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A federal court has dismissed all discrimination claims against a human resources employee in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but not the county itself. The court found that Bucks County human resources receptionist Marie Costello — who refused to let a job applicant complete an application at home on the basis of a county policy — was not subject to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act in her employment capacity. The court, however, did not dismiss all claims against Bucks County, which it said was subject to Title III. Judge Robert F. Kelly of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District ordered the case, Douris v. Bucks County, to be placed in the trial pool. On March 12, 1998, plaintiff James G. Douris came to the human resources office of the Bucks County Department of Human Services to apply for the position of park maintenance supervisor. Douris requested that he be allowed to complete the application at home because he suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. According to the opinion, Costello rejected the request based on a county policy that required job applications to be completed in the office. Douris returned the application to Costello and left the office. He filed an age and disability discrimination claim against Bucks County with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Dec. 9, 1998. Douris returned to the Bucks County human resources office, seeking another job application on May 6, 1999. He suffered from a problem with his knee that limited his ability to walk, turn and use steps. Plaintiff again asked Costello for an application, and Costello again informed Douris of the policy requiring that all applications be completed in the office. Douris took the application, placed it in his briefcase and exited the office. Costello followed him. While Douris was waiting for an elevator, Costello told him that he could not leave the office with the application. When he entered the elevator, Douris pushed Costello into the elevator’s doorframe with his left hand. Costello later received medical treatment for a bruised and swollen arm, and neck and back pain. Following the incident, she filed a complaint against Douris with the Doylestown Borough Police Department. Douris was eventually found guilty of harassment and fined $300 plus court costs. DISCRIMINATION SUIT Douris filed complaints against both the county and Costello, alleging retaliation, abuse of process and malicious prosecution. He also claimed the defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, as well as the state Constitution. Both Costello and Bucks County filed motions for summary judgment. Douris said that Costello had, in violation of the ADA, interfered with his use of public elevators and hallways. But since, as a receptionist, Costello did not own, lease or operate a place of public accommodation herself, she was not subject to Title III of the ADA, the court said. Costello also argued that she did not have the requisite influence or control over the county to be held liable, and the court agreed. The court dismissed Douris’ claims that Costello retaliated against him for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and the PHRC because “the consensus view among district courts in this circuit is that individual liability cannot be imposed under the ADA.” The court also held that Costello was not liable, either individually or in her official capacity, under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, a statute that supplies a remedy for federal law violations committed by people acting under state law. “Ms. Costello’s conduct did not violate any clearly established statutory or constitutional rights that a reasonable person would have known,” Kelly said. The court reasoned that Costello pursued Douris merely in an attempt to enforce the county policy that applications be completed within the office. Her actions were therefore in relation to her job duties, and neither purposefully nor arbitrarily involved any wrongful conduct to deprive Douris of any federal right. Since Douris had directly sued Bucks County under the same statute, Kelly said that the “official capacity” suit against Costello was unnecessary. And Douris also lost on his state constitutional claim. Both Costello and the county established immunity for state law claims pursuant to the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. Since Douris didn’t complain of any of the eight exceptions to immunity under the PSTCA, his claim failed, the court said. And although the “blanket of immunity under Section 8541 is lifted in cases when a governmental employee caused an injury and that ‘act constituted a crime, actual fraud, actual malice or willful misconduct,’” the judge said Costello demonstrated her conduct did not constitute a crime, actual fraud, actual malice or willful misconduct. The court also dismissed the claims of abuse of process and initiating a criminal proceeding with an improper purpose. “There is no cause of action for abuse of process if the claimant, even with bad intentions, merely carries out the [legal] process to its authorized conclusion,” Kelly wrote. The judge also said that Douris could not sustain a claim for malicious prosecution against Costello, since he failed to demonstrate probable cause. But Douris will still get his day in court against Bucks County on a myriad of claims that were denied on summary judgment motions. The court found genuine issues of material fact remained, including the qualifications for the park maintenance supervisor position and interference with the plaintiff’s use of public elevators and hallways under the ADA, retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and the PHRC, age discrimination under the ADEA and violations of Section 1983.

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