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Young v. Blauer Manufacturing Co., Inc.

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

November 20, 2018

ANGELIA YOUNG PLAINTIFF
v.
BLAUER MANUFACTURING CO., INC. DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         The Court has before it Defendant Blauer Manufacturing Company's motion for summary judgment [63]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds the motion should be denied.

         Background

         Plaintiff Angelia Young, through her employment with EMI Staffing, Inc.[1], a staffing company, began working at Defendant Blauer in August 2016.[2] She alleges that in September and October of 2016, a coworker named Perry[3] sexually harassed her by making vulgar sexual remarks to her and by forcibly touching breasts and vagina.

         Young reported the harassment to her supervisors at Blauer. She first met with human resources manager Carrie Martin and supervisor, O'Dell Miller. She later met with Martin, Miller, and Blauer vice president Elvest Cook. In both of these meetings, Young reported that Perry made sexually harassing statements to her and physically grabbed her. It is disputed whether, during these meetings, Young told her superiors that she did not know Perry outside of work and that other employees witnessed Perry harassing her.

         Cook and Martin interviewed Perry and other co-workers in the factory. Perry admitted during these interviews that he had made sexual comments toward Young but contended that they were consensual. He denied ever touching Young. Perry also informed Cook and Martin that he had previously given Young a ride home after work one day and that she had given him her phone number. He stated that he and Young had previously exchanged text messages. He also provided screenshot of a text exchange between him and Young where Perry asked Young for pictures while she was getting dressed for work. Young responded by asking for pictures from Perry.

         After conducting these interviews, Cook claims that he believed Young misled him about the nature of her and Perry's relationship. Blauer alleges that Young affirmatively told management that she did not have any sort of relationship with Perry and did not know him outside of work.[4] Blauer also contends that Young told the managers that several other co-workers had witnessed the harassment, although Young stated that she never said anyone witnessed the touching. Cook ultimately decided to terminate her from Blauer.

         Young filed a charge of discrimination against Blauer, claiming that Blauer terminated her in retaliation for reporting Perry's sexual harassment. Young received a notice of right to sue and filed this action, asserting a violation of Title VII.[5] Blauer moved for summary judgment, Young responded, and the matter is now ripe for review.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing 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." Id. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Id. "An issue of fact is material only if 'its resolution could affect the outcome of the action'." Manning v. Chevron Chem. Co., LLC, 332 F.3d 874, 877 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting Wyatt v. Hunt Plywood Co., 297 F.3d 405, 408 (5th Cir. 2002)).

         The burden then shifts to the nonmovant to "go beyond the pleadings and by ... affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (internal quotation marks omitted.); Littlefield v. Forney Indep. Sch Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001); Willis v. Roche Biomedical Labs., Inc., 61 F.3d 313, 315 (5th Cir. 1995). The Court "resolve[s] factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only where there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Antoine v. First Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005)). "[T]he nonmoving party 'cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence.'" Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Turner v. Baylor Richardson Medical Center, 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007)).

         Analysis

         "The McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework applies to Title VII claims brought under a pretext theory." Giddens v. Cmty. Educ. Centers, Inc., 540 Fed.Appx. 381, 389 (5th Cir. 2013) (citing Septimus v. Univ. of Houston, 399 F.3d 601, 608 (5th Cir. 2005)). The employee must first "produce evidence of a prima facie case of retaliation." LeMaire v. State of Louisiana, 480 F.3d 383, 388 (5th Cir. 2007). Then, "the burden shifts to the employer to state a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for its decision." Baker v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 430 F.3d 750, 754-55 (5th Cir. 2005) (internal quotations omitted). If the employer states such a reason, "'any presumption of retaliation drops from the case' and the burden shifts back to the employee to show that the 'stated reason is actually a pretext for retaliation.'" Id. at 755 (quoting Septimus, 399 F.3d at 610-11).

         Blauer first argues that Young cannot establish a prima facie case of retaliation. To establish a prima facie case of retaliation Young must show that: (1) she engaged in an activity protected by Title VII; (2) she was subjected to an adverse employment action; and (3) a causal link exists between the protected activity and the adverse action. LeMaire 480 F.3d at 388. It is clear that Young engaged in a protected activity by reporting the sexual harassment and that she suffered an adverse employment action when she was terminated. Blauer argues that ...


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