Crawford et al v. George & Lynch Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 9/2/2014. (mdb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
TAMMY L. CRAWFORD,
GEORGE & LYNCH, INC.,
C.A. No. 10-949-GMS-SRF
Pending before the court are Magistrate Judge Fallon's Report and Recommendation, (the
"R and R"), dated December 11, 2013 (D.I. 202), Tammy L. Crawford's ("Crawford")
Objections to the Report and Recommendation (D.I. 207), and George & Lynch, Inc.'s ("G&L")
Objections (D.I. 205). For the reasons discussed, the court will overrule Crawford's objections
and overrule in part G&L's objections, and adopt in part and modify in part the R and R which
recommends that the court: (1) grant-in-part and deny-in-part G&L's motion for summary
judgment (D.I. 156); and (2) deny Crawford's motion for partial summary judgment regarding
the failure to mitigate damages (D.I. 157). 1
THE PARTIES' OBJECTIONS
A. Crawford's Objections
With respect to the December 11, 2013 R and R, Crawford contends that Magistrate
Judge Fallon erred in recommending that the court deny her motion for partial summary
The court adopts the R & R's thorough and comprehensive background section (D.l. 202 at 2-11) in its entirety and, as
the court writes primarily for the parties, will not restate the facts for purposes of this Order.
judgment regarding the failure to mitigate damages. (D.I. 207 at 4.) Specifically, Crawford
argues that she sufficiently set forth that she made efforts to mitigate her damages, and she
showed that she did not withdraw from the job market. (!d.) Further, Crawford asserts that G&L
offered no evidence to refute her efforts to mitigate, nor did G&L offer any evidence that
comparable work was available, or that Crawford's decision to work at CTC was unreasonable.
Crawford also asserts Magistrate Judge Fallon erred in granting G&L's motion for
summary judgment with respect to Crawford's state law claims of promissory estoppel I
detrimental reliance and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
(!d. at 1.)
Crawford directs the court's attention to her motion for partial summary judgment and the
alleged significant drop in CTC business as a result of Bursich taking over as manager. (!d. at 14.)
B. G&L's Objection
G&L contends that Magistrate Judge Fallon erred in recommending that the court deny
its motion for summary judgment as to Crawford's hostile work-environment claim. (D.I. 205 at
5.) Specifically, G&L maintains that Bursich was hot Crawford's supervisor and that G&L has
satisfied its burden to establish its affirmative defense. (!d.)
A. Review of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation
Because the magistrate judge filed her report and recommendation pursuant to Rule
72(b)(l) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the pending motions are dispositive and the
court's review is de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l)(B); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b)(3). The court may
accept, reject, or modify the recommendations of the magistrate judge. FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b )(3).
The court also may receive further evidence or return the matter to the magistrate judge with
instructions for proceedings. !d.
B. Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions,
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issues as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
R. CIV. P. 56( c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,322 (1986).
The moving party bears the burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 n.10 (1986). A fact is
material if it "could affect the outcome of the proceeding." Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177,
181 (3d Cir. 2011 ). There is a genuine issue "if the evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable
jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party." !d. When determining whether a genuine
issue of material facts exists, the district court must view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party and draw inferences in that party's favor. Wishldn v. Potter, 476 F.3d
180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). If the moving party is able to demonstrate an absence of disputed
material facts, the nonmoving party must then "come forward with 'specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial."' Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)).
The mere existence of some evidence in support of the nonmoving party will not be
sufficient for denial of a summary judgment motion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 249 (1986). Rather, the nonmoving party must present enough evidence to enable a jury to
reasonably find for it on that issue. !d. The party opposing summary judgment must present
more than just "mere allegations, general denials, or ... vague statements" to show the existence
of a genuine issue. Quiroga v. Hasbro, Inc., 934 F.2d 497, 500 (3d Cir. 1991). As such, a
nonmoving party must support their assertion that a material fact is in dispute by: "(A) citing to
particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the
motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials"; or "(B) showing that the
materials cited to do not establish absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(l). The
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law if the nonmoving party fails to make a
sufficient showing on an essential element of its case for which it has the burden of proof.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.
After having reviewed the record in this case, the December 11, 2013 R and R, the
parties' submissions, and the applicable law, the court finds that the magistrate judge committed
no factual or legal error in reaching her conclusions except as to Bursich's status as a supervisor
or co-worker. More particularly, the magistrate judge correctly determined that the court should
deny Crawford's motion for partial summary judgment regarding her failure to mitigate damages
(D.I. 157) and grant-in-part and deny-in-part G&L's motion for summary judgment (D.I. 156).
The court will modify the magistrate judge's recommendation as to summary judgment on the
issue ofBursich's status as a co-worker or supervisor.
The magistrate judge correctly determined that denial of Crawford's partial summary
judgment motion was proper. First, the court properly addressed the legal standard regarding an
employee's duty to mitigate his or her damages by diligently searching for substantially
equivalent employment. Second, the court appropriately noted that a genuine issue of material
fact exists as to whether Crawford's actions constituted a withdrawal from the employment
The magistrate judge also appropriately recommended granting summary judgment for
G&L as to Crawford's claims for promissory estoppel I detrimental reliance and breach of the
covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In making her determination, the magistrate judge cited
the complete lack of evidence and Crawford's direct contradictions to assertions of business
decline in support of granting summary judgment. The court agrees with this assessment of the
factual record and finds that no reasonable jury could conclude that the drop in business cited to
by Crawford was prejudicial to CTC when CTC had obtained similar levels of business from
G&L in the period prior to Crawford's employment with G&L.
Finally, the court concludes the magistrate judge erred in deciding there was a disputed
question of material fact for the jury regarding Bursich's status as a supervisor or co-worker in
light ofthe Supreme Court's recent decision in Vance v. Ball State Univ., 133 S. Ct. 2434 (2013). 2
The court finds that a genuine issue of material fact remains as to whether G&L failed to provide
a reasonable avenue for complaint or, alternatively, whether G&L knew or should have known of
the harassment and failed to take prompt remedial action.
2 G&L cites to a letter submitted by Crawford dated July 16, 2013 (D.I. 201 at 2), for its assertion that no
question remains as to Bursich's status as a co-worker rather than a supervisor. (D.I. 205 at 6.) It is unclear if the
magistrate judge considered this supplemental letter in deciding the issue.
The Supreme Court in Vance drew a clear line holding that, "an employer may be vicariously liable for an
employee's unlawful harassment only when the employer has empowered that employee [as supervisor] to take
tangible employment actions against the victim, i.e., to effect a 'significant change in employment status, such as
hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a
significant change in benefits."' 133 S. Ct. at 2443 (quoting Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742,
761(1998)). The evidence relied on by the R and R to deny summary judgment on this issue does not meet the
Vance standard articulated by the Court and no reasonable jury could find that Bursich was empowered to take
tangible employment actions against Crawford. As such, the court will grant G&L's objections to this portion of the
Rand R. The Magistrate Judge did not reach the question of whether G&L met its burden to establish its affirmative
defense based on her finding that a genuine issues of material fact remained as to whether Bursich acted as
Crawford's supervisor or her co-worker. (D.I. 202 at 22.) Upon review of the record, case law, and party briefings
the court finds that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to G&L's affirmative defense and will allow this issue to
proceed to trial.
After reviewing the record in this case, the December 11, 2013 R and R, the parties'
submissions, and the applicable law, the court adopts in part the rationale set forth by Magistrate
Judge Fallon and will overrule Crawford's objections and overrule in part G&L's objections.
Dated: September _2_, 2014
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