United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
November 2016, Savannah Kay Richert filed this sexual
harassment action in state court against Global Personnel
Solutions, Inc. (“GPS”), bringing claims for a
hostile work environment and constructive discharge under the
Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA). On January 5, 2017, the suit
was timely removed to this Court based on diversity
jurisdiction. Richert filed an amended complaint
approximately one month later [D. 19].
February 26, 2018, GPS filed a motion for summary judgment
[D. 38], which is now before the Court. Richert responded [D.
41], and GPS replied [D. 33]. For the following reasons,
GPS's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and
this action will be dismissed.
judgment is proper only “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). A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury
could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law.” Id.
moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there
is no genuine issue of material fact on any element of the
other party's claim or defense. Stiles ex rel. D.S.
v. Grainger Cty., 819 F.3d 834, 847 (6th Cir. 2016). In
determining whether this burden is satisfied, the Court must
consider “the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, ” in the light most favorable to
the nonmovant, drawing all justifiable inferences in that
party's favor. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Adams v. Metiva, 31 F.3d 375,
378-79 (6th Cir. 1994). But, as the Supreme Court has noted,
“[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories,
one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that
no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt
that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion
for summary judgment.” Murray v. Harriman
City, 2010 WL 546590, at *3 (E.D. Tenn. Feb. 10, 2010)
(quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007)).
the movant has satisfied its initial burden, the other party
must show that a genuine issue of material fact still exists.
Stiles, 819 F.3d at 847. In doing so, the non-moving
party may not rely on the pleadings alone, but must instead
point to “specific facts” in the record that
create a genuine issue for trial. Metiva, 31 F.3d at
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court's
function is limited to determining “whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52. The Court need not
scour the record “to establish that it is bereft of a
genuine issue of fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford
& Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989). But the
Court does not weigh evidence, judge witnesses'
credibility, or decide the truth of the matter, and any
genuine disputes of fact that do exist must be resolved in
favor of the nonmovant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249;
Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1863 (2014).
submitted a statement of material facts in support of its
motion for summary judgment [D. 40], to which Richert
responded [D. 42]. Of the 39 factual statements, 31 were
undisputed; four were undisputed, but subject to
clarification; and four were disputed in part. For purposes
of ruling on GPS's motion for summary judgment, any
genuine disputes of fact will be construed in Richert's
favor. With that in mind, the relevant facts are as follows.
November 2015, Richert was hired by GPS, a staffing company
that provides temporary employees to two Duracell
Manufacturing facilities in Cleveland, Tennessee: a battery
manufacturing plant on Mouse Creek Road (“Mouse
Creek”) and a packing plant on Old Tasso Road
(“Tasso”). Richert was assigned to work at Tasso.
Due to high noise levels at the facility, Richert asked to be
moved to a different working area. Her request was granted,
but it did not solve the problem; the Tasso plant was
“loud all over.” Richert did not complain to
anyone in management about the noise specifically, but after
one month, she requested a transfer. Soon after, Richert was
transferred to Mouse Creek [D. 41, at 2].
point thereafter, Richert was subjected to what she believed
to be sexually harassing behavior from Randy Butcher, a
Duracell employee who worked on the second shift with her
once every three weeks [D. 38-1, at 80]. The duration of the
harassment is unclear, due in large part to Richert's own
inconsistent statements. For instance, in her response to
GPS's motion for summary judgment, Richert says that she
worked at Duracell “without incident from December 2015
until March 2016, ” and that the harassing comments
were made “on or about March 15, 2016.” [D. 41,
at 2]. This timeline is also reflected in the complaint and
incident investigation forms that Richert submitted to GPS on
March 16, in which she stated that the harassment occurred
between March 7 and 11, and on March 15 [see D.
38-1, at 80, 81]. However, in her deposition, Richert states
that the harassment began in January, and that the dates that
she wrote on the complaint forms are inaccurate [D. 38-1, at
43]. And in her amended complaint, Richert says that she was
subject to sexually inappropriate advances “throughout
her employment” [D. 19, at 4].
light of these conflicting statements, it is unclear how long
the alleged harassment actually occurred. Although Richert
herself has caused this confusion, it is not for the Court to
decide the truth of the matter. Thus, for purposes of ruling
on GPS's motion for summary judgment, the Court will
construe the facts leniently and in Richert's favor, and
will adopt the longest timeline of approximately three
case, it is undisputed that Richert first reported
the harassment on March 16, 2016. On that date, Richert
submitted a complaint form to GPS management, detailing the
harassment that she experienced:
Butcher told me that he loves my jeans several times. He told
me that he loves to watch me bend over a palletizer. He will
always watch me when I'm in zone 3, same zone as him. I
have caught him several times looking at me while I was bent
over. Amber Simpson has also heard Butcher say he thought I
was on a dance pedestal so he was going to stand there and
[Id.]. Richert testified in her deposition that
Butcher would make multiple comments to her in a day
[Id. at 35]. He also stared at her when he walked
by, although he never touched her [Id. at 3].
promptly opened an investigation into the allegations. During
the course of the investigation, GPS personnel interviewed
Richert on numerous occasions and spoke with Amber Simpson,
the only witness that Richert had identified. After filing
her complaint, Richert saw Butcher at work on only one
occasion, and a Duracell supervisor sent him home.
the investigation, GPS explained to Richert that because
Butcher was a Duracell employee, GPS was powerless to fire
him or transfer him to another facility. GPS then offered
Richert three possible solutions: she could (1) speak to
Duracell directly; (2) transfer to a different shift at Mouse
Creek; or (3) transfer back to Tasso. Richert agrees that
these are the only options that GPS could offer. But she also
says that because Butcher was on a rotating shift at Mouse
Creek, transferring to Tasso was the only way she could
completely avoid working with him.
so, Richert did not initially select this option. Instead,
she texted Wren Walker, Director of Operations for GPS, to
ask about other job openings at ...