Alvarez v. Delta Airlines, Inc., No. CIV. 01-1989(RLA).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
Writing for the CourtAcosta
Citation319 F.Supp.2d 240
Decision Date17 May 2004
Docket NumberNo. CIV. 01-1989(RLA).
PartiesAntonio Castro ALVAREZ Plaintiff, v. DELTA AIRLINES, INC. Defendant.
319 F.Supp.2d 240
Antonio Castro ALVAREZ Plaintiff,
v.
DELTA AIRLINES, INC. Defendant.
No. CIV. 01-1989(RLA).
United States District Court, D. Puerto Rico.
May 17, 2004.

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Ericson Sanchez Preks, Esq., Aldarondo Girald Law Office, Laura Maldonado-Rodriguez, Esq., San Juan, PR, for Plaintiff.

Anita Montaner-Sevillano, Esq., Francisco Chevere, Esq., McConnell Valdes, San Juan, PR, for Defendant.

ORDER DISMISSING TITLE VII CLAIMS AS TIME BARRED AND DECLINING SUPPLEMENTAL JURISDICTION

ACOSTA, District Judge.


Plaintiff ANTONIO CASTRO ALVAREZ ("CASTRO") filed a complaint of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. sec.2000e et. seq., and supplemental claims under Puerto Rico Act No. 17 of April 22, 1988, 29 L.P.R.A. sec. 155a et. seq.; Puerto Rico Act No. 80 of May 30, 1976, 29 L.P.R.A.

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sec. 185a et. seq.; and Articles 1802 and 1803 of the Civil Code of Puerto Rico, 31 L.P.R.A. sec. 5141 and 5142. CASTRO alleges that during his employment with the defendant, DELTA AIRLINES, INC. ("DELTA") he was sexually harassed by three male co-workers, who subjected him to a hostile work environment, and that he was discharged without just cause and in retaliation for complaining of said harassment.

DELTA filed a motion for summary judgment1 requesting dismissal of plaintiff's Amended Complaint. DELTA argues, in essence, that plaintiff's sexual harassment and retaliation causes of action under federal law are time-barred, and that this Court should abstain from exercising its supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law causes of action.

I. THE SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Santiago Clemente v. Executive Airlines, 7 F.Supp.2d 114 (D.Puerto Rico 1998); affirmed, 213 F.3d 25 (1st Cir.2000).

Not every factual controversy bars access to summary judgment. "The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Hodgens v. General Dynamics Corporation, 144 F.3d 151 (1st Cir.1998) (emphasis added); Wadsworth, Inc. v. Schwarz-Nin, 951 F.Supp. 314 (D.P.R.1996); Preussag Int'l Steel Corp. v. Interacero, Inc., 951 F.Supp. 338 (D.P.R.1997).

The U.S. Supreme Court, in one of its leading cases discussing the summary judgment standard, established that:

[T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.

Connell v. Bank of Boston, 924 F.2d 1169, 1172 (1st Cir.1991) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)) (emphasis added). Under the Celotex doctrine, the movant may seek summary judgment based on the adverse party's failure to establish an element essential to its case and on which that party bears the burden of proof. The only requirement is that there be "adequate time for discovery."

This District Court has followed a well settled trend of endorsing summary judgment in employment discrimination cases when appropriate. See e.g., Suarez v. Pueblo International, Inc., 67 F.Supp.2d 47 (D.Puerto Rico 1999); Santiago Clemente v. Executive Airlines, 7 F.Supp.2d 114 (D.Puerto Rico 1998). Likewise, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has endorsed the entry of summary judgment in cases of sex discrimination on the basis of sexual harassment in situations when the claim is time barred. Landrau-Romero v. Banco Popular De Puerto Rico, 212 F.3d 607 (1st Cir.2000); Montes v. Cooperative De Seguros

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Multiples De Puerto Rico, 169 F.Supp.2d 5 (D.P.R.2001); Cardona v. Aramark Services of Puerto Rico, 9 F.Supp.2d 92 (D.P.R.1998); Rivera Cordero v. Autonomous Municipality of Ponce, 182 F.Supp.2d 221 (D.P.R.2002).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

DELTA is an air cargo and passenger airline with operations in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Plaintiff ANTONIO CASTRO was employed by DELTA on April 4, 1979, until his suspension in November 12, 1998. He occupied various customer-service positions in the cargo division, the last one being in the cargo fax area.

According to CASTRO, in 1994 several of his co-workers started a pattern of sexual harassment against him, consisting of the following alleged events, which we hereby deem to be true pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for the purpose of summary judgment only and specifically for consideration of the issue of timeliness.

A) From 1994 to 1997, Angel Nieves, plaintiff's co-worker, would on sporadic occasions make sexual approaches to him, such as inviting CASTRO for sexual "threesomes" between Nieves, CASTRO and another co-worker. CASTRO would react by screaming and telling Nieves to "go to hell" and to leave him alone; and Nieves would leave.

B) On four or five other occasions during the same time period, Nieves positioned himself physically close to CASTRO so as to make sexual contact with his genitals and/or CASTRO's buttocks. These incidents were sporadic and occurred between 1994 and July 1997.

C) Also during the same time period, Nieves would also make obscene expressions and use foul language against CASTRO and others at work.

D) CASTRO was also allegedly harassed by co-worker Roberto Soto. On occasions, Soto grabbed CASTRO by the shoulders and pressed his genitals against CASTRO's buttocks. Soto also used profane language in the presence of CASTRO and called him "homosexual". These acts occurred on four or five occasions between December 1996 and July 1997.

E) CASTRO was also allegedly sexually harassed by co-employee Aurelio Cabrera. On two occasions, Cabrera exposed his genitals to CASTRO and asked CASTRO for oral sex. This occurred one (or two) times between May 1995 and September 1996; and one time in September or October 1998 in the men's locker/rest rooms. Also, approximately 10 to 12 times, Cabrera grabbed CASTRO's buttocks when CASTRO bent over, or pressed his genitals against CASTRO's buttocks. These events occurred between May 1995 and November 1998.

F) Cabrera would also display and attach pornographic literature, pictures and posters on CASTRO's locker door at DELTA; or slip it through CASTRO's locker door. Cabrera would write "from Pepe with love." This happened between May 1995 and September 1996 on two or three occasions. Cabrera would tell CASTRO that he was doing this to get CASTRO in "heat".

G) During the same time period, Cabrera would also regularly use profane language at work with everyone, including CASTRO. To CASTRO, Cabrera would say: "When are you going to accept my invitation to go to the beach so we can have sex?"

CASTRO acknowledges that he always understood that the above-mentioned alleged behavior of Nieves, Soto and Cabrera towards him was sexual harassment. CASTRO alleges that since 1994, he complained

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to his supervisors at DELTA of Nieves' sexual harassment against him. He would also threaten his supervisors that he would go to DELTA's executive and personnel offices in Atlanta to denounce the harassment because CASTRO understood that he was not supposed to tolerate this behavior at work.

Notwithstanding the above, CASTRO never complained to DELTA's personnel office or submitted any document or letter describing or denouncing to DELTA the alleged sexual harassment against him, nor did he file a charge or complaint before the EEOC deferral agency or this Court during these years.2

On November 12, 1999, CASTRO filed a Title VII charge of sexual harassment against DELTA with the Puerto Rico Department of Labor, Anti-discrimination Unit ("ADU") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). In the ADU/EEOC charge, CASTRO alleged that he had been sexually harassed while working at DELTA from 1994 up to the date of his suspension on November 18, 1998. CASTRO also alleged that his discharge was in retaliation for complaining of sexual harassment during his employment.

CASTRO filed this action on July 23, 2001. However, on February 16, 1999, he had filed a complaint against DELTA before the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance, San Juan Superior Court, under Puerto Rico Act No. 80 of 1976, 29 L.P.R.A. 185a. CASTRO alleged that he was discharged without just cause and requested a severance payment. In that Complaint, he did not allege either sexual harassment or retaliation.3

III. SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIM UNDER TITLE VII

Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating in employment on the basis of several grounds, including sex. Under certain circumstances, sexual harassment can constitute a form of sex discrimination under Title VII. See, e.g., Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 65-67, 106 S.Ct. 2399, 91 L.Ed.2d 49 (1986); Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 114 S.Ct. 367, 126 L.Ed.2d 295 (1993); Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 118 S.Ct. 998, 140 L.Ed.2d 201 (1998). Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that "workplace sexual harassment is actionable as sex discrimination under Title VII where the harasser and

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the harassed employee are of the same sex", so long as the conduct at issue was not merely tinged with offensive sexual connotations, but actually...

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12 practice notes
  • Velez v. Marriott Pr Management, Inc., Civil No. 05-2108 (RLA).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • December 22, 2008
    ...for retaliation must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days from the events complained of.18 See also, Alvarez v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 319 F.Supp.2d 240, 249 (D.P.R.2004) ("The EEOC has not conferred the ADU in Puerto Rico with jurisdiction to hear claims for retaliation under section 704(......
  • Alberti v. Univ. of Puerto Rico, Civil No. 08–1484 (DRD).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • October 13, 2011
    ...days prior to the filing of the charge at the administrative agency, the claim is time-barred.” Castro Alvarez v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 319 F.Supp.2d 240, 246 (D.P.R.2004) (citing Rivera Cordero v. Autonomous Municipality of Ponce, 182 F.Supp.2d 221 (D.P.R.2002)). If Plaintiff did not alleg......
  • Godoy v. Maplehurst Bakeries Inc., Civil No. 09–1696 (MEL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • October 13, 2010
    ...violation doctrine. Amtrak v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 117, 122 S.Ct. 2061, 153 L.Ed.2d 106 (2002). Cf. Alvarez v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 319 F.Supp.2d 240, 247 (D.P.R.2004) (continuing violation doctrine held not to apply to hostile work environment claim where incidents were of such serious c......
  • Velázquez-Pérez v. Developers Diversified Realty Corp., No. 12–2226.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 23, 2014
    ...precluded plaintiffs in Puerto Rico from utilizing the 300 day limitations period. See, e.g., Alvarez v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 319 F.Supp.2d 240, 249 ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • Velez v. Marriott Pr Management, Inc., Civil No. 05-2108 (RLA).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • December 22, 2008
    ...for retaliation must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days from the events complained of.18 See also, Alvarez v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 319 F.Supp.2d 240, 249 (D.P.R.2004) ("The EEOC has not conferred the ADU in Puerto Rico with jurisdiction to hear claims for retaliation under section 704(......
  • Alberti v. Univ. of Puerto Rico, Civil No. 08–1484 (DRD).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • October 13, 2011
    ...days prior to the filing of the charge at the administrative agency, the claim is time-barred.” Castro Alvarez v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 319 F.Supp.2d 240, 246 (D.P.R.2004) (citing Rivera Cordero v. Autonomous Municipality of Ponce, 182 F.Supp.2d 221 (D.P.R.2002)). If Plaintiff did not alleg......
  • Godoy v. Maplehurst Bakeries Inc., Civil No. 09–1696 (MEL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • October 13, 2010
    ...violation doctrine. Amtrak v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 117, 122 S.Ct. 2061, 153 L.Ed.2d 106 (2002). Cf. Alvarez v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 319 F.Supp.2d 240, 247 (D.P.R.2004) (continuing violation doctrine held not to apply to hostile work environment claim where incidents were of such serious c......
  • Velázquez-Pérez v. Developers Diversified Realty Corp., No. 12–2226.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 23, 2014
    ...precluded plaintiffs in Puerto Rico from utilizing the 300 day limitations period. See, e.g., Alvarez v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 319 F.Supp.2d 240, 249 ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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