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Halcomb v. Black Mt. Res., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division

August 26, 2014

BILLY J. HALCOMB, PLAINTIFF
v.
BLACK MOUNTAIN RESOURCES, LLC and ALPHA NATURAL RESOURCES, INC., DEFENDANTS

For Billy J. Halcomb, Plaintiff: James Wesley Addington, LEAD ATTORNEY, Evan Barret Smith, Appalachian Citizens' Law Center - Whitesburg, Whitesburg, KY; Tony Oppegard, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lexington, KY.

For Black Mountain Resources, LLC, Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., Defendants: P. Danielle Stone, PRO HAC VICE, Penn, Stuart & Eskridge - Abingdon, Abingdon, VA; Rodney E. Buttermore, Jr., Buttermore & Boggs, Harlan, KY; Stephen M. Hodges, PRO HAC VICE, Penn, Stuart & Eskridge, Abingdon, VA.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

David L. Bunning, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Billy Halcomb alleges that he was sexually harassed by co-workers and supervisors at an underground coal mine in Eastern Kentucky over the course of a three month period in 2012. He now sues the coal mine operator, Black Mountain Resources, LLC, and its parent company, Alpha Natural Resources, for maintaining a hostile and abusive work environment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). He also claims that both companies are vicariously liable for assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Doc. # 5). The motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for review. (Docs. # 14, 15). For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motion will be granted and Halcomb's Complaint will be dismissed.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In early 2012, Plaintiff Billy Halcomb worked as an hourly-wage coal miner at the Panther underground coal mine in Harlan County, Kentucky. That mine was operated by Defendant Black Mountain Resources, LLC (" Black Mountain" ), a subsidiary of Defendant Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. (" Alpha" ). However, the Complaint does not make clear who employed Halcomb, much less that he was employed by either Black Mountain or Alpha.

Between February and May of 2012, two supervisors and other hourly employees at the mine " engaged in a constant, pervasive pattern of abusive demeaning sexual conduct and crude, vulgar sexual language . . . that was directed at Halcomb." (Doc. # 1 at ¶ ¶ 7, 9). That conduct included " the rough and unwanted sexual grabbing of Halcomb's genitals." ( Id. at ¶ 8, 9). In June 2012, Halcomb complained to management of Black Mountain and Alpha about the sexual conduct. ( Id. at ¶ 10). The companies allegedly conducted a " superficial 'investigation'" into Halcomb's complaints and concluded that the complained-of conduct amounted to nothing more than " horseplay." ( Id.).

Unsatisfied with Black Mountain and Alpha's response, Halcomb subsequently filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) on October 18, 2012. The EEOC concluded that the " evidence obtained during the investigation supports [Halcomb's] allegations that he was subjected to a hostile work environment and sexual harassment in violation of Title VII based on sex, male." ( Id. at ¶ 12). The EEOC thus made " conciliation efforts" between the parties but those efforts proved unsuccessful. Thereafter, the EEOC is

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sued Halcomb a notice of right to sue. This ...


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