As the sole remaining plaintiff in a suit alleging widespread workplace harassment gears up for trial, a federal judge restricted the amount of evidence the plaintiff is allowed to present regarding the defendant’s relationships with co-workers.
Michael Weidman’s two earlier workplace romances are too far removed, having happened over a decade ago, to be relevant, said U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. However, he held that testimony from the ex-husband of the company’s executive director, Anne Vogt, about his wife’s affair with Weidman and the use of her child’s cellphone in tracing her to Weidman’s home would be relevant and admissible.
"This evidence is probative of the existence of the affair between Weidman and Ms. Vogt, which is relevant to [Alice] Mascarini’s claims," Conner said in Mascarini v. Quality Employment Services & Training (a.k.a. Quest). "Mr. Vogt’s testimony is also probative of a sexual relationship between Weidman and Ms. Vogt during their employment at Quest, which Weidman denies."
Alice Mascarini had initially been one of five former Quest employees bringing the suit, but over the course of the last year, the other four plaintiffs have settled their claims.
Between 2007 and 2009, Mascarini was a "vocational instructor" at Quest, which is described in court filings as a vocational rehabilitation facility that offers training at "sheltered workshops." Weidman was the maintenance supervisor.
Mascarini filed the suit in 2010 with nine causes of action stemming from the alleged favoritism given to Weidman due to his relationship with Vogt that excused his alleged harassment of other employees.
Mascarini argued that he had used the words "bitch" and "whore" toward her.
She wanted to introduce his two prior workplace relationships, one from the mid-1990s and one from 2000, in order to establish his propensity for workplace romance, according to the opinion. However, Conner held that they happened too long ago to be considered directly relevant and that they could unfairly prejudice the jury.
"The lack of temporal proximity of these relationships, as well as the danger that such evidence will prejudice the jury against Weidman, renders this evidence irrelevant and overly prejudicial," Conner said.
Mascarini had already agreed to limit her evidence related to Vogt’s minor child to the facts related to the child’s cellphone, which led Vogt’s ex-husband, through a child-locating program on the cellphone, to find his then-wife at Weidman’s home while Vogt was his supervisor at Quest.
The judge allowed Vogt’s former husband’s testimony to be heard at trial.
Nina Shapiro of the Law Office of Nina B. Shapiro in Lancaster, Pa., declined to comment on the case, citing the schedule for trial. She also declined to reveal the terms of the earlier settlements.
Neither Joseph Santarone Jr. of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in King of Prussia, Pa., who represented Quest, nor Jeffrey Adler of Burns White in Conshohocken, Pa., who represented Weidman, could be reached for comment.
(Copies of the seven-page opinion in Mascarini v. Quality Employment Services & Training (a.k.a. Quest), PICS No. 13-0377, are available from The Legal Intelligencer. Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 800-276-PICS to order or for information.) •