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GREB v. POTTER

June 8, 2005.

SUSAN Q. GREB, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER and UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GARRETT BROWN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's motion and Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). Having considered the parties' written submissions, and for the reasons discussed herein, Plaintiff's motion is denied and Defendant's cross-motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

  This action involves claims of unlawful discrimination based on gender, race and disability. Plaintiff Susan Q. Greb ("Plaintiff") brought suit against Defendants John E. Potter, the Postmaster General, and the United States Postal Service (collectively referred to as "Defendants") on July 12, 2002. In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges disability discrimination under § 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 ("the Rehabilitation Act"), and discrimination based on gender and race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e) et seq. (Am. Compl. at 2-3). Plaintiff also claims that she was subjected to a discriminatory hostile work environment and was constructively discharged from her position.

  Plaintiff began employment with the United States Postal Service on June 26, 1982. Plaintiff suffered two work-related injuries which caused her to undergo shoulder surgeries. The Department of Labor found that she was fit to work eight hours a day in limited duty position. On May 25, 1999, Plaintiff was offered a rehabilitation job offer as a Modified Mark-up Clerk Automat which incorporated certain work restrictions based on her medical impairments. (Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 2). Her duties included, inter alia, working on mechanized and non-mechanized terminals which involved a certain degree of keying. Plaintiff accepted the rehabilitation job offer in July of 1999.

  Plaintiff was assigned to the Computerized Mail Forwarding System ("CFS") Unit. The CFS Unit was created at Monmouth Processing and Distribution Center ("MPDC") in 1988. This unit performs mail-forwarding services for the Postal Service. The original supervisor of the CFS Unit was Robert Hoffman. In June of 1999, the CFS Unit added the position of manager who was responsible for supervising the employees, including the supervisor. Horace Bonaparte ("Bonaparte") assumed this position. Bonaparte was manager of the CFS Unit at MPDC between February of 1999 and March of 2002. Thereafter, the CFS Unit at MPDC closed and Bonaparte was transferred to the CFS Unit located in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

  When Plaintiff began her position, she worked under the supervision of Robert Hoffman. In March of 2000, however, the unit divided into two tours — the morning and evenings tours. Bonaparte became the direct supervisor of the morning tour — the tour to which Plaintiff was assigned. Hoffman became supervisor of the evening tour, but remained under the overall supervision of Bonaparte. The managing style of Bonaparte and Hoffman greatly differed. Bonaparte began implementing different policies, rules and procedures. For example, Bonaparte prohibited the use of cell phones at employees' work stations, and limited telephone calls by the employees. Employees were also prohibited from bringing handbags, large bags, food or drinks to their work area. Additionally, employees were required to inform Bonaparte whenever they needed to leave the work area, which included bathroom breaks. Many employees did not welcome the changes in the work environment. Some employees found the environment stressful or difficult. Other employees, however, recognized that Bonaparte's style of managing was a means of improving efficiency.

  Although the working relationship between Plaintiff and her new supervisor, Bonaparte, began without difficulty, a poor relationship eventually developed between them. Between March and July of 2000, Plaintiff recorded various incidences when she felt that she was being harassed by Bonaparte. Plaintiff asserts that Bonaparte would threaten her with disciplinary action when she would not follow his orders. Plaintiff also asserts that she requested Bonaparte to call her "Mrs. Greb," but Bonaparte refused. Instead, she alleges that Bonaparte called her "Susan" (her first name) or would mock her by addressing her with variations of her last name.

  With regard to Bonaparte's newly instituted policy of requiring all employees to inform him whenever they left the work room floor, Plaintiff claims that this policy only applied to females. Defendants dispute this contention. Plaintiff asserts that she felt uncomfortable with the concept of telling Bonaparte when she had to use the bathroom. In lieu of this phrase, Plaintiff claims she would inform Bonaparte that she needed to wash her hands. Plaintiff recorded one incident when she informed Bonaparte that she was going to wash her hands. In response, Bonaparte threw a pair of gloves on her desk. Plaintiff further claims that Bonaparte yelled at her while she was having a private conversation with her co-worker. In April of 2000, Bonaparte received a threatening letter concerning the manner in which he treated women. Bonaparte forwarded the letter to the Postal Inspectors who asked him if he knew of any employees who were unhappy with him. Bonaparte identified Plaintiff and another employee of the CFS Unit. The Postal Inspectors subsequently questioned them. Plaintiff cites this incident, that is, the questioning by the Postal Inspectors, as another example of how she was harassed at work.

  The series of negative exchanges between Plaintiff and Bonaparte culminated on July 18, 2000. On this day, Plaintiff reported to work and was waiting to receive her daily assignment from Bonaparte. Bonaparte initially assigned her to work on a mechanized terminal. Plaintiff then informed Bonaparte that she was not able to perform this task because she had a medical note. The note was dated June 26, 2000. Plaintiff failed to present the note to Bonaparte before this day. The note stated "Mrs. Greb is unable to perform keyboarding on the mechanized terminal for 3 months due to a neck injury." (Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 6). Bonaparte instructed Plaintiff to sit in a chair and to await further instructions. Bonaparte continued to give assignments to the remaining employees. Plaintiff remained seated in the chair for approximately an hour. During that time, she felt uncomfortable sitting in the chair without having received an assignment. Plaintiff felt that she was being humiliated. She began to experience chest pains and sought a union advocate. Eventually, a union advocate arrived to discuss the situation. Once Bonaparte was informed that Plaintiff was experiencing chest pains, he called for an ambulance. Plaintiff was subsequently transported to the hospital, and was discharged the same day.

  Following this incident, Plaintiff requested that Bonaparte complete a form which states that Plaintiff suffered a traumatic injury on that day. Bonaparte refused to complete the form. Plaintiff also requested a transfer to another facility. Her request was denied. Since July 18, 2000, Plaintiff has not returned to work because she contends she cannot work under the supervision of Bonaparte.

  On November 23, 2004, Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on all claims raised in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.*fn1 On December 13, 2004, Defendants filed opposition and cross-moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed her reply and opposition to the cross-motion on December 20, 2004. The Court notes that with the exception of some changes made to the preliminary statement, Plaintiff essentially resubmitted the same argument section of her moving papers, twenty-nine pages in total, as her responsive pleading. Thus, Plaintiff largely fails to respond to the arguments and defenses raised by Defendants in their cross-motion. A reply letter brief was submitted by Defendants on January 10, 2005. Oral argument was heard on January 18, 2005, at which time the parties informed the Court that they rely entirely on their briefs. Having considered all pleadings and the voluminous declarations and affidavits submitted by the parties, the Court will now address all of Plaintiff's claims.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. Summary Judgment Standard

  A party seeking summary judgment must "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Orson, Inc. v. Miramax Film Corp., 79 F.3d 1358, 1366 (3d Cir. 1996); Healy v. New York Life Ins. Co., 860 F.2d 1209, 1219, n. 3 (3d Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1098 (1989); Hersh v. Allen Prod. Co., 789 F.2d 230, 232 (3d Cir. 1986). The threshold inquiry is whether there are "any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (noting that no issue for trial exists unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict in its favor). In deciding whether triable issues of fact exist, the court must view the underlying facts and draw all ...


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