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McNamara v. Susquehanna County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 17, 2019




         This is an employment discrimination case. The plaintiff, Maggie McNamara, has raised gender discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. against her former employer, Susquehanna County (“County”). The County has filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 27). In support, as required by the local civil rules, the County has submitted a statement of material facts and a brief in support. (Doc. 28; Doc. 29). McNamara filed a brief in opposition accompanied by transcripts of the depositions of McNamara, Maryann Warren, Elizabeth McCahill Arnold, Alan M. Hall, and an answer to the defendant's statement of material facts. (Doc. 32; Doc. 32-1; Doc. 32-2; Doc. 32-3; Doc. 32-4; Doc. 33). In addition, McNamara has filed a supplemental brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment based on new authority. (Doc. 42).

         The County's summary judgment motion is ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth herein, we will deny the motion.

         I. Statement of the Case

         McNamara's complaint consists of three counts under Title VII and three counts under the PHRA each involving (1) sexual harassment; (2) retaliation; and (3) hostile work environment.

         In June 2014, McNamara was hired as an administrative assistant to the chief clerk of Susquehanna County. She was promoted to deputy clerk in February 2015. Robert Stroud, the acting chief clerk, was her supervisor in both positions.

         In December 2015, the director of veterans affairs, Richard Ely, attempted to kiss and hug McNamara at her workplace. On that same day, it is alleged that Ely approached McNamara's car, stuck his face into her car, made a kissing lips facial expression, and stated, “you won't get this offer again.” She reported these incidents to her supervisor, R.S. Stoud. On December 30, 2015, Stoud issued a written warning to Ely regarding his conduct.

         Following the reporting of the incident, McNamara contends that she was subjected to pervasive harassment and retaliation by the County commissioners. She has alleged that after she reported the incidents, at least two of the three the commissioners were unfairly critical of her work, they subjected her to public humiliation at meetings, and they complained about her interactions with other employees, especially Stoud, with whom they accused her of having an affair. In addition, she alleged that despite her allegations about Ely, Commissioner Warren assigned McNamara to work in close quarters with Ely, where Ely would yell at her and become angry. On June 21, 2016, because of the alleged continuing harassment, McNamara felt the necessity to leave her position as deputy chief clerk for a position with the Susquehanna County District Attorney's Office where she maintains that she suffered a loss in pay.

         In its motion for summary judgment, the County contends that the motion should be granted because McNamara: (1) did not suffer an adverse employment action; (2) cannot prove a causal connection between the alleged hostile work environment and McNamara's report of sexual harassment; and (3) cannot prove that she was constructively discharged.

         II. Legal Standards

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment should be granted only if “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). A fact is “material” only if it might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material fact is “genuine” only if the evidence “is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In deciding a summary judgment motion, all inferences “should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true.” Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 512 (3d Cir. 1994).

         The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, ” and demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant makes such a showing, the non-movant must set forth specific facts, supported by the record, demonstrating that “the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court must first determine if the moving party has made a prima facie showing that it is entitled to summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331. Only once that prima facie showing has been made does the burden shift to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331.

         Both parties may cite to “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for the purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). “An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). “Although evidence may be considered in a form which is inadmissible at trial, the content of the evidence must be capable of admission at trial.” Bender v. Norfolk S. Corp., 994 F.Supp.2d 593, ...

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