Jones v. Pennsylvania State Police
Date of Verdict: Dec, 21, 2017.
Court and Case No.: U.S. Dist. Court, E.D. Pennsylvania.
Judge: Wendy Beetlestone.
Type of Action: Civil Rights, Title VII.
Injuries: Mental and emotional distress.
Plaintiffs Counsel: Brian M. Puricelli, Law Offices of Brian M. Puricelli, Newtown.
Defense Counsel: Megan K. Kampf, Office of Attorney General, Philadelphia.
In March 2013, plaintiff Rachel Jones, in her early 20s, began working as a trooper for the Pennsylvania State Police, in Trevose. In June, she and trooper Craig Acord started dating. They ended their relationship a year later.
Jones asserted that, a month after their breakup, Acord began sending her multiple text messages asking if they could resume dating and if they could meet over dinner. Acord allegedly pursued her by sending her gifts and flowers, from July 2014 to February 2015. This prompted Jones to notify a corporal about Acord’s conduct.
In May 2015, Acord allegedly approached Jones in the patrol room and kissed her on the neck without her permission. In June, Acord allegedly took a picture of himself next to Jones when her back was toward the camera. This prompted her to again tell a corporal of the situation, and the corporal informed Sergeant Mike Tinneny, who met with Jones that day.
She told him about Acord’s kiss in the patrol room and his inappropriate picture. After the conversation, Tinneny met with Acord, told him to have no contact with her, and sent him home.
A few days later, Acord met with Tinneny, a lieutenant, and a captain. During this meeting, the supervisors made a notation on Acord’s record and advised him to cease contact with Jones unless it was necessary to complete a job assignment. Acord’s failure to abide by the restriction could result in disciplinary actions, including termination. Acord signed the notation. Jones and Acord’s work schedules were then changed so the two would not have contact.
Jones asserted that, despite the measures taken against Acord, he allegedly continued to communicate with her through the police email system and continued to show up at her barracks. In November 2015, Jones filed another complaint to Tinneny when she discovered that Acord had been sitting in a patrol car in a 7-11 store parking lot located a half-mile from her home. The parking lot was not in a zone patrolled by the state troopers. An investigation was conducted, and Acord was transferred to another barracks. In December, Jones filed for a protection from abuse order which resulted in Acord’s termination; he was later reinstated through a collective bargaining agreement.
Jones sued the state police, Tinneny, and Acord, alleging a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 Act.
Jones settled with Acord for an undisclosed amount, prior to trial.
Jones’ counsel argued that the state police and Tinneny created a hostile work environment by failing to take prompt and adequate remedial action upon learning that Jones was sexually harassed by Acord.
The state police maintained that Jones’ allegations against Acord had been properly addressed once Tinneny and others learned about the incidents, and that Jones should have immediately contacted her supervisors of Acord’s actions, instead of waiting.
Jones, who continues to work as a trooper in Philadelphia, testified how the incidents with Acord were traumatic and interfered with her professional and personal life. She asserted that she would use sick days and come into work early in order to avoid Accord. Jones sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.
The jury found that the Pennsylvania State Police created a hostile work environment. Jones was determined to receive $250,000.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs counsel. Additional information was gleaned from court documents. Defendants’ counsel did not respond to calls for comment.
—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication