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McDaniel v. WRW Sanyo Manufacturing Corp.

January 11, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge


Pending is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn1 The Plaintiffs have responded.*fn2 For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the claim of Separate Plaintiff Sherry McDaniel is GRANTED. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on the claim of Separate Plaintiff Patricia Williford is DENIED.

The Plaintiff's allege sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Plaintiffs' allegations include harassment in the form of a hostile work environment claim, anda quid pro quo claim. Plaintiff, McDaniel ("McDaniel") contends that she was subjected to a hostile work environment during the years she worked on Defendant's assembly line, where she observed inappropriate conduct between male and female workers. Separate Plaintiff, Williford ("Williford") contends she was subjected to sexual harassment by a group leader and by the production manager, and that she was terminated during her probationary period because she refused to provide untoward favors to the production manager.*fn3

The Defendant denies Plaintiffs' allegations, and it contends that Plaintiffs didn't avail themselves of a sexual harassment procedure under its established policy. Defendants maintain that the harassment of McDaniel was not so severe that it altered the condition of her employment. Defendants contend that Williford was terminated for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons; and that the supervisor who allegedly requested personal favors from Williford did not make the decision to terminate her.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact, so that the dispute may be decided on purely legal grounds.*fn4 The Supreme Court has established guidelines to assist trial courts in determining whether this standard has been met:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for a trial -- whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.*fn5

The Eighth Circuit has cautioned that summary judgment is an extreme remedy that should only be granted when the movant has established a right to the judgment beyond controversy.*fn6 Nevertheless, summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing trial when no genuine issue of fact remains.*fn7 I must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.*fn8

The Eighth Circuit has also set out the burden of the parties in connection with a summary judgment motion:

[T]he burden on the party moving for summary judgment is only to demonstrate, i.e.,"[to point] out to the District Court," that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the record does not contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and, if the record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the respondent's burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on that issue. If the respondent fails to carry that burden, summary judgment should be granted.*fn9 Only disputes over facts that may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.*fn10

II. Discussion

In a sexual harassment suit, a plaintiff must show: (1) membership in a protected group; (2) the occurrence of unwelcome harassment; (3) a connection between the harassment and membership in the protected group; and (4) the harassment affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment.*fn11

The terms "quid pro quo" and "hostile work environment" are used to illustrate the distinction between harassment claims involving a threat that is carried out and offensive conduct in general. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a plaintiff proves that a tangible employment action resulted from a refusal to submit to a supervisor's sexual demands. When quid pro quo harassment takes place, the tangible employment decision itself constitutes a change in the terms and conditions of employment. But, when there is no such tangible action, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the conduct was severe and pervasive.*fn12

Hostile work environment harassment occurs when the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation and ridicule.*fn13 The work environment should be "one that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive, and one that the victim in fact did perceive to be so."*fn14 Relevant factors to determine whether conduct rises to the level of abusiveness ...

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