United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. McKinley Jr., District Judge United States District Court
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment [DN 21] and Plaintiff's Motion to Exceed
the Page Limit on her Response to the Motion for Summary
Judgment [DN 26]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for
decision. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion
to Exceed the Page Limit is GRANTED and Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
to the Complaint, Ms. Wendy Harper began working at the
Webster County Jail (the “Jail”) in October 2013
as a Deputy Jailer. [DN 1 ¶ 10]. Webster County,
Kentucky (the “County”) is directly responsible
for the policies, customs, and practices implemented at the
Jail, as well as the hiring, training, and supervision of
Jail employees. [Id. ¶ 2]. Directly following
her hiring, Jailer Terry Elder and Chief Deputy Greg Sauls
warned Ms. Harper not to let the men on her shift run her off
the job. [Id. ¶ 11]. Ms. Harper claims that
within her first week on the job, she received additional
warnings from coworkers to beware of Deputy Brad Conaway,
“who had historically exhibited hostile attitudes
toward female employees.” [Id. ¶ 12].
Specifically, Ms. Harper named four individuals-Deputies
Dustin Loukota, Troy Sheerer, and Randy Beech and Control
Room Operator Layla McNeily-who forewarned her that Mr.
Conaway was known to make sexual advances towards female
employees and had treated the female employees so badly that
one resigned and two recently switched shifts to avoid Mr.
Conaway. [Id. ¶ 13-14].
Harper alleges that her first interaction with Mr. Conaway
was riddled with sexual harassment and that the harassment
continued until she made clear to Mr. Conaway that she was
unwilling to accompany him on prisoner transports.
[Id. ¶¶16-18]. Upon this clarification,
Ms. Harper says Mr. Conaway's “behavior toward her
changed from flirtation to aggression, ” culminating in
his screaming at her in front of coworkers and inmates and
making efforts to undermine her authority as a Deputy.
[Id. ¶ 18]. Ms. Harper cites as an example an
incident in the spring of 2014-Ms. Harper placed a cell on a
24-hour lockdown after inmates' poor behavior, shortly
thereafter Mr. Conaway entered the cell block and immediately
removed the punishment despite lacking supervisory authority
over Ms. Harper. [Id. ¶ 19]. As she was leaving
work that day, Ms. Harper alleges Mr. Conaway, in his truck,
raced toward her, missing her only by only a few inches as he
exited the Jail's parking lot. [Id. ¶ 21].
The next day, Ms. Harper claims she filed a written complaint
and submitted it to Mr. Elder, who she says laughed when he
received it and sent her back to work. [Id. ¶
Harper alleges that following this incident Mr. Conaway's
hostility toward her increased. [Id. ¶ 23]. Mr.
Conaway would frequently yell at Ms. Harper and berate her
for her workplace performance despite her male counterparts
performing their job functions the same way. [Id.
¶¶ 23-24]. In response, Ms. Harper alleges she
“filed numerous written complaints against Mr.
Conaway's [sic], citing his hostile and abusive
conduct.” [Id. ¶ 26]. Instead of any
resolution to the situation from Mr. Elder or Mr. Sauls, Mr.
Conaway was promoted to Sergeant in the fall of 2015,
becoming a direct supervisor to the deputies. [Id.].
Following his promotion, Ms. Harper alleges Mr. Conaway began
assigning her menial tasks in an effort to disrupt her work
day, leading her to continue filing written complaints about
his behavior. [Id. ¶ 27-28].
Harper asserts that beginning sometime in 2016 she observed
another employee, Deputy Jimmy Hernandez, interacting
inappropriately with female inmates-flirting with them and
passing them small gifts. [Id. ¶ 30]. Ms.
Harper, believing this to be a violation of the Prison Rape
Elimination Act (“PREA”) reported the behavior to
Mr. Conaway, as he was the direct supervisor on duty.
[Id.]. Ms. Harper contends she reported similar
behavior to Mr. Conaway on numerous occasions.
[Id.]. In late April 2016, Ms. Harper reported the
same behavior to Mr. Conaway who allegedly screamed at her to
mind her own business and that if she did not drop the matter
“all hell would break lose [sic].”
[Id.]. In response, Ms. Harper claims she
immediately went to Mr. Elder's office and explained the
situation, “that she could not be subject to Mr.
Conaway's abuse any longer, and that she would have to
find another place to work.” [Id. ¶ 31].
Thereafter, Mr. Elder called Mr. Conaway to his office where
he told Mr. Conaway to fix the situation with Mr. Hernandez
but offered no resolution to Mr. Conaway's continuing
abuse. [Id. ¶ 32].
Harper alleges she began to experience “extreme anxiety
and depression, including bouts of chest pain, migraines, and
difficulty breathing.” [Id. ¶ 33]. After
seeing a doctor, Ms. Harper claims she was informed that her
condition would not improve if she continued working with Mr.
Conaway. [Id. ¶ 35]. Ms. Harper, enjoying the
other aspects of her job, hoped to find a way to return-she
requested that Mr. Elder move Mr. Conaway to the Jail's
other daytime shift so she would not have to work with him.
[Id.]. Instead, Mr. Elder offered to move Ms. Harper
to the night shift-Ms. Harper alleges this offer operated as
a demotion. [Id.]. Thereafter, Ms. Harper took leave
under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to
obtain further treatment. [Id. ¶ 35]. Ms.
Harper claims she was unable to return to her position due to
her working conditions and that Mr. Elder and the County
refused to take adequate remedial action against Mr.
Conaway's behavior, eventually causing her constructive
Harper filed this lawsuit in February 2017 against Mr.
Conaway, Mr. Elder, and the County (collectively, the
“Defendants”). [DN 1]. She asserts claims for
violation of two provisions of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act
(“KCRA”), her Equal Protection Clause and Title
VII rights pursuant to § 1983, and the Kentucky
Whistleblower Act (“KWA”). [Id.
¶¶ 38-72]. Following discovery, the Defendants
filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment claiming that
despite the allegations in her Complaint, the evidence
submitted by Ms. Harper failed to raise a genuine dispute of
material fact on each of her causes of action. [DN 21].
Thereafter, Ms. Harper filed a thirty-seven page Response to
the Motion for Summary Judgment, well exceeding the permitted
page count. [DN 25]. The next day, Ms. Harper filed a Motion
for Leave to File Excess Pages arguing that the
Defendants' Motion required a lengthy response. [DN 26].
Defendants did not oppose Ms. Harper's Motion and later
filed their Reply for the Motion for Summary Judgment. [DN
Standard of Review and Law
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 the 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,
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.
Court will address first the Motion to Exceed the Page Limit
followed by Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ...