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Sharp v. Best Buy Co., Inc.

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

April 13, 2015

ROBERT A. SHARP, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
BEST BUY CO., INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GREG N. STIVERS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Best Buy Co., Inc. ("Best Buy") (DN 17). Because the time to file a response has passed, this matter is ripe for a decision. For the reasons outlined below, the motion is GRANTED.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS

Plaintiff Robert A. Sharp, Jr. ("Sharp") was employed by Defendant Best Buy Co., Inc. ("Best Buy") in its Bowling Green, Kentucky, store as an auto technician in the vehicle install bay. (Sharp Dep. 41:18-20, Sept. 23, 2014, DN 17-2). While the position was initially part-time, Sharp eventually went to full-time status and was later promoted to the position of lead auto technician, which he held until the time of his termination. (Sharp Dep. 41:23-42:3, 42:16-18, 44:8-12). As an employee of Best Buy, Sharp was familiar with Best Buy's zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy and knew that engaging in sexual harassment was grounds for termination. (Sharp Dep. 169:11-22).

The record reflects that Sharp had been diagnosed as having narcolepsy and cataplexy. (Sharp Dep. 67:7-17). During his employment, Sharp presented a note dated June 14, 2012, from his treating physician requesting that Best Buy accommodate Sharp's disability by avoiding shift work. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. C, DN 17-4; Sharp Dep. 73:17-74:10). With the exception of one scheduling mistake, the uncontroverted record reflects that Best Buy provided the requested accommodation. (Sharp Dep. 73:8-16).

On June 13, 2013, Best Buy first became aware of alleged sexual harassment by Sharp when fellow employee Chloe Cesler ("Cesler") made a verbal complaint to a person named Monique[1] on the Human Resources Hotline. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J, Ex. G at 2, DN 17-8; Sharp Dep. 154:12-155:1; Crossland Decl. ¶ 5, DN 17-3). To follow up her verbal report, Cesler e-mailed Monique with additional details regarding incidents of sexual harassment perpetrated by Sharp, which included:

• On April 15, 2013, Cesler missed the appointment for an installation in her vehicle due to a dentist appointment. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2, DN 17-8). According to Cesler, Sharp responded "Oh, you were late because you had a guy 6 inches down your throat?" (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2 (internal quotation marks omitted)). While doing the work on Cesler's vehicle, Sharp discovered a condom in the glove compartment. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2). When Sharp returned the keys to her, he placed the keys and the condom into her pants pocket. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2). While Cesler could not exactly recall Sharp's comment, she stated that he "insinuat[ed] that I frequently have sex because I had [a condom] in my car." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2).
• When Cesler returned to work the weekend of May 17-18, 2013, after having her braces removed, she recalled a conversation in which Sharp "insinuated that because [she] didn't have braces anymore that [she] was giving blow jobs and deep throating' now." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2).
• On June 10, 2013, Cesler assisted Sharp at the customer service desk. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2). When she told him that she was coming to help him with the transaction, he responded with "I bet you're coming, " which she believed was innuendo for sexual climax. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2). She indicated that this had occurred on numerous occasions. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2).

In her e-mail message, Cesler noted that many of those events had been observed by co-workers and that she was aware that other female employees had been subject to sexual harassment by Sharp. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G at 2, DN 17-8).

Monique investigated Cesler's complaint over a period of several weeks. (Crossland Decl. ¶¶ 6-8, DN 17-3). During the investigation, Monique spoke with other Best Buy employees or obtained written statements from them regarding Sharp's workplace misconduct. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 2-26, DN 17-9). Besides confirming Cesler's complaint, the co-workers conveyed information about other incidents of sexual harassment, which included:

• Sara Stinson reported that "comments [were] constantly made about someone's fine ass', gigantic boobs', etc." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 10).
• Misty Skaggs ("Skaggs") indicated that Sharp "had spoken before about if I needed to try on some clothes he would be a good judge. He has talked about me coming over to his house after work. He made comments about the way my clothe [sic] fit." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 11). Skaggs also recalled hearing Sharp comment about how Cesler's work shirts fit and her breasts. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 11). Sharp "suggested [that he and Skaggs] find a quiet room somewhere." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 13).
• Jessica Blair ("Blair") told Monique that "every once in a while [Sharp] will come up to geek squad and whatever you say to him he would change it to something sexual." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 14). If she were playing with a ball at work, Sharp would ask Blair "what kind of balls are those, what size balls are they." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 14).
• Krista Ford ("Ford") stated that Sharp would make comments "about [her] pants and how they fit... her backside." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 17). Ford also mentioned that Sharp "made jokes about when it came to screwing in a screw; he made jokes about nailing things." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 17).
• Scarlett Martin ("Martin") told Monique that she had been a target of Sharp's sexual harassment. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 19). Martin reported that Sharp commented about her chest size and Sharp told her that she "need[ed] bungee cords to hold [her breasts] up." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 19). When Martin was choking on gum one day at work, Sharp responded with the comment that "I bet that's not the only thing you would like to choke on." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 19). Martin also recalled an incident where she was bent over going through a bin, and Sharp commented that "you are used to that position." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 19).
• Alexander Gibbs ("Gibbs") overheard comments that Sharp made to Cesler. In his statement, Gibbs recalled Sharp telling Cesler that she had "huge tits, " a "big ass, " and "child-bearing hips." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 22). Gibbs also conveyed a comment about Cesler looking good "on her knees, looking up while she gives head." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 22). Gibbs also referenced an incident in which Sharp "repeatedly tried to attach a post-it note to Chloe's butt without her noticing and made jacking off motions when she would turn away or bend over." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 22). In addition, Gibbs noted that Sharp would "pretend[] to, slap that ass' when she would lean over to either pick up a form or speak with a client." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H at 22).

As a result of its investigation, Best Buy determined that Sharp's conduct violated its sexual harassment policy. (Crossland Decl. ¶ 9). On July 26, 2013, Thomas Crossland, the store's General Manager, terminated Sharp's employment. (Crossland Decl. ¶ 9; Sharp Dep. 44:13-14).

Sharp filed this lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101-12117; and KRS 207.150 and KRS 207.170, which are provisions of Kentucky Equal Opportunities Act ("KEOA"). (Compl. ¶¶ 17-22, DN 1). The deadline for discovery has passed, and Best Buy has moved for summary ...


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