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Dole v. Town of Bethlehem

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 25, 2017

CAITLIN DOLE, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF BETHLEHEM, Defendant.

          DELORENZO LAW FIRM Attorneys for the Plaintiff

          NAPIERSKI, VANDENBURGH LAW FIRM Attorney for the Defendant

          THOMAS E. DELORENZO, ESQ., SHAWN F. BROUSSEAU, ESQ., THOMAS J. O'CONNOR, ESQ., DIANE LUFKIN SCHILLING, ESQ.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER [1]

          DANIEL J. STEWART U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Caitlin Dole brings this action against Defendant Town of Bethlehem pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 290, et seq. Dkt. No. 1, Compl. Briefly stated, Plaintiff alleges that she was hired as a police officer by the Town of Bethlehem Police Department on January 12, 2014. Id. at ¶ 10. Beginning in March 2015, Plaintiff claims that she was subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment when Officer Craig Sleurs sent her numerous harassing and threatening text messages and voice mails. Id. at ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiff claims that she reported these incidents to her supervisor, but that nothing was done to reprimand Officer Sleurs, and on May 14, 2015, Plaintiff tendered her resignation to the Defendant Town of Bethlehem. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or 12(c), or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Dkt. No. 26, Def.'s Mot. Plaintiff has filed a Response and Defendant has filed a Reply. Dkt. Nos. 31, Pl.'s Resp. & 35, Def.'s Reply. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is granted and this action dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Plaintiff was hired by the Defendant as a patrol officer effective January 12, 2014. Dkt. No. 26-30, Def.'s Rule 7.1 Statement of Material Facts (“Def.'s SMF”) at ¶ 1.[3] In December 2014, Plaintiff began dating Officer Craig Sleurs, who was also assigned to the Patrol Division of the Department. Id. at ¶ 7; Dkt. No. 26-3, Aff. of Thomas Heffernan, dated Nov. 30, 2016, at ¶ 6. During their relationship, and at all relevant times to this action, Plaintiff was assigned to the 3:00pm to 11:00pm shift and Officer Sleurs was assigned to the 7:00am to 3:00pm shift. Heffernan Aff. at ¶¶ 4 & 6. Officer Sleurs had no supervisory authority or responsibilities during his employment with the Department. Id. at ¶ 8.

         In March 2015, Plaintiff ended the relationship with Officer Sleurs. Dkt. No. 31-2, Aff. of Caitlin Dole, dated Feb. 10, 2017, at ¶ 5. On March 3, 2015, Officer Sleurs went on out-of-work sick leave, which he remained on until June 13, 2015. Def.'s SMF at ¶ 13. On April 16, 2015, Plaintiff also went on sick leave due to a foot injury she sustained outside of work. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiff remained on sick leave until her resignation from the Department on May 14, 2015. Id.

         In April 2015, over one month after she ended their relationship, and while they were each on sick leave, Officer Sleurs began contacting Plaintiff by voicemail, text message, and Facebook. Id. at ¶ 15; Dkt. No. 26-2, Aff. of Thomas J. O'Connor, dated Dec. 13, 2016, Ex. A. The records of these voicemails, text messages, and Facebook posts were produced in Plaintiff's Rule 26 disclosures. Def.'s SMF at ¶ 15. Officer Sleurs left Plaintiff voicemails on April 22, April 27, and April 30, 2015. O'Connor Aff., Ex. A at p. 1. The voicemails are as follows:

• I hope you're fucking happy. I really do. I hope you're happy. Because you have just ruined my life. You have broken my heart, you have crushed my heart . . . and I know you don't give a fuck. (April 22, 2015)
• Hey it's Craig. You've blocked me every other way of trying to talk to you. I don't understand why . . . well I understand why, you just don't want to talk to me. I miss you. Hopefully you unblock me and talk to me again. Miss you. Bye. (April 27, 2015)
• Hey, just me. Just calling to say hi. Hopefully someday you'll talk to me again. Hope your foot is doing better. Still miss you. Bye. (April 30, 2015)
• Hey, I just wanted you to know that after this phone call, you'll never hear from me again. I see you on the street, I'll turn my back. I see you at work, I'll never talk to you. Um . . . you disgust me. You totally disgust me. So . . . have a nice fucking life. Thanks for fucking up mine. (April 30, 2015)[4]

Id.

         Some of these messages were left from Officer Sleurs' parents' phone, after Plaintiff blocked his phone number. Dole Aff. at ¶ 7.

In a series of text messages sent on April 22, 2015, Officer Sleurs told Plaintiff Have a nice fucking life. Thanks for fucking with my heart and mind. Love this feeling. . . . Good fucking bye. . . . Your [sic] still on FB. Just say you don't want to talk to me anymore. Why don't you just unfriend me on FB too.

O'Connor Aff., Ex. A at p. 3.

         Plaintiff responded, “[p]lease stop or I'll just block on everything.” Id. Officer Sleurs replied,

What's the difference. . . . Then you never have to here [sic] from me again. Should make you even happier. . . . Here I got a idea. I will fucking block you And than [sic] you won't have to worry about me ever again. Ok. Id.

         On April 23, the following day, Officer Sleurs sent a series of text messages apologizing and asking Plaintiff to forgive him. Id. at pp. 4-6. Plaintiff forgave him, but said she did not want to talk to him. Id. at pp. 6-7. On April 24, 2015, Officer Sleurs texted Plaintiff from his son's phone, Dole Aff. at ΒΆ 7, and stated that he would ...


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