United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge.
case arises out of an allegation of employment discrimination
brought by the plaintiff against the defendants. Regina Grove
filed the instant suit against her employer, Aramark
Corporation (“Aramark”),  and several of her
supervisors, alleging racial discrimination, retaliation, and
constructive discharge in violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964. Grove claims that she was forced to leave
her job due to the discrimination and retaliation she
suffered at work, which she alleges was solely based upon her
defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint (Doc. 14),
and after review, we gave the parties notice of our intention
to treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment pursuant
to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure since the
motion invited consideration of some matters outside the
pleadings. The defendants filed a supplemental brief in
support of their motion, and the plaintiff has not filed any
objections or supplemental brief. Relying upon a body of what
are now undisputed facts that Grove has not chosen to
challenge, the defendants contend that Grove's claims
fail on their merits because she has not sufficiently alleged
or shown any facts that support a claim of racial
discrimination or retaliation and the uncontested facts defat
her claims as a matter of law.
agree, and for the reasons set forth below, we will recommend
that the defendants' motion be granted.
Grove was employed by Aramark as a food service employee in
the Scranton School District in Scranton, Pennsylvania
beginning in 2011. (Doc. 1, ¶ 15). Her complaint alleges
that she began experiencing racial discrimination and
retaliation at work in January 2017, when she held a
food-prep position at Kennedy Elementary School.
(Id., ¶¶ 16-17). This position was a
part-time position, in which Grove worked about twenty hours
per week and was paid at a rate of $11.25 per hour.
(Id., ¶ 17). Grove contends that on January 30,
2019, she was informed by the Human Resources Director,
Elaine Evans, and the General Manager, Precious Gillard, that
she was being promoted to a supervisor position at Tripp
Elementary School. (Id., ¶ 19). This position
was a full-time position and offered health insurance refund
and a pay raise. (Id.) She arrived at Tripp on
January 31, 2017 and was introduced as the Kitchen Lead.
(Id., ¶ 20). However, on February 2, James
Castaldi informed her that she would no longer be working as
the Kitchen Lead, but she continued working at Tripp until
February 6. (Id., ¶¶ 21-23). It is alleged
that on February 3, Grove, who is an African-American female,
reported for work at Tripp to find that the Kitchen Lead was
now a Caucasian female. (Id., ¶ 22).
Ultimately, Grove was informed by Gillard that she was to
report back to her food-prep position at Kennedy on or about
February 7. (Id., ¶ 23). Grove then contacted
the Aramark Employee Complaint Hotline concerning the job
transfer. (Id., ¶ 24).
uncontested facts tendered by the defendants, however,
present a useful and compelling factual context and rebuttal
to these allegations. It seems that Grove's transfer to
this position was understood by all to be a temporary,
fill-in, measure pending the return of the incumbent Kitchen
Lead, who was a Caucasian woman. Thus, Grove filled in at the
position for several days, until the incumbent returned to
work, a fact that was understood by all at the time of this
complaint then alleges that on February 13, 2017, while Grove
was working at Kennedy, she asked her supervisor, Jan
Krushinski, if she could leave early. (Id., ¶
26). Krushinski allegedly responded that Grove could
“stand in the corner until her shift end[ed].”
(Id.) Krushinski also allegedly told other employees
to file grievances against Grove if Grove caused any
problems. (Id., ¶ 27). Then, on February 14,
Grove attended a meeting with other Aramark employees,
including Gillard and Evans, during which she was reprimanded
for her absenteeism in November 2016. (Id., ¶
29). Grove alleges that she believed that her complaints
concerning her alleged demotion and Krushinski's behavior
were going to be addressed at this meeting but were not.
(Id.) Thus, she reported Krushinski's behavior
via the Complaint Hotline on February 15. (Id.,
¶ 28). Grove then contacted the Aramark Building Manager
at Kennedy on February 16 when she did not receive a response
from the hotline. (Id., ¶ 30).
attended another meeting with Aramark employees, including
Gillard, Castaldi, and Evans, on February 27, 2017 to address
a complaint filed against her by Nathan Barrett, Principal of
the Scranton School District. (Id., ¶ 31).
Grove contends that Barrett filed a complaint alleging that
there was a conflict of interest for Grove working at Kennedy
because her son attended school there. (Id.) For
their part, the defendants do not dispute that Barrett filed
a complaint against Grove, but rather they elaborate on the
complaint, stating that the complaint was filed because Grove
was inappropriately addressing the staff at Kennedy
concerning some behavioral issues that her son was having at
school after she was explicitly told not to address the
staff. (Doc. 15, at 8). Thus, at the conclusion of this
meeting, Grove alleges that although other Caucasian
employees were permitted to work in schools where their
children attended, she was told that she could not return to
the school while there was an investigation pending.
(Id., ¶ 32).
meeting on March 1, 2017 between Castaldi, Barrett, and the
Union president, Grove was told that Aramark had to pay her
for four weeks. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 34-35). Additionally,
rather than terminating her employment completely, Grove was
told she could not return to Kennedy and was offered other
positions at other schools, including a school where her
other son attended. (Id., ¶ 37). At first,
Grove accepted a position at Scranton High School, a six-hour
position, but thereafter changed her mind and accepted a
position at Williard Elementary School as a monitor, a
three-hour position. (Doc. 14-23, at 2). Grove was employed
in this position at the time she alleges she was
constructively discharged in August 2017, as she was set to
return to work but could not return due to the discrimination
and retaliation she allegedly suffered. (Doc. 1, ¶¶
filed her complaint against the defendants on December 28,
2017. (Doc. 1). In this complaint she brought her claims
against Aramark, as well as Evans, Gillard, Castaldi and
Krushinski, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation,
as well as constructive discharge as a result of a hostile
work environment in violation of Title VII. Grove also
brought a state law claim for intentional infliction of
emotional distress, which she has since abandoned.
(See Doc. 18, at 10). The defendants filed a motion
to dismiss the complaint (Doc. 14), to which we gave notice
of our intention to convert to a summary judgment motion. The
defendants then filed a brief in support, analyzing the
plaintiff's claims through the perspective of a summary
judgment motion. (Doc. 31). The plaintiff did not file a
response, and the deadline for filing any objections or
supplemental briefs has passed.
defendants contend that the plaintiff's Title VII claims
fail for several reasons. First, they argue that there is no
individual liability under Title VII, and thus the claims
against the individual defendants must fail. Additionally,
they assert that the plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged
facts to support her racial discrimination, retaliation, and
hostile work environment claims. After a review of the
record, we agree, and we will recommend that the
defendants' motion be granted.
Standard of Review
defendants originally moved to dismiss the plaintiff's
complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. (Doc. 14). Upon review of the motion, we
provided notice to the parties of our intention to treat the
motion as a motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff has
not filed a response, and the defendants filed a supplemental
brief in support of their motion on August 26, 2019. (Doc.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the
court shall grant summary judgment 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.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Through summary adjudication, a court is
empowered to dispose of those claims that do not present a
“genuine dispute as to any material fact, ”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), and for which a trial would be “an
empty and unnecessary formality.” Univac Dental Co.
v. Dentsply Int'l, Inc., No. 07-0493, 2010 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 31615, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2010). The
substantive law identifies which facts are material, and
“[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A
dispute about a material fact is genuine only if there is a
sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable
fact finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party.
Id., at 248-49.
moving party has the initial burden of identifying evidence
that it believes 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 nonmoving 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. Group. Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195,
201 (3d Cir. 2006); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). If the nonmoving 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 appropriate. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Summary
judgment is also appropriate if the non-moving party provides
merely colorable, conclusory, or speculative evidence.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. There must be more than a
scintilla of evidence supporting the nonmoving party and more
than some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.
Id., at 252; see also, Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
(1986). In making this determination, the Court must
“consider all evidence in the light most favorable to
the party opposing the motion.” A.W. v. Jersey City
Pub. Schs., 486 F.3d 791, 794 (3d Cir. 2007).
a party who seeks to resist a summary judgment motion by
citing to disputed material issues of fact must show by
competent evidence that such factual disputes exist. Further,
“only evidence which is admissible at trial may be
considered in ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”
Countryside Oil Co., Inc. v. Travelers Ins. Co., 928
F.Supp. 474, 482 (D.N.J. 1995). Similarly, it is well-settled
that: “[o]ne cannot create an issue of fact merely by .
. . denying averments . . . without producing any supporting
evidence of the denials.” Thimons v. PNC Bank,
NA, 254 Fed.Appx. 896, 899 (3d Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted). Thus, “[w]hen a motion for summary judgment
is made and supported . . ., an adverse party may not rest
upon mere allegations or denial.” Fireman's
Ins. Co. of Newark N.J. v. DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 968
(3d Cir. 1982); see Sunshine Books, Ltd. v. Temple
University, 697 F.2d 90, 96 (3d Cir. 1982). “[A]
mere denial is insufficient to raise a disputed issue of
fact, and an unsubstantiated doubt as to the veracity of the
opposing affidavit is also not sufficient.”
Lockhart v. ...