United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND DISMISSAL ORDER
N. JOHNSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
civil action proceeds before the court on Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 21). In its Motion,
Defendant argues that there exist no genuine issues of
material fact supporting Plaintiffs claims of hostile work
environment and negligent supervision, and therewith
Defendant deserves judgment as a matter of law pursuant to
the prevailing legal standards governing the claims. The
court finds that Plaintiff suffered sexual harassment, but
the Eleventh Circuit standard prevents this court from
finding that she suffered a hostile work environment. Based
upon the following discussion, the court
GRANTS the motion.
to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he court
shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.RCiv.P.
Rule 56(a). Defendant, as the party seeking summary judgment,
bears the initial responsibility of informing the district
court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those
portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrates the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Clark v.
Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608
(11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)).
"mandates the entry of summary judgment, 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"
Cellotex, 477 U.S. at 322. "In such a
situation, there can be 'no genuine issue as to any
material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof
concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's
case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial."
Id. at 322-23. In addition, a movant may prevail on
summary judgment by submitting evidence
"negating [an] opponent's claim, "
that is, by producing materials disproving an essential
element of a non-movant's claim or defense. Id.
at 323 (emphasis in original).
non-moving party demonstrates a genuine issue of material
fact by producing evidence by which a reasonable fact-finder
could return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg v.
BellSouth Tekcomms., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263
(11th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). The
"court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of
the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150
(2000) (citations omitted). '"Credibility
determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing
of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions,
not those of a judge.'" Id. (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty hobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986)). "Thus, although the court should review the
record as a whole, it must disregard all evidence favorable
to the moving party that the jury is not required to
believe." Reeves, 530 U.S. at 151 (citation
omitted). "That is, the court should give credence to
the evidence favoring the nonmovant as well as that
'evidence supporting the moving party that is
uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that
that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.'"
Id. (citation omitted).
undersigned sets forth the following facts for the summary
judgment determination, drawn from the evidence taken in the
light most favorable to Plaintiff
Deborah Williams began working at Defendant United Launch
Alliance, Inc., (ULA) as an aerospace production technician
in November 2010. As part of her hiring, Williams joined the
Internal Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Union ("IAM"). I AM represents ULA's production
technicians under a collective bargaining agreement that the
union maintains with ULA. IAM also declared to Williams and
her coworkers that they should bring any concerns or problems
related to their employment with ULA to IAM, and IAM would
then voice the concerns to ULA on the workers' behalf.
Williams's initial orientation at ULA, ULA introduced
Williams to the company's anti-harassment and
anti-discrimination policies. ULA's policies state that
any employee who believes she has been harassed by anyone in
the workplace should report the matter to management or Human
Resources. Williams also received periodic refreshers of
these policies, including a session in November 2012, and
understood that she should follow these policies if she
believed she had been harassed in the workplace.
assigned Williams to work in the multi-layer insulation
blanket shop ("blanket shop"), where Williams works
with sewing machines and hand tools. Because ULA designated
the blanket shop as a "clean room", ULA required
Williams, as well as the other employees who worked in the
blanket shop, to wear specific garments to ensure that the
room remained sanitized and contaminant-free. Around August
2011, Brad Hawkins began serving as the blanket shop
the end of 2011, Hawkins began to sexually harass Williams.
The harassment began with sexually evocative facial gestures
at Williams while he squeezed oil bottles and said something
along the lines of "ooh, this is juicy." Although
Williams tried to ignore him, these types of comments
occurred repeatedly. Around the same time, Hawkins told
Williams and a coworker a joke about cows having sex.
Williams tried to deflect and told Hawkins that the joke was
inappropriate. Throughout the end of 2011, Mr. Hawkins
continued to sexually harass Williams and her coworkers with
sexual innuendos and facial gestures, though Williams could
not recall the details of these innuendos.
took two leaves-of-absence in 2012 due to health problems.
Upon her return from her first leave of absence in July 2012,
Hawkins approached Williams from behind as she returned to
her workstation from a break and informed her that he was
doing a "butt block" for her. Williams grew
uncomfortable and asked Hawkins what he meant, and he stated
that he would block her butt so that nobody else could see
it. Williams expressed her discomfort with the statement and
told him to cease the remarks. During this same time period,
Hawkins told Williams that she needed a "sugar
daddy" and a "work husband, " and that he
could be hers. In an attempt to deter him from making further
comments, Williams stated that she did not need one.
she returned to work in October 2012 following her second
leave-of-absence, Hawkins commented to Williams on two
separate occasions that he asked a physician to place an
extra stitch in his spouse's vagina to make it tighter
for him after childbirth. Each time, Williams expressed her
discomfort with Hawkins about those comments. During this
same time period, Hawkins made a comment to Williams about
how he would allegedly not allow her to work in another
department because another employee, Jonathan, was known as a
"hound dog" and he did not want Williams around
Jonathan. Hawkins also frequently discussed Jonathan's
sexual exploits around Williams, who felt increasingly
uncomfortable with these comments and informed Hawkins about
Christmas 2012, Hawkins joked that he remained unsure about
letting Williams complete overtime work in a different
department because the male workers in that area would want
to see her "down on all fours." Williams responded
to the comment, and Hawkins laughed and repeated himself.
the first few months of 2013, Hawkins addressed work quality
issues with the employees in Williams's department. In
April 2013, Williams and her coworkers noticed that Hawkins
performed work on sewing machines that ULA reserved for union
members. Around the same time, Williams and her coworkers
approached an IAM representative to express their concerns
about Hawkins's behavior. (Ex. A 65:6-23, 89:3-22, Ex.
B). On April 30, 2013, two IAM union stewards notified
Hawkins's supervisor, John Heslop, that they needed a
meeting to discuss the concerns regarding Hawkins's
6, 2013, two IAM union stewards met with Heslop and Cindy
Lovell of ULA's human resources department to discuss the
concerns that Williams and her coworkers shared about
Hawkins's behavior. Without providing specific examples,
the stewards notified ULA that Hawkins created a hostile work
environment by uttering sexually explicit remarks that
discomforted Williams and her coworkers.
14, 2013, ULA commenced an investigation into the allegations
that the union stewards brought forth during their meeting.
Lovell served as the case manager for this investigation and
interviewed Williams and five of her product technician
coworkers. ULA ensured that at least one IAM union
representative sat in on every interview. Lovell asked each
individual the same questions regarding Hawkins's
behavior and his treatment of the employees he supervised.
Four of the product technician workers, including Williams,
commented on Hawkins's unethical behavior in the workshop
and his issuance of corrective orders to the technicians when
he found mistakes in their work. Williams, along with two of
her coworkers, told Lovell that Hawkins made sexual comments
to them. The two workers could not corroborate many of
Williams's statements about what Hawkins said to her, but
one of them had overheard Hawkins telling Williams that she
needed a work husband.
interview with Lovell Williams explained her concerns about
Hawkins's untrustworthiness, his sharing of information
about coworkers who were on leave, his working on sewing
machines that ULA reserved for union work, and other
workplace issues. Lovell also asked Williams whether Hawkins
uttered any sexual comments towards her, and she mentioned
three of the instances detailed above: (1) the
"juicy" comment; (2) the "hound dog"
comment; and (3) the vague joke about cows. However, the day
after her interview, Williams sent Lovell an email adding two
additional comments that Hawkins made to her: (1) the
"butt block" comment; and (2) that Hawkins believed
that the company did not need a union. Over the course of the
investigation, Lovell expressed concerns about Hawkins's
trustworthiness and honesty.
18, 2013, an I AM representative emailed Darryl Boykins, a
Human Resources Business Partner at ULA, with concerns about
ULA's lack of action regarding the charges of sexual
harassment against Mr. Hawkins. The following day, Lovell
interviewed Hawkins and he denied the allegations. At the
conclusion of her part in the investigation, Lovell
documented her findings and determined that she could not
find Williams's comments credible. Lovell based her
determination on (1) Williams's interview; (2)
Hawkins's denials, (3) the belief that some of
Hawkins's comments were not sexual; (4) the lack of
witnesses who could corroborate Hawkins's comments; and
(5) the fact that Williams did not directly report the
comments to ULA's human resources department.
turned her final report over to ULA's Employee Corrective
Action Review Team (ECART) for review. ECART consists of a
panel of individuals who review an investigator's
findings and issue recommendations for corrective action.
ECART initially believed that Williams and her coworkers'
complaints regarding Hawkins lacked credibility because (1)
none of the employees that Hawkins supervised reported any of
the alleged comments to Human Resources, which company policy
requires; (2) the union did not lodge the complaints remotely
contemporaneous to the period Hawkins uttered the remarks;
and (3) the union lodged the complaints close to the period
Hawkins criticized the workers' performance.
an ECART member and Lovell's supervisor at the time,
interviewed Hawkins. Boykins eventually found Hawkins's
denials credible and reported this finding to ECART when it
met again. ECART concluded that Williams's claims
remained unsubstantiated; nevertheless, ECART issued an
anti-harassment policy coaching to Hawkins that remained in
his personnel file. Heslop administered this coaching to
Hawkins in July 2013, and Williams testified that Hawkins did
not utter any sexually suggestive comments after that time.
her employment with ULA, Williams received two verbal
coachings for mistakes in her work, yet Williams never
received any pay reduction, suspension, or formal discipline
as a result of these verbal coachings. Moreover, ULA has
never issued any formal or written discipline against
Williams.. Although Williams has remained continuously
employed at ULA without any position change, Williams asserts
that ULA retaliated against her by failing to hire her for
any of the ten jobs that she applied for with ULA and The
Boeing Company, one of ULA's parent companies, from 2011
2013, ULA discerned a potential contamination issue with a
blanket shop product under Hawkins's supervision. Jan
Garber, ULA's Ethics Officer, investigated the issue and
presented her findings to ECART. Her findings documented
Hawkins's dishonesty and numerous policy violations that
stemmed from his actions following the blanket room
contamination. Based on these findings, ECART terminated
Hawkins's employment in January 2014.
the encouragement of the I AM union stewards, Williams filed
a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in September 2013.
On June 26, 2015, the EEOC issued its determination and
concluded that Hawkins sexually harassed Williams, and that
his conduct created a hostile work environment because it was
sufficiently severe and pervasive. The EEOC further concluded
that ULA failed to take reasonable care to correct the
harassment once it obtained corroborating information. The
EEOC issued Williams her right to sue ...