United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CARMEN L. RIVERA, Plaintiff,
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, POSTMASTER GENERAL, Defendant.
RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
L. Rivera (“Plaintiff”) filed this lawsuit
against the Postmaster General of the United States Postal
Service Megan J. Brennan (“Defendant”) under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title
VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq.
Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 1-4, ECF No. 20. Ms. Rivera
alleges that, on account of her gender, she has
“suffered a hostile work environment, disparate
treatment, and retaliation as a result of her opposing and
reporting sexual harassment and discrimination” in the
workplace. Id. ¶ 34.
now moves for summary judgment, and argues that Ms.
Rivera's claims of sexual harassment, hostile work
environment, and retaliation must be dismissed as a matter of
law. ECF No. 27.
following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Rivera, a Supervisor of Customer Services at the United
States Post Office in Bridgeport, Connecticut, since August
2014, is currently assigned to the Post Office in
Wallingford, Connecticut. Def.'s SMF ¶ 1-2. At her
request, she has gone from Bridgeport to the Post Office in
Stratford (April 2015) and then North Haven (July-October
2015). Id. Since requesting to be transferred from
North Haven, Ms. Rivera has been working at Wallingford
location since November 2015. Id. Derek Hudson, a
Manager of Customer Service for USPS, supervised Ms. Rivera
at the Bridgeport Office. Def.'s SMF ¶ 3. Gary
Thompson, the Postmaster for the Bridgeport Post Office,
supervised Mr. Hudson. Id. ¶ 4.
The January 24, 2015, Meeting
January 24, 2015, Mr. Hudson sat at his desk in his office
eating his lunch. Id. ¶ 5. While he ate, Mr.
Thompson had been with him in his office. Id. When
Mr. Thompson left the office, Ms. Rivera entered.
Id. ¶ 7. She wanted to meet with Mr. Hudson
regarding a postal carrier who reported to Ms. Rivera.
Id. ¶ 8. While they were meeting, Mr. Hudson
stood up from behind his desk to retrieve a bottle of water
from a nearby refrigerator, and Ms. Rivera saw that Mr.
Hudson's belt was “open.” Rivera Dep. at
69:1-7, Def.'s SMF, Ex., ECF No.27-3. When he stood up
his pants did not fall down, Def.'s SMF ¶ 11, but
Ms. Rivera observed that “[h]is button was open because
. . . the belt was pushing it like that.” Rivera Dep.
at 69:9-11. She could see some “ruffling of his
shirt” and that “his zipper [was] slightly
open.” Id. at 69:11-13. She could not see Mr.
Hudson's underwear or anything beneath them. Def.'s
SMF ¶ 12. After averting her eyes, Ms. Rivera claims
that she heard “the jingling of his belt, ” and
assumed he was “correcting himself.” Rivera Dep.
Rivera testified that Mr. Hudson apologized to her and stated
“I just finished eating and, you know, the belt was
bothering me.” Rivera Dep. at 69:19-21. Ms. Rivera
compared Mr. Hudson's “excuse me” to “a
man coming out of the bathroom with his zipper down. You
know, [an] honest mistake.” Id. 84:23-85:1.
The two continued to discuss work matters. Id. at
about ten minutes, Ms. Rivera saw: “[Mr. Hudson] lift[
] his leg up, his buttocks or whatever, his butt, and just
pass[ ] gas, loud, and obnoxious.” Id. at
70:7-10. “[S]hocked, disgusted, ” and
“embarrassed, ” Ms. Rivera said to him,
“Oh, my god. I don't believe you just did
that.” Id. at 70:11-13. Mr. Hudson responded,
“Ah, my grandmother said, ‘Better out than
in.'” Id. 70:17-18. Again, the two resumed
discussing work matters. Id. 70:24-25.
thereafter, another supervisor of customer service, Marcia
Perkins, joined the meeting with Ms. Rivera and Mr. Hudson.
Def.'s SMF ¶ 16. Mr. Hudson again stood up,
revealing that his belt and pants remained
“open.” Rivera Dep. at 74:20. Speaking to Ms.
Perkins, Mr. Hudson said “it's not what you think,
” laughed, and “fix[ed] himself up.”
Id. at 74:25-75:2. Although Ms. Perkins and Mr.
Hudson continued talking, Ms. Rivera excused herself and left
the room. Id. at 75:5-8. Ms. Rivera was
“angry, ” “embarrassed, ”
Id. at 75:25- 75:1, and “shocked, ”
id. at 239:20. Ms. Rivera thought to herself:
“What's [Ms. Perkins] going to think?”
Id. at 76:2-3; accord 88:13 (“What is
she going to think was going on . . . ?”). Ms. Rivera
“never” spoke to Ms. Perkins about the incident.
Id. at 88:19-20. Ms. Rivera did discuss the incident
with her boyfriend Id. at 94:16-95:3.
Ms. Rivera acknowledged feeling embarrassed about the
incident, she also acknowledged that, while alone with Mr.
Hudson that day, he made no sexual advances or physical
contact with Ms. Rivera. Id. at 87:18-88:2. Although
Ms. Rivera testified that it was “[v]ery
possible” that she described the incident as
“sexual” when recounting the incident to her
boyfriend, she further testified that “[she] didn't
know how to describe what [she] went through.”
Id. at 95:17-20.
The January 29, 2015, Meeting
January 29, 2015, Ms. Rivera met with Mr. Hudson to discuss
the January 24th incident. Id. at 101:3-102:12. She
informed him that she “didn't appreciate”
what had happened, and that he had acted “very
unprofessional.” Id. at 103:3-6. Mr. Hudson
asked a “barrage” of questions in what felt to
Ms. Rivera like an “interrogat[ion].”
Id. at 103:20-24. Ms. Rivera declined Mr.
Hudson's requests to follow up with the Human Resources
Department (“HR”). Def.'s SMF ¶ 26.
The February 20, 2015, Meeting
February 20, 2015, Mr. Hudson convened a meeting with Mr.
Rivera, her National Association of Postal Supervisors
(“NAPS”) Representative Jeanette Sherrod, and
himself. Def.'s SMF ¶ 28. NAPS representatives,
according to Ms. Rivera, are “called when there's a
problem with management and a supervisor.” Rivera Dep.
Hudson called the meeting to discuss Ms. Rivera's overall
work performance, including her failure to provide a daily
Actual to Projections Report (“APR”),
id., which sets out the daily projected hours of
work for each employee vis-à-vis the daily hours
actually worked. Hudson Dep. at 49:14-50:2. Although she had
been trained on generating APRs, Def.'s SMF ¶ 36,
and she acknowledged that the report had been assigned to
other managers, Rivera Dep. at 137:1-25, Ms. Rivera explained
that she had “got a lot of stuff . . . to do, ”
and does not have the appropriate program to generate the
report. Id. at 134:7-9. According to Ms. Rivera, he
replied: “I don't care. You have to make time. You
have to make time to get this report to me. I want it here
every day.” Id. at 134:12-14. According to Ms.
Rivera, Mr. Hudson threatened to write her up if she did not
get him the report. Id. at 136:8-10. Mr. Hudson, for
his part, denies that he ever threatened to or actually
disciplined Ms. Rivera. Hudson Dep. at 47:15-48:13. It was
also her understanding that this meeting was a
pre-disciplinary interview (“PDI”). Rivera Dep.
at 149:1- 2. After the meeting, Ms. Rivera provided the
report to Mr. Hudson on a daily basis. Def.'s SMF ¶
Rivera testified that Mr. Hudson had been a strict manager,
as a general matter, who was “big on PDIs, ”
“big on discipline, ” and “big on
grievances.” Id. ¶ 37. But she believed
that his threat to discipline her was “coming because
[she] confronted him and he was not happy about that.”
Rivera Dep. at 149:14-16. She felt that Mr. Hudson wanted to
discipline her for “trivial stuff.” Id.
The February 23, 2015, Meeting
February 23, 2015, Ms. Rivera first reported the January 24th
incident to Mr. Thompson and Ms. Sherrod. Def.'s SMF
¶ 38. By that afternoon, a meeting was convened among
Mr. Hudson, Mr. Thompson, Ms. Sherrod, and Ms. Rivera.
Id. ¶ 40. At the meeting, as Ms. Rivera
described it, Mr. Hudson “blew up” and began
screaming and yelling. Rivera Dep. at 154:22-24. Ms. Rivera
explained to him that she did not feel
“comfortable” and that he “crossed the
line” in threatening to write her up. Id. at
Rivera then informed Mr. Thompson that that she could no long
work with Mr. Hudson. Pl.'s SMF ¶ B.12. She further
explained to Mr. Thompson: “I don't think I can
work here anymore. Somebody's got to go. . . . I
don't think that the professional relationship we had
before will ever be the same.” Rivera Dep. at
whether Mr. Hudson discriminated against Ms. Rivera because
she was a woman, she testified: “Well, yeah. I mean,
because I was a woman, I felt extremely offended and-with
everything he did with the pants and everything, that was
horrible. Id. at 176:10-15. According to Ms. Rivera,
Mr. Hudson did not treat female employees any differently
than male employees, Def.'s SMF ¶ 43; she observed:
“He was mean to everybody.” Rivera Dep. at
two days after February 23, 2015, meeting, Ms. Rivera wrote
an email to the Human Resources Manager. Pl.'s SMF ¶
13. In it, she reported Mr. Hudson's conduct during the
January 24, 2016, meeting and thereafter. Id. Later
that day, a representative from Human Resources followed up
with Ms. Rivera regarding her email. Human Resources decided
to conduct an internal investigation, known as a “Pub
552.” Id. ¶ 14. Ms. Rivera informed the
investigators from Human Resources that she felt that Mr.
Hudson was retaliating against her because she had confronted
him about how his behavior made her feel. Id. ¶
Hudson kept a second desk on the workroom floor of the post
office, which was located at the opposite end of the building
on a lower level than his office, near a printer, which also
was near Ms. Rivera's desk. Def.'s SMF ¶ 41. Ms.
Rivera claims that Mr. Hudson had “never” used
the printer before the Human Resources investigation and had
a working printer in his office. Rivera Dep. at
177:17-187:22. She described looking up: “[T]here he
is. He's a tall man and I'm sitting down. At the
printer. No blinking, no nothing. . . . It was the worst
face. It had me running every time.” Id. at
Rivera claims she reported Mr. Hudson's use of the
printer to Mr. Thompson. Pl.'s SMF ¶ B.19. She
reported that she felt intimidated and that “[Mr.
Hudson] was doing that on purpose . . . retaliating against
me and making me run like a mouse.” Rivera Dep. at
182:7-11. Mr. Thompson allegedly responded to Ms. Rivera that
Mr. Hudson, as a manager, was able to use any printer he
would like to use. Rivera Dep. at 182:5-6.
The April 9, 2015, Daily Teleconference
April 9, 2015, Mr. Hudson requested that all three
supervisors, including Ms. Rivera, be prepared to participate
in the daily teleconference with Phil Gioia, the Post Office
Operations Manager. Def.'s SMF ¶ 42. Ms. Rivera
testified that she had previously never been involved in
preparing reports for the daily telephone conference. Rivera
Dep. at 199:4-5. With another male colleague, Ms. Rivera
joined the conference by telephone. Id. at
199:12-18. Mr. Hudson and Dave Carrasquillo, another
employee, joined the call from another location. Id.
at 199:12- 200:13. On the call, Mr. Hudson allegedly stated
that Ms. Rivera and another male employee, neither of whom
had been on the call before, id. at 199:19-22, were
going to answer the remainder of the questions on the call,
id. at 200:16-18.
she did not have the information she needed, Ms. Rivera felt
like a “buffoon.” Id. at 200:23. Ms.
Rivera testified that Mr. Carrasquillo later informed her
that Mr. Hudson had instructed Mr. Carrasquillo to “be
quiet” while on the call. Id. at 201:19.
Apparently, it was Ms. Rivera's understanding that it was
Carrasquillo who had the “papers” necessary to
answer questions on the call. Id. at 201:12-21.
the telephone conference, Mr. Thompson convened a meeting
with Ms. Rivera and Mr. Hudson. Pl.'s SMF ¶ B.29.
Ms. Rivera testified that, in this meeting, she informed Mr.
Thompson that she could not work in the office any longer.
Id. at 206:13-24. Ms. Rivera claims that she was