LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT

Hostile Work Environment • Retaliation • Title VII • Gender Discrimination • Assault and Battery

Segarra v. Philadelphia Parking Auth., PICS Case No. 14-0349 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 18, 2014) Rufe, J. (8 pages).

An employee of the Philadelphia Parking Authority had a confrontation with a PPA official, was terminated and sued alleging a hostile work environment, that the official committed assault and battery and that she was fired for complaining about gender discrimination and for exercising her First Amendment right to call the police. Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Title VII retaliation claim was granted and the gender discrimination, hostile work environment, First Amendment retaliation and PHRA claims were dismissed with leave to amend. Defendants’ motion to dismiss the assault and battery claim was denied.

On Aug. 12, 2011, Segarra was at work on the street having a telephone conversation with another PPA employee about parking enforcement strategy when she was approached by an apparently drunk man who accosted her, demanded to know why she was on the phone, yelled at her and grabbed her when she tried to walk away. The drunken man was Wooden, an official of the PPA who outranked Segarra. Wooden’s friends pulled him away from Segarra and he called Segarra’s immediate supervisor who brought Segarra to PPA headquarters where she filled out an incident report and was suspended. After leaving the headquarters, Segarra called the police and reported the altercation with Wooden. She returned to work on August 16, and was called into a meeting with Wooden and others and was told to make another incident report. She did so, was suspended again and fired on Aug. 22, 2011. Segarra sued Wooden and others who were at the Aug. 16, 2011 meeting alleging a hostile work environment for women and that she was fired for complaining about on the job gender discrimination, for exercising her First Amendment rights to call the police and that Wooden committed the common-law torts of assault and battery.

Segarra’s only allegation in her complaint that supported her claim of gender discrimination is that she was talking on the phone with a male PPA employee when confronted by Wooden and the male employee was not fired or suspended. However, she did not allege that the male employee occupied the same position that she did or that there was any basis to assume that talking on the phone would have interfered with his duties. Additionally, she alleged no facts to support the inference of pervasive hostile conduct to change the conditions of her employment. She did allege in opposition to the motion to dismiss that Wooden touched her breast and that the PPA’s drug and alcohol abuse policy protected against retaliation for reporting violations of the policy. These allegations supported Segarra’s gender discrimination claims and she could amend her complaint to include such additional facts.

Segarra’s Title VII retaliation complaint was dismissed because she alleged no specific instances of complaining to anyone at PPA of gender discrimination and while she allegedshe filled out an incident report, that report was not attached to the complaint nor did she allege that it contained a complaint about gender discrimination.

Segarra’s complaint alleged no facts to support her claim of First Amendment rights retaliation but in her opposition to the motion to dismiss she stated that she told one defendant that she was going to call the police and told another defendant that she had done so. Thus, she could amend her complaint to include such additional facts.

In alleging that Wooden approached her with drunken hostility, yelled at her, grabbed her and physically prevented her from leaving, Segarra described the time, place and altercation with sufficient particularity that Wooden must answer to the assault and battery claims.