Bogaski v. County of Allegheny

Defense Verdict

Date of Verdict: Nov. 20.

Court and Case No.: U.S. District Court, W.D., Pa.  No. 2:15-cv-00487-LPL

Judge: Lisa Pupo Lenihan.

Type of Action: Discrimination.

Injuries: Mental/psychological-emotional distress

Plaintiffs Counsel: Devin C. O’Leary, Stockey & Kelly, Pittsburgh; Lyle J. Dresbold, Shrager Defense Attorneys, Pittsburgh.

Defense Counsel:  Jake S. Lifson, Allegheny County Law Department, Pittsburgh. Virginia Spencer Scott, Allegheny County Law Department, Pittsburgh.

Comment:

In 2013, plaintiff Justina Bogaski began working as a laborer for the North Park facility of Allegheny County’s Public Works Department, in Pittsburgh.

Bogaski asserted that, in March, she began experiencing harassment by foreman Tom Long and by others. According to Bogaski, who was the only female staffer in the department, Long slapped her buttocks, and she was subjected to sexually inappropriate and offensive comments by other male staffers. When she complained, she was allegedly met with bullying, verbal abuse, and retaliation. This included vandalism to her property, including tearing apart her boots and filling them with dirt and bugs; spraying her vehicle with phlegm; blowing dirt and debris into her open car windows; name-calling; and spreading unfounded rumors about intimate relations with co-workers.

According to Bogaski, in summer 2014, the obscene comments and rumors continued, despite an investigation by human resources. Long and other employees were interviewed, but disciplinary action was not taken, and the investigation was closed in September.

Bogaski was later reassigned to a different section of the park with allegedly reduced work conditions and benefits, and Long was reassigned to another area.

In April 2015, Bogaski was transferred back to the North Park facility, and the alleged harassment worsened. In response to emotional and physical distress, she requested unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. On April 12, she tendered her resignation.

Bogaski sued Allegheny County, alleging claims of gender discrimination and workplace harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 Act.

At trial, Bogaski recounted the alleged incidents of harassment during her tenure with the Public Works Department. Her counsel argued that, during the hiring process, Bogaski was warned of likely sexually explicit and offensive speech, but she was provided no guidance for reporting or redress of sexual harassment.

Allegheny County maintained that Bogaski did not suffer any gender-based harassment. The county argued that the Public Works Department had a policy that prohibited discrimination which it strictly enforced. A thorough investigation into Bogaski’s allegations was conducted, and it was determined that no such harassment by Long or others had been committed. The county further asserted that Bogaski was not constructively discharged, and in fact had walked off the job.

Bogaski alleged that she suffered embarrassment and humiliation from the incidents during her tenure with the county. She sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

The jury found that Bogaski was not subjected to harassment by Long or others at North Park that was motivated by her gender.

This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel and on court documents. Plaintiffs counsel did not respond to calls for comment.

—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication.