A former Susquehanna County government employee claiming she was constructively discharged from her administrative duties after complaining of sexual harassment can move forward with her hostile work environment claim.
Maggie McNamara’s claims against the county were made under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito Jr. of the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted in part and denied in part the county’s motion to dismiss.
McNamara, formerly the deputy chief clerk to the director of Veterans Affairs, Richard Ely, claimed her boss attempted to kiss and hug her in the workplace. She reported the incidents but claimed she was subject to harassment afterward.
According to Saporito’s opinion, McNamara claimed the county commissioners were unfairly critical of her work, subjected her to public humiliation at meetings, and complained about her interactions with other employees. She also alleged that the commissioners assigned her to work in close proximity with the man who allegedly harassed her.
“At some point, because of the alleged continuing harassment, McNamara felt the necessity to leave her position as deputy chief clerk for a position with the Susquehanna District Attorney’s Office where she suffered a loss in pay,” Saporito said.
She subsequently filed suit against the county, its commissioners, and Ely claiming sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, and gender discrimination.
The defendants argued that McNamara’s complaint should be dismissed, contending that it does not sufficiently establish a claim of sex discrimination or retaliation because McNamara has not alleged an adverse employment action by her employer.
However, Saporito said McNamara met the threshold for pleading a plausible case.
“Here, McNamara has alleged that she left the position of deputy chief clerk because of the constant harassment from the defendant commissioners,” Saporito said. “She further alleged that she suffered a loss in pay when she took the position with the District Attorney’s Office. The pleadings suggest that McNamara was constructively discharged, and accepting those allegations as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, we find that the complaint alleges plausible claims. Of course, this is a matter of proof.”
However, Saporito granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the commissioners and Ely in their individual capacities, reasoning that Title VII does not impose liability on individuals. Additionally, the judge shot down McNamara’s claims for punitive damages, explaining that punitive damages against municipalities are unavailable under Title VII.
McNamara is represented by Gerard M. Karam of Mazzoni, Karam, Petorak & Valvano in Scranton. The county is represented by A. James Hailstone of Kreder Brooks Hailstone, also in Scranton.
“I am pleased that Judge Saporito dismissed the individual defendants and plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages. I am now focused on developing the record through the discovery process,” Hailstone said.
Karam did not respond to a request for comment.