The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge
Plaintiff Claude Haggard ("Plaintiff Haggard") filed this civil action against J.R. McCarter ("Defendant McCarter"), Jay Bunch ("Defendant Bunch"), Jayne Brogdon ("Defendant Brogdon"), and Sea Ray Division of Brunswick Corporation ("Defendant Sea Ray") (hereinafter collectively referred to as the "Defendants") pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), Title VII, the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA"), and state and federal whistleblower acts. [Doc. 1-2.] Plaintiff Haggard seeks damages for these alleged violations federal and state law. The case is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary [Doc. 28]. Defendants contend: 1) Plaintiff Haggard's ADEA claim is barred for a failure to exhaust administrative remedies and for failing to file suit within ninety (90) days of receipt of his "right-to-sue" letter; 2) Plaintiff Haggard's Title VII claims are barred for a failure to file suit within ninety (90) days of receipt of his "right-to-sue" letter; 3) The individual defendants cannot be held liable under Title VII and ADEA; 4) Plaintiff Haggard's THRA sexual harassment claim is time barred; 5) There are no genuine issues of material fact in the state retaliation claim; and 6) Plaintiff Haggard has failed to articulate any basis for state and federal "whistleblower claims." In his response, Plaintiff Haggard contends that there are genuine issues of material fact in this case making motion for summary judgment premature. Defendants reply that Plaintiff failed to respond to the arguments presented in their motion for summary judgment.
The Court has carefully considered the Defendants' motion, the parties' briefs, and supporting materials. [Docs. 28, 29, 34, 35, 36.] For the reasons set forth herein, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Defendant Sea Ray hired Plaintiff Haggard as an assembler technician on May 30, 2000, and transferred him to the position of maintenance technician on May 12, 2002. [Doc. 29-2 at ¶ 2.] During the relevant period, Plaintiff worked at Sea Ray's Riverview Sea Ray Plant located in Knox County, Tennessee ("Riverview Plant"), and his supervisor was Defendant McCarter. [Doc. 1-2 at ¶ 6.] On February 24, 2004, Plaintiff came to Defendant Brogdon, the Human Resources Manager of the Knoxville Plant, and complained that Defendant McCarter had sexually harassed him by making inappropriate statements and physical contact. [Docs. 29-2 at ¶¶ 4, 10; 29-12 at 2-25.] According to Defendant Brogdon, Plaintiff Haggard alleged that the incidents of harassment occurred between September and October of 2003. [Doc. 29-2 at ¶ 4.] After investigating Plaintiff's complaints, Defendant Brogdon concluded that verbal discipline of Defendant McCarter was sufficient, and sexual harassment training was conducted for the Maintenance Department on March 5, 2004. [Docs. 29-2 at ¶ 10, 11; 35-3 at 8.]
In April and July of 2004, Plaintiff Haggard was involved in two alleged safety violations at the Riverview Plant. [Docs. 29-2 at ¶ 12; 29-13 at 6-7.] The April 15, 2004 violation involved the Plaintiff Haggard operating a hoist to lift a hull containing another employee, and he received a verbal warning for violating safety procedures. [Id. at 6.] He was suspended from August 10, 2004 to August 12, 2004, for failing to perform proper safety inspections on July 29, 2004. [Doc. 29-13 at 7.]
The Tennessee Human Rights Commission sent a letter dated November 15, 2004, to Sea Ray regarding a complaint filed by Plaintiff Haggard under the Tennessee Human Rights Act. [Doc. 29-13 at 9.] In his complaint dated October 27, 2004, Plaintiff Haggard indicated that the basis for his complaint was retaliation/reprisal. He wrote, "When I reported sexual harassment from my supervisor to my HR officer I was then all of sudden started having problems . . . Getting warned and wrote up." [Doc. 29-16 at 10.]
On November 17, 2004, Plaintiff Haggard allegedly failed to take an inoperable hoist out of operation, another safety violation. [Doc. 29-2 at ¶ 12.] Defendant Brogdon avers that she recommended convening the Review Board to terminate Plaintiff for his continued safety violations after meeting with Defendant Bunch, operations manager and manager over the maintenance department about a Review Board meeting. [Doc. 29-2 at ¶ 21.] According to Defendant Brogdon, the Review Board unanimously decided to discharge Plaintiff Haggard for safety violations, and the Plaintiff Haggard's sexual harassment complaint was not discussed. [Id. at ¶¶ 25, 26.] On December 8, 2004, Plaintiff Haggard's termination was finalized. [Id. at ¶ 28.]
On June 30, 2005, Plaintiff Haggard received notice of his suit rights from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). [Doc. 29-17 at 2.] On December 7, 2005, Plaintiff filed suit in the Chancery Court for Knox County, Tennessee. [Doc. 1-2.] Defendants removed the civil action to federal court on January 5, 2005.
Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986). The court must view the facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002). To establish a genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element, the non-moving party must point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The genuine issue must also be material; that is, it must involve facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.
The judge's function at the point of summary judgment is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question. Id. at 249. The judge does not weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, nor determine the truth of the matter. Id. Thus, "[t]he inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that ...