United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
DAVID T. JOHNSON PLAINTIFF,
CC METALS & ALLOYS, LLC DEFENDANT.
B. Russell, Senior Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendant CC Metals &
Alloys, LLC’s Motion for Summary Judgment. [DN 14].
Plaintiff David Johnson responded [DN 15], and Defendant
replied, [DN 16]. This matter is now ripe for adjudication.
For the reasons stated herein: Defendant’s Motion for
Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
case arises out of Plaintiff David Johnson’s employment
with Defendant CC Metals & Alloys, LLC
(“CCMA”). [DN 1]. In July 2017, CCMA hired
Johnson to work as a furnace operator in its plant in Calvert
City, Kentucky. Id. According to Johnson, teasing
and horseplay were common among the workers at the plant. [DN
14-1 at 91]. Between July and December 2017, Johnson claims
coworkers made three comments about his car, clothing, and
hobbies. Id. at 96– 99. First, Johnson
overheard a coworker in the lunchroom state: “only gay
guys drive two-door BMW sports cars.” Id. at
96. In the locker room, Johnson also overheard a colleague
say his clothes were “tight-fitting clothes, not
camouflage, [but] pretty boy clothes.” Id. at
97. Finally, Johnson claims a coworker asked him,
“Everyone else here hunts, so why don’t
you?” Id. at 98, 99. In his deposition,
Johnson testified that these comments did not upset him.
Id. at 98, 99, 102. In fact, Johnson admitted that
he also engaged in “horseplay” while at work.
Id. at 91. On several occasions Johnson took
photographs of his coworkers at the plant, edited the
pictures to include sexually and racially explicit content,
and then sent the edited photos to his coworkers.
Id. at 71–75, 125–128. Johnson claims he
was also a target of his coworkers’ edited photos, but
he found the photos funny. [DN 15 at 190].
December 2017, the nature of Johnson’s relationship
with his coworkers changed. [Id.; DN 14-1 at 91].
Johnson was sitting on a work bench when he was approached by
his coworker, Emmit Gentry, who wanted to sleep where Johnson
was sitting. [DN 14-1 at 89–90]. When Johnson refused
to move, Gentry became upset and poured glue on
Johnson’s work area. Id. at 88. Johnson
retaliated by messing up Gentry’s work area.
Id. at 89. The men exchanged words and planned to
fight after work, though no fight ever took place.
Id. at 92–93. After this encounter, Johnson
believes that his coworkers started treating him differently.
Id. at 91. He claims coworkers erased his name from
the union’s overtime sign-up sheet and wrote
“fag” and “queer” next to his name on
the overtime sheet and schedule. Id. at 91, 93, 94.
Johnson does not know which of his coworkers wrote the
derogatory language next to his name, but he estimates that
it occurred 15-20 times between December 2017 and May 2018.
Id. at 95. Johnson testified that he believed the
offensive language was written because people had assumed his
sexual orientation. Id. at 94.
April 29, 2018, Johnson overfilled a casting bed with liquid
metal. [DN 14-2 at 147]. As a result, Jason Forsythe, the
employee taking over for Johnson in the next shift, had to
spend time correcting Johnson’s mistake. Id.
Forsythe reported the incident to his supervisor, and the
next day Johnson received a write-up. Id. Later that
day, Forsythe shouted at Johnson in a crowded lunchroom:
“You wouldn’t fuck a guy, would you?” [DN
14-1 at 76]. Johnson immediately left the lunchroom.
Id. at 87.
1, Johnson reported the comment to CCMA’s Human
Resource Administrator Treasa Cook and provided a list of
people who had been present in the lunchroom. Id. at
76. Cook testified that she called each person identified by
Johnson to investigate the incident, though no one recalled
hearing the comment. [DN 15-1 at 213, 217]. Moreover, Cook
claims that she did not inform any of the potential witnesses
that Johnson had requested an investigation into the
incident. Id. at 213. However, on May 3, Johnson
informed Cook that his coworker, Adam Dawson, had told him
that people at the plant believed that Johnson had gone to
Human Resources over the incident. [DN 14-3 at 160; DN 15-1
at 215]. Johnson told Cook that he was stressed about the
situation, his coworkers had given him bad looks, and he
planned to leave early that day. [DN 14-3 at 160]. Cook told
Johnson that she would speak to Dawson, but when she called
him, he did not answer or get back to her. [DN 15-1 at 217,
218]. Although Johnson suspected that his coworkers knew the
source of the complaint, he testified that no one talked to
him about the complaint, and that he experienced no
problematic comments or incidents after making the complaint.
[DN 14-1 at 118–21].
the next few days, Johnson worked his normal eight-hour
shift. Id. at 105. Again, he testified that there
were no incidents regarding the complaint and that his
coworkers did not speak to him. Id. at 119, 120.
However, May 7 through May 10, Johnson did not come to work.
Id. at 106–07. On May 11, Johnson attempted to
email his resignation to CCMA. Id. at 129. The email
stated that Johnson was resigning from CCMA due to
“discrimination of sexual orientation and hostile work
environment.” Id. at 129. Additionally, the
email noted that Forsythe was still working on
Johnson’s shift after making “homophobic
remarks” to him in “front of 20 other
employees.” Id. Finally, the email stated that
the company had “done nothing to support [Johnson]
legally with the known facts of harassment [because] of [his]
sexual orientation.” Id. During his
deposition, Johnson also testified that he resigned because
he feared for his safety. Id. at 84–85.
did not receive Johnson’s resignation email because he
sent it to an address that did not belong to the company. [DN
14 at 47]. However, when an employee does not come to work
for several days, CCMA considers their absence a resignation
of their position. [DN 15-1 at 213]. Accordingly, Cook
drafted a letter to Johnson accepting his resignation as of
May 14. Id. At this point, Cook testified that she
terminated the investigation into the lunchroom incident but
could not give a specific reason for this decision.
Id. at 215.
to filing this lawsuit, Johnson filed a charge against CCMA
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”). [DN 1-2]. The EEOC dismissed the charge
and authorized Johnson to bring the current lawsuit.
judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals “that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
where “there is sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court “may not make
credibility determinations nor weigh the evidence when
determining whether an issue of fact remains for
trial.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d
714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Logan v. Denny's,
Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001); Ahlers v.
Schebil, 188 F.3d 365, 369 (6th Cir. 1999)). “The
ultimate question is ‘whether the evidence presents a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.’” Back v. Nestlé USA,
Inc., 694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251–52).
party moving for summary judgment, CCMA must shoulder the
burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of
material fact as to at least one essential element of
Johnson’s claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also
Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Assuming CCMA
satisfies its burden of production, Johnson “must-by
deposition, answers to interrogatories, affidavits, and
admissions on ...