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CLINE v. GE CREDIT AUTO LEASE

October 1, 1990

PHYLLIS CLINE, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC CREDIT AUTO LEASE, INC., and JEROME BURD, Individually and as an agent for and on behalf of General Electric Credit Auto Lease, Inc., Defendants


Brian Barnett Duff, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUFF

BRIAN BARNETT DUFF, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 General Electric Credit Auto Lease, Inc. ("GECAL"), and Jerome Burd have moved for summary judgment on Counts 1 and 2 of the Amended complaint of Phyllis Cline, a former employee of GECAL whom Mr. Burd supervised. Ms. Cline's first count is a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), codified at 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. (1982). In her second claim, Ms. Cline contends that the defendants violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (1982). Ms. Cline's third claim is for battery, and is brought under state law. For the reasons stated below, this court grants the defendants' motion as to count 1, but denies it as to count 2.

 Background

 These are the undisputed facts: Ms. Cline began working for GECAL in August 1987. She joined GECAL's Collections Department, and was partly responsible for contacting twenty to thirty persons each day to demand overdue car lease payments. Ms. Cline was aware when she began her job that the Department was an unusually stressful place to work, but took the job nonetheless.

 Ms. Cline's immediate supervisors were Karen Sweeney, Ann Philbin, and Marilyn Sabounghi. They in turn reported to defendant Burd. Ms. Cline got along well with Mr. Burd at first, and would occasionally tease and joke with him. As time passed, however, it became evident to Ms. Cline that Mr. Burd was boorish, and that he contributed to the already tense atmosphere in her department. Mr. Burd yelled at the employees in his department and criticized their work performance. He also rudely commented on his employees' dress and appearance. He teased one female employee about her height and her bust. On another occasion he referred to Sabounghi as a "Jewish Princess," and slapped her on her upper arm several times. He once asked an Afro-American male employee who was dressed for the evening whether he was "going to a minstrel show," and remarked to him, "I didn't know that you could blush." He also did things like monitor the amount of time his employees spent in the office restroom. *fn1"

 In Ms. Cline's eyes, however, Mr. Burd treated her especially badly. Not only did he criticize her dress and appearance, monitor her restroom time, and hit her, but he saved some very cruel remarks for her alone. On one occasion, when Ms. Cline stood to stretch while talking to a delinquent lessee on the phone, Mr. Burd told her to "sit your ass back down." Every now and then he would ask Ms. Cline how she spent her evenings, and openly speculate about her sexual relationship with her husband. What may have bothered Ms. Cline the most, however, was the way that Mr. Burd would tease her about her name. Originally, Mr. Burd started calling Ms. Cline not by her first name, Phyllis, but by the name "Filly." This name caught on in the office; several employees, including some of Ms. Cline's female co-workers, called her "Filly" too.

 Ms. Cline soon tired of the name, and repeatedly told Mr. Burd to stop using it. One day Mr. Burd agreed. He went into the office and announced to the department that everyone should stop calling Ms. Cline "Filly." Instead, Mr. Burd told the department, everyone was to call Ms. Cline "Syphilis, the gift that keeps on giving." From then on Mr. Burd called Ms. Cline "Syphilis." At least one female co-worker used the name too, and it appears in an otherwise friendly note some of Ms. Cline's co-workers sent to her after she took medical leave from GECAL beginning May 17, 1988. Mr. Burd continued to use this name when he would phone Ms. Cline to monitor her progress during this leave.

 Ms. Cline approached the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in early January 1989. She spoke to someone there, and complained of sexual harassment and age discrimination. She did not file a formal charge with the EEOC at that time. Instead, Ms. Cline, Ms. Sabounghi, and one other woman contacted Ms. Cline's present attorneys. After these discussions Ms. Cline returned to the EEOC on March 31, 1989, and filed a formal complaint. That complaint, which Ms. Cline read and signed, contains an "X" in the box for sex discrimination, but no "X" for age discrimination. The particulars of her charge were:

 
I. I began my employment in the Collections Department on August 31, 1987. I was sexually harassed by my superior and I was placed on short-term disability on May 17, 1988.
 
II. I was not given a reason why I was sexually harassed. I was told that I was denied long term disability because I had been with the company less than one year and they felt my problem was a reoccurrence of an old injury.

 Ms. Cline's charge further stated that the last act of discrimination occurred May 17, 1988. Ms. Cline filed suit in this court after receiving a "Right to Sue" letter from the EEOC in May 1989.

 Age Discrimination

 The defendants first argue that this court may not consider Ms. Cline's ADEA claim because she has not complied with the ADEA's charge-filing requirements. Title 29, § 626(d) states: "No civil action may be commenced by an individual under this section until 60 days after a charge alleging unlawful discrimination has been filed with the [EEOC]." The purposes of this requirement are threefold. First, it allows the EEOC to notify the charging party's employer. Second, it provides the EEOC with the opportunity to investigate the charge on its own. Third, it allows the EEOC to use its informal ...


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