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Giles v. Hometown Folks, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

October 14, 2014


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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Sharista Giles, Plaintiff: Patrick L Looper, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Pat Looper, Knoxville, TN.

For Hometown Folks, LLC, Defendant: John R Bode, Scott E Simmons, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Miller & Martin, PLLC (Chattanooga), Chattanooga, TN.

For Jeff Bealer, Defendant: Brad A Fraser, LEAD ATTORNEY, Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan, PLLC (Knoxville), Knoxville, TN.

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This civil matter is before the Court on defendants' motions for summary judgment [Docs. 22, 25]. Plaintiff filed a joint response [Doc. 32], and defendant Hometown Folks, LLC (" Hometown Folks" ) replied [Doc. 33]. After review of the record and considering the applicable law, the Court will grant the motions for summary judgment and dismiss this action.

I. Background

Hometown Folks hired plaintiff Sharista Giles on August 9, 2011, to work as a cashier at its restaurant in Sweetwater, Tennessee [Doc. 26-1 p. 13]. At the time of her hiring, Hometown Folks issued plaintiff a copy of the company's harassment prevention policy [ Id. at 21-23]. The policy prohibits harassment relating to an employee's sex and requires employees subject to harassment to report such harassment to the human resources department [ Id. at 63].

In November 2011, defendant Jeff Bealer became an assistant manager at the restaurant where plaintiff worked [ Id. at 16-17, 20-21, 24-26; Doc. 26-2 ¶ 3]. He worked under Mike Tomlinson, who was the restaurant manager throughout plaintiff's employment [ See Doc. 26-1 p. 14].

According to plaintiff, in November or December 2011, Bealer made a remark about plaintiff's " butt and . . . pants and stuff," but plaintiff did not report this comment to the human resources department [ Id. at 37-38, 42-43; Doc. 32-1 p. 72]. Around the same time, Bealer also made a remark that " he loved watching [plaintiff's] a** whenever [she] walked" [Doc. 26-1 p. 39, 43-44] and he made a remark about her " boob" when her blouse had come unbuttoned [ Id. at 40-41, 44]. While there is some dispute about it, plaintiff asserts that she reported these remarks to Tomlinson [ See Doc. 32-1 p. 52-72].

On December 19, 2011, while working at the drive-through window area of the restaurant, Bealer poked plaintiff's bottom with a grease pencil. He then assaulted her again near the ice cream machine, where he grabbed her belt buckle and touched her breast (" the December 19 incident" ) [ Id. at 27]. Portions of this incident were captured by video [Doc. 26-3].

On December 20, 2011, plaintiff reported to work at 8:00 a.m., and three or four hours into her shift, she reported the December 19 incident to Tomlinson, who then

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reported the incident to the human resources department [Doc. 26-1 p. 28; Doc. 26-2 ¶ 4]. Bealer was discharged the same day [Doc. 26-2 ¶ 5]. Yet, plaintiff asserts that Bealer made comments to her, although not sexual in nature, after reporting the December 19 incident [Doc. 32-1 p. 30-33], and after these comments were made, Tomlinson indicated that he had not yet spoken to Bealer [ Id. at 34-36]. Also on December 20, plaintiff reported the incident to the Sweetwater Police Department [Doc. 32-2].

Plaintiff continued working for Hometown Folks, although in January 2012, she enrolled as a full-time college student [Doc. 26-1 p. 35]. The same week of the December 19 incident, plaintiff was scheduled to work 36.5 hours [Doc. 26-2 ¶ 6]. The next two weeks she was scheduled to work 39.5 hours and 38 hours, respectively [ Id. ¶ ¶ 7-8]. Plaintiff, however, requested that her work schedule be changed because of her class schedule [Doc. 26-1 p. 35-36], and Tomlinson attempted to schedule plaintiff's shifts to accommodate her class schedule [Doc. 26-4 ¶ ¶ 7-8]. Plaintiff did not report to work on January 14, 15, 25, or 27, or February 1, 2012 [Doc. 26-2 ¶ 9]. On February 3, 2012, plaintiff resigned from her employment, asserting that her hours had been drastically reduced [Doc. 26-1 p. 12-13; Doc. 32-1 p. 39-43; Doc. 26-2 ¶ 10].

On December 13, 2012, plaintiff commenced this action [Doc. 1]. Plaintiff asserts that Bealer created a hostile work environment and Hometown Folks is liable for Bealer's alleged sexual harassment and for retaliation, in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act, Tennessee Code Annotated § 4-21-101, et seq. (" THRA" ) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq. (" Title VII" ). Plaintiff also ...

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