Bedford v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Trans. Auth., Civ. A. No. 93-1020.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
Writing for the CourtWALDMAN
Citation867 F. Supp. 288
PartiesSherrie BEDFORD v. SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANS. AUTHORITY, Judith Pierce, Louis Van de Beek, M.D., Captain Federico Cabanes and Police Chief Ronald Sharpe.
Decision Date18 October 1994
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 93-1020.

867 F. Supp. 288

Sherrie BEDFORD
v.
SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANS.
AUTHORITY, Judith Pierce, Louis Van de Beek, M.D., Captain Federico Cabanes and Police Chief Ronald Sharpe.

Civ. A. No. 93-1020.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania.

October 18, 1994.


867 F. Supp. 289
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
867 F. Supp. 290
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
867 F. Supp. 291
Gary M. Gusoff, Philadelphia, PA, for plaintiff

Saul H. Krenzel, Philadelphia, PA, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM

WALDMAN, District Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed as a police officer by defendant Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA"). She alleges that she was sexually harassed at work and terminated for complaining about such conduct and because of her sex. She also alleges that she was terminated without due process. She has asserted claims against all defendants under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3). She also asserts a pendent claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against all of the individual defendants.1

867 F. Supp. 292

Presently before the court is defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on plaintiffs Title VII claims for retaliatory discharge and hostile work environment, her § 1985 conspiracy claim, her § 1983 First Amendment and procedural due process claims, and her intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine whether the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and whether the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-10, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Arnold Pontiac-GMC, Inc. v. General Motors Corporation, 786 F.2d 564, 568 (3d Cir.1986). Only facts that may affect the outcome of a case under applicable law are "material." Anderson, supra, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510.

All reasonable inferences from the record must be drawn in favor of the non-movant. Anderson, supra at 256, 106 S.Ct. at 2514. Although the movant has the initial burden of demonstrating an absence of genuine issues of material fact, the non-movant must then establish the existence of each element on which it bears the burden of proof. J.F. Feeser, Inc. v. Serv-A-Portion, Inc., 909 F.2d 1524, 1531 (3d Cir.1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 921, 111 S.Ct. 1313, 113 L.Ed.2d 246 (1991) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552-53, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). The non-movant cannot satisfy its burden by relying on unsupported allegations in its pleadings or statements in its brief. Schoch v. First Fidelity Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir.1990).

III. FACTS

The pertinent uncontroverted facts and evidence otherwise taken in a light most favorable to plaintiff are as follow.

Plaintiff was employed by SEPTA as a transit police officer from October 24, 1989 to April 23, 1992. On October 4, 1991, plaintiff reported for a routine medical examination by defendant Van de Beek, a SEPTA physician, to assess her fitness for duty. During the examination defendant Van de Beek intentionally and unnecessarily placed a stethoscope under her brassiere and pressed his pelvic area against her buttocks while examining her back. Plaintiff related the incident to Kathleen Blankley, a SEPTA investigating officer, who relayed the report to Judith Pierce, then chief administrative officer of SEPTA. There were similar reports by four of the other women examined by Dr. Van de Beek over the two days that the physical examinations were conducted.2 They reported that the doctor had pressed his pelvic areas against their hand or knee, although one stated that at the time she believed this was accidental.

Usually the Civil Rights Department of SEPTA would conduct any investigation of such reports. In this instance, however, Judith Pierce assumed control over the internal investigation assigned to Ms. Blankley. Ms. Pierce instructed Ms. Blankley to keep the investigation confidential, reporting only to her, SEPTA Police Chief Sharpe or Deputy Chief Evans. When Officer Blankley suggested that she advise Dr. Van Beek of his Miranda rights before interviewing him because his alleged conduct could constitute a crime, she was ordered not to do so by Ms. Pierce who told her that this was purely a civil matter.

Ms. Blankley was told by Ms. Pierce that she wanted to interview the women who had related acts of inappropriate or offensive contact by Dr. Van de Beek. Plaintiff was interviewed by defendant Pierce in her office on October 10, 1991. Ms. Pierce asked plaintiff to relate what had occurred and to reenact with a female officer the alleged incident during the spinal examination to ascertain whether what plaintiff alleged was possible

867 F. Supp. 293
given the disparity in height between her and Dr. Van de Beek. Plaintiff felt embarrassed and demeaned, but testified that she was not made to feel that her job was in jeopardy

Ms. Pierce told plaintiff that Dr. Van de Beek's reputation was at stake and he could sue her for claiming that he sexually harassed her. Ms. Pierce stated that nothing was going to happen to Dr. Van de Beek. Ms. Pierce also told plaintiff that she could pursue a complaint through the SEPTA Office of Civil Rights. Defendants Pierce and SEPTA permitted the investigation to lapse without taking any action against Dr. Van de Beek. A report of the allegations of Dr. Van de Beek's conduct was given to the District Attorney's Office which declined to file any criminal charges.

Six months later, on April 23, 1992, plaintiff was terminated by SEPTA Police Captain Cabanes with the concurrence of defendant Sharpe. The reason given for the termination was that while off-duty plaintiff exhibited conduct unbecoming of an officer during an incident on March 23, 1992 in which a bus driver was assaulted. Criminal charges, including aggravated assault, were filed against plaintiff after this incident. At a trial on September 17, 1992, plaintiff was acquitted of the charges against her except for the summary offense of harassment for which she was convicted. Plaintiff avers and the court will assume that it was actually plaintiff's sister who assaulted the bus driver and that plaintiff did not participate in or abet the assault.

Plaintiff was not afforded a hearing of any kind or any opportunity to present her story prior to her termination. Male officers who had criminal charges pending against them were not charged with engaging in conduct unbecoming of an officer or received lighter punishment such as a suspension.

Defendants Sharpe and Cabanes testified that they had no prior discussion about plaintiff's discharge with defendant Pierce or with each other. They testified that Captain Cabanes submitted a written report to Chief Sharpe through Deputy Chief Evans regarding the criminal charges against plaintiff with a recommendation that she be terminated for unbecoming conduct, and that Mr. Evans and defendant Sharpe concurred after reading the report. Captain Cabanes testified that at the time he decided plaintiff should be discharged he did not know that she had complained about Dr. Van de Beek.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's Retaliatory Discharge Claim

To sustain a claim of discriminatory retaliation under Title VII, plaintiff must show that she engaged in conduct protected by Title VII; her employer took adverse action against her; and, a causal link exists between her protected conduct and the employer's adverse action. Charlton v. Paramus Board of Education, 25 F.3d 194, 201 (3d Cir.1994). Plaintiff may rely on circumstantial evidence. See Griffiths v. CIGNA Corp., 988 F.2d 457, 470 (3rd Cir.1993).3

Plaintiff engaged in protected activity when complaining to her employer about alleged sexual harassment. See Magnuson v. Peak Technical Services, Inc., 808 F.Supp. 500, 515 (E.D.Va.1992). Plaintiff's discharge is clearly an adverse employment action. Defendants argue that there is no evidence of any connection between the decision by defendants Cabanes and Sharpe to terminate plaintiff and her complaint six months earlier about sexual harassment.

There is no evidence that Captain Cabanes, who proposed plaintiff's termination, knew of her complaint about Dr. Van de Beek. If the person who decided that plaintiff's employment should be terminated had no knowledge that she had engaged in the protected activity in question, then clearly he could not have retaliated against her for so doing. See, e.g., Long v. AT & T Information Systems, Inc., 733 F.Supp. 188, 206 (S.D.N.Y.1990). That an adverse employment action occurs six months after a plaintiff complains of sexual harassment does

867 F. Supp. 294
not establish a causal link. Juarez v. Ameritech Mobile Communications, Inc., 957 F.2d 317, 321 (7th Cir.1992)

Plaintiff argues in her brief that the denials by defendants Sharpe and Cabanes of collaboration with defendant Pierce are not believable. The fact remains that one cannot prove that a discussion occurred by presenting testimony from the purported participants that it did not occur. A jury cannot find that Ms. Pierce effected plaintiff's discharge for reporting an occurrence of sexual harassment six months earlier or for any other reason without engaging in conjecture or speculation. Indeed, plaintiff acknowledged at her deposition that she had no knowledge or facts to show that Ms. Pierce ever discussed or influenced the decision to terminate plaintiff and that this is merely "my own theory."

Plaintiff's reliance on Geary v. Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish School, 7 F.3d 324 (3d Cir.1993) is misplaced. The plaintiff in Geary produced direct explicit evidence that she was subjected to an adverse action because she had filed a discrimination...

To continue reading

Request your trial
37 practice notes
  • Stewart v. Weis Markets, Inc., No. 4:CV-92-0539.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • June 30, 1995
    ...Board of Regents of Univ. of Wis. System, 898 F.2d 533, 535 (7th Cir.1990). Cf. Bedford v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, 867 F.Supp. 288 (E.D.Pa.1994) ("While the conduct alleged by plaintiff is deplorable, it was isolated and certainly not pervasive. Plaintiff points to two ......
  • Smith v. Oakland County Circuit Court, No. 03-74213.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • November 10, 2004
    ...Title 42 U.S.C. § 1985 does not encompass conspiracies to deny due process. See Bedford v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Trans. Authority, 867 F.Supp. 288, 294, n. 5 (E.D.Pa.1994) (citing Dunn v. New Jersey Transit Corp., 681 F.Supp. 246, 251 (D.N.J.1987); Beacon Syracuse Associates v. City of ......
  • Phillips v. Donahoe, Civil Action No. 12-410
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • November 7, 2013
    ...to act on the basis of a retaliatory motive stemming from that activity. Bedford v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 867 F.Supp. 288, 293 (E.D.Pa. 1994). Buzzell's knowledge of Phillips' protected conduct is clearly established in the record. On July 25, 2011, Buzzell spe......
  • Anderson v. Deluxe Homes of Pa, Inc., No. 4:CV-99-1103.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • March 9, 2001
    ...must have had knowledge of the plaintiff's protected activity. See Bedford v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 867 F.Supp. 288, 293 (E.D.Pa.1994). Third Circuit case law is "seemingly split" as to whether temporal proximity between the protected activity and the alleged r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • Stewart v. Weis Markets, Inc., No. 4:CV-92-0539.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • June 30, 1995
    ...Board of Regents of Univ. of Wis. System, 898 F.2d 533, 535 (7th Cir.1990). Cf. Bedford v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, 867 F.Supp. 288 (E.D.Pa.1994) ("While the conduct alleged by plaintiff is deplorable, it was isolated and certainly not pervasive. Plaintiff points to two ......
  • Smith v. Oakland County Circuit Court, No. 03-74213.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • November 10, 2004
    ...Title 42 U.S.C. § 1985 does not encompass conspiracies to deny due process. See Bedford v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Trans. Authority, 867 F.Supp. 288, 294, n. 5 (E.D.Pa.1994) (citing Dunn v. New Jersey Transit Corp., 681 F.Supp. 246, 251 (D.N.J.1987); Beacon Syracuse Associates v. City of ......
  • Phillips v. Donahoe, Civil Action No. 12-410
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • November 7, 2013
    ...to act on the basis of a retaliatory motive stemming from that activity. Bedford v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 867 F.Supp. 288, 293 (E.D.Pa. 1994). Buzzell's knowledge of Phillips' protected conduct is clearly established in the record. On July 25, 2011, Buzzell spe......
  • Anderson v. Deluxe Homes of Pa, Inc., No. 4:CV-99-1103.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • March 9, 2001
    ...must have had knowledge of the plaintiff's protected activity. See Bedford v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 867 F.Supp. 288, 293 (E.D.Pa.1994). Third Circuit case law is "seemingly split" as to whether temporal proximity between the protected activity and the alleged r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT