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Edwards v. Sanyo Manufacturing Corp.

May 10, 2007


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


Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to sexual harassment, endured a hostile work environment, and was retaliated against during her employment with Defendant, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA").*fn1 Defendant moved for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 24), arguing that Plaintiff failed to establish the prima facie elements of a sexual harassment claim and retaliation. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff has been employed by Defendant as an Assembly Line Worker since August 18, 2003. As an employee, the terms and conditions of her employment, including layoff, are governed by a collective bargaining agreement.

Between July and November 2004, Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to severe sexual harassment. Plaintiff alleges that on one occasion she discovered that Don Holiman, a Production Manager, was standing behind her with arms crossed and smiling as she was bending over on the job.*fn2

Plaintiff alleges that Keenan Bradley, a group leader, exposed himself to her and co-worker LaBelle Hodges during a lunch break at the plant on July 13, 2004.*fn3 While standing with is pants pulled down, Bradley allegedly stated, "this is 9 3/4, can you handle it?"*fn4 Plaintiff maintains that the incident shocked and humiliated her, but that Bradley just laughed at her.*fn5 Plaintiff also claims that Bradley brushed up against her on as many as three separate occasions while making comments such as "do you feel that" and "you know you want me."*fn6 Plaintiff maintains that Bradley "let her know that he could reprimand, discipline, or terminate anybody and that all he would have to do is go speak with Mr. Holiman and it would be done."*fn7

Plaintiff asserts that Curtis Anderson, a Production Line Supervisor, grabbed the waistband of his pants and pulled them in such as way as to show her the imprint of his genitals. Anderson was standing with Bradley at the time and, although he didn't say anything, Anderson smiled at Plaintiff as he was doing it.*fn8

Plaintiff claims that James Young, a group leader, along with another unknown employee gave her a piece of chewing gum shaped like a penis.*fn9 Finally, in October 2004, Plaintiff alleges that Bobbie Billups, a female hourly employee, shoved her backwards leading to a heated exchange between the two women. Plaintiff maintains that Billups was acting at the behest of management. Plaintiff complained to her union president Melvin Jones and asked him to file a grievance, but he refused stating that she "shouldn't open that can of worms."*fn10

In support of her FMLA retaliation claim, Plaintiff alleges that she wasn't allowed leave to go to doctor's appointments on several occasions. In response, Defendant notes that in 2005, after it had notice of the EEOC charge, Plaintiff was allowed to take off at least eight separate occasions totaling more than sixty working days.

Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on November 13, 2004.*fn11 Defendant was given notice of the charge of discrimination on November 15, 2004.*fn12 Before making the EEOC charge, Plaintiff had made no complaints of harassment, retaliation, or FMLA violations to Defendant.*fn13 Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on December 29, 2005.*fn14

II. Standard of Review

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.*fn15 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.*fn16

The Court of Appeals for 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.*fn17 Nevertheless, summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing trial when no genuine issue of fact remains.*fn18 I must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.*fn19 ...

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