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Gibbs v. Corinthian, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

February 17, 2015

CAROLYN LOUISE GIBBS, Plaintiff,
v.
CORINTHIAN, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

Plaintiff Carolyn Louise Gibbs, a black female, initiated this action, alleging that her employer Corinthian, Inc. violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against her based on her race and gender. Corinthian filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [27]. Upon consideration of the motion, responses, rules, and authorities, the Court finds as follows:

Facts and Procedural History

Gibbs was employed as a furniture inspector with Corinthian in Booneville, Mississippi for two weeks in 2012. During that time, Gibbs contends that she was forced to endure various incidents of sexual harassment, including comments made by or in the presence of her supervisor Michael Lambert. After a workday in which Gibbs was allegedly subjected to two different offensive conversations with Lambert and another employee, she left work and did not return. Two days later, in response to her absence, Corinthian officially terminated Gibbs.

Shortly after her separation with Corinthian, Gibbs filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). She received her right-to-sue letter and filed this action, alleging race discrimination and various theories of sex-based discrimination. In response to Corinthian's Motion for Summary Judgment [27], Gibbs conceded her claim of race discrimination. Accordingly, the Court addresses Gibbs' allegations that Corinthian discriminated against her because of her sex.

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) when there is no genuine dispute regarding any material fact so that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment is required "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

In determining whether a genuine dispute exists, conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments are not an adequate substitute for specific facts demonstrated by the evidence. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002). Rather, the "party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record... or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the 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)(1). Importantly, when confronted with such conflicting evidence, the court may "not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). After viewing the materials, if "there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts[, ]" the Court must resolve it in favor of the nonmovant. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc).

Discussion and Analysis

Gibbs pursues three separate theories of sex-based discrimination: hostile or abusive working environment, constructive discharge, and general gender discrimination. The Court addresses each in turn.

Hostile or Abusive Working Environment

Title VII extends civil liability to any employer who "fail[s] or refuse[s] to hire or... discharge[s] any individual, or otherwise... discriminate[s] against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's... sex[.]" 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-2(a)(1). The Fifth Circuit has explained that under Title VII, sexual harassment "that takes the form of a tangible employment action, such as... the creation of a hostile or abusive working environment" is prohibited. Lauderdale v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice, 512 F.3d 157, 162 (5th Cir. 2007).

To prove the existence of a hostile or abusive working environment, Gibbs must establish that:

1) she belongs to a protected class; 2) she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment; 3) the harassment was based on sex; 4) the harassment affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment; and 5) the employer knew or should ...

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