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Suiter v. Logan County

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

March 26, 2015

CINDRA J. SUITER, Plaintiff,
v.
LOGAN COUNTY, KENTUCKY; LOGAN COUNTY DETENTION CENTER; BILL JENKINS, LOGAN COUNTY JAILER; and DEWAYNE REYNOLDS, DEPUTY JAILER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GREG N. STIVERS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge (DN 96) relating to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 81). The parties have filed objections, and this matter is ripe for a decision. For the reasons outlined below, the Court ACCEPTS and ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge in its entirety, and OVERRULES the objections of the parties.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS

In 2004, Plaintiff Cindra J. Suiter ("Suiter") was hired as a deputy jailer at the Logan County Detention Center ("LCDC"). In approximately 2008, Defendant Lieutenant DeWayne Reynolds ("Reynolds") allegedly made unwanted sexually advances towards her including unconsented touching, comments about her physical appearance, requests for dates, and questions regarding her personal life, including sexual activities. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12, DN 1).

On August 28, 2008, Suiter made her first verbal report of the offensive conduct to Captain Brandon Erby ("Erby") and Chief Deputy Richard Brooks, and Erby encouraged Suiter to raise her complaints with Jailer Bill Jenkins ("Jenkins"). (Erby Dep. 10:5-11:16, Jan. 21, 2014, DN 77-1). On September 2, 2008, Suiter met with Jenkins and made a written complaint.[1] (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A-3 at 3-4, DN 81-4; Jenkins Dep. 34:3-35:17, June 11, 2013, DN 74-1).

Following Suiter's report of the harassment, Jenkins instructed both Suiter and Reynolds to avoid intentional contact at work. (Jenkins Aff. ¶ 4, DN 81-2; Jenkins Dep. 38:13-39:14, DN 74-2). According to Suiter, however, she remained in close proximity to Reynolds because they worked on the same side of the jail, and Reynolds' harassment continued.[2] The record reflects an incident in a lounge area in which Reynolds stared and whistled at Suiter. (1 Suiter Dep. 51:3-6, Feb. 18, 2010, DN 71-3). In another incident, Reynolds waited for Suiter at the jail's booking desk and trapped Suiter in a locked hallway with him. (Holloway Dep. 33:25-34:11, Mar. 18, 2014, DN 84). One of Suiter's former co-workers, Melissa Holloway ("Holloway") testified that "anytime [Reynolds] got the chance to try to be around her just to intimidate her, I felt like he tried to do that." (Holloway Dep. 34:15-17).

During Jenkins' investigation, he interviewed employees and prisoners who interacted with Suiter and Reynolds. (Jenkins Aff. Ex. at 9-17, DN 81-3). The interviews reflected that Suiter frequently initiated conversations of a sexual nature and had been dating one of her coworkers. (Jenkins Aff. Ex. at 4-7, 11-12, 13, DN 81-3). Suiter had also been transferred to different shifts due to complaints from her supervisors. (Jenkins Aff. Ex. at 4-7, 11-12, 13, DN 81-3). Ultimately, Jenkins was unable to substantiate whether the sexual harassment actually occurred. (Jenkins Aff. ¶ 7; Jenkins Aff. Ex. at 17-20, DN 81-3).

Following the report of Reynolds' harassment, Suiter sought treatment from Dr. Corrie Vos, a licensed psychologist.[3] (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex., DN 91-12). Dr. Vos opined that Suiter had serious depression and anxiety symptoms. (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex., DN 91-12). Upon Dr. Vos's recommendation, Suiter requested and was granted a medical leave of absence without pay. (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex., DN 91-10). On April 27, 2011, Dr. Voss released Suiter to return to work, but Suiter never returned. (Attach. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. D, DN 82-2; Attach. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E, DN 82-3).

Under the LCDC's personnel policies, "[e]mployees who fail to return to work for three consecutive days without notifying the Department Director shall be considered to have abandoned the job and hall be removed from employment with the county." (Attach. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. F, DN 82-4). Upon receipt of Dr. Voss' letter, Jenkins held Suiter's position open for four weeks, and on June 6, 2011, Suiter was terminated. (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex., DN 91-7; Attach. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E, DN 82-3).

Suiter filed this lawsuit alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1984 ("Title VII"), the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED").[4] Following the completion of discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., DN 81). In the Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommended granting summary judgment on the following claims: (i) the Title VII retaliation and hostile work environment claims against Reynolds and Jenkins; (ii) the Title VII retaliation claim against Logan County; and (iii) the IIED claim. (Report & Recommendation 27, DN 96). The Magistrate Judge also recommended denying summary judgment on the hostile work environment claim against Logan County, and the IIED claim against Reynolds. (Report & Recommendation 27).

Both parties have filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Defs.' Objection to Report & Recommendation, DN 97; Pl.'s Objection to Report & Recommendation, DN 98). For the reasons outlined below, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation in its entirety and overrules the parties' objections.

II. JURISDICTION

This Court has subject-matter jurisdiction of claims arising under Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3). The Court also has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's pendent state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In general, this Court conducts a de novo review of the portions of a U.S. magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a party objects. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In conducting its review, this Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in party, the findings or ...


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