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Gregory v. Lowe'S Home Centers, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

May 18, 2017

MELISSA GREGORY, Plaintiff,
v.
LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, LLC Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR., CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this action that was removed from the Circuit Court for Sumner County, Tennessee, Melissa Gregory (“Gregory”) brings claims against her employer Lowe's Home Centers, LLC (Lowe's), for gender discrimination, retaliation, and harassment in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-101. Lowe's has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 35), to which Gregory has filed a response in opposition (Doc. No. 54), and Lowe's has replied (Doc. No. 56). For the reasons that follow, summary judgment will be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         A.

         Prior to reaching the facts surrounding Lowe's Motion for Summary Judgment, a preliminary observation is necessary. As required by this Court's Local Rule 56.01(b), Lowe's submitted a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in support of its Motion, and, in accordance with Local Rule 56.01(c), Gregory submitted a response to that statement. However, in her Reply Memorandum, Gregory sets forth additional facts that do not appear in either Lowe's statement or her response. Those facts should have been presented as “additional facts that the non-movant contends are material and as to which the non-movant contends there exists a genuine issue to be tried, ” L.R. 56.01(c), so that Lowe's could have directly responded to them. Despite Gregory's failure to comply with the requirements of the Local Rules, the Court will consider her additional “facts” where relevant to the legal discussion. For purposes of setting forth the following factual background, however, the Court will confine itself to Lowe's statement and Gregory's response thereto (Doc. No. 55) (collectively cited as “SOF”), together with the deposition testimony, affidavits, and exhibits on which the statement and response rely.

         B.

         In May 2014, Gregory worked in an hourly position as a Return to Manufacturer (“RTM”) Clerk at Lowe's Gallatin, Tennessee store. (SOF ¶ 17). An RTM clerk handles returned merchandise from customers and deals with vendors in order to secure credit for, or replacement of, damaged or defective goods. (Doc. No. 54-1, Gregory Dep. at 20).

         As with all of its locations, Lowe's has several managers at the Gallatin store. At the top is the Store Manager who is in charge of overall operations. (SOF ¶ 2). Underneath the Store Manager are Assistant Store Managers (“ASMs”). Each ASM reports to the Store Manager and is assigned responsibility over certain areas of the store, such as electrical, plumbing, or paint. (Id. ¶ 3). Next in the descending hierarchy are the Department Managers, who report to the ASMs, but who are hourly employees that do not have the authority to discipline or terminate employees, even in their own departments. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5).

         Lowe's has a “No Harassment Policy, ” the terms of which require store employees to report any harassment concerns to the Store Manager, Store Human Resources Manager, Area Human Resources Manager, Human Resources Director, or Employee Relations, but not to Department Managers. (Id. ¶ 6). Even so, that policy does not appear to prohibit complaints directly to Department Managers and, in fact, “Lowe's Equal Employment Opportunity Policy” requires managers to report discrimination and harassment claims up the chain-of-command, by providing that a “member of management, who has been informed of a complaint of discrimination, must immediately report it to Employee Relations, who is responsible for conducting an investigation.” (Doc. No. 38-1 at 37). Further, Lowe's “Open Door Program Policy” provides that “[e]mployees should contact Store management . . . to resolve work-related questions or concerns, ” (id. at 28), without distinguishing between the levels of management.

         On May 2, 2014, Gregory complained to Lisa Roberts, the Gallatin store Human Resources Manager, about Bobby Beasley, an hourly Product Service Associate. (SOF ¶¶ 7, 8). According to Gregory, Beasley entered her office earlier that morning and, while she was sitting on the edge of her chair, slapped her on the buttocks with a handful of zip ties and said something to the effect of, “bend over and take it.” Gregory told Beasley not to touch her like that and to leave her office, which he did. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 10).

         Shortly thereafter, Steve Gasaway, a Department Manager and Beasley's supervisor, entered Gregory's office and asked her to page Beasley. Gregory refused, and told Gasaway what had just transpired between her and Beasley. Gasaway told Gregory that she should report the incident to Roberts. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 13).

         Although Gregory was upset, she worked for a period longer and then took her lunch break when she told her husband about the incident. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 14). Upon returning from lunch, Gregory reported the incident to her supervisor, Darryl Hartley, who was an ASM, and to her Department Manager, Amanda Hladd.[1] (Id. ¶ 13).

         At some point that same afternoon, Roberts asked Gregory to come to the Human Resources office to discuss the Beasley incident. (Id. ¶ 15). Gregory complied with that request and also provided a written statement that Roberts asked for. Roberts then told Gregory that she would investigate the matter.[2] (Id. ¶ 17). Because Gregory voiced concerns about being around Beasley, Roberts told her that she would instruct Beasley not to have any direct contact with Gregory until the investigation was complete.[3] (Id. ¶ 19).

         The Beasley incident occurred on a Friday. By the time Gregory reported the incident to Roberts, Beasley had already left for the day, and neither he, Gregory, or Roberts was ...


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