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Wilson v. Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 22, 2013

JUDITH WILSON
v.
CHECKERS DRIVE-IN RESTAURANTS, INC.

MEMORANDUM

JOHN R. PADOVA, J.

Plaintiff Judith Wilson has brought this action against Defendant Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc. (“Checkers”), asserting claims for sexual harassment and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 951 et seq. (“PHRA”). Before the Court is Checkers’ Motion for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, we deny the Motion.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff, a thirty-nine year old female, began working as a crew member at Checkers’ 2329-49 N. 29th Street location (the “Restaurant”) on October 9, 2011. (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶¶ 10-11; Pl.’s Dep. at 94, 224.) The Restaurant employs approximately twenty crew members. (Segovia Dep. at 12.) Plaintiff’s responsibilities as a crew member included preparing food on the grill and operating the cash register. (Pl.’s Dep. at 102-03.) Keathel Haynes, a male, was the general manager of the Restaurant while Plaintiff worked there. (Id. at 95; Segovia Dep. at 13-14.) As the general manager, Haynes was responsible for hiring, firing, and scheduling the employees of the Restaurant. (Segovia Dep. at 15-16.)

Plaintiff worked at the Restaurant from October 9, 2011 until November 20, 2011. (Pl.’s Dep. at 94, 103.) During that time, Plaintiff worked shifts on eleven days for a total of approximately 40 hours. (Pl.’s Ex. D.) Plaintiff worked directly with Haynes during five of those shifts for a total of approximately twelve hours. (Pl.’s Dep. at 167-68.) Although Haynes maintained and posted a weekly schedule for his employees at the Restaurant, he did not schedule Plaintiff for shifts on the employee schedule. (Id. at 107.) Instead, to find out when she was scheduled to work, Plaintiff would call Haynes to see if she could “get some time, ” or Haynes would call her in to work. (Id. at 105.)

The first time that Plaintiff worked a shift with Haynes, he placed her hand on his genitals while she was undergoing computer training. (Id. at 162-63.) Over time, Haynes’s conduct towards Plaintiff became “more aggressive.” (Id. at 283.) During one night shift, Haynes whispered in Plaintiff’s ear that she was “sexy” and told her, using crass and explicit language, that he sexually desired her. (Id. at 165.) On another occasion, Haynes graphically described to Plaintiff one of his sexual fantasies involving her, detailing precisely what he wanted to do to her and how he dreamed she would react. (Id.) At other times, Haynes made sure that he physically touched Plaintiff while he passed her, rubbed his genitals against her, and pulled her close to his body. (Id. at 77, 164, 283.) Haynes also made sexually explicit remarks when they spoke on the phone about her work schedule. (Id. at 106, 226.) Plaintiff rejected Haynes’s sexual advances and told him to stop each time that he acted inappropriately. (Id. at 246-47, 283.)

On November 20, 2011, the last day that Plaintiff worked at the Restaurant, Plaintiff clocked in at 8:05 a.m. (Id. at 158.) At some point before noon, Haynes followed Plaintiff into the freezer area, where there are no cameras. (Id. at 71, 76.) While in the freezer, Haynes touched Plaintiff’s breasts, grabbed her between the legs, tried to kiss her, exposed his genitals, and invited her to perform oral sex on him. (Id. at 71.) Plaintiff told Haynes to stop and to get away from her, and she even hit Haynes in an effort to get away. (Id. at 71, 218.) Haynes responded that her reaction “turned him on.” (Id. at 247.) No one else witnessed Haynes’s conduct that day, and when another employee came into work a few hours later, Haynes ceased acting inappropriately. (Id. at 159.)

Plaintiff left the Restaurant at 12:50 p.m. for lunch, returned at 1:48 p.m., and finished her shift at 3:54 p.m. (Id. at 159-60; Pl.’s Ex. D.) Haynes left the Restaurant at 3:00 p.m., almost one hour before Plaintiff’s shift ended. (Pl.’s Dep. at 160.) Later that day, Plaintiff called Haynes to ask about her schedule, and he told her that “when you give me some pussy, you get some time.” (Id. at 104-05.) Plaintiff went to the restaurant on the following two days, November 21 and 22, checked the employee schedule, and learned that she was not scheduled for any shifts on those two days. (Id. at 105, 131-34.) Another employee told Plaintiff to call Haynes about the schedule, but she never called him. (Id. at 134.) Plaintiff did not work again at the Restaurant. (Id. at 103.)

Checkers maintains a toll free telephone number (the “Employee Hotline”) for employees to report any workplace issue. (Morgan Decl. ¶ 5.) On November 29, 2011, Plaintiff called the Employee Hotline to report that Haynes was sexually harassing her. (Pl.’s Dep. at 117-18, 121-22.) Checkers initiated an investigation into Plaintiff’s complaint, and District Manager David Lintz called Plaintiff back within twenty four hours of her call. (Lintz Decl. ¶¶ 6-7.) However, Plaintiff refused to speak to Lintz, told him to contact her attorney, and hung up the phone. (Id. ¶ 8; Pl.’s Dep. at 141, 144.) Lintz called Director of Employee Relations Jay Morgan, advised Morgan of his inability to obtain Plaintiff’s cooperation, and gave him the contact information for Plaintiff’s attorney. (Lintz Decl. ¶ 9.) Morgan left messages for Plaintiff’s attorney on two occasions, but never received a return phone call. (Morgan Decl. ¶ 7; Ex. 1 to Morgan Decl.)

On December 15, 2011, Lintz and Regional Manager Eduardo Segovia interviewed Haynes. (Segovia Decl. ¶¶ 3, 12.) During the interview, Haynes denied engaging in the conduct that Plaintiff alleged in her Employee Hotline complaint, but admitted that he and Plaintiff had a consensual sexual relationship. (Id. ¶ 13; Lintz Decl. ¶ 10.) Checkers maintains a policy governing “closer than normal relationships” between supervisors and subordinates. (Segovia Decl. ¶ 14.) According to that policy, a supervisor who becomes involved in a relationship with a subordinate must report that relationship to Checkers or be subject to termination. (Id.) Haynes’s purported relationship with Plaintiff violated Checkers’ policy. (Id. ¶ 15.) Segovia and Lintz immediately placed Haynes on administrative leave and terminated him soon thereafter without allowing him to return to work for Checkers. (Id. ¶ 15; Lintz Decl. ¶ 11.)

The First Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation for refusing Haynes’s advances and for complaining of his sexual harassment, in violation of Title VII and the PHRA. (FAC ¶¶ 21, 25.) Checkers has moved for summary judgment as to each of Plaintiff’s claims.

II.LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate “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.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue 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). A factual dispute is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id.

“[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the movant’s initial Celotex burden can be met simply by “pointing out to the district court” that “there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.” Id. at 325. After the moving party has met its initial burden, the adverse party’s response “must support the assertion [that a fact is genuinely disputed] by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B) showing that the materials [that the moving party has cited] do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Summary judgment is appropriate if the nonmoving party fails to respond with a factual 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, 477 U.S. at 322.

In evaluating the evidence, we take the facts “in the light most favorable” to the nonmoving party and “draw all reasonable inferences” in her favor. Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177, 179 n.1 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007)). “Speculation, conclusory allegations, and mere denials are insufficient to raise genuine issues of material fact.” Boykins v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 78 F.Supp.2d 402, 408 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (citation omitted), aff’d, 29 F. App’x 100 (3d Cir. 2002). Indeed, evidence introduced to defeat or support a motion for summary judgment must be capable of being admissible at trial. Callahan ...


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