Lombardi v. Cosgrove, No. CIV. A. 96-1008.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
Writing for the CourtWolin
Citation7 F.Supp.2d 481
PartiesSandy LOMBARDI, Plaintiff, v. Edward COSGROVE, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date31 October 1997
Docket NumberNo. CIV. A. 96-1008.

Page 481

7 F.Supp.2d 481
Sandy LOMBARDI, Plaintiff,
v.
Edward COSGROVE, et al., Defendants.
No. CIV. A. 96-1008.
United States District Court, D. New Jersey.
October 31, 1997.

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James Segreto, Segreto & Segreto, Haledon, NJ, for Plaintiff.

Francis J. Vernoia, Genova, Burns & Vernoia, Livingston, NJ, for Defendant Cosgrove.

Courtney E. Redfern, Crummy, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, Newark, NJ, for Defendant Passaic Valley Water Commission.

OPINION

WOLIN, District Judge.


This case arises out of Sandy Lombardi's ("plaintiff"), allegations that Edward Cosgrove, defendant, of the Passaic Valley Water Commission ("PVWC"), defendant, created a hostile work environment and retaliated against her for filing an incident report after they had an argument. PVWC moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Cosgrove joins PVWC's motion and also files his own motion for summary judgment.

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BACKGROUND

The municipalities of Clifton, Passaic, and Paterson own the PVWC, which operates water works that supply potable water to the surrounding community. (Bella Aff. ¶ 2). The three municipalities appoint seven Commissioners to administer and set the policy for the PVWC. (Bella Aff. ¶ 3). Edward Cosgrove is one of the seven Commissioners. (Bella Aff. ¶ 4). Joseph Bella, Executive Director of the PVWC (Bella Aff. ¶ 1), and his professional staff and managers manage the PVWC's daily operations. (Bella Aff. ¶ 5). Plaintiff has been with the PVWC for eighteen years, and is now a principal account clerk/typist and secretary to Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer Carlos Alfaro. (Lombardi Aff. II ¶ 13; Lombardi dep. 7:9-10; Alfaro Aff. ¶ 1). She performs secretarial and accounting duties. (Lombardi dep. 7:14-16). Cosgrove has been known to refer to the PVWC as a Mickey Mouse operation. (Cosgrove dep. II 78:15-17; Meeting 71:2, 19).

In late 1993, Cosgrove and several other Commissioners decided to attend a League of Municipalities convention in 1994. (Cosgrove Aff. ¶ 3). Plaintiff was responsible for making the reservations and payment arrangements for the convention. (Cosgrove Aff. ¶ 3). In December 1993 and January 1994, Cosgrove spoke with plaintiff several times about the reservations. (Cosgrove Aff. ¶ 4). On those occasions, Cosgrove gave plaintiff specific instructions about the reservations. (Cosgrove ¶ 4). He told her to stop polling the Commissioners on whether they were going and to use the names he had given her, but she continued to call the Commissioners. (Cosgrove dep. II 97:9-12). Plaintiff received a different set of instructions on how to book reservations from Charlotte Alvino, the administrative secretary. (Lombardi dep. 117:11-13; 117:24 to 118:1-3).

Plaintiff and Cosgrove had different views on how to make the reservations. (Lombardi dep. 114:23-24). Plaintiff states that Cosgrove's instructions were in conflict with the New Jersey League of Municipalities procedures because he wanted her to just "book" rooms whereas the League's procedures require that reservations be made through the League. (Lombardi dep. 118:3; Lombardi Aff. ¶ 8). She also contends that Cosgrove instructed her to pick names at random whether or not the people were scheduled to go to the Convention. (Lombardi ¶ 8). Cosgrove asserts that plaintiff failed to follow her instructions. (Cosgrove Aff. ¶ 4). Plaintiff, on the other hand, responds that she initially made the reservations in accordance with the League's procedures, but later complied with Cosgrove's instruction to change the reservations. (Lombardi Aff. ¶ 9, 11).

On January 27, 1994, Cosgrove telephoned plaintiff to discuss the reservations. (Lombardi dep. 45:8). Plaintiff states that Cosgrove became upset about the way she was handling the reservations and began to raise his voice and shout at her, saying that she was doing her job incorrectly. (Lombardi dep. 53:18-25; Lombardi Aff. ¶ 12). Plaintiff asserts that Cosgrove wanted her to make reservations for people who were not going on the Convention. (Lombardi Aff. ¶ 12). Plaintiff avers that Cosgrove stated, "You don't fuckin' listen. You're getting suspended, God dammit. I'm sending you a memo and I'm giving you a five day suspension." (Lombardi dep. 50:9-11). Plaintiff also contends that Cosgrove told her she talked too much, called her an idiot, and stated, "No wonder John Galletta says you're no good." (Lombardi dep. 50:23-24; 56:13-14; Lombardi Aff. II ¶ 36).

During the conversation, plaintiff stated that she thought they were friends, but Cosgrove responded that he did not have any friends. (Lombardi Aff. II ¶ 21). Plaintiff states that Cosgrove used the word "God dammit" continuously and said "fuck" twice during the conversation. (Lombardi dep. 50:21). Plaintiff cried during the conversation and felt like she was having a heart attack. (Lombardi Aff. ¶ 12). Cosgrove stated that plaintiff did not start crying until the conversation ended. (Meeting 42:18-20).

The phone call lasted five to seven minutes and ended when plaintiff told Cosgrove that she was upset. (Lombardi dep. 63:6-21). Plaintiff then went to John Galletta's, the Personnel Director, office. (Alfaro Aff. ¶ 3; Lombardi Aff. II ¶ 29). She met with Galletta to tell him that she was upset from her

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conversation with Cosgrove, but she could barely talk because she was so upset. (Lombardi Aff. II ¶¶ 23, 24).

She later went to see Alfaro about her problem with Cosgrove, which is the proper policy, and he took her home. (Lombardi Aff. II ¶ 24; Cosgrove dep. II 210:13-18). Alfaro also told plaintiff to put the contents of the conversation in writing so he could transmit it to the appropriate people. (Alfaro Aff. ¶ 4). After arriving home, she went to a doctor. (Lombardi Aff. II ¶ 27). The doctor prescribed a tranquilizer, told her not to work for a week, which she did, because of the stress from the incident. (Lombardi Aff. II ¶¶ 10, 27). She suffered from severe back pain, which arises when she is under stress. (Lombardi Aff. II ¶ 27). Most of the employees in the Clifton office knew about the conversation. (Cosgrove dep. 107:25 to 108:16).

After the conversation, Cosgrove called Alfaro to tell him that he had a problem with plaintiff. (Cosgrove dep. II 165:18-22). According to Alfaro, Cosgrove said that he was not going to "fucken apologize" to plaintiff. (Alfaro Aff. ¶ 3).1

At her deposition, plaintiff explained that Cosgrove's tone of voice and word choice were inappropriate because "that's man talk." (Lombardi dep. 56:17-25). She explained that "men talk to each other with that type of language. I don't think it is appropriate for a man to speak to a woman in that kind of language." (Lombardi dep. 60:21-24). She explained, "I know [fuck is] an every day thing, but I don't like it." (Lombardi dep. 58:8-9). In her affidavit, plaintiff added that she knows that men use the word "fuck" in their conversations, but that she did not think it was appropriate for Cosgrove to direct the word at a woman employee. (Lombardi Aff. ¶ 20). She also admitted that she used the phrase "dammit" infrequently. (Lombardi dep. 58:20-22). Cosgrove testified that it is not his practice to swear and that he never said the word "fuck" to any employee at PVWC. (Cosgrove dep. III 55:18 to 56:1).

At the time of the conversation, Cosgrove was aware that the PVWC had a policy that no individual Commissioner had the authority to give a staff member an order. (Cosgrove dep. 82:24 to 83:8).

Prior to the conversation on January 27, 1994, plaintiff respected Cosgrove and considered him to be a friend because he had always been nice to her. (Lombardi dep. 309:19-22; 310:6-15). Plaintiff also states that at a political dinner prior to the telephone conversation, Cosgrove accused her of "brown-nosing" in front of Alfaro and other PVWC employees. (Lombardi Aff. ¶ 20; Lombardi dep. 341:6-10). Cosgrove apologized to her for making that comment at the office. (Lombardi dep. 341:19-22).

At her deposition, plaintiff admitted that she infrequently comes into contact with Cosgrove at work, and that since the conversation on January 27, 1994, he has not yelled at or been mean to her. (Lombardi dep. 330:12-17). She also claims that since the conversation, they do not talk too much. (Lombardi dep. 342:6-7).2 In fact, she claims that he has not responded to her when she has said good morning to him. (Lombardi Aff. II ¶ 9).

Plaintiff considers Cosgrove to be a "toughie," and that it is not unusual to hear him yell at someone, but that she never heard him use the foul language he used with her with anyone else. (Lombardi dep. 331:21-25; Lombardi Aff. ¶ 23). Besides the conversation on January 27, 1994, plaintiff has never heard Cosgrove yell at a female employee, but she has heard him yell at at least five male employees. (Lombardi dep. 330:8 to 331:20).

On February 7, 1994, plaintiff submitted an incident report about the telephone conversation to Alfaro. (Redfern Cert. Ex. C). During the first week of February, plaintiff's

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attorney sent a letter to the PVWC to comment on the inappropriateness of Cosgrove's conduct. (Lombardi dep. 362:8-12). Also, during that week, Alfaro circulated plaintiff's report to various Commissioners and PVWC employees. (Cosgrove Aff. ¶ 5). Lombardi claims that she distributed the memo to Galletta, General Counsel Thomas DeVita, Superintendent Wendell Inhoffer, and Bella. (Lombardi Aff. II ¶ 29).

Cosgrove was upset with Alfaro for distributing plaintiff's report, and according to Alfaro, Cosgrove changed his attitude towards plaintiff and him. (Alfaro Aff. ¶ 5). Cosgrove asked Bella to ask Alfaro why Alfaro had distributed a memorandum stating that he said that he would not "f'ing apologize" to plaintiff. (Cosgrove dep. 54:20-23). On February 10, 1994, Bella wrote Cosgrove a memorandum about a conversation he...

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11 practice notes
  • Johnson v. Guhl, No. 99-CIV.-5403 WGB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • April 7, 2000
    ...other grounds, 961 F.2d 1125 (3d Cir.), cert. denied 506 U.S. 908, 113 S.Ct. 305, 121 L.Ed.2d 228 (1992); see also Lombardi v. Cosgrove, 7 F.Supp.2d 481, 492 (D.N.J. 1997) (denying motion to strike but ignoring conclusions, beliefs, and misstatements, and using the assertions based on perso......
  • Johnson v. Guhl, 99-Civ.-5403 (WGB)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • February 6, 2004
    ...permitting remainder), rev'd on other grounds, 961 F.2d 1125 (3d Cir.), cert. denied 506 U.S. 908 (1992); see also Lombardi v. Cosgrove, 7 F. Supp.2d 481, 492 (D.N.J. 1997)(denying motion to strike but ignoring conclusions, beliefs, and misstatements, and using the assertions based on perso......
  • Rodriguez v. Torres, No. CIV. A. 97-3765 (MLC).
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 30, 1999
    ...position of Administrative Analyst 1. Because NJLAD retaliation claims mirror those asserted under Title VII, see Lombardi v. Cosgrove, 7 F.Supp.2d 481, 496 (D.N.J.1997) (sets forth elements of plaintiff's prima facie case for NJLAD retaliation), we will look to Title VII case law for guida......
  • Marrero v. Camden County Board of Social Services, Civil Action No. 00-3233 (JEI).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • January 1, 2001
    ...(N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1995). See also, Ferraro v. Bell Atlantic Co., Inc., 2 F.Supp. 2d 577 (D.N.J. 1998);Lombardi v. Cosgrove, 7 F.Supp.2d 481, 498 (D.N.J. 1997). Once these factors are established, the burden shifts to the defendant to articulate a "legitimate, non-retaliatory reason......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • Johnson v. Guhl, No. 99-CIV.-5403 WGB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • April 7, 2000
    ...other grounds, 961 F.2d 1125 (3d Cir.), cert. denied 506 U.S. 908, 113 S.Ct. 305, 121 L.Ed.2d 228 (1992); see also Lombardi v. Cosgrove, 7 F.Supp.2d 481, 492 (D.N.J. 1997) (denying motion to strike but ignoring conclusions, beliefs, and misstatements, and using the assertions based on perso......
  • Johnson v. Guhl, 99-Civ.-5403 (WGB)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • February 6, 2004
    ...permitting remainder), rev'd on other grounds, 961 F.2d 1125 (3d Cir.), cert. denied 506 U.S. 908 (1992); see also Lombardi v. Cosgrove, 7 F. Supp.2d 481, 492 (D.N.J. 1997)(denying motion to strike but ignoring conclusions, beliefs, and misstatements, and using the assertions based on perso......
  • Rodriguez v. Torres, No. CIV. A. 97-3765 (MLC).
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 30, 1999
    ...position of Administrative Analyst 1. Because NJLAD retaliation claims mirror those asserted under Title VII, see Lombardi v. Cosgrove, 7 F.Supp.2d 481, 496 (D.N.J.1997) (sets forth elements of plaintiff's prima facie case for NJLAD retaliation), we will look to Title VII case law for guida......
  • Marrero v. Camden County Board of Social Services, Civil Action No. 00-3233 (JEI).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • January 1, 2001
    ...(N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1995). See also, Ferraro v. Bell Atlantic Co., Inc., 2 F.Supp. 2d 577 (D.N.J. 1998);Lombardi v. Cosgrove, 7 F.Supp.2d 481, 498 (D.N.J. 1997). Once these factors are established, the burden shifts to the defendant to articulate a "legitimate, non-retaliatory reason......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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