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Knabe v. Boury Corp.

May 29, 1997






On Appeal From the United States District Court For the Western District of Pennsylvania

(D.C. Civ. No. 94-cv-01627)

Before: BECKER, MANSMANN, and GREENBERG, Circuit Judges.

BECKER, Circuit Judge.

Filed May 29, 1997

Argued: December 10, 1996


This appeal by Karla Knabe arises from her civil action against Boury Corporation alleging that she was a victim of unlawful sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section(s) 2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. C.S. Section(s) 951 et seq., while she was employed as a waitress at Boury's "Elby's Big Boy" restaurant in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. Knabe contends that she was subjected to a hostile work environment created by Kevin Humbrecht, one of the restaurant managers. The district court, having concluded that Boury was not liable as a matter of law for Humbrecht's actions because it took prompt and adequate remedial action after Knabe reported the harassment to company officials, as required by Bouton v. BMW of North America, Inc., 29 F.3d 103 (3d Cir. 1994), granted summary judgment to Boury. Although we view the facts in the light most favorable to Knabe, the non-moving party, because we conclude that there is no genuine issue of material fact that the actions taken by Boury in response to Knabe's complaint were other than "reasonably calculated" to prevent future acts of harassment, we affirm. *fn1


Knabe began working as a waitress at the Elby's Big Boy restaurant on August 6, 1993. According to her affidavit and deposition testimony, over the course of the following two months, Humbrecht engaged in several acts of sexual harassment. On at least a dozen occasions, he bumped into her from behind, rubbed himself against her, or ran his hands over her buttocks at the pie cooler or in other behind-the-counter spaces. On one occasion in September 1993, Knabe showed Humbrecht a broken light in the women's restroom. Several male employees were standing just outside, and as Humbrecht and Knabe exited, Humbrecht pretended to pull up his pants and his zipper in the presence of the other employees. Knabe testified that, when she expressed her displeasure after each of these incidents, Humbrecht responded "don't take it personal."

On September 5, 1993, Knabe fell in the waitress area, causing her skirt to come up and exposing most of her legs and lower body. Sometime after her fall, Humbrecht asked her whether she had been wearing underwear when she fell. And on October 13, 1993, Humbrecht called Knabe at home at approximately 7:50 a.m. to ask her to come into work early. She told him she would be in after she had showered and had a cup of coffee. Later that day, Humbrecht asked her whether she had been having sex with her fiance when he called that morning. After Knabe had threatened to report his conduct to his supervisor, Humbrecht removed her from the work schedule. *fn2 Knabe testified that, throughout her employment, whenever she had threatened to report him, Humbrecht told her that "life in the unemployment line" was very unpleasant. Knabe has acknowledged that, except for the restroom episode, there were no witnesses to any of Humbrecht's actions.

On October 20, 1993, Knabe complained by telephone to Sharon Barnes, who supervised the Monroeville restaurant as well as four other Elby's. Knabe reported the instances of harassment described above, as well as the fact that she had been taken off the work schedule when she threatened to report Humbrecht. *fn3 This was the first indication to Elby's management about Humbrecht's conduct. Barnes consulted Elby's procedures for investigating a sexual harassment complaint, and also contacted the director of Big Boy East and Elby's legal counsel for advice about investigation procedure.

On October 21, 1993, Barnes interviewed Humbrecht. He denied any improper comments to Knabe on October 13, 1993, and Barnes did not ask him about the other incidents. Barnes, along with Elby's director of operations, met with Knabe on October 23, 1993, and Knabe informed them that she wanted Humbrecht to be discharged or transferred to another restaurant. Barnes then interviewed three of Knabe's co-workers, all of whom had worked on Knabe's shift on October 13, 1993. Each reported to Barnes that they had not witnessed Humbrecht make any improper statements to Knabe, and that they had never observed any inappropriate behavior by a manager in the restaurant.

At the conclusion of her investigation, Barnes decided not to reprimand or otherwise sanction Humbrecht, based on her (mistaken) belief that she could not make afinding that an employee had engaged in sexual harassment without corroborating testimony. However, she met with Humbrecht and informed him that Knabe was to be returned to the work schedule immediately. More importantly, Barnes reminded him that the "company does not tolerate any sexual comments or actions" and that any "company violations of this policy will receive possible suspension and or termination." Both Barnes and Humbrecht signed a "record of conversation" acknowledging the substance of the conversation. Humbrecht also acknowledged that the "procedures were explained to me and I do understand them. I will continue to adhere to them."

The next day, October 26, Barnes met with Knabe. She informed Knabe that, because there were no witnesses to Humbrecht's conduct, she could not conclude that Humbrecht had done anything inappropriate and, hence, she could not reprimand Humbrecht. Barnes also told Knabe that she had been restored to the work schedule, and that she should call Barnes or certain other members of Elby's management if the conduct recurred. Knabe responded by informing Barnes that she could not return to work because Humbrecht had not been transferred or fired, and that she ...

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