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FERRARO v. BELL ATL. CO.

April 6, 1998

SUSAN FERRARO, Plaintiff,
v.
BELL ATLANTIC COMPANY, INC., FRANK JAHNKE, BRUCE PIERSON, DANIEL GALBRAITH et. al, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: IRENAS

OPINION

 IRENAS, District Judge:

 This matter appears before the Court upon the motions for summary judgment of the defendants. Defendants Bell Atlantic Company, Inc. of New Jersey ("Bell Atlantic"), Frank Jahnke ("Jahnke"), and Bruce Pierson ("Pierson") move for summary judgment on Counts One, Two, and Three of plaintiff Susan Ferraro's ("Ferraro") complaint. Defendant Daniel Galbraith ("Galbraith"), having previously had Counts One, Two, and Three dismissed as to him, moves for summary judgment on Count Four, which is directed solely against him. Bell Atlantic further moves for summary judgment on Counts Five and Six of plaintiff's complaint, which are directed solely against it. We will grant summary judgment to Bell Atlantic on Counts Three, Five and Six. We will also grant summary judgment to Pierson and Jahnke on all claims against them and dismiss them from the case. Summary judgment will be granted to Galbraith on plaintiff's one remaining claim against him and he will also be dismissed form the case. Counts One and Two against Bell Atlantic survive summary judgment and remain for decision at trial. Count Seven, recently added, also remains.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff began working at Bell Atlantic in the coin box division on December 30, 1974. She moved to the radio/video department as a systems technician several years later. Plaintiff's job duties in the radio/video department included maintaining and installing phones and maintenance radios, servicing point to point microwaves, temporary microwaves and base station microwaves, and servicing remote receivers. Plaintiff originally began working at the radio/video group at Bell Atlantic's Metuchen, New Jersey facility. Her group was subsequently reassigned to the Woodbridge facility. Besides plaintiff, no other female has worked in the Woodbridge radio/video group since 1972. Throughout her tenure at Bell Atlantic, the terms and conditions of plaintiff's employment have been governed by the collective bargaining agreement between Bell Atlantic and Local 827 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("Union").

 Plaintiff and defendant Galbraith, a fellow radio/video systems technician, began working together at the Metuchen facility in October 1983. They both then moved to the Woodbridge facility together. The technicians in plaintiff's group reported to the Woodbridge facility each morning at 8:00 a.m. They were then dispatched to assignments at various field locations by defendant Pierson, plaintiff and the other technicians' immediate supervisor. Pierson also had field responsibilities which required him to spend time away from the Woodbridge office. In the latter part of 1991, Pierson moved from the Woodbridge facility to another Bell Atlantic facility in Trenton. Despite the geographical move, Pierson remained in charge of the Woodbridge radio/video group. Instead of reporting in person each morning, he would call in at 8:00 a.m. to dispatch the technicians to their respective assignments.

 For the greater part of their time as co-employees, plaintiff and Galbraith appeared to get along. In her deposition, plaintiff acknowledges that she and Galbraith had a "very good" working relationship, and that Galbraith was "very instructive, helpful, informative, patient and cooperative." Ferraro Dep. at 56. She states he "taught [her] a lot. Was patient, informative." Id. at 56.

 In October, 1992, plaintiff began to perceive a change in her male co-employees treatment of her. In particular, she felt that Galbraith became reclusive, uncooperative, uncommunicative and moody towards her. Plaintiff testified that she does not know what precipitated the change in Galbraith's treatment of and attitude towards her. Ferraro Dep. at 249. Galbraith contends that he altered his behavior and began avoiding plaintiff in October 1992 because her attitude appeared to be changing, because she was arguing on the phone with her family members, and because she was "loud and boisterous." Galbraith Dep. at 126. At around this same time, plaintiff claims that her coworkers (all males), Galbraith, Skip Landt and Rick Werner, "began to wage a campaign to deliberately alienate, isolate and abuse [plaintiff] in the workplace." Pl. Br. at 2.

 Plaintiff claims that the abuse began as her male co-employees started to be uncooperative with her. They stopped giving her telephone messages. They stopped speaking with her. One by one, they moved their work stations from the shop where they had all once worked into another room, ultimately leaving plaintiff all alone. Galbraith and Landt both began to ignore her, interacting with other workers, but not with her. In short, plaintiff perceived she was being alienated.

 Around June 7, 1993, plaintiff first approached her supervisor Pierson about Galbraith's conduct. She told him she was experiencing problems with her co-workers and needed him to intervene. She explained her feelings of alienation. At this time, Pierson had moved to Trenton and, although he phoned in daily, visited the Woodbridge facility in person only once a month. Plaintiff requested an on-site supervisor to alleviate the problems. Pierson was "understanding to a point," but told her that he could not be a "babysitter" and that she should resolve these problems herself.

 Plaintiff alleges that sometime in 1993, the other technicians began to become overtly abusive to her. In particular, she claims Galbraith called her a "bitch" on at least three separate instances. Galbraith admits in his deposition that he called plaintiff a "bitch" on at least one occasion and may "possibly" have called her that pejorative name on other occasions. Galbraith Dep. at 137. He also admits that he used the term "bitch" when referring to plaintiff in conversations with other co-workers. Id.

 The first of the instances in which Galbraith called plaintiff a "bitch" occurred in the shop at the Woodbridge facility on an unspecified date in 1993. Galbraith allegedly walked away from her, called her a "bitch" and muttered "bitch, bitch, bitch." On September 17, 1993, plaintiff spoke with Galbraith in an attempt to address their problems. She allegedly asked him whether they could work it out, and what it was she had done to receive such treatment. Plaintiff informed Pierson about this incident on November 22, 1993. She alleges she told him "Bruce, you know, Danny is now calling me names. I can't work under these conditions." Ferraro Dep. at 120. Plaintiff does not recall, however, whether she told Pierson during this conversation that Galbraith had specifically used the term "bitch" to her. She does recall that she was crying and very upset. Pierson testified that, after speaking with plaintiff about her complaints, he did not think there "was anything serious going on." Pierson Dep. at 49. He suggested to plaintiff that "the workers work it out amongst themselves." Id. at 58. He acknowledges that she was "a bit upset" and may have cried.

 On another instance, sometime in 1994, Galbraith allegedly called plaintiff a "bitch" outside the facility garage. Plaintiff believes she may "offhandedly" have mentioned this incident to Pierson, although she cannot recall any precise date. Her day planner indicates that she spoke to Pierson on February 8, 1994, April 14, 1994 and June 15, 1994. She claims she repeatedly asked Pierson for intervention and for the help of a supervisor.

 Plaintiff alleges that in 1994 her alienation escalated. She claims the tension with Galbraith increased. He persistently refused to talk to her and was quite adamant that he wanted nothing to do with her. Plaintiff also began to fear Galbraith. She claims she was aware that he had tendencies to become violent; she believed he had once attacked a former supervisor and co-worker, had once picked someone up by the shirt collar and pushed him through a glass bulletin board, and had been arrested for throwing a cash register at a computer store. She personally observed Galbraith slamming telephones or doors at the Woodbridge facility when he was upset.

 The third, and most violent episode during which Galbraith called plaintiff a "bitch" occurred on November 7, 1994. Pierson had called a meeting, in response to plaintiff's complaints, to address certain difficulties between the members of the group, particularly a problem that had arisen over the assignment of overtime. In attendance were plaintiff, Galbraith, Skip Landt and Rick Werner. Pierson opened the meeting by acknowledging that there were problems in the group, and by telling the group that he wanted to know what the problems were. Landt began by stating that plaintiff had no business creating problems with overtime. In Landt's opinion, the issue was job continuity; if an employee began a job, that employee should be assigned any overtime necessary to complete it. Plaintiff responded that a dispute between another employee and herself did not involve him, and told Landt that overtime is assigned pursuant to the overtime list. She believed that because she was higher on the overtime list, she was entitled to the overtime.

 According to plaintiff, after she made these remarks, Galbraith "went ballistic" and "flew out of his chair screaming that she was a bitch and that she did not do anything in the shop, that she had crap all over the place, and that she did nothing all day long." Ferraro Dep. at 150. Galbraith told plaintiff he had deliberately been ignoring her for over a year. He pointed his finger at her face, screamed that she did not do a "fucking thing" and said that he was tired of getting all the "shit work." Id. at 154. He then announced that he was not going to deal with this crap and that he was going home sick. Finally, Galbraith stormed out of the shop and slammed the door. He did not return to work for a week.

 A few hours after the meeting, plaintiff began to shake uncontrollably. Plaintiff told Pierson that Galbraith physically intimidated her in a threatening manner and asked him what he was going to do to help alleviate the situation. She asked him what he was going to do when Galbraith returned to the shop and the two would have to work together again. Pierson promised plaintiff that she would get the supervision necessary.

 Plaintiff names Galbraith as the co-worker she most considered "hostile." Ferraro Dep. at 291. Nonetheless, the record shows that she also had difficulties with Landt. She contends that "Landt treated [her] in a sexist manner" and that he "did not like to work with [her]." Id. at 425. As examples of Landt's unfriendly attitude and unequal treatment of her, she cites an occasion when Landt asked her two co-workers, but not her, for a phone number, and another occasion when he asked her two co-workers, but not her, a technical question. Plaintiff also asserts that Landt "didn't think much of women," "spoke in a manner degrading to women," and acted "in a macho manner." Id. at 425. She claims Landt "was very much into guns and hunting, and he was very much involved with the NRA, and he was very verbal about issues on the NRA, and there were just times he was having discussions with the guns that [she] would just definitely be frightened of him," because Landt read Solider of Fortune magazine, and because she did not like the way that Landt spoke to his wife on the phone. Id. at 426-33.

 Plaintiff alleges that the hostility by the other male technicians had a direct result on the training and overtime that she was able to receive at Bell Atlantic. Because Bell Atlantic had no formal procedure for on-the-job training and there were no formal guidelines for job training, technicians received necessary training and education informally, from the other technicians. Plaintiff claims that on one occasion she discovered a group taking a class in the shop. She admits that nobody told her she could not participate and stated that she "felt relieved" that she did not have to interact with the men in the class. Ferraro Dep. at 445-48. Pierson admits that one of plaintiff's complaints to him was that the male technicians were not sharing with her the knowledge they gained on the job. Pierson Dep. at 71. Pierson testified in his deposition that the male technicians' practice of avoiding plaintiff partially compromised her ability to receive on-the-job training. Id. at 76. However, notes from an EEO investigation undertaken by Bell Atlantic demonstrate that, of the four technicians in her group, plaintiff received the most training in 1993 and the second most training in 1994. Exh. M to Monaghan Supp. Cert.; Training Records Bates Stamped 000309-000312, Exh. A to Mosley Aff.

 Receiving on-the-job training had a direct impact on the amount of overtime a technician would receive. Pierson testified that most of the overtime on jobs was "pretty much worked out" amongst the technicians. Pierson Dep. at 67. One factor that the technicians relied upon in determining overtime was which technician was the "low person" -- the one with the least amount of overtime. Another factor relied upon was a technician's knowledge of equipment. Ultimately it was Pierson's job to award the overtime. Pierson recalls specific occasions when plaintiff lacked the necessary knowledge to receive overtime. Pierson Dep. at 72. On one occasion, which, because of plaintiff's complaints to Pierson, prompted the November 7, 1994 incident with Galbraith, plaintiff was denied overtime despite the fact that she was the "low person." Pierson claims another technician, Rick Werner, was upset at the prospect of plaintiff receiving this overtime. Nonetheless, plaintiff admits that Pierson told Werner that the overtime would have to go to plaintiff. Ultimately, the overtime went to Werner, not plaintiff. Pierson states that this decision was made in part because plaintiff lacked the necessary knowledge of the equipment needing service. Pierson Dep. at 86. Plaintiff admits that the decision to give Werner the overtime may also have been made in part because, after initially complaining about not being offered the overtime, she told Pierson that Werner could have the overtime after all. Ferraro Dep. at 140-41.

 Pierson reported a problem with the members of the radio/video group to his supervisor, defendant Jahnke, on November 7, 1994, immediately after Galbraith's outburst. Prior to this, he had not mentioned any of plaintiff's complaints to Jahnke. Pierson told Jahnke that Galbraith had called plaintiff a "bitch" and had then walked out of the room. Jahnke then stated that he wanted to talk to both plaintiff and Galbraith. Pierson informed him that Galbraith had gone home and plaintiff was at the garage. Jahnke never contacted plaintiff thereafter. On November 9, 1994, plaintiff reported her complaints to Homer Mosley ("Mosley"), the Manager EEO Complaints/Counselor for Bell Atlantic. In a facsimile to Mosley, plaintiff explained that:

 
Over the past year and a half I have been experiencing a slow but deliberate division amongst my immediate co-workers. I have been isolated and ignored to the point of physical separation within my own reporting location. This has been progressing since the absence of supervisor presence.... I have repeatedly requested my supervisor to intervene on my behalf but to no avail. His reply regarding the matter has always been the same, we should work this out amongst ourselves and that he is not a baby-sitter.

 Exh. K to Monaghan Certif. Plaintiff also outlined the details of Galbraith's violent outburst at the November 7, 1994 meeting. Id. She indicated that the "alienation caused by the harassment has hindered my exclusion of certain job concerning assignments and excluded me from equal opportunity to participate in overtime due to job opportunity." Id. She stated "I am the only female in the craft . . . I am made to feel as though I am an outsider, inferior and incompetent, neither of which is the case." Id.

 Mosley's understanding of the initial complaint was "that Susan Ferraro was stating that she was being treated differently as a result of her sex." Mosley Dep. at 87. Nonetheless, he apparently did not ask anyone during his investigation whether plaintiff's treatment by her co-employees was motivated by her gender. Mosley also did not investigate her claim of being alienated. He claimed he did not have the impression that plaintiff was isolated and ignored to the point of physical separation. He also did not appear to consider the effects the alleged alienation might have on her ability to receive on-the-job training from co-workers.

 On November 10, 1994, Mosley conferred with Pierson, who corroborated plaintiff's account of the November 7, 1994 meeting and Galbraith's violent outburst. Mosley questioned Pierson about plaintiff's characterization of Galbraith as irrational and explosive. Pierson admitted there had been an incident where Galbraith had actually yelled at him. Exh. K to Monaghan Certif. at 339. Mosley told Pierson to "be alert to workplace violence." ...


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