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Robin Randler v. Kountry Kraft Kitchens

December 17, 2012

ROBIN RANDLER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
KOUNTRY KRAFT KITCHENS, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is defendant Kountry Kraft Kitchens' ("Kountry Kraft") motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 32) and plaintiff Robin Randler's ("Randler") cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 37). Also before the court is Randler's motion to "strike deposition testimony of Tonya Sholl and specific paragraphs of defendant's reply." (Doc. 48). For the reasons that follow, Kountry Kraft's motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and both of Randler's motions will be denied.

I. Factual Background*fn1 and Procedural History

Randler began working at Kountry Kraft in 2001. (Doc. 34 ¶ 1). Randler started her employment sanding cabinets and doors, and, by 2004, had progressed to lead door sander. (Doc. 34 ¶ 3; Doc. 36 ¶¶ 17, 18). Randler remained employed at Kountry Kraft until she was laid-off on January 22, 2010. (Doc. 34 ¶ 31).

During her time with Kountry Kraft, Randler claims there were numerous instances of inappropriate conduct in the workplace resulting in a hostile work environment. A summary highlighting some of the most egregious conduct follows, much of which Kountry Kraft disputes.

Randler worked with a gentleman named Chris Doney who went by the nickname "Clitty." (Doc. 34 ¶ 7). Randler claims she was uncomfortable with this nickname after Doney informed her that it had a sexual connotation. (Doc. 35 ¶¶ 46-47; Doc. 34-1, at 16:16-17:12). Randler claims she did not complain about her discomfort because management personnel and the president of Kountry Kraft all used this nickname when referring to Doney. (Doc. 34-1, at 18:1-15). Kountry Kraft counters that Randler never voiced discontent about the nickname, and, furthermore, that both Randler and her children referred to Doney by his nickname when they socialized with Doney outside of work. (Doc. 45 ¶ 47). Kountry Kraft also cites to deposition testimony in which co-worker Terry Layser testified that Randler herself once made a sexual gesture to Doney which was related to his nickname. (Id.; Doc. 45, Ex. 4, at 22:13-22).

It is undisputed that, in 2002 or 2003, a co-worker, Shirley Masser, baked a birthday cake in the shape of male genitalia, and an employee brought it into the workplace. (Doc. 34 ¶ 8). Randler claims Masser brought the cake to work (Doc. 35 ¶ 51), but two other Kountry Kraft employees testified that they saw Randler carry the cake into the company building. (Doc. 45 ¶ 51). The parties dispute whether Randler participated in the birthday celebration. (Doc. 36 ¶ 53; Doc. 45 ¶ 53).

Randler avers that she did not report this incident because management saw the cake and participated in the party. (Doc. 34-1, at 22:20-23). It is not disputed that Kountry Kraft managers saw the cake but did not reprimand employees, purportedly because no one complained that the cake offended them. (Doc. 36 ¶¶ 55-56; Doc. 45 ¶¶ 55-56).

In 2005, a co-worker gave Randler a pair of jeans which were cut in the shape of "g-string" underwear, Randler claims she immediately reported this incident to a supervisor, John Strickler. (Doc. 34 ¶ 9; Doc. 42 ¶ 9; Doc. 34-1, at 32:10-33:10). She did not speak to anyone else in management about it. (Doc. 34-1, at 8-10).

In January 2006 and March 2007, fellow Kountry Kraft employees sent lewd pictures and emails to Randler's personal email address and showed her similar pictures and jokes on work computers. (Doc. 34 ¶ 11; Doc. 36 ¶¶ 73-77). Randler claims she did not complain because she assumed the emails came from Michael Shaeffer's*fn2 email address and, therefore, Kountry Kraft management were involved in the email chain. (Doc. 34-1, at 50:18-51:3). She bases this assumption on the fact that the original email chain stemmed from the email address "KKShaeffer@cox.net" (Doc. 34-1, at 45:15-20), and was forwarded to co-worker, Rick Bauman, (id. at 46:1-9), and subsequently sent to Randler's home email, (id. at 46: 12-17). Furthermore, another sexually explicit email was sent to her that contained the email addresses of both Kountry Kraft's president and her supervisor; thus, Randler claims that reporting the emails would have been futile. (Doc. 34-1, at 62:24-63:15). In contrast, Kountry Kraft claims that Randler regularly asked Kountry Kraft employees to share sexually explicit jokes with her and asked for the same via email. (Doc. 45 ¶¶ 73-77). In March 2007, co-workers placed a pornographic picture related to one of the emails on Randler's workstation. (Doc. 34 ¶ 13).

Randler claims that co-workers Shirley Massar and Beth Smith would pose a "sexual question of the day" to the workplace staff, including supervisors. (Doc. 34 ¶ 16; Doc. 34-1, at 103:5-21). In response, Kountry Kraft cites to deposition testimony where co-workers claim that it was Randler who asked the "sexual question of the day." (Doc. 45 ¶ 140).

Around June 2008, Michael Schaeffer gave Randler a "mock write-up" that claimed her breasts extended beyond the "pinch point" of a machine. (Doc. 34 ¶ 17; Doc. 36 ¶ 70; Doc. 34-1, at 42:1-8). Although Kountry Kraft does not deny that this incident occurred, it is disputed whether a supervisor was notified. Randler claims that Schaeffer told supervisor Peters about the incident, and that Peters later approached her about it in a joking manner. (Pl.'s Ex. A-1, at 42, 9:11). Peters denies having any knowledge of the incident. (Doc. 36 ¶ 70; Doc. 45 ¶ 70).

In June 2009,*fn3 Schaeffer gave Randler a note that stated it contained President Obama's pubic hair, and, in fact, did contain a hair of some kind. (Doc. 34 ¶ 18; Doc. 36 ¶¶ 63-64; Doc. 34-1, at 26:3-6). Randler claims she immediately reported this incident to supervisor Kim Shannon. (Doc. 36 ¶ 66; Doc. 34-1, at 26:17-20). Kountry Kraft admits that the note is in Schaeffer's handwriting, but disputes that Schaeffer was a manager or supervisor, or that Randler reported the incident to a supervisor. (Doc. 45 ¶¶ 64-66).

In June 2009, Schaeffer and Shannon allegedly asked Randler if she "knew a woman with a crooked mouth who could give them a blow job."*fn4 (Doc. 34 ¶ 19; Doc. 34-1, at 27:2-8). From June 2009 through November 2009, Randler claims unidentified co-workers placed figurines in the shape of sexual body parts on her workstation. (Doc. 34 ¶ 20). In response, Kountry Kraft cites to deposition testimony wherein co-workers claim Randler brought the figurines in and showed them off to fellow employees. (Doc. 45 ¶ 62). In November 2009, a co-worker asked if he could put his head on Randler's breasts. (Doc. 34 ¶ 21). Manager John Strickler threw a gum wrapper at Randler's breasts and winked at her, and Strickler also purportedly told her that one of her male co-workers wanted her in a sexual manner. (Doc. 34 ¶¶ 23, 24; Doc. 34, at 37:17-38:2). Randler also claims two male co-workers "mooned" her at work and that another pulled down his pants in front of her. (Doc. 34 ¶¶ 25-27; Doc. 34-1, at 100:10-12, 101:17-19; 102:3-17).

Randler testified that she never reported these incidents because she was scared she would lose her job if she complained. According to Randler, management personnel, including her supervisor John Strickler, were active participants in the harassment, and many of these mangers were social friends with Kountry Kraft's president. Thus, she felt that reporting the incidents would be futile. (Doc. 34-1, at 31:8-12, 66:18-24).

Kountry Kraft refutes these contentions by citing to deposition testimony in which Randler's co-workers claim she would regularly act in a sexually explicit manner, including, inter alia: pulling her pants down in front of fellow employees (Doc. 45 ¶ 126); sticking objects in her pants and shirt to mimic male and female body parts (Doc. 45 ¶ 126); and, placing sawdust covered hands on a male employees buttocks (Doc. 45 ¶ 128). Randler denies these incidents. (Doc. 35 ¶¶ 123-30).

Concurrent to these prurient episodes, Randler also experienced difficulties with a co-worker, Kathy Kellenberger, who was married to a Kountry Kraft supervisor. (Doc. 34 ¶ 33; Doc. 36 ¶¶ 100-02, 110-11). Kountry Kraft placed Randler and Kellenberger on alternating schedules due to a significant personality conflict. Randler met with her supervisors to discuss this conflict, but made no mention of her separate concerns of sexual harassment in the workplace. (Doc. 34 ¶¶ 33, 34, 37). Randler claims that, because of Kellenberger's husband's supervisory position within the company, Randler received unfavorable hours and was eventually laid-off. (Doc. 36 ¶ 117). Kountry Kraft claims that Kellenberger and Randler were not treated differently and that their placement on alternating shifts was based solely on the fact that the two women could not work together amicably. (Doc. 45 ¶ 108).

Kountry Kraft asserts that Randler was laid-off in 2010 because of the company's desire to downsize based on its production needs. (Doc. 45 ¶ 112). At the time of Randler's lay-off, Kellenberger had more experience and earned less than Randler. (Doc. 45 ¶¶ 112-13). Prior to Randler's lay-off, supervisor John Strickler had a private conversation with Kellenberger's husband at the Kellenberger residence. This conversation involved the continuing conflict between Kellenberger and Randler, but Kountry Kraft denies that the parties discussed anything related to Randler's employment. (Doc. 45 ¶ 114).

Kountry Kraft provides employees with a handbook, which includes a section explicitly pertaining to sexual harassment. This section states: "If you experience or witness sexual or other unlawful harassment in the workplace, report it immediately to your supervisor. If the supervisor is unavailable or you believe it would be inappropriate to contact that person, you should immediately contact the Human Resource Department or any other member of management." (Doc. 34 ¶ 36).

In addition, the handbook contains a section which addresses the hiring and retention of relatives:

The employment of relatives in the same area of an organization may cause serious conflicts and problems with favoritism and employee morale. In addition to claims of partiality in treatment at work, personal conflicts from outside the work environment can be carried over into day-to-day working relationships.

Although Kountry Kraft has no prohibition against employing relatives of current employees with current employees, we are committed to monitoring situations in which such relationships exist in the same area. In case of actual or potential problems, Kountry Kraft will take prompt action. This can include reassignment or, if necessary, termination of employment for one or both of the individuals involved. Employees in a close personal relationship should refrain from public workplace displays of affection or excessive personal conversation. (Def.'s Ex. 3, Kountry Kraft, Inc., Employee Handbook, 105 Hiring of Relatives).*fn5 On September 7, 2004, Randler received a copy of this handbook and signed an acknowledgment that she had read it. (Def.'s Ex. 3; Doc. 34 ¶¶ 41, 42).

On March 14, 2011, Randler sued Kountry Kraft. (Doc. 1). In her original complaint, Randler alleged: (1) sexual harassment in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 ("Title VII"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 955; (2) retaliation in violation of Title VII and the PHRA, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951; (3) negligent supervision; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (5) wrongful discharge.

On May 17, 2011, Kountry Kraft filed a partial motion to dismiss (Doc. 6) Randler's wrongful discharge and negligent supervision claims. Kountry Kraft claimed that Randler failed to state a proper wrongful discharge claim and that her negligent supervision claim was pre-empted by the PHRA. (Doc. 7, at 3-4).

On October 25, 2011, the court issued a memorandum and order granting in part and denying in part the motion. (Doc. 22). The court denied the motion with regard to the wrongful discharge claim but allowed Randler thirty (30) days to amend the complaint to reassert her negligent supervision claim and dismiss her PHRA claims.

On October 31, 2011, Randler filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 23). The only distinction between her original complaint and her amended complaint is the removal of her PHRA claims.*fn6 On January 24, 2012, Kountry Kraft filed a partial motion for summary judgment and brief in support, (Docs. 32, 33), and Randler filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 37), followed by a brief in support on January 25, 2012 (Doc. 38). Both parties have filed opposition briefs (Docs. 41, 46), and Kountry Kraft filed a reply brief (Doc. 47).

On March 8, 2012, Randler also filed a motion and supporting brief to strike the deposition testimony of Tonya Sholl and to strike certain paragraphs in Kountry Kraft's reply brief relating to this testimony. (Docs. 48, 49). On March 20, 2012, Kountry Kraft filed a ...


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