Hatch v. Franklin Cnty. Jail & James Sullen

Decision Date29 September 2017
Docket NumberNo. 1:14-cv-2318,1:14-cv-2318
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Judge Kane)

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)


Before the Court is Defendants Franklin County Jail and James Sullen's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 77.) For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion.

A. Procedural Background

On December 5, 2014, Plaintiff Lisa Hatch ("Hatch") initiated the above-captioned action by filing a complaint against Defendants Franklin County Jail ("the County") and Captain James Sullen ("Sullen").1 (Doc. No. 1.) In her initial complaint, Hatch asserted claims against both Defendants for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), as well as a claim against the County for a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), in connection with her termination of employment in March of 2014 and allegedly hostile work environment. (Id.) After Defendants moved to dismiss the initial complaint on the grounds that it failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (Doc. No. 9), Hatch filed an amended complaint on February 10, 2015 (Doc. No. 11). Consequently, Defendants' motion to dismiss was denied as moot. (Doc. No. 15.) In her amended complaint, Hatch asserted claims for violations of the ADA on the part of the County,violations of the FMLA by both Defendants, and a violation of Title VII by the County. (Doc. No. 11.) Subsequently, on August 7, 2015, Hatch filed a second amended complaint, which included additional claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). (Doc. No. 31.)

After the parties engaged in extensive discovery, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on December 30, 2016 (Doc. No. 77), with a brief in support (Doc. No. 78), as well as a statement of material facts (Doc. No. 71). On January 25, 2017, Hatch filed a brief in opposition to Defendants' summary judgment motion as well as a counterstatement of material facts and accompanying exhibits (Doc. No. 84), and Defendants submitted a reply brief on February 8, 2017 (Doc. No. 85). Defendants' motion is ripe for disposition.

B. Factual Background
1. Franklin County Jail Administration and Policies

The County operates Franklin County Jail ("FCJ"), which is located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.2 (Doc. No. 71 ¶ 1.) The FJC employs approximately eighty-five individuals, including correctional officers, and the FJC correctional officers are "subject to FCJ procedures, Franklin County policies and procedures, and the terms of a Collective Bargaining Agreement." (Id. ¶¶ 2-3.) Correctional officers are given copies of the applicable policies and sign acknowledgments indicating they received them. (Id. ¶ 4.) Correctional officers also receivetraining on certain topics, including sexual harassment. (Id. ¶ 5.) Daniel Keen ("Keen") held the position of Prison Warden from 2011 to 2014, and Sullen, who currently serves as the Deputy Warden of Security at FCJ, held the position of Captain at FCJ from 2008 until 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) The FCJ is divided into several units, labeled A through G, "which house inmates in the general and work release populations," as well as M, the medical unit. (Id. ¶ 10.)

FCJ's standards of conduct require staff to refrain from engaging in sexual relationships or contacts with inmates or becoming involved with inmates in an emotional, physical, or sexual way, and also prohibit engaging in "conduct unbecoming of a correctional officer, which includes sexual harassment." (Id. ¶ 11.) The code of conduct refers to FCJ's legal obligations under the Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA"), which governs the "investigation and prevention of sexual assault inside the FCJ." (Id.) In addition, FCJ also has a specific grievance procedure for inmates, which is set forth in the FCJ Inmate Handbook, while inmates may use "request slips" to raise "more routine concerns." (Id. ¶ 13-14.)

FCJ policy prohibits staff from fraternizing with inmates, which includes "engaging in conduct that is too personally familiar and developing a personal relationship or friendship with an inmate, and includes the sharing of personal information with an inmate." (Id. ¶ 16.) If the FCJ becomes aware of an allegation of sexual conduct or impropriety involving an inmate, the FCJ is obligated to investigate the allegations pursuant to the PREA. (Id. ¶ 18.)

2. FCJ Procedures for FMLA Leave Requests and Medication Policy

If an employee of the FCJ requests leave pursuant to the FMLA, the request "must be made through the Human Resources Department," through a process removed from other prison staff. (Id. ¶ 26.) FCJ's general policy with respect to FMLA leave or other accommodations is to notify the given employee's supervisors if any of the employee's requested leave is granted,"but they are generally not told the reason for the leave if it is not necessary to the [employee's] position or employment." (Id. ¶ 29.) In addition, FCJ employees are required to adhere to the County's Medication Policy, which requires employees to inform their supervisors "of any medications taken which could impact their employment," including "narcotics and any other medications with side effects impacting memory, balance, lucidity, speech, or causing drowsiness." (Id. ¶ 33.)

3. Hatch's Employment with FCJ

Hatch was employed by FCJ as a correctional officer from November 3, 2008, until her termination on March 31, 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 113.) During the hiring process, Hatch did not disclose her mental health issues to FCJ (Id. ¶ 41), which included a history of depression and anxiety. (Id. ¶ 38.) In March of 2013, Hatch began to take Zoloft after she began experiencing headaches and difficulty sleeping. (Id. ¶ 63.) She also underwent a psychiatric evaluation in July of 2013 and reported that Zoloft had "assisted her greatly, and that she had been experiencing anxiety symptoms for a year." (Id. ¶ 64.) In June of 2013, the FCJ administration became aware of Hatch's use of medication after Hatch had discussed her mental health with another correctional officer. (Id. ¶ 65.) Hatch was then "seen at Keystone Behavioral Health for Psychotherapy beginning in October of 2013."3 (Id. ¶ 68.)

Hatch's employment history with FCJ involved a series of disciplinary issues, which included allegations of improper conduct on the part of Hatch while acting in her capacity as acorrectional officer.4 Caleb Barnett ("Barnett"), another correctional officer, stated that he "witnessed Hatch act unprofessionally."5 (Id. ¶¶ 70-71.) Barnett testified that he saw Hatch act unprofessionally "while supervising inmates, in that he saw her passing gas loudly and commenting on same." (Id. ¶ 71.) Barnett further stated that Hatch wore "a hand sanitizer bottle on her duty belt in the shape of a pink cat, which she would tell staff and inmates was her 'pussy' or 'pussy cat.'" (Id. ¶ 72.) Another correctional officer employed at FCJ at the same time as Hatch, Emmert Heck ("Heck"), stated that inmates had complained to him "on one occasion...that [Hatch] was foul-mouthed when interacting with them." (Id. ¶ 76.)

4. Inmate Allegations and Investigation of Hatch
a. Allegations and Interviews

On February 17, 2014, inmate Karl Rogers ("Rogers"), who was housed on the medical unit where Hatch was stationed, complained to FCJ nurses about Hatch's behavior toward him. (Id. ¶ 89.) The nurses authored incident reports, which they provided to FCJ administration on February 18, 2014. (Id.) Rogers' allegations were described as follows:6

Hatch spoke about her boyfriend and how they had not had sex in months; describe[d] her boyfriend's health issues; provided him with her Facebook information; confirmed the two had extended conversations; describ[ed] a threesome with Officer Caleb Barnett, who she had a crush on; that Hatch would flick her tongue at him; carried a hand sanitizer bottle in the shape of a pink cat which she referred to as her "pussy" and asked if he wanted to play with it; pass gas loudly and on one occasion then referenced anal sex with him; told him she took "psycho meds for her nerves"; told him she had two degrees and was from New York; complained about her job and that she was not chosen for the CTS[correctional treatment specialist] position; discussed the relationship between a CTS and a [correctional officer] [and] alleged the same conduct had occurred to a former inmate, Cary Thomas.

(Id. ¶ 90.)

Rogers' allegations prompted an investigation of Hatch, and on February 18, 2014, Rogers was interviewed by Sullen and Deputy Warden Michelle Weller ("Weller"), "the PREA Investigation Team." (Id. ¶ 91.) Rogers was interviewed again on February 19, 2014, after he told his correctional treatment specialist that he "had additional information regarding Hatch." (Id.) During the second interview, Rogers "reported two (2) additional instances of misconduct." (Id.) Sullen consequently prohibited Hatch from working on the medical unit pending the completion of the investigation into Rogers' allegations. (Id.) Sullen then reviewed video footage of Hatch during the period of time when she was stationed on the medical unit, and "[t]he PREA team intended to speak with her on [February] 19th regarding the allegations." (Id. 92.) Hatch did not report to work on February 19, after she had called in sick, and on February 19 and February 20, Sullen asked Heck and another officer ("Wingert") each to author an incident report. (Id. ¶ 93.)

Heck also stated that other inmates housed on the medical unit had reported to him that Hatch engaged in inappropriate behavior around them, including that she would "stand by their cells and watch them urinate." (Id. ¶ 95.) While Heck stated that he had previously received many complaints from inmates "on a variety of subjects," the only instance in which he received...

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