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PITTMAN v. LA FONTAINE

January 18, 1991

MARLENE PITTMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GEORGE LAFONTAINE, ED NEWMAN, PHYLLIS PARKER AND IMMUNOMEDICS, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lechner, District Judge.

  OPINION

Pro se plaintiff Marlene Pittman ("Pittman") brought this action pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., against her former employer Immunomedics, Inc. ("Immunomedics"), Phyllis Parker ("Parker"), the Personnel Manager of Immunomedics, Edward Newman ("Newman"), Pittman's former supervisor and George LaFontaine ("LaFontaine"), a former employee of Immunomedics (Immunomedics, Parker and Newman are collectively referred to as the "Movants," and the Movants and LaFontaine are collectively referred to as the "Defendants").

Immunomedics, Newman and Parker*fn1 move for summary judgment of the claims against them pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.*fn2 The motion is decided on the basis of the papers submitted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78.

For the reasons which follow, the motion for summary judgment is granted. Additionally, the complaint against LaFontaine is dismissed sua sponte pursuant to Rule 4(j) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Facts

Pittman was hired as a temporary trainee by Immunomedics on 11 August 1986 "in accordance with the Job Training Partnership Act and a program of the Mayor's Office of Employment and Training." Immunomedics. Answer at 1. She was hired by Immunomedics as a full-time regular employee on 2 February 1987 as an Animal Technician. Id. at 1, 3. The position of Animal Technician requires a high school diploma or equivalency diploma. Investigation Findings at 5. The employment of Pittman by Immunomedics was terminated on or around 13 May 1988. Immunomedics Answer at 5; Investigation Findings at 2.

The DCR issued a Verified Complaint against Immunomedics. The Verified Complaint alleged Immunomedics subjected Pittman to sexual harassment and unlawfully discharged her on the basis of her gender. The Verified Complaint also reiterated the allegations of Pittman that LaFontaine made sexual remarks to her and that she believed she was discharged because she rejected his sexual advances. See Verified Complaint. Additionally, the DCR issued a document request to Immunomedics, see Document and Information Request, to which Immunomedics responded. Parker Aff. ¶ 6.

The DCR held a Fact-Finding Conference on 14 November 1988. Present at the Fact-Finding Conference were Adlerstein, Parker, LaFontaine and Pittman. See Conference Notes. The DCR investigator interviewed Parker, LaFontaine and Pittman. Parker Aff., ¶ 7. In addition, Pittman questioned Parker and LaFontaine through the investigator. Id.*fn3 LaFontaine denied he made any sexual remarks to Pittman and alleged that it was Pittman who was sexually forward with him. In addition, LaFontaine denied he was ever the supervisor of Pittman. Id.

Immunomedics contended it was in possession of affidavits from three witnesses supporting its assertion that it was Pittman who was sexually forward with LaFontaine. Id. It also asserted Frank Ostello was hired not as a replacement for Pittman, but as a Research Assistant, a position requiring a bachelors degree with a concentration in biology. Id. Immunomedics asserted Pittman was discharged because her job was eliminated due to a lack of work and that the positions of four others, both males and females, were also eliminated. Id.*fn4

On 2 May 1989, the DCR notified Pittman it needed additional substantiation of her charges in order to make a recommendation on her behalf. See 2 May 1989 DCR Letter to Pittman. Pittman provided the DCR with the names of additional witnesses at Immunomedics. See 9 May 1989 Notes. The DCR contacted the witnesses it was able to locate at Immunomedics but was unable to elicit information substantiating the allegations of Pittman. See 12 June 1989 Notes. On 25 July 1989, the DCR issued to Pittman a Finding of No Probable Cause pursuant to N.J.S.A. 10:5-14 (the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, or the "LAD"*fn5) and N.J.A.C. 13:4-6.1(d). See Finding of No Probable Cause.

On 8 February 1990, the EEOC issued a "right to sue" letter to Pittman which notified her of its adoption of the findings of the DCR and of her right to file a federal court action. See EEOC Determination.

On 9 November 1989, after the time for appeal of the DCR's findings had passed, Pittman filed a Motion for Leave to File a Notice of Appeal nunc pro tune. The motion was denied. See Moving Brief at 3. Pittman's subsequent motion for reconsideration, filed 12 December 1989, was granted on 11 January 1990. Id. at 4. Pittman submitted several briefs and extensive written documentation to the Appellate Division in support of her appeal. Id. In an opinion filed 5 October 1990, the Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the DCR. In doing so, it held:

  Dr. LaFontaine did not work with plaintiff; he
  was not her supervisor and he played no role in
  her termination. . . . Plaintiff's employment, as
  well as two males and two other females, was
  terminated due to a lack of work.

See Appellate Division Opinion at 2-3.

On 28 March 1990, Pittman filed her complaint in this court against Immunomedics, LaFontaine, Parker and Newman pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. Pittman alleged LaFontaine "was responsible for lay offs in his department of in vitro manufacture. In repraisal for rebuking his demand for sex occuring on our about April 18, 1988 after subjecting the Plaintiff to public humiliation." Complaint, ¶ 2. As to Parker, Pittman alleged: "Coherse Phillis Parker, the personnel manager to take the plaintiff out of her department of in vivo studies and her protected position of Research Assistant in biological research to demote her from position of Research Assistant and fire her along with the in vitro manufactoring staff that had been targeted for lay off[.]" Id. As to Newman, Pittman alleged: "The Plaintiff was subjected to intentional discrimination by Ed Newman who hired her with some research experience and no background in Nuclear Medicine and at a lower salary then he would have been compelled to pay to Ellen Rubin who also interviewed for the position of Research Assistant." Id., ¶ 13.

In addition, Pittman appeared to reiterate her claim that Research Assistant Frank Ostello, a male employee whom she allegedly trained, was discriminatorily hired to replace her. Pittman alleged she "was subjected to disparate treatment with regards to training requirements and salary in that she was trained to do the duties of a Research Assistant under the false title of animal technician . . .," complaint, ¶ 14, that she "was subjected to intentional discrimination and disparate treatment when her assistant a male with no background in Nuclear Medicine relying on her training to do the work was employed at a higher starting salary . . .," complaint, ¶ 15, and that she was "subjected to disparate treatment in salaries" in that her "male assistants" received a higher starting salary than she did. Complaint, ¶ 16.

Pittman apparently also asserted common law causes of action, including the intentional infliction of emotional distress and a claim that she suffered work-related injuries. Complaint, ¶¶ 17-20, 25-27. She also apparently alleged defamation. Complaint, ¶¶ 22-23.

Discussion

A. Standard of Review

To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must establish "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [it] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The district court's task is to determine whether disputed issues of fact exist, but the court cannot resolve factual disputes in a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510-11, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). All evidence submitted must be viewed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). See also Todaro v. Bowman, 872 F.2d 43 (3d Cir. 1989); Joseph v. Hess Oil, 867 F.2d 179, 182 (3d Cir. 1989).

Although the summary judgment hurdle is a difficult one to overcome, it is by no means insurmountable. As the Supreme Court has stated, once the party seeking summary judgment has pointed out to the court the absence of a fact issue,

  its opponent must do more than simply show that
  there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
  material facts. . . . In the language of the
  Rule, the non-moving party must come forward with
  `specific facts showing that there is a
  genuine issue for trial.' . . . Where the record
  taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier ...

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