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Raczka v. Potter

March 30, 2007

MARY ANN RACZKA AND DANIEL E. RACZKA, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge

DECISION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

In this action, Plaintiffs bring a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), and the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621. Plaintiff Mary Ann Raczka ("Mary Ann") alleges that Defendant discriminated against her because of her age (46), gender (female), and national origin (Polish); that she was subjected to a hostile work environment; and that Defendant retaliated against her for complaining about discriminatory conduct. Plaintiff Daniel Raczka ("Daniel") alleges that Defendant discriminated against him because of his gender (male), and in retaliation for prior discrimination complaints. Presently before this Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn1 Plaintiffs oppose the motion.*fn2 For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiffs, Mary Ann and Daniel Raczka, were married in 1993. (Defendant's Statement pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 ("Defendant's Statement"), ¶ 1). Mary Ann has been employed by the United States Postal Service ("USPS") since 1984. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 2). Daniel was employed by USPS from 1970 until his retirement in 2006. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 4). Since 1988, Mary Ann has been employed as a clerk at the Vehicle Maintenance Facility ("VMF") in Buffalo, NY. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 3). From 1984 until approximately December of 2002, Daniel served as manager of the VMF, and was responsible for the supervision of all VMF employees, including Mary Ann. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 5-6). Mary Ann's immediate supervisor was Peter Grodem, who reported directly to Daniel. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 7; Plaintiffs' Statement pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 ("Plaintiffs' Statement"), ¶¶ 6-7).*fn3

1. The Donahue Memorandum

On May 22, 2002, Patrick Donahue, Chief Operating Officer of USPS, issued a memorandum (the "Donahue memorandum") requiring a case-by-case review of all situations where reporting relationships existed between USPS employees that were married, or unmarried and sharing a household. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 8, 20). The Donahue memorandum stated that there was a concern about the appearance of impropriety, even where layers of supervision existed between spouses in a reporting relationship. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 16).

In April of 2003, USPS Northeast Area Vice President John Steele directed that all reporting relationships involving spouses, unmarried persons sharing a household, or close relatives, be eliminated by voluntary transfer or involuntary reassignment. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 25).

2. Daniel's Reassignment

Around July of 2002, Nicholas Fabozzi, Daniel's supervisor, requested that Daniel accept reassignment to a position in Jamestown, NY, which Daniel refused. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 29). In July or August of 2002, Daniel was advised that either he or Mary Ann would have to relocate to a different work site. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 30).

Plaintiffs obtained a divorce on October 4, 2002, allegedly to avoid Daniel's reassignment, but otherwise continued their relationship and resided in the same residence. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 10).

Around October of 2002, Anne Vogtli, USPS Manager of Operations Support, offered Daniel the choice of reassignment to one of two positions; Station Manager of the Northside Station in Buffalo, or Postmaster of the Tonawanda Post Office. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 33). Daniel chose the Tonawanda Postmaster position, and was reassigned effective December 14, 2002. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 33-36). As a result of the reassignment, Daniel did not suffer any diminution in pay, grade, or benefits. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 37). Defendant contends that all reporting relationships between spouses or unmarried employees sharing a household in the Western New York USPS District were resolved by transfer or reassignment. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 39-40).

3. Daniel's EEO Complaint

In January of 2003, Daniel filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") Complaint of Discrimination, alleging that his reassignment to the Tonawanda Postmaster position constituted discrimination on the basis of sex, and retaliation for prior EEO activity. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 42-43).

4. Mary Ann's Employment

Mary Ann claims that problems arose between her and her co-workers shortly after she began working at the VMF in 1988. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 47-48). Mary Ann claims that she was subjected to harassment by co-workers because of her relationship with Daniel. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 49). Following an altercation in 1995 with the union director, George Housch, Mary Ann ceased paying union dues and assumed the status of a non-dues paying member of the union. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 50).

5. Mary Ann's 2000 EEO Complaint

Mary Ann alleges that she was subjected to continual harassment by the union and its president. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 42-51). In February of 2000, Mary Ann filed an EEO pre-complaint alleging discrimination based on sex and marital status. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 53). Mary Ann later withdrew her pre-complaint and the matter was resolved through mediation. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 54).

6. The "Climate Survey"

In December of 2001 and January of 2002, a USPS customer service manager conducted a "climate survey" in response to complaints that Mary Ann received preferential treatment from Daniel and exercised too much influence over him. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 56-57). The "climate survey" report concluded that there were instances of problems stemming from the interpersonal relationships of several employees, but indicated that interviews with employees failed to identify any significant new issues or incidents. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 58). No changes were made to either Daniel's or Mary Ann's employment status as a result of the survey. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 60).

7. Mary Ann's 2002 EEO Complaint

On February 4, 2002, Mary Ann filed a formal EEO complaint alleging discrimination and a hostile work environment based on her national origin, sex, and age, and in retaliation for prior EEO activity. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 65).

On February 24, 2004, EEOC Administrative Judge, Kevin J. Berry, issued a decision in favor of USPS and dismissed Mary Ann's complaint. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 106). On August 9, 2004, the EEOC Office of Federal Operations affirmed the Final Agency Order. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 108).

8. The Letter of Warning

On February 19, 2002, Diane Coniglio, a co-worker of Mary Ann, complained to Peter Grodem, Mary Ann's direct supervisor, that Mary Ann was changing work assignments. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 73). When Grodem attempted to discuss the matter with Mary Ann, she raised her voice. (Defendant's Statement, ¶ 76). Grodem, who had spoken with Mary Ann about inappropriate conduct on a prior occasion, issued a letter of warning charging her with conduct in violation of the employee manual. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 77, 84). In response to the letter of warning, Mary Ann filed a grievance which was later denied. (Defendant's Statement, ¶¶ 85-87).

9. Daniel's Allegations

Daniel alleges that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his gender by reassigning him to the Tonawanda Postmaster position. (Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law, pp. 8-11). Daniel further alleges that the reassignment was in retaliation for EEO activity commenced by Mary Ann. (Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law, pp. 15-16).

10. Mary Ann's Allegations

Mary Ann alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her gender and nationality as evidenced by the climate survey; the union's failure to invite her to meetings; and general animosity from union officials. (Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law, pp. 11-13).

Mary Ann further alleges that she was subjected to disparate treatment based on her age, gender, and nationality, as evidenced by the letter of warning; instances where a male co-worker received preferential work assignments; a request that she do certain work because she was younger than her co-workers; and an instance when she was reprimanded for being loud while a non-Polish employee was permitted to speak loudly. (Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law, pp. 14-15).

Finally, Mary Ann alleges that she was subjected to retaliation for EEO activity as evidenced by the climate survey, general animosity from union officials, and the letter of warning. (Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law, p. 16).

III. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment ...


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