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BROWN v. HENDERSON

September 29, 2000

MADELINE BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
V.
WILLIAM HENDERSON, POSTMASTER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Madeline Brown brings this action against William Henderson, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service the ("Postal Service"), alleging employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and intentional infliction of emotional distress under New York State common law. The Postal Service now moves under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(b) for summary judgment dismissing the discrimination claim. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is granted, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claim.

BACKGROUND

Madeline Brown, a letter carrier stationed at the James A. Farley Building ("JAF") in Manhattan, has been employed by the Postal Service for over 29 years. The ordeal that gives rise to this lawsuit began in January 1996, when a group of four male co-workers — Thomas Nelson, Angel Melendez, Bruno Moschetta, and Adel Yacoub — made Brown the target of a daily barrage of harassing comments suggesting that she and another co-worker, Thomas "Tiny" Parrett, were having a romantic affair. They would say things to both Brown and Parret such as "You [Parrett] and Mady [Brown] are in love — look at that — you are always talking," "are you going away for the weekend?," "you're always off the same days — what are you doing together?" Deposition of Madeline Brown ("Pl.Dep.") at 64-66, 92, 101. Brown testified at her deposition that because of the proximity of Parrett's mail route to the harassers', he suffered "the brunt" of harassing remarks, and, when pressed, she estimated that he had been subjected to the comments two to three times more often than she. Id. at 69, 75, 93, 97, 100-01.

Brown endured these taunts until sometime in spring of 1996, when, according to her deposition testimony, she reported the harassing conduct to her immediate supervisor, Michael Goldheimer, who she claims did nothing to stop it. Pl.Dep. at 129-30. Goldheimer denies having ever been told. Deposition of Michael Goldheimer ("Goldheimer Dep.") at 15. In any event, in May or June of 1996, Brown confronted the harassers personally, she "finally [] couldn't stand anymore of it," and warned them that if it continued she would "bring charges against them." Pl.Dep. at 70. Despite Brown's warning, the harassers continued making such comments, to Parrett in particular, but substituted the aliases "Mary Lou" or "Matty Lou" to mask their references to Brown. Pl.Dep. at 70. The harassers then began loudly singing along to the Ricky Nelson song "Mary Lou" whenever it played on the radio. EEO Investigative Affidavit of Madeline Brown ("Pl. EEO Aff.") at 8.

Brown explained in her EEO affidavits and at her deposition that the animosity displayed toward her was due in large part to a longstanding, union related, personal conflict with the group of harassers, most significantly Nelson, whom she had battled in a "slanderous" shop steward election and accused of committing timecard fraud several years earlier. See Pl.Dep. at 6-8. Brown testified, in fact, that "if it hadn't been for the [union shop steward] election and all of that unpleasantness and told him that people were talking about him showing up three or four hours late this probably would not have happened. And I still believe that." Pl.Dep. at 64.

Brown also alleges that she was subjected to harassment when she overheard letter carriers Jacques Uscier and Samuel Fils-Aime threaten, in vulgar terms, to sodomize one another. Pl.Dep. at 109-110; Pl. EEO Aff. at 8. Brown additionally claims that on four or five occasions, Nelson called her a "pig," and that for a period of about two weeks, Uscier not only called her a pig, but made "oinking" and "suey" sounds as well. Pl.Dep. at 124-25. According to Brown, the harassers had also "needled" Parrett about his weight for years. Id. at 97-98.

On May 1, 1997, according to Brown, the sexual harassment escalated when someone posted "a pornographic picture of a naked, obese, spread-eagled woman masturbating" to a pole along Parrett's mail route. Pl. EEO Aff. at 4. Scrawled on the picture were the words "Tiny's Girl." Brown removed the picture, but less than an hour later, someone affixed to the same pole a postcard featuring mating elephants. Id. The postcard was itself taped to a piece of paper, upon which was written "Tiny and Mary Lou." Brown removed the postcard as well and reported the incident to Goldheimer, Lawrence Lynch, tour superintendent, and Carlos Hernandez, operations manager.

In response, Lynch notified the Postal Service's Inspection Service and Equal Employment Opportunity Office ("EEO") about the allegation, offered EEO counseling to Brown, and ordered that "service talks" be held throughout the section and entire station about sexual harassment. On May 5, 1997, Goldheimer held the first of two service talks. According to Brown, "[h]e simply walked around from route to route showing the carriers a piece of paper which said `Do not hang any obscene photographs or literature on Rt. 0154.'" Id. Brown took offense to the manner in which Goldheimer conducted the service talk, which she characterized as unsympathetic and disrespectful, and asked him "how he would feel if those pictures had been taped to his podium with `Mrs. Goldheimer' written on them?" Goldheimer allegedly became visibly angry and replied "It says `Tiny's girl.' Is there something I should know?" Id.

The following day, supervisor Frank Vargas conducted a general service talk on sexual harassment within each section at the JAF. Brown concedes that since the service talks, "no other obscene picture or postcard referring to me or Mr. Parrett has been posted on the workfloor." Id. But she claims that for the next three months, her co-workers taunted her anew, chanting "service talk service talk" whenever she was present. Id. at 5.

On May 30, 1997, Brown sought EEO counseling because of the alleged harassment.

Just a few days later, Brown claims that Fils-Aime insulted and threatened both her and Parrett, saying "fat people should be put in gas chambers," "fat people got something genetic, they're missing most of their brain, they shouldn't be allowed to live," and "if they write me up, I'll grieve it with an AK." Id. ¶ 22.

Brown reported the Fils-Aime threats to her supervisors and to the Postal Service's Inspection Service. The following day, Fils-Aime shouted at Uscier, in Brown's presence, "shoot 'em up, shoot Mary Lou!" Brown once again reported the incident to Goldheimer, who "glared furiously" and shouted "what are you going to do, run back upstairs to the inspectors?" Brown then reported the incident to the postal inspectors.

Goldheimer discussed the incident with Postal Inspector Stephen Attardi, who advised Goldheimer to take whatever disciplinary action against Fils-Aime he deemed necessary. Goldheimer Dep. at 33. Fils-Aime admitted to both Goldheimer and Lynch that he had made the statements, but denied that they were threatening. Id. On June 9, 1997, Goldheimer issued a warning letter to Fils-Aime charging him with "verbal abuse" and "threatening statements." Further, as a result of a complaint by Parrett about the same comments, Fils-Aime's mail route was moved away from both Brown's and Parrett's routes.

On October 6, 1997, following the mandatory pre-complaint counseling period, Brown filed a formal complaint with ...


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