.)

         FOF 4. Lindsay never learned what happened to the missing $500.00. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 30.)

         Handwritten PDC Notes

         FOF 5. Jamie Cuthbert (“Cuthbert”) is a “HR Analyst 2” for the SWVC. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 17.) She held that position on May 16, 2016. (Id. at 17-18.)

         FOF 6. On May 26, 2016, a predisciplinary conference (“PDC”) was held with respect to Mazur and her role in the missing $500.00. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 5.)

         FOF 7. Mazur, Cuthbert, Lowen, Kim Kreiser (“Kreiser”), the “Division Chief for Employee Relations and Safety” for the DMVA, and Jennifer McClain-Miller (“McClain-Miller”) were present at the PDC. (Id. at 5.)

         FOF 8. Lowen, Cuthbert, and Mazur attended the PDC in Cuthbert's office. (H.T. 1/29/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 5.)

         FOF 9. Kreiser and McClain-Miller appeared via telephone from Kreiser's office in “Fort Indiantown Gap.” (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 5, 41, 44.)

         FOF 10. Two persons take notes during PDCs. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 6, 41.)

         FOF 11. Kreiser asked Cuthbert and Lowen to take notes during the PDC. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 6.)

         FOF 12. Mazur testified that during the PDC she “saw notepads” and witnessed Cuthbert and Lowen taking handwritten notes on blank pieces of paper. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 50.)

         Kreiser's Role

         FOF 13.Kreiser wrote down notes on a piece of paper prior to the start of the PDC and took additional notes during the PDC. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 5, 39-40; Ex. 19.)

         FOF 14. On the day of the evidentiary hearing, January 22, 2019, Kreiser's handwritten notes were provided to Mazur by defendants. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 16.)

         Lowen's Role

         FOF 15. Lowen brought his laptop into Cuthbert's office for the PDC. (H.T.1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 10.) Lowen typed his notes on his laptop during the PDC. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 5, 10.)

         FOF 16. Mazur testified that Lowen did not have a computer with him at the PDC. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 51.)

         FOF 17. At the conclusion of Mazur's PDC, Lowen provided his notes to Cuthbert. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 35.)

         Cuthbert's Role

         FOF 18.Cuthbert testified that she was not aware of any handwritten notes from Mazur's PDC. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 6.)

         FOF 19. She did not know whether Kreiser or McClain-Miller took notes during the PDC. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 6, 17.) In other words, neither Kreiser nor McClain-Miller provided Cuthbert with handwritten notes from Mazur's PDC. (Id. at 6, 41.)

         FOF 20. Cuthbert testified during a deposition in this case that she could not remember whether her notes were handwritten or typed on her computer. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 47.)

         FOF 21. Cuthbert testified at the evidentiary hearing that after her deposition and prior to the evidentiary hearing, she remembered that she typed notes on her computer during the PDC. (Id. at 48.)

         FOF 22. Cuthbert testified that she compared her typewritten notes to Lowen's typewritten notes. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 12.) One set of notes was sent to “Fort Indiantown Gap.” (Id.)

         FOF 23. Cuthbert did not remember whether Lowen provided his notes to her via email. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 13.)

         FOF 24. Cuthbert testified at her deposition that she would keep the handwritten notes from which the notes sent to Fort Indiantown Gap were created. (Ex. 1.) Mazur questioned whether Cuthbert still had the handwritten notes from her PDC. (Id.) Cuthbert responded “I would have to look and see. If they are there, then yes.” (Id.) Cuthbert also testified that the handwritten notes would be destroyed once the employee had separated. (Id.)

         FOF 25. Cuthbert maintained employee disciplinary files in a drawer in her office. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 14.)

         FOF 26. A new process was utilized in which disciplinary files were placed on the “R:Drive, ” i.e., the “Labor Relations file.” (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 14.) According to Cuthbert, the information in Cuthbert's disciplinary file would be the same information stored on the R:Drive. (Id. at 18.)

         FOF 27. Cuthbert explained that oral and written reprimands remain in an employee's file for two years. (H.T. 1/22/2019 (ECF No. 146) at 7.) The SWVC then sends the discipline file to “Iron Mountain.” (Id. at 9.) Cuthbert does not personally destroy the discipline file. (Id.)

         FOF 28. An employee's suspension is indefinitely retained in the personnel file. (Id. at 7.)

         Discovery

         FOF 29. In or about January 2018, Mazur during discovery requested that defendants produce “all versions of notes for the May 26, 2016 PDC.” (Ex. 9 at 8.) On February 23, 2018, defendants responded to the request, in pertinent part, as follows: “Defendants stated that personal written notes were purge[d]in July 2016 after the grievance was settled.” (Id.) On at least one occasion counsel for defendants signed a letter which provided that response to Mazur's request for the handwritten PDC Notes. (ECF No. 59-1 at 27.)

         FOF 30. On February 8, 2018, Mazur filed a motion to compel discovery seeking, among other things, a court order directing defendants to respond properly to her request for ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.