Appeals court upholds dismissal of ex-Bayonne employee’s federal hostile work suit


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the dismissal of a former Bayonne employee’s federal hostile work environment suit yesterday.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Stacie Percella, a former deputy registrar for the Bayonne Health Department who worked for the city for 15 years, alleged that one of her prior bosses and colleagues subjected her to a hostile work environment and sexual harassment.

She alleged that Richard Censullo, a former colleague, had used sexually suggestive language to her and that Joe Waks, her ex-boss, had habitually used profane language in her presence, once threw a pencil at her, and had posted a sexually suggestive
and misogynistic kitchen magnet near her workspace.

“On August 5, 2019, Percella emailed seventy requests for admissions to the Appellees. The Appellees did not respond to the requests. After discovery concluded, Appellees moved for summary judgment on all claims. District Court rejected Percella’s argument that Appellees’ failure to respond to her requests for admissions and their alleged failure to move to withdraw or amend the (constructive) admissions precluded entry of summary judgment in their favor,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns.

“Instead, the District Court deemed the admissions withdrawn and granted summary
judgment to Appellees on all counts except the state-law hostile work environment claim.
The parties cross-moved for reconsideration, and the District Court, after a reexamination
of the factual record underlying the hostile work environment claim, entered summary
judgment for Appellees on this claim as well. We will affirm.”

Additionally, the appeals court recognized that the appellees did not deny that they never responded to Percella’s requests for admissions and never filed a formal motion to withdraw or amend the resulting admissions.

While they also held “that a district court errs when it withdraws admissions without any
prompting by the parties … it does not specify the precise form a motion to withdraw or amend must take.”

“Under the circumstances, we discern no error in the District Court’s decision to treat the letter brief requesting that the admissions be withdrawn as a ‘motion’ that could trigger a withdrawal analysis under Rule 36(b), and likewise no error in its finding that the requirements of that rule were met here.”

The case was argued on May 25th before U.S. District Judges Andrew E. Krause, Peter J. Phipps, and Stearns.

She still has pending litigation against the current administration, alleging that Mayor Jimmy Davis abused his office by offering to settle the aforementioned case in exchange for a sexual relationship, as well as “sexting” her while she was still an employee.

A judge ruled in March that Davis and other city officials must give depositions and currently has a trial date of January 3rd, 2023 after two postponements, according to public records.

Percella told HCV that she will appeal the federal ruling, adding “the truth never changes, but Jimmy’s lies always do.”

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