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SPILLANE v. HENDERSON

January 29, 2001

MICHELLE SPILLANE, PLAINTIFF,
V.
WILLIAM HENDERSON, UNITED STATES POSTMASTER GENERAL, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This is a case commenced by an employee of the federal government alleging retaliatory employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights laws. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16 (making Title VII applicable to federal employees); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a) (prohibiting retaliation) (collectively "Title VII").

Presently before the court is the Defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

The deposition testimony and other uncontroverted documents submitted in support of and in opposition to the motion reveal the following facts.

A. Plaintiff's Employment Record

Plaintiff was first employed by the postal service in its Ronkonkoma, New York office in February of 1985. The Ronkonkoma office has a main office located on Hawkins Avenue and a small branch office on Portion Road. From 1988 through 1992 Plaintiff worked in the main office. In June of 1992, Plaintiff was transferred to the branch office where she served as a distribution clerk.

Plaintiffs full employment record is before the court. That record reveals an number of disciplinary actions taken against Plaintiff between 1993 and 1995 for violations of postal service regulations. On several occasions beginning in 1993, Plaintiff's cash drawer revealed significant shortages. Specifically, in June of 1993, Plaintiffs cash drawer was short over $300; in August of 1993, it was short over $1,400. Audits of Plaintiffs cash drawer also revealed shortages in March of 1994, November of 1994, February of 1995 and June of 1995.

Plaintiffs various misdeed led the Postal Service to take disciplinary action in 1994 and 1995. In April of 1994 the Postal Service informed Plaintiff of its intent to collect approximately $200 as reimbursement for shortages identified in Plaintiff's account. Plaintiff grieved this action with her union. In May of 1994, Plaintiff entered into an agreement which required her to pay the outstanding debt. Plaintiff did not pay this amount voluntarily and on June 2, 1995, the Postal Service commenced garnishment proceedings against Plaintiffs paycheck.

Plaintiff received letters of warning in August and September of 1994. The August 1994 letter warned Plaintiff with regard to her failure to be in regular attendance. The September 1994 letter of warning referred to Plaintiff was engaging in conduct "unbecoming a postal employee."

Plaintiff was suspended from her position on three separate occasions. First, Plaintiff was suspended in October of 1994 for failure to follow instructions and failure to be in regular attendance. Plaintiff was also suspended in December of 1994 for failure to follow instructions, failure to follow security procedures and failure to provide a telephone number for business purposes. Finally, Plaintiff was suspended in March of 1995. This suspension was issued because Plaintiff failed to properly secure postal funds and to follow directions.

The ultimate disciplinary action was taken against Plaintiff on June 29, 1995 when the Postal Service issued a Notice of Removal stating that Plaintiffs employment would be terminated on August 1, 1995. The Notice of Removal stated that the action was taken due to Plaintiffs failure to secure postal funds and her failure to follow instructions.

B. Plaintiff's Allegations of Sexual Harassment

The factual backdrop of Plaintiffs claim of sexual harassment (and retaliation for complaining thereof) involves Plaintiffs relationship with a co-worker, Harry Ray. Mr. Ray is a relative of Plaintiff, whom she refers to as "Uncle Chuck." Plaintiff's problems with Mr. Ray began when, according to Plaintiff, Mr. Ray exposed himself to Plaintiff at her home in 1987. Plaintiff alleges that in 1992 Ray exposed himself to Plaintiff at the workplace. Plaintiff, however, never reported this incident to her employer.

The first time Mr. Ray's activities came to the attention of the Postal Service was in January of 1994. According to Plaintiff, on January 3, 1994, Ray leaned against Plaintiff in a sexual and inappropriate manner. Plaintiff explained that she did not report Mr. Ray's activities on that date because she did not want Ray to get into trouble. Two days later, Ray is alleged to have again acted improperly when he stared at Plaintiffs breasts. Plaintiff informally reported this incident to her supervisor, Tony Prisco. Again, however, Plaintiff was reluctant to pursue the matter because she did not want to make trouble for Ray. Despite Plaintiffs wishes to keep the matter quiet, Prisco reported the January 5 incident to Tony Passenant, Plaintiffs supervisor.

On January 6, 1994, Passenant asked Plaintiff for a statement regarding the incident with Mr. Ray. When Plaintiff refused to give a formal statement, Passenant told her that he would make a report of the incident. On January 7, 1994, Plaintiff was told by Passenant to begin to report to the Ronkonkoma main office until further notice.

The January 3 and 5 incidents involving Plaintiff and Mr. Ray are the only acts of sexual harassment that were ever reported to ...


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