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Baker v. L3 Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

June 21, 2019

GEORGE D. BAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
L3 TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          JOHN H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff George D. Baker (“Baker”) brings this action against Defendant L3 Technologies (“L3”) alleging a discriminatory hostile work environment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Doc. 1). Discovery is complete, and L3 has moved for summary judgment (doc. 17). The motion is fully briefed (docs. 18, 19, 21, 22, & 24). For the reasons stated below, L3's motion for summary judgment (doc. 17) is GRANTED.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper “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.” Rule 56 “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.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who is required to “go beyond the pleadings” to establish there is a “genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The Court must construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, (1970); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-moving party's favor). Any factual disputes will be resolved in Plaintiff's favor when sufficient competent evidence supports Plaintiff's version of the disputed facts. See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275, 1276-78 (11th Cir. 2002) (a court is not required to resolve disputes in the non-moving party's favor when that party's version of the events is supported by insufficient evidence). However, “mere conclusions and unsupported factual allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald Mtn. Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 836 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Moreover, “[a] mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).

         II. Summary Judgment Facts

         A. Baker's Employment at L 3

         L3 is a defense contractor that is headquartered in New York, New York, and with approximately 31, 000 employees worldwide. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 4). L3 operates at Fort Rucker in Daleville, Alabama under a twenty-year-contract with General Dynamics to supply field support for high-fidelity flight training simulators for the United States Army. (Id. at ¶5). L3 has a written policy prohibiting harassment and retaliation, which Baker received when hired in January 2005. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶¶ 9-11; doc. 19-2 at 100). The policy expressly requires employees to report any alleged harassment to their supervisor, Human Resources, or the L3 Hotline. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶¶ 9-11). L3 provided sexual harassment training to its employees every year, which Baker admits he received. (Doc. 19-2 at 30 (115:7-116:8)).

         Baker is a white man and approximately sixty years old. (Doc. 19-2 at 3 (8:4-7)). Baker states he is homosexual, and the parties dispute whether L3 management was aware of this fact during his employment. (Doc. 19-3 at 14 (50:11-18); doc. 19-2 at 25 (93:14-21)). Baker began working for L3 in January 2005, as an Electronic Technician on flight training simulators in the RCTD division, initially assembling the simulators in his first three years and providing technical support on the simulators thereafter. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 12; doc. 19-2 at 9 (31:16-20); doc. 19-3 at 5 (15:10-14)). Baker typically worked with Steve Bingham and Jake Sammons from 6:00 AM through 2:30 PM. (Doc. 19-2 at 14 (51:6-21)). A second set of three Electronic Technicians typically worked from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. (Id. (51:22-52:7)). Baker was responsible for preparing eighteen flight training simulators to use in training for the Army's flight school students. (Doc. 19-2 at 4 (51:6-21)). The facility in which L3's Electronic Technicians worked at Fort Rucker is a primarily-male industrial work setting. (Doc. 19-3 at 24 (90:8-13)).

         As an employee, Baker was described as being “mediocre, ” lacking “troubleshooting skills on the electronics, ” and having difficulties doing complex electronics” but was punctual. (Doc. 19-3 at 19-20 (72:10-73:8); doc. 19-4 at 5-6 (14:20-15:6, 18:3-4)). Baker received several disciplinary write-ups during this employment, including a written warning for failing to take off his hat in the building, as strictly required by the military general contractor, and verbal warnings for displaying improper workplace temperament. (Doc. 19-3 at 20 (74:3-17); doc. 19-4 at 6 (18:8-19:21)). Baker admits that everybody, including himself, cussed in the workplace at ¶ 3. (Doc. 19-2 at 26 (100:1-5)). Baker's site manager from 2006-2015, Mark Smith (“Smith”), stated that Baker “could be a bully sometimes” and was also “loud” and “aggressive” (but not threatening) toward his coworkers. (Doc. 19-4 at 9 (30:23-31:12)). Nestor Torres (“Torres”) Baker's site manager from 2015 through the remainder of this employment, testified that during a one-on-one meeting, Baker used “very nasty, derogatory word[s] to describe his peers, MF, those MFs.” (Doc. 19-3 at 20 (75:3-16)).

         The parties dispute whether Baker ever reported any complaints of harassment to Torres or Smith. (Doc. 19-2 at 17, 19 (64:10-65:19, 71:4-11); doc. 19-3 at 18 (65:7-20); doc. 19-4 at 8 (26:11-18)).

         On April 15, 2016, Torres received notice from Army Sergeant First Class Jamil M. Wilson that employees of another contractor at Fort Rucker had reported observing Baker watching pornography and pleasuring himself in the public restroom at the Fort Rucker base. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 13). Baker admits “sometimes [he] would accidently click on a [news] video and it would come up and [his] cell phone would be on full blast” while in the bathroom stall.” (Doc. 19-2 at 20 (76:5-8)). Baker also admits he commonly made loud “grunting” noises due to hemorrhoids when using the restroom, which “could be interpreted as masturbating.” (Id. at 21 (77:4-22)). Torres informed L3's corporate office in New York about the report, and it was passed along from there to the central Human Resources office in Arlington, Texas. (Doc. 19-2 at 19 (71:17-72:16); doc. 19-3 at 22 (81:9-84:18)).

         Rich Magill (“Magill”), then L3's Human Resources Director, headed to Fort Rucker shortly thereafter to conduct an investigation. (Doc. 19-5 at ¶ 3). Through the course of the investigation, five witnesses (one L3 employee and four employees of another contractor) corroborated the report about Baker watching pornography and masturbating in the restroom on multiple occasions. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶14; Doc. 19-5 at ¶ 6). Additionally, Army Lieutenant Colonel Waldrop informed Magill that Baker was no longer permitted in the facility at Fort Rucker where Baker worked on the flight training simulators. (Doc. 19-5 at ¶ 7). Based on the investigation and the directive from the Army, L3 began the process of involuntarily terminating Baker's employment. (Doc. 19-5 at ¶¶ 8-9). Before Baker was terminated, he formally resigned on May 11, 2016. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 17; doc. 19-2 at 21 (78:12-20); doc. 19-5 at ¶ 11).

         B. Baker's Allegations of Harassment ...


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