United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
employment discrimination case, Plaintiff Judy Young alleges
that a supervisor working for her employer, Defendant
AlaTrade Foods, LLC, sexually harassed her over the course of
several months. According to Ms. Young, AlaTrade let the
sexual harassment continue until the company transferred her
to a position that she physically could not perform because
of her pregnancy and vertigo and then terminated or
constructively discharged her.
Young brings eight claims against AlaTrade arising out of the
alleged harassment and termination or constructive discharge.
She brings five employment discrimination claims under Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e,
et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981: (1) hostile work
environment based on sexual harassment; (2) retaliation for
complaining about sexual harassment; (3) discrimination on
the basis of sex; (4) discrimination on the basis of
pregnancy; and (5) discrimination on the basis of race. And
she brings three tort claims under Alabama law: (1) invasion
of privacy; (2) assault and battery; and (3) negligent and/or
wanton hiring, supervision, training, and/or retention.
(See Doc. 17 at 7- 14).
has moved for summary judgment on all of Ms. Young's
claims. (Doc. 28). According to AlaTrade, Ms. Young quit her
job so she cannot show that the company terminated or
constructively discharged her for being African-American,
female, and/or pregnant, or in retaliation for complaining
about sexual harassment. AlaTrade also contends that no
evidence supports Ms. Young's allegations of a hostile
work environment, invasion of privacy, assault and battery,
and negligent hiring, supervision, training, and/or
retention, and that no basis exists to hold the company
liable for those claims.
further explained below, the court will deny summary judgment
on Ms. Young's hostile work environment claim and state
law tort claims: genuine disputes of material fact exist as
to each of those claims because evidence shows that Ms. Young
suffered sufficiently offensive harassment and reported such
to AlaTrade. But the court will grant summary judgment for
AlaTrade on Ms. Young's claims for retaliation and
discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and pregnancy: no
evidence supports the inference that Ms. Young suffered an
adverse employment action under Title VII or § 1981 as
required to state any of those claims.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court can resolve a dispositive issue on summary judgment
only when the moving party establishes two essential
elements: (1) no genuine disputes of material fact exist;
and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
the first element of the moving party's summary judgment
burden, “‘[g]enuine disputes [of material fact]
are those in which the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the
non-movant.'” Evans v. Books-A-Million,
762 F.3d 1288, 1294 (11th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added)
(quoting Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. of Educ., 93
F.3d 739, 742 (11th Cir. 1996)). And when considering whether
any genuine disputes of material fact exist, the court must
view the evidence in the record in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party and draw reasonable inferences in
favor of the non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool
Supply, Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015).
non-moving party's self-serving sworn testimony can
create genuine issues of fact. See United States v.
Stein, 881 F.3d 853, 857 (11th Cir. 2018) (“A
litigant's self-serving statements based on personal
knowledge or observation can defeat summary
judgment.”); Feliciano v. City of Miami Beach,
707 F.3d 1244, 1253 (11th Cir. 2013) (“To be sure,
Feliciano's sworn statements are self-serving, but that
alone does not permit us to disregard them at the summary
judgment stage.”). But only factual
allegations in sworn testimony based on personal knowledge
can defeat summary judgment; conclusory allegations
cannot. See Stein, 881 F.3d at 857 (citing Lujan
v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888
(1990)). And even if the court doubts the veracity of
self-serving testimony, the court cannot make credibility
determinations at the summary judgment stage.
Feliciano, 707 F.3d at 1252 (citing Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).
with the summary judgment standard, the court will present
the facts of this case in the light most favorable to Ms.
Young. The court draws most of the facts from Ms. Young's
sworn testimony at her deposition. AlaTrade challenges most
of Ms. Young's testimony for lack of documentary support,
and the person who Ms. Young alleges sexually harassed her
“emphatically den[ies]” each of Ms. Young's
accusations against him. (See Doc. 28-17 at
¶¶ 6, 28). But the court cannot weigh evidence or
make credibility determinations at the summary judgment
stage. And the court notes that these facts may not be the
facts presented at trial.
Young began working at AlaTrade's chicken processing
facility in Albertville, Alabama in August 2016. At first,
she worked full time on the production line separating
chicken. Then, about a month after she started working at
AlaTrade, she requested to work part time three days a week
so she could devote more time to her son and her schooling.
AlaTrade granted her request and transferred her to the cube
table where she graded whole chicken breasts three days a
week. Soon after, AlaTrade transferred her to the box room
where she assembled boxes to hold chicken. In the box room,
she was sometimes required to climb ladders to pick boxes off
the top of six-foot-tall stacks.
January 2017, Ms. Young discovered that she was pregnant with
twins. She asked the box room supervisor, Shane Craig, for
the pregnancy-related accommodation of not having to climb
ladders to retrieve boxes. Ms. Young testified that Mr. Craig
never acted on her request. (See Doc. 28-9 at 40).
According to Ms. Young, the lead supervisor in the box room,
Sheila, told Ms. Young that she “just [could not] be
accommodating people in the box room like that all [sic]
because when somebody get [sic] pregnant.”
Young testified that the supervisor for the chicken deboning
line, Jose Corona, began visiting Ms. Young in the box room.
Though Mr. Corona was not a supervisor of the box room, Mr.
Craig testified that Mr. Corona had supervisory authority
over Ms. Young because “every supervisor has authority
over every employee in the building.” (Doc. 28-2 at
to Ms. Young, Mr. Corona regularly struck up casual
conversation with her, but, over time, his statements grew
more inappropriate and ultimately turned sexually explicit
and offensive. Ms. Young testified that he first told her,
“I like you.” (Doc. 28-9 at 42). Ms. Young asked
what he meant and Mr. Corona said, “oh, come on. You
know what I'm trying to tell you. I like you.”
(Id.). Ms. Young told him that she was married.
Young testified that Mr. Corona twice tried to convince her
to leave the plant with him to “have a sexual
encounter” and proposed that they take off work every
other Wednesday to “get together.” (Doc. 28-9 at
43, 65). She also testified that, when he learned that she
was pregnant, Mr. Corona said that he was upset because he
did not want anyone else to have her. (Id. at 43).
According to Ms. Young, Mr. Corona made sexual hand gestures
with his smock in front of her and told her that she had
“nice breasts” that were “a nice size for
sucking.” (Id. at 63).
Young testified that she complained to her supervisor, Adam
Motley, about Mr. Corona sexually harassing her, but the
harassment did not stop. According to Ms. Young, Mr. Corona
kept visiting her in the box room; her co-worker in the box
room testified that Mr. Corona did so two to three times a
day when Ms. Young was working and stood very close to her.
(Doc. 31-5 at ¶ 3). Ms. Young testified that, on one
occasion, Mr. Corona pointed out a pole in the box room,
talked to her about strippers, and told her, “[i]f I
could just get you one of those poles and bend you over
and-he said something to the effect [of] pop your ass or your
ass something.” (Doc. 28-9 at 44).
Young testified that she again complained about Mr.
Corona's sexual harassment to Mr. Motley and reported the
pole comments, but the harassment continued. She testified
that Mr. Corona grabbed her from behind, told her that she
had a “fine sexy ass, ” touched her arm and back,
whispered and blew in her ear, and said “you like
that.” (Doc. 28-9 at 45, 69). According to Ms. Young,
he also either “touched” or
“grazed”-but did not “grab”-her
buttocks. (Id. at 45-46, 59). Finally, Ms. Young
testified that Mr. Corona showed her unsolicited pictures of
himself partially undressed and exposing himself.
(Id. at 70).
to Ms. Young, in early May 2017, she told AlaTrade's vice
president, Jarl O'Barr, that she needed to speak to him
“about being sexually harassed out here, discriminated
out here, working in this hostile environment.” (Doc.
28-9 at 46). At a follow-up meeting with Mr. O'Barr on an
unknown date in May, Ms. Young recounted her allegations of
sexual harassment by Mr. Corona. (Doc. 28-9 at 48, 80; Doc.
31-5 at ¶ 8). She also told Mr. O'Barr that she was
experiencing race and pregnancy discrimination, though Ms.
Young did not testify as to what specific acts of
discrimination she reported to Mr. O'Barr. (See
Doc. 28-9 at 80).
17, 2017, Mr. Craig told Ms. Young that AlaTrade was
transferring her out of the box room and placing her back on
the chicken production line. Ms. Young told him that she
could not work on the line anymore because she had vertigo
and had to stand too far back from the table because of her
pregnancy. Mr. Craig would not accept Ms. Young's stated
limitations and, according to Ms. Young, responded,
“either do what I tell you to do or go home.”
(Doc. 28-9 at 53). As Ms. Young prepared to leave, Mr. Craig
continued to tell her to obey him or leave, and, according to
Ms. Young, at some point “turned red in his face like
he was just very angry and mad about something.”
(Id.). Ms. Young testified that Mr. Craig told her,
“I'm telling you to do-go where I told you to go or
you need to leave the premises. You need to leave, ”
and, “hey, hey, let's go. Get out of here. Get
off-get out of here. Get out the building. I need you to
leave the building now.” (Id. at 53). Ms.
Young left AlaTrade's facility and considered herself
Young called the staffing company that had placed her at
AlaTrade to inquire about her final paycheck. Ms. Young
testified that her contact at the staffing company, Patricia
Peralta, informed her that AlaTrade “[did not] want
[her] back on the premises” because she “got
terminated for insubordination and misconduct.” (Doc.
28-9 at 55; see Doc. 31-3 at 2).
reported on a separation form that Ms. Young “[q]uit,
due to being moved out of box room.” (Doc. 28-8 at 2).
AlaTrade replaced Ms. Young with Kim McGowan, who is white
and was not pregnant. (Doc. 28-2 at 41).
court next analyzes each of Ms. Young's claims against
AlaTrade arising out of these facts.