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NEWSOME v. ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF COURTS

July 5, 2000

GAYE NEWSOME, PLAINTIFF,
V.
ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, WILLIAM COLEMAN, JR., ROBERT E. BATTLE AND PHILLIP J. HILL, 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.

AMENDED OPINION

Presently before the Court are defendants' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff Gaye Newsome alleges that she was sexually harassed by her supervisor, defendant William Coleman, during her tenure at defendant 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 in part and denied in part.

FACTS

The pertinent facts, taken in the light most favorable to Newsome as the non-moving party, are as follows: Newsome met Coleman prior to her employment with the AOC. At that time, Coleman was an adjunct professor at Essex County Community College in Newark, New Jersey, and Newsome worked in the college's Offender Aid and Restoration Program. See Newsome 56.1 Statement ¶ 11. In 1993, Coleman encouraged her to apply for a position as a Community Development Specialist, a function akin to a social worker, with the AOC's Juvenile Intensive Supervision Program ("JISP"), where Coleman was the Regional Supervisor for the Northern Region. See id. at ¶ 12; Coleman Ex. A; Tr. of Oral Arg. at 25; AOC 56.1 Statement at ¶ 3. During her JISP interview, Coleman asked Newsome whether she was single, dating someone, or if she had any children. See Newsome Ex. X, Newsome Dep. at 75.*fn2 After the interview process, Newsome accepted an offer to join the JISP as a Community Development Specialist.

During the relevant time, Newsome reported to Coleman. Defendant Philip J. Hill was the Director of the JISP and the person to whom Coleman reported. Defendant Bobby E. Battle was the Chief of the AOC's Equal Employment Opportunity Office ("EEO/AA").*fn3

In October 1993, soon after Newsome started at the JISP, Coleman offered to drive her to a meeting in Trenton. He arrived at Newsome's home early in the morning, well before the appointed hour. Newsome was already waiting outside for him. See Griffin Cert. Ex E, Newsome Dep. at 13.*fn4 On the drive to Trenton, Coleman told Newsome that the woman who had helped him that morning at McDonald's was "unattractive." Id. at 14. That same day, Coleman told Newsome that he needed to call another JISP employee, and referred to her as one of his "little girl friends." Id. at 15.

At some point later in 1993, Coleman paged Newsome on a Saturday morning and asked her to meet him at a local diner to discuss a case. See Newsome 56.1 Statement ¶ 21; Newsome Ex. BB, Newsome Dep. at 63; Griffin Cert. Ex. E, Newsome Dep. at 16. Newsome informed Coleman that she was busy and planned to go running, but Coleman insisted that she meet him. See Griffin Cert. Ex. E, Newsome Dep. at 16. At the diner, Coleman spoke to Newsome about JISP cases assigned to staff members other than Newsome. See id.; Tr. of Oral Arg. at 25-26. Coleman's son was present at this meeting, during which Coleman made "inappropriate comments" that made Newsome uncomfortable. Newsome Ex. CC, Newsome Dep. at 64.

Later that day, Coleman appeared at a local park where Newsome was jogging. See Newsome Ex. FF, Newsome Dep. at 66.*fn5 Newsome noticed Coleman in the park when she "felt someone behind [her]." Newsome Ex. GG, Newsome Dep. at 71. They jogged together for a while in the park, during which time Coleman mentioned that his fiancée was overweight and that she (Coleman's fiancée) complained that Coleman hired women with large breasts. See id. When Newsome was in her car about to leave the park, Coleman came over to her car, leaned in the open window, and attempted to kiss her. See Newsome Ex. HH, Newsome Dep. at 73; Griffin Cert. Ex. EZ, Newsome Dep. at 18. Newsome turned her head away to avoid his advance. See id.

In November of 1993, while Newsome was working in the field, at a high school in Paterson, New Jersey, Coleman paged her and directed her to meet him at Independence High School in Newark. She arrived before Coleman. When Coleman arrived, he introduced Newsome to the staff and explained that he had brought Newsome there for a Thanksgiving festival. Newsome became uncomfortable when she realized that no other JISP staff members were present. See Griffin Cert. Ex. E, Newsome Dep. at 19. Following the function, while Newsome was speaking with a male high school employee, Coleman approached and asked the man "What are you doing talking to her? She's with me." Id. at 19-20.

Newsome states that during the time she was under Coleman's supervision, he "was always hugging." He would pull Newsome toward him "like he was squeezing [her] breasts into his chest." Newsome Ex. EE, Newsome Dep. at 89. Coleman would hug Newsome from time to time in the mornings, sometimes coming up behind her and massaging her shoulders. See Griffin Cert. Ex. E, Newsome Dep. at 20, 23.*fn6

At one point, in 1994, while Newsome was speaking with Betsy Fermaintt, a JISP clerical employee, Coleman walked into the office and attempted to hug Newsome. Newsome pushed him off of her and walked away. A few days later, Newsome informed Coleman that she did not want him to touch her. He stopped for a period of time and then began again to touch, grab, and hold Newsome's hand. See Griffin Cert. Ex. E, Newsome Dep. at 22; Newsome Ex. TT, Fermaintt Dep. at 13.

At an AOC Christmas party in 1993 or 1994, Coleman came up behind Newsome and "touched her on the shoulders with both his hands, sort of like a massage," and asked Newsome to dance. Newsome Ex. QQ, Crawford Dep. at 22. That evening, an upset Newsome approached a coworker, Wendell Crawford, and asked him to "hang around" and act like they were engaged in conversation because Newsome did not want to dance with Coleman. Newsome Ex. RR, Crawford Dep. at 25. Crawford testified that Newsome was upset and cried to him after the party because of Coleman. See id.

Newsome also states that Coleman made inappropriate remarks of a sexual nature at staff meetings. He commented about the body parts and physical appearance of other female staff members. He also commented that the noise a woman makes while sneezing correlates with the noise she makes during intercourse. See Griffin Cert. Ex. E, Newsome Dep. at 23-24; Newsome Ex. VV, Griggs Dep. at 27.

Defendants assert, and the record reflects, that from at least as early as January 1985, the AOC had anti-harassment policies in place. The AOC anti-harassment manuals note that sexual harassment violates the AOC's policies and federal and state law. The materials define sexual harassment, detail employees' rights, and outline a procedure for formal and informal complaints. See Battle Cert. Exs. A, B. The complaint procedure set forth in the materials specifically explains that victims who are harassed by an immediate supervisor should bypass that individual and file a written complaint with the Administrative Director of the Courts. See id.; AOC 56.1 Statement ¶ 9.

On or about January 12, 1995, the state judiciary issued a new anti-harassment policy. See Battle Cert. Ex. C. This policy again made clear that sexual harassment would not be tolerated, and set forth the formal and informal complaint procedure. As with the prior anti-harassment materials, the 1995 policy provided that victims should bypass their immediate supervisor if he or she were the alleged harasser. See Battle Cert. Ex. D.

The anti-harassment materials were posted and distributed to all judiciary employees. See Battle Cert. ¶ 2, 6; Battle Dep. at 30 (attached to AOC Reply Br.). Newsome received a copy of the sexual harassment materials when she arrived at the JISP in 1993. See Griffin Cert. Ex. F, Newsome Dep. at 26. In addition, Battle conducted ongoing training for all employees, including supervisory personnel such as Hill and Coleman. See Battle Cert. ¶ 7.

In October 1995, defendant Battle conducted a sexual harassment training for the JISP Northern Region staff. See Newsome Ex. 5, Newsome Dep. at 14.*fn7 At a staff meeting on November 8, 1995, Gina Evans, another JISP staff member, who has also alleged that she was harassed by Coleman, announced that Coleman treated one staff member more leniently because "she had something over [his] head." Coleman Aff. ¶ 61; Ex. N to Coleman Br. in Support of Summ.J. (New some's "Chronological Order of Incidents") (hereinafter "Newsome Chrono"). At a staff meeting the following week, on November 15, 1995, Coleman announced that he had heard that Newsome believed he was harassing her. See Griffin Cert. Ex. E, Newsome Dep. at 25. Following the November 15 meeting, Newsome contacted defendant Hill, who had left the meeting prior to Coleman's comment, and told him that she wanted to file a formal harassment complaint. See Griffin Cert. Ex., E, Newsome Dep. at 37, Ex. F, Newsome Dep. at 19.

The following day, November 16, 1995, Newsome spoke with Hill again and requested a transfer to a new supervisor. That day, Kevin Brown became Newsome's supervisor. See Griffin Cert. Ex. E, Newsome Dep. at 39-40. Every other aspect of Newsome's job remained unchanged.

On November 28, 1995, Newsome met with Hill again, who informed her that he had by that time told Coleman that she would be filing a formal complaint. See Newsome Chrono.*fn8 Hill put Newsome in touch with defendant Battle, with whom Newsome filed an official complaint alleging "ongoing sexual harassment since being employed with the JISP." See Newsome Chrono; Griffin Cert. Ex. F, Newsome Dep. at 21-22; Newsome Ex. NN. She requested that she be assigued to a new supervisor, that the harassment cease, and that she be treated with "respect and dignity." Newsome Ex. NN.*fn9

In May 1996, the EEO/AA released the report of its investigation into Newsome's harassment complaint. Over the course of the investigation, defendant Battle interviewed Newsome, Coleman, and eight other JISP employees concerning Newsome's allegations. The report concluded that Newsome's claims were "unsubstantiated." Newsome Ex. PP.

On March 15, 1996, Newsome filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), which alleged that Coleman subjected her to sexual harassment from the time she was hired. She alleged that Coleman tried to kiss her on numerous occasions, the last of which was in 1994. She further alleged that Coleman manipulated his position as her supervisor to get her to go places with him, and that he constantly touched, hugged, and kissed her, and made comments of a sexual nature. See Battle Cert. Ex. K. The EEOC issued Newsome a right-to-sue letter on October 31, 1996. See Newsome Ex. BBB.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) when the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the evidence establishes the moving party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Orson, Inc. v. Miramax Film Corp., 79 F.3d 1358, 1366 (3d Cir. 1996). In making this determination, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmovant. See Hullett v. Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby, Inc., 38 F.3d 107, 111 (3d Cir. 1994); National State Bank v. Federal Reserve Bank of N.Y., 979 F.2d 1579, 1581 (3d Cir. 1992).

Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the party opposing the motion must establish that a genuine issue as to a material fact exists. See Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Lacey Township, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109 (3d Cir. 1985). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment cannot rest on mere allegations and instead must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Siegel Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125, 1130-31 (3d Cir. 1995). "[U]nsupported allegations in [a] memorandum and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary judgment." Schoch v. First Fidelity Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (requiring nomnoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial"). If the nonmoving party has failed "to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, . . . there can be `no genuine ...


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