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Flores v. Charlton

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 13, 2019

ANDREW CHARLTON, et al. Defendants




         Plaintiff Anthony Flores (“Plaintiff”) filed a civil complaint against Defendants Andrew Charlton (“Charlton”) and Citizens Financial Group, Inc. (“Citizens”) (collectively, “Defendants”), asserting claims of hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.; and state-law claims of sexual harassment under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 P.S. §§ 951-963, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault. Before this Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 56, [ECF 22], Plaintiff's response in opposition, [ECF 23], and Defendants' reply. [ECF 26]. The issues raised by the parties have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted, and judgment is entered in favor of Defendants.


         With their motion, Defendants attached a statement of undisputed material facts which cites to the record, including Plaintiff's deposition. Plaintiff, on the other hand, attempts to cast doubt on Defendants' version of the facts by asserting purportedly contrary (though frequently inapposite) facts without citing to the record. Notwithstanding, this Court is mindful that at this summary judgment procedural stage, all record evidence and relevant facts must be considered in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, i.e., Plaintiff. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Thus, the relevant facts are summarized as follows:

On May 8, 2014, Plaintiff was initially hired by Citizens, a retail and commercial bank, to work at a Citizens branch inside an Acme supermarket in Newtown, Pennsylvania. In June 2015, Plaintiff was promoted to Assistant Branch Manager at the Acme branch, and oversaw the branch's day-to-day operations, with responsibilities that included “ordering money, making sure audits were in place, managing expectations for the other employees[.]” [ECF 22-2, Flores Dep., at 78:14-16]. Throughout his employment with Citizens, Plaintiff reported directly to and was supervised by Charlton, who divided his time between Citizens' two branches in Newtown branch and had no set schedule at either location. [Id. at 114:17-115:5].
Prior to March 2016, Plaintiff had no documented performance issues. On March 10, 2016, however, Charlton issued Plaintiff a verbal warning related to procedural deficiencies observed during a review conducted by Citizens' Operations Manager Lisa Welsh. [Id. at 105-06, 111-12]. In May 2016, Citizens' Retail Director Jeff Pearlberg also reviewed the Acme branch and identified several practice deficiencies. [Id. at 129-30]. Shortly after Pearlberg's visit, Charlton did not receive a desired promotion. On June 2, 2016, Charlton issued Plaintiff a Final Written Warning for poor performance, the final step in Citizens' progressive discipline model. [Id. at 133:17-19].
On June 14, 2016, Charlton conducted what was called a “surprise cash audit”[1] of Plaintiff's cash inventory and found that $140 was missing from Plaintiff's dye packs.[2] Plaintiff called Citizens HR seeking advice on how to proceed in light of the cash discrepancy, and HR recommended that Plaintiff leave the premises. Later, Plaintiff called Citizens' Employee Relations office and asked to discuss Charlton's behavior as Plaintiff's supervisor. Meanwhile, Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave pending the investigation into the failed cash audit. When Citizens investigators interviewed him regarding the audit, Plaintiff elaborated on his complaints about Charlton's behavior, telling the investigators, inter alia, that his relationship with Charlton had worsened following the May 2016 visit by Retail Director Pearlberg, after which Charlton had failed to receive a desired promotion. As a result, Plaintiff explained, Charlton “had it out for” Plaintiff and had sought to “get rid of” him. [Id. at 245-46]. Plaintiff did not have further contact with Employee Relations regarding his relationship with Charlton. [Id. at 186:8-14].
When deposed in this civil action, Plaintiff again described a pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior by Charlton which included, inter alia, Charlton's comment while raising his leg in front of Plaintiff that he was “waiting for [Plaintiff] to toss [his] salad;” Charlton's text to Plaintiff of a link to a YouTube video showing a naked man chasing other men; a text message containing a character using a homophobic slur; and a remark, made while standing behind Plaintiff with other Citizens staff, about Plaintiff's “ass.” Plaintiff also testified that Charlton would occasionally mimic grabbing Plaintiff's buttocks. Plaintiff indicated that some of these instances were witnessed by other Citizens staff. However, Plaintiff also acknowledged that he never made a formal complaint to Citizens regarding Charlton's behavior and did not discuss Charlton's behavior with any Citizens administrators prior to the failed cash audit. In early July 2016, prior to the conclusion of the cash audit investigation, Plaintiff resigned.


         Rule 56 governs the practice of summary judgment motions. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Specifically, this rule provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Id. A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence might affect the outcome of the litigation, and a dispute is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. A party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law if the evidence is so one-sided that one party must prevail. Id. at 251-52. As noted, under Rule 56, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Galena v. Leone, 638 F.3d 186, 196 (3d Cir. 2011).

         The moving party has the initial burden of identifying evidence that shows an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2004). Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's claims, “the non-moving party must rebut the motion with facts in the record and cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memoranda, or oral argument.” Berckeley Inv. Grp. Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Rather, to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must point to “materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). Further, a party may not defeat a motion for summary judgment with evidence that would not be admissible at trial. Pamintuan v. Nanticoke Mem'l Hosp., 192 F.3d 378, 387 (3d Cir. 1999).

         Ultimately, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), and a court should grant summary judgment where the non-movant's evidence is merely colorable, conclusory, or speculative. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249- 50. If the non-moving party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial, ” summary judgment is warranted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, ...

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