Larochelle v. Wilmac Corp., 042219 FED3, 17-3349

Docket Nº:17-3349
Opinion Judge:SHWARTZ, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:MARY LAROCHELLE; SANDRA RIKER; EMILIA SHEARER; CANDICE GALBREATH; NICOLE VASQUEZ v. WILMAC CORPORATION; WILMAC HEALTH CARE, INC; MCWIL GROUP LIMITED; LANCASHIRE HALL Sandra Riker; Emilia Shearer, Appellants
Judge Panel:Before: SHWARTZ, KRAUSE, and BIBAS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:April 22, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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MARY LAROCHELLE; SANDRA RIKER; EMILIA SHEARER; CANDICE GALBREATH; NICOLE VASQUEZ

v.

WILMAC CORPORATION; WILMAC HEALTH CARE, INC; MCWIL GROUP LIMITED; LANCASHIRE HALL Sandra Riker; Emilia Shearer, Appellants

No. 17-3349

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

April 22, 2019

NOT PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a) March 22, 2019

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 5-12-cv-05567) District Judges: Hon. Lawrence F. Stengel and Marilyn Heffley

Before: SHWARTZ, KRAUSE, and BIBAS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION [*]

SHWARTZ, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs Sandra Riker and Emilia Shearer brought employment discrimination claims against their former employer, Wilmac Corporation, Wilmac Health Care, Inc., McWill Group Limited, and Lancashire Hall ("the Facility") (collectively "Defendants").1 They alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to e-17, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 951-963, and Pennsylvania common law.2The District Court granted summary judgment for Defendants on all of Riker's and Shearer's claims except for Shearer's retaliation claims under the ADA and PHRA. Larochelle v. Wilmac Corp., 210 F.Supp.3d 658, 669 (E.D. Pa. 2016) ("LaRochelle I"), clarified on denial of recons., No. 12-CV-5567, 2016 WL 6135577 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 21, 2016) ("LaRochelle II"). Following a bench trial on Shearer's remaining claims, 3 the Court entered judgment for Defendants. LaRochelle v. Wilmac Corp., No. CV 12-5567, 2017 WL 4475964 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 26, 2017) ("LaRochelle III").

Riker appeals the District Court's orders granting summary judgment to Defendants and denying her motion for reconsideration with respect to her claims for Title VII and ADA retaliation, wrongful discharge, and Title VII and PHRA hostile work environment.4 Shearer appeals the Court's order granting summary judgment and denying her motion for reconsideration on her claims for wrongful discharge and under Title VII and § 1981 for hostile work environment, 5 as well as the trial verdict on her claims for ADA and PHRA retaliation. For the following reasons, we will affirm.

I6

A

We first address Riker's appeal of the order granting summary judgment on all of her claims. We begin by setting forth the relevant facts.

Defendants hired Riker as a Certified Nursing Assistant ("CNA")7 in 2009. Riker claims that starting in 2010, CNA Teddy Bernard subjected her and other female staff to sexual harassment and that she complained to supervisors about Bernard's behavior several times before June 2011. In June 2011, Riker informed the Director of Human Resources that Bernard came from behind and hugged her, that his "behavior has largely been ignored by licensed staff," and that she "fear[ed] retaliation" for reporting his conduct. App. 1160. Bernard was suspended pending the investigation and ultimately terminated.

During 2011, Riker sought workers' compensation for two injuries she identified as work-related.8 The last day Riker worked for Defendants was in early January 2012. In early January, Riker's physician told her that she could return to work later that month if she performed light duty with weight restrictions. Riker faxed this report to the Director of Human Resources. The Director of Human Resources informed Riker that Defendants would not accommodate non-work-related injuries. Riker subsequently filed for unemployment compensation and began collecting unemployment benefits the first week of February 2012.9

In February 2013, Riker signed, and a workers' compensation court approved, a compromise and release agreement ("C&R"), "full[y] settl[ing] . . . all claims against [Defendants] for all injuries Claimant sustained on 10/30/11 or 2/1/11 or at any other time Claimant was employed by Defendant." App. 1177. On the same day, Riker signed a letter of resignation stating in full: "I Sandra Riker hereby voluntarily resign my employment from Lancashire Hall/McWill Group. This resignation is voluntary. I was not coerced by anyone into making this decision." App. 1187. Riker was represented by counsel when she signed these documents and testified before the workers' compensation court that she read and understood the C&R and related documents, including the resignation.

1

Viewing these facts in Riker's favor, we examine Riker's claim that Defendants violated Title VII and the ADA by retaliating against her for reporting sexual harassment and for seeking work-related injury accommodations, and that they wrongfully discharged her for engaging in the protected activity of filing workers' compensation claims. The Title VII and ADA claims are assessed under the McDonnell Douglas framework, the first step of which involves evaluating plaintiff's prima facie case. Doe v. C.A.R.S. Prot. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 358, 364 (3d Cir. 2008). To state a prima facie case for retaliation under the federal employment statutes, Riker must establish that (1) she engaged in protected activity, (2) Defendants took an adverse employment action against her, and (3) there is a causal link between the protected activity and Defendants' adverse action. See Moore v. City of Philadelphia, 461 F.3d 331, 340-41 (3d Cir. 2006) (retaliation). Similar to the adverse-employment-action requirement of the federal employment statutes, a Pennsylvania common law claim for wrongful discharge requires, at a minimum, retaliatory termination. See Weaver v. Harpster, 975 A.2d 555, 563 (Pa. 2009).

Riker fails to show that Defendants terminated her or took an adverse action against her. Riker voluntarily resigned in February 2013. Voluntary resignation is not an adverse employment action. See Honor v. Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc., 383 F.3d 180, 186 (4th Cir. 2004) (explaining that unless there is a claim for constructive discharge- which Riker does not make-voluntary resignation does not constitute adverse employment action); cf. Leheny v. City of Pittsburgh, 183 F.3d 220, 227 (3d Cir. 1999) ("If a[] [government] employee retires of his own free will, even though prompted to do so by some action of his employer, he is deemed to have relinquished his property interest in his continued employment for the government, and cannot contend that he was deprived of his due process rights."). Moreover, Riker resigned with the assistance of counsel and as part of a court proceeding where she had the opportunity to ask the workers' compensation judge about it. This circumstance undercuts the conclusory affidavit of her coworker and her self-serving affidavit claiming that Defendants' lawyers told her she "had to sign a resignation or [she] could not settle," and that she was terminated a year prior to the resignation letter.10 SA 240 ¶ 22; see Kirleis v. Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, P.C., 560 F.3d 156, 161 (3d Cir. 2009).

Because Defendants did not terminate or take an adverse employment action against Riker, the District Court properly granted summary judgment for Defendants on Riker's retaliation and wrongful discharge claims.

2

The District Court also properly dismissed Riker's Title VII and PHRA hostile work environment claims. To establish a Title VII hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must show that 1) the employee...

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