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MORALES-EVANS v. ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF NJ

June 30, 2000

GINA MORALES-EVANS, PLAINTIFF,
V.
ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, WILLIAM COLEMAN, JR., ROBERT E. BATTLE, PHILLIP J. HILL, AND HARVEY M. GOLDSTEIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EMPLOYEES OF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Presently before the Court are defendants' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff Gina Morales-Evans ("Evans") alleges that she was sexually harassed by her supervisor, defendant William Coleman, during her tenure at the Administrative Office of the Courts ("AOC"), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. §§ 10:5-1 et seq. ("LAD"), and state tort law.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motions are granted.

FACTS

The pertinent facts, taken in the light most favorable to Evans as the nonmoving party, are as follows: Evans was acquainted with Coleman prior to her employment with the AOC. Coleman was an adjunct professor at Essex County Community College ("ECCC") in Newark, New Jersey, where Evans was a clerical worker. See Evans 56.1 Statement ¶ 3. Evans spoke to Coleman and expressed an interest in enrolling in a course he taught at ECCC. See id. Coleman subsequently informed her of job openings with the AOC's Juvenile Intensive Supervision Program ("JISP"). See id. ¶ 4. Evans applied for a position and Coleman interviewed her. See Evans Exs. C, H, I, J, K. During the relevant time, Coleman was the Regional Supervisor for the JISP's Northern Region. Defendant Phillip J. Hill was the Director of the JISP; Coleman reported to Hill. Defendant Harvey Goldstein was Hill's supervisor. Defendant Bobby E. Battle was the Chief of the AOC's Equal Employment Opportunity Office ("EEO/AA").*fn2 See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 2-4.

Evans alleges that Coleman began harassing her in 1993 after she applied for a position with the JISP, but before she was hired. See Evans Ex. AAA, Evans Dep. at 22, Ex. BBB, Evans Dep. at 25. At ECCC, Coleman visited Evans' office daily to invite her to lunch or out after work. See Evans Ex. AAA, Evans Dep. at 22. During this period of time, Coleman told Evans that he wanted to hire and work with beautiful people and frequently joked about his aversion to working with "ugly people." Evans Ex. BBB, Evans Dep. at 25.

On at least one occasion, Coleman visited Evans' house uninvited. Evans believes Coleman got her address off her resume because she had never given it to him directly. See Evans Ex. AAA, Evans Dep. at 22. At some point during this time before Evans started at the JISP, Coleman invited her to a basketball game to "see him interact with the juveniles of the program." Id. When Evans exited her car upon arriving at the game, Coleman grabbed her hand to walk her inside. Evans immediately let go of his hand and left the game after five to ten minutes. See id.

Evans was hired as a "Secretarial Assistant III" with the JISP and started on or about October 18, 1993. Coleman and the personnel department notified Evans that she had been hired. See Coleman Ex. FF4, Evans Dep. at 79; AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 1. In that position, she managed the office, supervised the JISP clerical staff, and reported to Coleman. See Derry Cert. Ex. B, Evans Dep. at 112-13.*fn3

Approximately one year after Evans joined the JISP, around holiday or vacation time, Coleman came into the office and kissed Evans on the cheek. See Derry Cert. Ex. C, Evans Dep. at 122. Evans did not object and did not report it to anyone in the AOC, although she mentioned it to certain co-workers. See id. On three other occasions, after either Evans or Coleman had been absent for a period of time, Coleman kissed Evans on the cheek. She never objected. See Derry Cert. Ex. C, Evans Dep. at 124. Often during office celebrations, JISP staff hugged each other as an expression of friendship. See Coleman 56.1 Statement ¶ 44. Once on Evans' birthday, after Coleman kissed her on the cheek, Evans told him not to do so. See Derry Cert. Ex. D, Evans Dep. at 139. She did not report the unwelcome birthday kiss to anyone at the time. See id.

Evans and Coleman interacted socially on occasion. At some point early in Evans' tenure, Evans attended a birthday party for Coleman at his home. She also attended Coleman's wedding. See Coleman Ex. FF4, Evans Dep. at 79-81; Coleman 56.1 Statement ¶ 55.

In June 1995, a JISP "volunteer-mentor," who is not a party in this matter, tried forcibly to kiss Evans, who resisted his advance. See Evans Ex. M, Evans Dep. at 85.*fn4 The volunteer-mentor had previously expressed interest in Evans, who had made it clear that she was not interested in a social relationship. See id.

Evans alleges that Coleman made light of the incident when she reported it to him. Upon receiving Evans' written complaint, Coleman emerged from his office and joked to other staff members that he had told them not to put a "desperate sign" on Evans' back. Id. Coleman further stated "I can't help it if you are so voluptuous, maybe he was trying to get his tongue in between your gap," or words to that effect. Evans Ex. M, Evans Dep. at 85-86.

Following this exchange, on June 13, 1995, Evans wrote a memo to Coleman "[i]n light of what happened between [her] and a mentor," expressing "the need to have this address[ed] on a broader scope," and requesting that the entire office receive training in order to prevent a similar incident from occurring. Evans Ex. A. Defendant Hill was copied on the June memo, which made no reference to Coleman's comments. See id.

Upon learning of the mentor incident, Hill visited the Northern Region office to address the problem. He met with Evans and Coleman separately and directed Coleman to terminate the mentor. See Evans Ex. Q, Hill Dep. at 51, 53.*fn5 Hill understood that Evans felt that Coleman had not taken the incident sufficiently seriously and told Coleman to be careful about how he responded to future situations because his responses "could get him into trouble." Evans Ex. Q, Hill Dep. at 56. Hill did not, however, officially reprimand Coleman in writing. See Evans Ex. R, Hill Dep. at 80. To address Evans' concerns, Hill set up a special sexual harassment training session, which was held in October 1995. See Evans Ex. Q, Hill Dep. at 50-51, 53.*fn6

Evans alleges that Coleman made other sexually inappropriate remarks. At some point in time, upon hearing Evans sneeze, Coleman inquired who had sneezed and commented that the loudness of a person's sneeze correlates with the noise he or she makes during intercourse. See Evans Ex. JJ, Crawford Dep. at 43; Ex. NN, Griggs Dep. at 29. One JISP employee testified that Coleman made the "sneeze joke" frequently when female staff members would sneeze. See Evans Ex. OO, Griggs Dep. at 30. Coleman also once described a visit to a nude beach and compared the size of his genitalia to that of other men on the beach. See Evans Ex. LL, Crawford Dep. at 47; Ex. PP, Padilla Dep. at 42. Evans also alleges that Coleman joked about the breasts of another woman in the office. See Evans 56.1 Statement ¶ 40; Evans Ex. QQ, Padilla Dep. at 77.

At some point in 1995, Evans was engaged in a work-related conversation near her desk with other JISP staff members, including William Clemons. Earlier in that year, Clemons and Evans had been involved in an intimate relationship that had since ended. See Derry Cert. Ex. A, Clemons Dep. at 62.*fn7 Coleman approached the group and commented that Clemons and Evans should "get a hotel room" and gestured as if to hand them money to pay for it. See Evans Ex. TT, Clemons Dep. at 64.

During 1995 and 1996, Evans and Coleman had numerous disputes concerning Evans' attendance and job performance. In a memo dated July 31, 1995, Evans expressed her displeasure about Coleman's comments following the mentor incident. See Evans Ex. N. She further complained about a July 27, 1995 memo from Coleman concerning the "chain of command." In that July 27 memo, Coleman had reprimanded Evans for contacting Coleman's supervisors about a dispute between Evans and a female clerical worker, Betsy Fermaintt, without having first contacted Coleman. See Evans Exs. N, T. In the July 27 memo, Coleman also suggested that Evans obtain further training on her supervisory skills. See Evans Ex. T. In her response, Evans noted that she had contacted the Union about how to improve her supervisory skills. See Evans Ex. N.

In November 1995, Coleman received a computer printout that indicated that Evans had expended all of her vacation and administrative leave for the year, along with all but 3.5 hours of her sick leave. See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 32. After learning of that information, Coleman sent a memo to Evans, dated December 27, 1995, requesting that she "[p]lease endeavor to manage [her] time closer in 1996." AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 33; Battle Cert. Ex. L. Coleman acknowledged that "emergencies do occur" and wished Evans "a healthier year in 1996." Battle Cert. Ex. L. Coleman sent a similar memo to Theresa Ballard, a Principal Clerk Typist at the JISP, who had expended all of her leave time. See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 34.

In a memo dated January 3, 1996, Coleman explained to Evans that his request regarding her time management had stemmed from the printout he had received from the personnel department. See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 35; Battle Cert. Ex. N. Coleman further explained that protocol required Evans to telephone him when she would not be at work, and that Coleman had been telephoning Evans at home in an effort to contact her when she was not at work, but had not telephoned in. See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 36.

Evans complained that Coleman unnecessarily telephoned her at home concerning her schedule and took away some of her responsibilities. Specifically, Evans charged that Coleman no longer permitted her to manage the office calendar, to submit official time sheets to the JISP administrative office, or to proofread Northern Region JISP reports. See Battle Cert. Ex. O. These concerns were addressed initially at a meeting on January 11, 1996 among Evans, defendant Goldstein, and AOC Administrative Assistant Edward Miklosey. Evans conceded that the telephone calls were all work-related, but felt that others in the office could have provided Coleman with the information he had requested. See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 40.

At a subsequent meeting among Coleman, Evans, and Miklosey, on January 22, 1996, Coleman agreed to reinstate the three job functions that had been taken away. See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 39; Battle Cert. Ex. P. Evans agreed to make every reasonable effort to perform her duties five days each week. In the event that Evans was absent, Coleman agreed to try to obtain any information he needed from people in the office, rather than by phoning Evans' home. See Battle Cert. Ex. P; AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 41.*fn8

Following that meeting, which ended at 11:00 a.m. in Trenton, Evans did not return to work in Jersey City. She was absent the following day as well. Coleman issued a memorandum, dated January 23, 1996, requesting an explanation for her absence. See Battle Cert. Ex. Q. In her January 25, 1996 response, Evans explained that she was under the impression that "clerical staff has always been excused after a field day," and that she had submitted to Coleman a request for a personal day on the second day. Evans Ex. Z. Evans further complained about inappropriate remarks that Coleman had made in the office, and copied Hill on this memo. See id.

On February 1, 1996, Coleman notified Evans that she would be docked pay for nine absences in December 1995, taken in excess of her leave time. See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 47-48; Battle Cert. Ex. S. Once again, Theresa Ballard, who was also absent in December following the exhaustion of all of her leave time, received a similar memo. See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 49; Battle Cert. Ex. T.

By fax dated February 2, 1996, Evans contacted defendant Battle about Coleman's actions. See Battle Cert. Ex. U. In her note to Battle, Evans stated that she viewed Coleman's "constant reminders as harassment" and noted that Coleman had taken away certain of her job responsibilities. Id. On February 5, 1996, Evans notified Battle that she intended to file a formal complaint against Coleman. See AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 52; Evans Ex. AA.*fn9

On March 28, 1996, Evans had another altercation with Betsy Fermaintt, the clerical employee in the AOC with whom she had had a history of difficulties. Evans called the Jersey City Police into the office. See Derry Cert. Ex. B, Evans Dep. at 120. Coleman told the police that Evans was the problem and that she had been harassing Fermaintt for years. See id. Evans also states that Coleman told her that ...


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