United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
DR. VANESSA GARCIA, Plaintiff,
THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, Defendant.
WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dr. Vanessa Garcia brings this case against the Metropolitan
Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee
(“Metro”) asserting claims arising out of her
employment with the public-school system, Metro Nashville
Public Schools (“MNPS”). Pending before the Court
are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 47)
and Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.
(Doc. No. 59). Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment is accompanied by a memorandum and exhibits. (Doc.
No. 49). Plaintiff filed a response with exhibits (Doc. Nos.
64, 65) and a supplemental response (Doc. No. 69), and
Defendant filed a reply (Doc. No. 79). With permission of the
Court, Plaintiff also filed a sur-reply. (Doc. No. 84).
Defendant moved to strike certain evidence submitted by
plaintiff in response to the motion for summary judgment
(Doc. No. 74). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to
the motion to strike (Doc. No. 80), and Defendant filed a
reply (Doc. No. 88). Defendant filed a statement of facts
(Doc. No. 48), to which Plaintiff responded (Doc. No. 66),
and Plaintiff filed a supplemental statement of facts (Doc.
No. 67), to which Defendant responded (Doc. No. 73).
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 59) is
accompanied by a memorandum (Doc. No. 60), statement of facts
(Doc. No. 58), and exhibits (Doc. No. 57). Defendant filed a
response to Plaintiff's motion (Doc. No. 70) and
statement of facts (Doc. No. 71). Plaintiff filed a reply.
(Doc. No. 76).
reasons stated, Defendant's Motion to Strike or Exclude
Portions of the Declaration of Scott Lindsey and Hearsay
Statements from Plaintiff's Response (Doc. No. 74) is
GRANTED in part, DENIED in
part. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No.
47) is GRANTED in part,
DENIED in part. Plaintiff's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 59) is
GRANTED as to liability.
employed Plaintiff from July 2013 to May 2018. (Compl., Doc.
No. 20, ¶ 6). MNPS is operated by Defendant Metro, a
governmental entity. (Id., ¶ 3). During the
operative time of the Complaint, Plaintiff served as
Executive Officer of Elementary Schools (July 2016 - July
2017), and as Executive Director of Leadership
Development (July 2017 - May 2018). (Doc. No. 66,
¶¶ 1, 2). Plaintiff has held a professional
teaching license in Tennessee since July 1, 2002, and a
professional administrator license since July 28, 2014. (Doc.
No. 71, ¶¶ 2, 6). She is not a tenured teacher.
(Doc. No. 66, ¶ 3). Her position as Executive Director
of Leadership Development required a master's degree and
an administrator's license. (Doc. No. 71, ¶ 18).
2016, MNPS hired Moreno Carrasco to an executive position.
(Compl., Doc. No. 20, ¶ 9). Plaintiff alleges that
Carrasco was “good friends” with Dr. Shawn
Joseph, then Director of Schools. (Pl. Aff., Doc. No. 65-1,
¶ 14). Carrasco told Plaintiff that he and Dr. Joseph
vacationed together and Plaintiff assisted Carrasco in
planning a surprise party for Dr. Joseph at Carrasco's
the 2016-2017 academic year, Carrasco and Plaintiff held
positions “on the same level, ” and reported to
the same direct supervisor. (Id.; Doc. No. 66,
¶ 4). That year, Plaintiff saw Carrasco once or twice a
week at work. (Pl. Aff., Doc. No. 65-1, ¶ 15). When
Plaintiff transferred to the Office of Organizational
Development for the 2017-2018 academic year, Carrasco became
her immediate supervisor. (Doc. No. 66, ¶ 6).
claims that “from almost the time Carrasco arrived at
MNPS” he engaged in sexually harassing behavior toward
her and others. (Doc. No. 73, ¶¶ 1-25; Pl. Aff.,
Doc. No. 65-1, ¶¶ 16-20, 29, 34, 36-43, 56).
Plaintiff alleges the following harassing behavior by
Carrasco toward her personally:
1. Carrasco would “eye” Plaintiff's body.
(Pl. Aff., Doc. No. 65-1, ¶ 16).
2. He would call her “baby, ” honey, ” and
“darling” and often hug Plaintiff while calling
her theses names. (Id., ¶ 16).
3. On December 15, 2016, while at a going away party for a
colleague, Carrasco “put his arm around me and he laid
his hand on my breast and cupped my breast with his hand
covering my breast and whispered in my ear, ‘You are so
hot. If you weren't married, I would so date
4. Carrasco told Plaintiff she was the only one he wanted to
work for him at a new department. (Id., ¶ 25).
5. When offices were moved because of remodeling, Carrasco
denied plaintiffs request switch offices with a colleague
because he wanted her in the office next to him.
(Id., ¶ 29).
6. Carrasco regularly invited Plaintiff to lunch with wine or
for drinks after work. (Id., ¶¶ 32, 42,
7. Carrasco asked Plaintiff to a work meeting alone at his
apartment. While at his apartment, he grabbed Plaintiff and
tried to salsa dance with her. She took her things and left.
(Id., ¶ 34).
8. He said he had a dream about Plaintiff “getting out
of my shower.” (Id., ¶ 36).
9. He told Plaintiff she “looked really great, but she
needed to stop losing weight or she would ‘lose that
ass of yours.'” (Id., ¶ 37).
10. He told Plaintiff he thought they were going to kiss.
11. He asked Plaintiff if she wanted to read “crazy
hot” text messages between him and an assistant
principal. (Id., ¶ 38).
12. He showed Plaintiff pictures of his house in the
Dominican Republic and told her to let him know whenever she
wanted to go there with him. (Id., ¶ 39).
13. He told her the details about his sex life with other
employees and was constantly talking about hooking up with
women. (Id., ¶ 40).
14. In October 2017, he called Plaintiff at home and started
discussing problems with his girlfriend. Using explicit
language, he said Plaintiff would “understand” if
only she knew how good his girlfriend was in bed.
(Id., ¶ 56).
became aware that Carrasco engaged in similar behavior toward
other female employees. (See e.g. Doc. No. 73 at
¶¶ 5, 6, 17, 18, 19) (recounting various
incidents). Plaintiff claims that Carrasco's behavior
caused her a great deal of stress, caused her to lose sleep,
and to dread going to work in the morning. (Pl. Aff., Doc.
No. 65-1, ¶ 44). She said, “the thought of having
to work with him made her feel sick to her stomach.”
(Id.). Plaintiff claims she feared retaliation if
she complained about Carrasco because of how close he was to
the Director of Schools. (Id.) She altered her
comings and goings and attempted to leave the office with a
co-worker so she would not have to be alone in the office.
(Id., ¶ 57). She would ask a co-worker to
accompany her if she had to meet with Carrasco in his office.
told her co-worker, Dr. Terry Shrader, about the harassment.
(Doc. No. 73, ¶¶ 8, 22). In July 2017, she told
MNPS School Board member Amy Frogge about Mr. Moreno's
behavior, but asked Ms. Frogge to keep her identity
confidential because she feared retaliation. (Pl. Aff., Doc.
No. 65-1, ¶ 46). Ms. Frogge told Dr. Joseph, the
Director of Schools, about Carrasco's behavior without
identifying Plaintiff. Dr. Joseph did not report
Carrasco's conduct to human resources. (Joseph Dep., Doc.
No. 79-5 at PageID# 2212). Instead, Dr. Joseph spoke with
Carrasco directly and told him, “If you have done
something, I encourage you to go to Human Resources and
communicate what happened, but just know if someone reports
you must go on leave immediately.” (Id.)
November 15, 2017, Plaintiff and Carrasco had a meeting to go
over goal setting for the year. (Pl. Dep., Doc. No. 49-2 at
PageID# 388). Carrasco allegedly made a comment about
Plaintiff's personal life getting in the way of her work
and stated that Plaintiff was making comments that she
“didn't care about anything.” (Id.
at PageID# 424). Immediately following the meeting, Plaintiff
called human resources and made a formal complaint of sexual
harassment against Carrasco. (Doc. No. 66, ¶ 14). Scott
Lindsey, Director of Human Resources, immediately began an
investigation and Carrasco was put on leave the next day.
(Carrasco Leave Ltr., Doc. No. 49-12). Lindsey testified that
Sharon Pertiller, Executive Officer of Human Resources and
Talent Strategy, told him that if he did not get his
investigation right, “Dr. Joseph is going to fire you,
he's going to fire Deborah [Story] and he may even fire
me.” (Doc. No. 73, ¶ 41 (citing Lindsey Dep., Doc.
No. 62-25 at PageID# 1239)).
16, 2017, Carrasco sent Deborah Story, Chief Human Resources
Officer, a letter regarding the meeting with Plaintiff the
previous day. (Doc. No. 65-33). Defendant characterizes the
letter as a “summary” of the meeting.
(See Story Dep., Doc. No. 49-5 at PageID# 510).
Plaintiff characterizes the letter as a “bad
evaluation.” (See Pl. Resp., Doc. No. 64 at
20). Story did not place the letter in Plaintiff's
employment file. (Story Dep., Doc. No. 49-5 at PageID# 510).
after Carrasco was placed on leave, he sent Plaintiff the
following text message, which Plaintiff has characterized as
“threatening”: “Happy Thanksgiving,
Vanessa. I hope your home is filled with peace and kindness.
God looks out for those who are righteous and forgives those
who are not. Be blessed.” (Pl. Dep., Doc. No. 79-1 at
PageID # 2181).
resigned on December 8, 2017. (Carrasco Resignation Ltr.,
Doc. No. 54-13). MNPS continued the investigation into
Plaintiff's complaints of sexual harassment, eventually
enlisting the assistance of Michael Taylor, Human Resources
Assistant Director for Metro Nashville. (Story Dep., Doc. No.
49-5 at PageID# 532). On January 9, 2018, Mr. Taylor sent a
letter giving an overview of the investigation and concluding
that it “appears Mr. Carrasco violated MNPS'
harassment policy” and that disciplinary action would
have been taken had Carrasco not resigned. (Doc. No. 49-5 at
claims that after Carrasco's resignation, Deborah Story
became her immediate supervisor and was always “very
short and curt.” (Pl. Aff., Doc. No. 65-1, ¶ 74).
In addition, Plaintiff claims she was not invited to meetings
and she found it difficult to do her job because MNPS
“kept putting up barricades to the interviews”
Plaintiff was supposed to conduct with principals.
(Id., ¶ 75). Plaintiff “did not feel like
a part of the team for the rest of the school year.”
February and March 2018, MNPS conducted interviews to fill
Carrasco's vacant position of Executive Officer of
Organizational Development. (Pl. Dep., Doc. No. 49-2 at
PageID # 433-34). Plaintiff applied for the position and
received an initial interview, but was not selected for a
panel interview and, ultimately, was not hired for the
position. (Pl. Aff., Doc. No. 65-1, ¶¶ 76, 78). The
position was given to Dr. Sonia Stewart, who “best
articulated her vision for the department.” (Story
Dep., Doc. No. 49-5 at PageID#528-29). Dr. Stewart had also
made a statement about Carrasco during the internal
investigation. (Stewart Interview Stmt., Doc. No. 49-13 at
PageID# 628). Plaintiff claims Dr. Stewart was less qualified
for the position and that she had no central office
experience. (Pl. Aff., Doc. No. 65-1, ¶ 79).
11, 2018, Plaintiff was informed that budget constraints
required the elimination of positions, including hers, with
the Human Resources Department. (Doc. No. 71, ¶ 25).
Defendant described the decision to eliminate Plaintiff's
position as Executive Director of Leadership Development as
the consequence of an administrative error. (Spencer Dep.,
Doc. No. 70-4 at PageID# 1906). When Plaintiff was
transferred to the human resources department in 2017,
“[t]he people were moved to Human Resources, but no
positions, no full-time corporate positions or dollars
appear[ed] to have come with them.” (Id.) As a
result, the department had more people than budgeted-for
positions. (Id. at PageID# 1913). In sum, Defendant
states that while Plaintiff had physically moved to human
resources and was performing work there as Executive Director
of Leadership Development, somehow MNPS had not
administratively transferred the budget to pay her salary to
human resources or accounted for her position on its list of
full-time employees. Metro claims when it came time to cut
positions for budget reasons, Dr. Story, the head of the
human resources department, decided to eliminate
Plaintiff's position because it never really existed in
the first place. As Dr. Story confirmed in her deposition,
Plaintiff's position was “kind of in the twilight
zone somewhere.” (Story Dep., Doc. No. 72-3 at PageID#
Director of Schools approved the elimination of
Plaintiff's position. (Joseph Dep., Doc. No. 70-2 at
PageID# 1896). The elimination of Plaintiff's position
was never submitted to the school board in the budget
proposal or elsewhere. (Def. Resp., Doc. No. 70 at 7).
Defendant explained, “Because [their] positions had
never been moved to the Human Resources Department, their
positions were not included in the ‘positions
reduced' category for HR on the approved MNPS budget.
While their headcount was eliminated, [human resources] did
not reduce the number of [full-time employees], and, thus,
did not include their terminations on the budget
before Plaintiff was informed that her position was being
eliminated, Dr. Joseph played a song called “Blow the
Whistle” at a principals' meeting. (Pl. Aff., Doc.
No. 65-1, ¶ 94; Doc. No. 73, ¶ 40).
brings claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. and the
Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”), Tenn. Code
Ann. § 4-21-101 et seq., for sexual hostile
work environment, retaliation, retaliatory hostile work
environment, and for violation of Tenn. Code Ann. §
49-5-511. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on
all claims. (Doc. No. 47). Plaintiff filed a Partial Motion
for Summary Judgment on her claim for violation of Tenn. Code
Ann. § 49-5-511. (Doc. No. 59).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate “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). The party bringing the summary judgment
motion has the initial burden of informing the Court of the
basis for its motion and identifying portions of the record
that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over
material facts. Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587, 595
(6th Cir. 2003). The moving party may satisfy this burden by
presenting affirmative evidence that negates an element of
the non-moving party's claim or by demonstrating an
absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the
facts in the light most favorable for the nonmoving party and
draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving
party. Bible Believers v. Wayne Cty., Mich., 805
F.3d 228, 242 (6th Cir. 2015); Wexler v. White's Fine
Furniture, Inc., 317 F.3d 564, 570 (6th Cir. 2003). The
Court does not weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of
witnesses, or determine the truth of the matter. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).
Rather, the Court determines whether sufficient evidence has
been presented to make the issue of material fact a proper
jury question. Id. The mere scintilla of evidence in
support of the nonmoving party's position is insufficient
to survive summary judgment; instead, there must be evidence
from which the jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving
party. Rodgers 344 F.3d at 595.
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, “[a] district
court is not … obligated to wade through and search
the entire record for some specific facts that might support
the nonmoving party's claim.” InterRoyal Corp.
v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989). In
determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists
on a particular issue, the court is entitled to rely only
upon those portions of the verified pleadings, depositions,
and answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with any affidavits submitted, specifically called
to its attention by the parties. The Court must consider only
evidence that can be presented in an admissible form at
trial. Tranter v. Orick, 460 Fed.Appx. 513');">460 Fed.Appx. 513, 514 (6th
Cir. 2012) (“The proffered evidence need not be in
admissible form, but its content must be admissible.”)
Motion to Strike or Exclude
addressing the parties' legal arguments, the Court first
considers Defendant's argument that some of the evidence
relied upon by Plaintiff is inadmissible and should not be
considered on a motion for summary judgment. Specifically,
Defendant moves to strike or exclude paragraphs 13, 14, 17,
and 18 from the Declaration of Scott Lindsey (Doc. No. 62-4)
on grounds that these are lay person opinion testimony not
based on personal knowledge. The Court has not relied on any
of these statements in deciding the pending motion.
Accordingly, without deciding the admissibility of any of
these statements at trial, the portion of the motion
addressing the Declaration of Scott Lindsey (Doc. No. 62-4)
is DENIED as MOOT.
addition, Defendant moves to strike 21 statements in
Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Material Facts (Doc.
No. 67) on grounds that they are inadmissible hearsay. The
Court will address these statements by grouping them
categorically. First, Plaintiff's testimony of
Carrasco's statements to her are not offered for the
truth of the matter asserted (e.g., that Carrasco actually
dreamt of Plaintiff), but rather as evidence that Plaintiff
was subjected ...