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Gilmore v. Land O'Frost, Inc.

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

October 10, 2018



          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment [DN 35]. Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for decision. For the following reasons, the Defendants' Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Quincy Gilmore filed this action after he was terminated from his position at Land O'Frost, Inc., a meat processing company in Madisonville, Kentucky. Gilmore claims that during his employment at Land O'Frost, he was regularly disciplined by management for behaviors that were acceptable for his white coworkers. Within his Complaint, Gilmore alleges that management was looking for any reason to get rid of him and that he was eventually fired in retaliation for making complaints about Land O'Frost to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (“KCHR”) and the Department of Labor. Defendants claim that Gilmore was fired after an investigation led management to believe that he was one of the people responsible for stealing copper wiring from the Land O'Frost facility.

         Gilmore filed this lawsuit against Land O'Frost and certain members of Land O'Frost management, LaSenna Powell, James Texas, and James Feeney. Previously, Defendants brought a Motion for Summary Judgment, asking that all claims against them be dismissed. At that time, the Court dismissed Gilmore's claims of discrimination based on race, interference and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act, promissory estoppel, and defamation, but did not find adequate grounds for dismissal of Gilmore's wage and hour claim in Count VIII. In addition, Counts II and III remained because Defendants did not discuss a basis for dismissal of his claims of hostile work environment or retaliation within his first Motion for Summary Judgment. Now, Defendants renew their request for the Court to dismiss the remaining claims against them.

         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

         1. Hostile Work Environment (Count II)

         In Count II of the Complaint, Gilmore alleges that Defendants subjected him to unwelcome harassment which created an “intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment” in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (“KCRA”). (Compl. ¶ 129.) Hostile work environment claims under the KCRA are analyzed in the same manner as federal claims under Title VII. Morris v. Oldham County Fiscal Court, 201 F.3d 784, 793 (6th Cir. 2000). To establish a prima facie case of hostile work environment, Gilmore must establish the following five elements: (1) he was a member of a protected class; (2) he was subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) the harassment was based on his protected status; (4) the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to affect a term, condition, or privilege of employment; and (5) his employer knew or should have known about the harassing conduct but failed to take corrective measures. Fullen v. City of Columbus, 514 Fed. App'x 601, 606-07 (6th Cir. 2013). Importantly, “[s]o long as the environment would be reasonably perceived, and is perceived, as hostile or abusive, there is no need for it also to be psychologically injurious.” Harris v. Forklift Sys., 510 U.S. 17, 22 (1993). In deciding whether an environment is hostile or abusive, the Supreme Court instructs that courts should analyze the totality of the circumstances, including (1) the frequency of discriminatory conduct; (2) its severity; (3) whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and (4) whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance. Id. at 23.

         Gilmore claims that he has proven the elements necessary for a hostile work environment action by showing harassment “in the form of comments made by upper-management, related to suspicions about him and being told that he complains too often, and being reprimanded for things that, when done by his Caucasian coworkers, were not reprimanded.” (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Renewed Mot. for Summ. J. [DN 38] at 6.) Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on Gilmore's hostile work environment claim because “Gilmore's argument that he was disciplined different than non-minority employees is premised on nothing more than unsupported allegations.” (Defs.' Supp. Mem. of Law in Support of Summ. J. [DN 35-1] at 9.)

         It is true that Gilmore has no evidence that he was treated differently than his Caucasian coworkers other than his own testimony from his deposition and Verified Complaint. However, as this motion is on summary judgment by the Defendants, the Court must view all the evidence in a light most favorable to Gilmore. This means the Court must accept Gilmore's allegations that he was regularly punished for behaviors that were acceptable for his white coworkers. Further, the Court will accept that Gilmore's supervisor, James Texas, singled him out and told his white coworker that “he needed to watch Mr. Gilmore and the other African American employee Alex Powell when they were together.” (Compl. ¶ 81.) Texas' instructions that coworkers should watch Gilmore were humiliating and threatened the security of Gilmore's job.

         Assuming all the allegations in Gilmore's deposition and Verified Complaint to be true, a reasonable jury may find that Defendants created a hostile work environment, in violation of the KCRA. For this reason, Defendants' Renewed Motion for ...

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