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Marley v. Donahue

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 12, 2017


          Mary-Ellen Marley, pro se

          Anne B. Taylor, Assistant U.S. Attorney U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Attorney for Defendant


          HON. JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief U.S. District Judge


         In this employment discrimination litigation, pro se Plaintiff Mary-Ellen Marley (hereinafter, "Plaintiff"), alleges that her longtime former federal employer, the United States Postal Service, engaged in a series of retaliatory conduct during the fall of 2009, leading to her eventual termination. The remaining Defendant, Patrick R. Donahue, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service (hereinafter, "Defendant"), moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's sole remaining claim of Title VII retaliation based on three separate incidents in the fall of 2009. The principal issue to be decided is whether Plaintiff has adduced evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could find that the Postal Service retaliated against her due to her filing of an EEO Complaint on August 24, 2009.

         For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted.


         A. Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff joined the United States Postal Service in November 1980 as a temporary worker, and became a regular employee in 1985. (Marley Dep. 25:6-20.) From 1982 until her termination in 2010, she worked at the post office in Sewell, New Jersey. (Id. at 27:4-9.)

         In January 2007, Plaintiff began filing complaints with the USPS's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO"). (Def. SMF ¶ 8.) Two of Plaintiff's EEO actions, Complaint Nos. 4C-080-0080-07 and 4C-080-0024-08, were informal complaints that were resolved on October 16, 2007 and March 31, 2008, respectively. (Id. at ¶ 9.) In Complaint No. 4C-080-0029-07, Plaintiff challenged the denial of her application for workers' compensation benefits, and that was subsequently dismissed for failure to state a claim. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.) In Complaint No. 4C-080-0065-08, Plaintiff complained that Supervisor Sharon White ("hereinafter, Ms. White") discriminated on the bases of sex, age and disability, and retaliated against her, when Ms. White sent Plaintiff home and charged her Leave Without Pay on May 1, 2008, but the Final Agency Decision found no discrimination. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.) Then, on January 20, 2009, in Complaint No. 4C-080-0015-09, Plaintiff challenged a Notice of Removal issued in December 2008 and attributed to Supervisor Edwin Schofield (hereinafter, "Mr. Schofield") and Postmaster Evelyn Hunley (hereinafter, "Postmaster Hunley"). (Id. at ¶ 14.) Plaintiff contended that Mr. Schofield was directed by Postmaster Hunley to lodge progressive discipline against Plaintiff because Plaintiff had previously reported the Postmaster for wrongdoing. (Id. at ¶¶ 15, 76.) Plaintiff further contended that Postmaster Hunley was trying to get rid of her because she reported Postmaster Hunley's misuse of USPS resources to upper management. (Id. at ¶ 16.) This EEO complaint was dismissed as moot in April 2009 because she did not request any compensatory damages. (Id. at ¶ 17, Ex. G to Def. Br.)

         Then, in February 2009, Plaintiff filed a grievance after Mr. Schofield had police escort her the building after an argument between Plaintiff and Mr. Schofield. (Def. SMF at ¶¶ 18-19; Marley Dep. at 44:13-22.) This associated grievance was resolved in April 2009, and did not involve allegations of discrimination. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

         Plaintiff was on leave from February until April 17, 2009, was reassigned to the nearby Deptford Post Office in May, and returned to the Sewell Post Office in June 2009. (Marley Dep. at 46:20-25.) Plaintiff did not receive any new discipline in June, July, or August 2009 before the August 24, 2009 incident. (Id. at 47:1-12; Def. SMF at ¶ 20.)

         1. August 24, 2009 Incident with Mr. Schofield

         On August 24, 2009, Plaintiff explains that as she was turning with a tray of mail in her hands preparing it for loading and delivery, Mr. Schofield and Ms. White approached her waving her Form 3396, relating to overtime. (Def. SMF at ¶ 25; Opp'n at 4.) Mr. Schofield stated that he approached Plaintiff because of her late request for a substantial amount of assistance to deliver her mail that day. (Def. SMF at ¶¶ 27, 31-32.) He believed that her request for overtime assistance was unreasonable based on a computer program called DOIS. (Id. at ¶¶ 30, 34.) As Plaintiff bent to put her tray down, Mr. Schofield "deliberatively moved" her cart, "cocked his leg" on her equipment, claiming that Plaintiff was unreasonable in her overtime hours she submitted. (Ex. K to Def. Br.; Opp'n at 4.) Plaintiff replied, "[g]et your crotch out of my face!" (Opp'n at 4.) Mr. Schofield then stated, "Mary there is no room for you in my post office. Clock out and go home." (Ex. 9 to Opp'n.) Mr. Schofield stated that he rested his foot on the cart and tried to get Plaintiff's attention by calling her name several times, and that he had stood this way previously. (Def. SMF at ¶ 36.) He denies that he placed his "crotch" in Plaintiff's face, and thought her behavior was insubordinate, inappropriate, and disrespectful. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-39.) Plaintiff filled out a notice of absence, left, and called the EEO hotline. (Opp'n at 4.)

         On August 28, 2009, Plaintiff wrote a letter via certified mail to Postmaster Hunley in which she informed Postmaster Hunley that she had filed an EEO complaint against her and Mr. Schofield, and she copied Ms. White. (Def. SMF ¶ 21; Ex. AA to Def. Br.) Postmaster Hunley refused receipt of the letter, which was returned to Plaintiff in its unopened envelope. (Def. SMF ¶ 22; Marley Dep. at 38:14 to 39:12.)

         2. October 5, 2009 Incident ...

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