Plaintiff Adrienne Tomkins was formerly employed by defendant Public Service Electric and Gas Company (hereinafter PSE&G). She was fired by PSE&G under circumstances which are presently in dispute. After her termination plaintiff filed this lawsuit, seeking compensatory and punitive damages and equitable relief. The gravamen of plaintiff's complaint is that she was subjected to sexual harassment by her male supervisor. She further alleges that the company retaliated against her when she protested the supervisor's actions. Plaintiff seeks to proceed under the authority of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title 42 United States Code, §§ 2000e et seq.
Plaintiff initially sought relief from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where she lodged a complaint against PSE&G and her supervisor. The EEOC investigated her claims, found no probable cause to proceed further and issued a right to sue letter. Plaintiff then instituted this lawsuit pro se. After reviewing the complaint this Court granted her application for the appointment of counsel. The Women's Rights Litigation Clinic of the Rutgers School of Law was designated to serve as her attorney. Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint naming PSE&G, the supervisor and certain other PSE&G employees as defendants.
The defendant company and the supervisor now move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on various grounds, including failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The allegations of the complaint must be taken as true for purposes of ruling on the motions to dismiss. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, 23 L. Ed. 2d 404, 89 S. Ct. 1843 (1969). These allegations may be briefly summarized.
Plaintiff was hired as an office worker at the company's Newark offices in 1971. Her progress through the lower grades of office employment was normal until she was assigned to the defendant supervisor. Plaintiff at this time was approaching eligibility for a promotion to a secretarial position. The complaint alleges that the supervisor requested that plaintiff take lunch with him outside the office premises, purportedly to discuss her prospects with the firm. Plaintiff contends that the supervisor used the opportunity to make sexual advances to her. She charges that she was detained by the supervisor against her will through economic threats and physical force.
Plaintiff alleges that she complained to the company about the lunchtime incident. She sought a transfer and accepted a less desirable position in the company. She contends that her complaints about the conduct of the supervisor resulted in retaliation against her in the form of disciplinary layoffs and threats of demotion and salary cuts. Some 15 months after the incident which provoked her complaints, plaintiff was fired by PSE&G. In sum, plaintiff claims that her superior's sexual advances coupled with his threats of reprisals, and the company's subsequent retaliation and ultimate termination of her services because of her complaints, constitute violations of Title VII.
The operative provision of Title VII is Title 42 United States Code, § 2000e-2(a). That section provides, in pertinent part:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer --