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Slagle v. County of Clarion

January 12, 2006

TIMOTHY A. SLAGLE, APPELLANT
v.
COUNTY OF CLARION; CLARION COUNTY JAIL



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil No. 02-cv-00960) District Judge: Hon. Terrence F. McVerry.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sloviter, Circuit Judge.

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued July 14, 2005

Before: SLOVITER, McKEE and WEIS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

Timothy A. Slagle, a former correctional officer at the Clarion County Jail in Pennsylvania, appeals from the Order of the District Court granting summary judgment in favor of his employer, the County of Clarion, and dismissing Slagle's claims of retaliatory discharge in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3a, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA").*fn1 We review a grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as did the district court. Antonelli v. New Jersey, 419 F.3d 267, 272 (3d Cir. 2005).

I.

Slagle was employed as a correctional officer at the Clarion County Jail ("Jail") from October 1996 to February 2002. Several separate incidents are relevant to the issue before us. In April 2001, Slagle, using testing material belonging to the Jail, gave himself an HIV test at his home and submitted the test to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for analysis without identifying the subject of the test. The Pennsylvania Department of Health mailed the results of the anonymous test back to the Jail. Deputy Warden Traister, who received the results of the test, assumed that the test had been administered to an inmate. Because he had not authorized any HIV testing of inmates, he began an internal investigation to determine who had conducted the unauthorized HIV test. Slagle refused to cooperate with the investigation but, at a hearing held subsequently, he admitted that he was the subject of the test.

In a separate incident that occurred on May 11, 2001, Slagle allegedly told the officer in charge who was on duty that a state trooper had engaged in inappropriate behavior during an inmate interview. Later that day Warden John Rowley accused Slagle of going outside the chain of command by threatening to report the trooper's behavior to his supervisor. Slagle denied making any such threat. By letter dated May 14, 2001, Slagle received a one-day suspension for his failure to cooperate with the deputy warden's investigation of the HIV test and for his May 11 "threat" to go outside the chain of command. In addition, Slagle received a two-week suspension without pay in July, 2001, for making inappropriate comments to a female inmate and sexually harassing a female correctional officer.

On September 10, 2001, Slagle filed a complaint against Clarion County with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in connection with his May 2001 and July 2001 suspensions. In the complaint, Slagle stated: "the Respondent discriminated against me because of whistleblowing, in violation of my Civil Rights, and invasion of privacy." App. at 96. By letter dated October 31, 2001, the EEOC notified Slagle that it dismissed his charge because "the facts [he] alleg[ed] failed to state a claim under any of the statutes enforced by the Commission." App. at 14.

On January 2, 2002, Slagle was advised that he was being discharged from his position at the Jail for gross insubordination and for allegedly lying that he had not received notice of the denial of his request to have a vacation day on December 25, 2001, and for not working on that day pending a Loudermill hearing.*fn2 Slagle filed a union grievance in January related to his discharge, which he withdrew a week later. Slagle filed a second charge with the EEOC on January 15, 2002, alleging that his employment was terminated in retaliation for having filed the September 2001 EEOC charge.

Approximately two weeks later, the Director of Finance and Human Resources for Clarion County advised Slagle that Clarion County had determined that he would not be terminated. Instead, he would be suspended without pay through February 2, 2002, but would not lose seniority or other benefits during the suspension. Nonetheless, Slagle never returned to work after January 2, 2002.

On February 8, 2002, Slagle filed a third charge with the EEOC in which he asserted that Clarion County discriminated against him "because of [his] gender, male, in violation of Title VII as to gender discrimination and the PHRA." App. at 129. The EEOC notified Slagle that his complaint was dismissed because "the Commission [was] unable to conclude that the information obtained establish[ed] violations of the statutes." App. at 12. Slagle thereafter filed this lawsuit on May 29, 2002, against Clarion County in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, alleging that his termination was a result of unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII.*fn3

Slagle alleges that after he filed his charge with the EEOC in September 2001, he was subject to antagonism at the workplace in the form of unwarranted work criticism, cancellation of a previously scheduled vacation, and unwarranted disciplinary action. He expounds on his complaint by asserting in his brief that he was "excluded from participating in inmate hearings while less experienced correctional officers were selected . . . [and he] began to be reprimanded ...


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