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Clifford v. Oak Ridge City Schools

August 28, 2007

CATHLEEN CLIFFORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OAK RIDGE CITY SCHOOLS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leon Jordan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This civil action is before the court for consideration of the "Motion for Summary Judgment" filed by defendant, Oak Ridge City Schools [doc. 26]. Plaintiff has offered no response to the motion, and the response time allowed by E.D.TN. LR 7.1(a) has past. "Failure to respond to a motion may be deemed a waiver of any opposition to the relief sought." E.D.TN. LR 7.2.*fn1

Plaintiff has brought suit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et. seq. and the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA"), Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-101, et. seq.*fn2 She alleges that she was sexually harassed by a fellow employee in violation of these statutes.

I. Background*fn3

Plaintiff was hired by defendant as a school bus driver in September 2004. She alleges that she was subjected to sexual harassment by a driver trainer named William Harper. Plaintiff asserts that Harper made sexually suggestive remarks to her, invited her to sit in his car, and touched her inappropriately. Plaintiff reported the harassment to her supervisors, but she alleges that when she did her hours were cut and she was ignored.

Plaintiff further contends that she had to continue to work with Harper during the school's investigation of her complaint and that also during the investigation Harper continued to harass and treat her in a demeaning manner. By February 10, 2005, she had heard nothing regarding the investigation and she turned in her resignation. Plaintiff contends that she was forced to resign because the defendant failed to take appropriate action to protect her from the actions of Harper.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

As referenced above, plaintiff has not submitted a response to the motion for summary judgment. However, "a district court cannot grant summary judgment in favor of a movant simply because the adverse party has not responded." Carver v. Bunch, 946 F.2d 451, 455 (6th Cir. 1991); see also Stough v. Mayville Cmty. Schs., 138 F.3d 612 (6th Cir. 1998). At a minimum, the court must examine the motion and determine whether the movant has met the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Carver, 946 F.2d at 455. The court has performed this examination.

The moving party may discharge its initial burden by demonstrating that the non-moving party has failed to establish an essential element of that party's case for which he or she bears the ultimate burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party need not support its motion with affidavits or other materials negating the opponent's claim. Id. at 323. Although the moving party has the initial burden, that burden may be discharged by a "showing" to the district court that there is an absence of evidence in support of the non-moving party's case. Id. at 325.

III. Analysis

In support of its motions for summary judgment, defendant has provided the declaration of Thomas Bailey, the Superintendent of Oak Ridge City Schools [doc. 29]. In this very detailed declaration, Bailey sets out that plaintiff did not make any complaints of sexual harassment to a supervisor until January 13, 2005, when she verbally complained to two transportation supervisors that Harper was harassing her in several ways. Bailey states that at no time was Harper ever a supervisor at Oak Ridge schools, but simply a bus driver employee.

The declaration reveals that an investigation was commenced that included taking written statements from both plaintiff and Harper. The investigation also included interviews of several transportation employees. Dr. Christine Lee, Director of Human Resources, issued a written report of her findings as a result of the investigation on February 11, 2005. Dr. Lee found that no testimony outside of the parties' substantiated either party's position, and she found that one inappropriate and insensitive statement had been made. She recommended that Harper complete training or counseling, that he be appropriately monitored, and that any further inappropriate actions by Harper would lead to dismissal.

Dr. Lee's findings were issued to plaintiff and Harper in letters dated February 11, 2005. However, the day before, plaintiff submitted her resignation. Bailey states that on February 11, 2005, he responded to plaintiff's resignation and offered to meet with her personally concerning the continuation of her employment. Plaintiff did not respond to his offer. Bailey also personally met with Harper to discuss the referral program for his use of inappropriate language and to inform him that any further inappropriate conduct would be grounds for dismissal.

Bailey's declaration additionally states that plaintiff reported to Oak Ridge Schools that Harper had not made any further inappropriate contact with her from the date of her verbal complaint, January 13, 2005, until her resignation, February 10, 2005. Bailey states that every effort was made to keep contact between plaintiff and Harper at a minimum during the investigation. Bailey also affirmatively states that Oak Ridge Schools did not retaliate against plaintiff in any ...


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