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Roof v. BEL Brands USA, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

September 26, 2017

KAREN ROOF PLAINTIFF
v.
BEL BRANDS USA, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief judge United States District Court.

         This matter is before the Court on a motion by Defendant, Bel Brands USA, Inc., for summary judgment [DN 59] and on a motion by Plaintiff, Karen Roof, for leave to supplement her response with the affidavit of Don Pawley [DN 66]. Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 5, 2014, Plaintiff, Karen Roof, filed this action in the Grayson Circuit Court alleging employment discrimination on the basis of age and sex in violation of Kentucky Civil Rights Act (“KCRA”) KRS § 344.040, retaliation in violation of KRS § 344.280, and other state law claims of promissory estoppel, negligent hiring, and civil conspiracy. Plaintiff also joined the age and sex discrimination, retaliation, and civil-conspiracy claims against a non-diverse defendant, Hyrum Horn (“Horn”). Defendant, Bel Brands, removed the action to federal court on the theory that Plaintiff had fraudulently joined Horn in an effort to defeat federal jurisdiction. The Court denied Plaintiff's motion to remand and granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff appealed the matter to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals who affirmed the dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims except for her sex-discrimination claim.

         Plaintiff began her employment with Defendant Bel Brands USA, Inc., in May of 1995 at its Leitchfield, Kentucky facility. Plaintiff was employed as a production floor worker and then a warehouse worker. Plaintiff operated forklifts, unloaded trucks, managed inventory, and transferred material to the production floor by the use of computers. In 2009, Bel Brands obtained a new computer system to manage business operations and inventory control. Due to an increase in her workload as a result of the new system, Plaintiff asked for a raise. Her request was denied.

         In 2012, Defendant hired Hyrum Horn as the Supply Chain Manager for Bel Brands' Leitchfield facility. In 2013, Defendant advertised for a Warehouse Supervisor position. Plaintiff asked Horn if she should put in for the position, to which Horn responded “go for it.” Horn later told Plaintiff that Bel Brands “was seeking to hire outside of the company for the position” and that Bel Brands was going to “make [her] a coordinator because [she was] already doing that job.” (Complaint ¶¶ 52-53.) In the summer of 2013, Bel Brands hired Rod Inman for the Warehouse Supervisor position and instructed Plaintiff to train him to use the warehouse software. According to Plaintiff, Horn represented to Plaintiff that he expected her to be in a supervisory position by December 2013.

         Plaintiff and Tiffany Overstreet, Plaintiff's co-worker in the warehouse, had an on-going conflict with each other. Plaintiff asserts that she and Overstreet applied for the same position and that Overstreet became aggressive toward Plaintiff. On September 18, 2013, Horn, Inman, and Jason Frederick from Human Resources met with Plaintiff and Overstreet regarding the tensions in the warehouse. Horn testified that as a result of their conduct, he disqualified both Plaintiff and Overstreet from being considered for the open supervisory position, an Inventory Control Specialist. As a result of the September 18, 2013 meeting, Horn issued Plaintiff and Overstreet a “Memo to File” disciplinary report. Notwithstanding the Memo to File, Plaintiff applied for the position. Defendant hired Paul Myers for the Inventory Control Specialist.

         Finally, both in her deposition and her response to the motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff argues that she was also denied a promotion to Warehouse Key Operator in October 2015 when Defendant hired Derrick Decker and Justin Cockerel, two male employees whom Plaintiff had previously trained.[1]

         Defendant now moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's sex-discrimination claim.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the non-moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Title VII makes it “an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1); Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993). Under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (“KCRA”), it is unlawful for an employer “to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of the individual's race, color, religion, national origin, sex. . . .” KRS § 344.040(1)(a). “Claims brought under the KCRA are ‘analyzed in the same manner'” as claims brought under Title ...


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