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Adams v. Ample Industries

October 30, 2006

TAMMY J. ADAMS, PLAINTIFF
v.
AMPLE INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: District Judge Susan J. Dlott

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Ample Industries, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 18.) On May 18, 2005, Plaintiff Tammy J. Adams filed a complaint against Defendant, her former employer, asserting claims for sexual harassment and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. Defendant contends that there are no material facts in dispute and that it is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant Ample Industries, Inc. ("Ample") employed Plaintiff from September 2001 to November 2004 at its Franklin, Ohio manufacturing facility. During the first two years of her employment, Plaintiff worked the night shift, but in September 2003, she switched to the day shift. According to Plaintiff, it was around that time that she began experiencing problems with another Ample employee, Maurice Becker, who subjected to sexual harassment in the form of "unwelcome, inappropriate, and offensive sexual remarks."*fn1 (Doc. 1 at ¶ 8.) Plaintiff also witnessed Becker behave similarly toward other female employees.

As to the inappropriate comments, Plaintiff specifically recalled one occasion during which Becker stated, "I'm going to take you to the baptismal pool and show you a good time." (Adams Dep. 21.) Plaintiff believed this comment to include sexual innuendo and alleges that Becker knew that she was religious and that this comment would bother her. On a separate occasion, Adams was talking with a co-worker in the company's lunchroom about a party that another co-worker was throwing. Adams stated that she was not going to go to the party and Becker, who had apparently been listening to the conversation said that Adams "wasn't going because [she] thought [her] pussy was made out of gold." (Adams Dep. 61.)

Becker's comments escalated to inappropriate and offensive physical contact in July 2004. For example, Adams claims Becker touched or grabbed her butt, poked her with tools, and pulled at her pants. On one occasion when Plaintiff was at a machine assembling boxes, Becker grabbed her butt while he was walking by. Plaintiff pushed Becker and told him to stop, but he just laughed and walked away. The next day, while Adams was standing at another machine, Becker approached her from the front and tried to stick a pipe or a tool between her legs. Adams pushed the object away and Becker commented, "you watch everything that I do." (Adams Dep. 47.)

Shortly thereafter, Adams and another employee, Theresa Carmody, complained to their supervisor, Deanna Freeze, about Becker's behavior.*fn2 On July 21, 2004, Freeze notified Human Resources Director Jim Cracraft of the complaints. Defendant Ample has in place a sexual harassment policy to deal with incidents such as occurred in this case. The policy, which is included in Ample's "Safety Manual & Company Policies," provides that:

It is the policy of Ample Industries, Inc. to provide a work environment free from sexual harassment. It is the company policy that no employee should have to work in an environment that he or she finds offensive. . .. All employees will be expected to comply with this policy and take appropriate measures to ensure that such conduct does not occur. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against any employee who violates this policy. Based on the seriousness of the offense, disciplinary action may include verbal or written reprimand, suspension, or termination. (Cracraft Aff. Ex. 1 at 41-42.) The policy also sets forth the following complaint procedure:

1. Any employee who believes he or she has been the subject of sexual harassment should report the alleged act to their Supervisor; Department Manager; Human Resource Director; Plant Manager; or General Manager.

2. If a complaint involves a Manager or Supervisor, the complaint shall be filed directly with the Human Resource Director; Plant Manager; or General Manager.

3. The Company will make every effort to handle complaints in a timely and confidential manner. The purpose of this provision is to protect the confidentiality of the employee who files a complaint, to encourage the reporting of any incidents of sexual harassment, and to protect the reputation of any employee wrongfully charged with sexual harassment.

4. Investigation of a complaint will normally include conferring with the parties involved and any named or apparent witnesses. Employees shall be guaranteed an impartial and fair investigation. All employees shall be protected from coercion, intimidation, retaliation, interference or discrimination for filing a complaint or assisting in an investigation.

5. If the investigation reveals that the complaint is valid, prompt attention and disciplinary action designed to stop the harassment immediately and to prevent its recurrence will be taken.

(Id. at 43.)

Pursuant to this policy, Cracraft met with Becker on July 21, 2004 to discuss the accusations with him. In response to the accusations, Becker stated only that he "didn't remember saying anything" or "acting that way." (Cracraft Aff. Ex. 5-10.) Nonetheless, Cracraft "explained that his comments and conduct were totally unacceptable and that any further similar sexually related comments or conduct on his part would be grounds for punitive action up to, and including, termination of his employment." (Id.) Cracraft also launched an investigation into Becker's behavior.

During the investigation, more employees came forward with complaints against Becker. For example, a third employee, Tammy Allen, reported that on the evening of July 27, 2004, Becker came into work smelling of alcohol. He approached Allen and asked her if she needed any tools. When Allen told him no, Becker "grabbed himself and said that he had the only fucking tool [she] needed." (Cracraft Aff. Ex. 5-3.) Becker left after making that comment, but then returned some time later and put his hand down the back of Allen's pants. In addition to this incident, another employee, Jennifer Stamper came forward about an earlier problem she had with Becker that she had not reported at the time.

Based on the additional complaints, Cracraft determined a suspension was warranted. As a result, on July 28, 2004, Ample suspended Becker for five days without pay while the company completed its investigation. At the close of the five-day suspension, Ample imposed an indefinite suspension and informed Becker that he could return to work only after he sought counseling and obtained the opinion of the counselor that he would be able to refrain from further inappropriate behavior.*fn3 During his absence from work, Becker sought counseling, and on August 19, 2004, Ample decided to allow Becker to return to work on a conditional basis.

Before returning to work, Becker had to sign an agreement indicating that he would continue the recommended counseling and stating that he understood his return to be dependent on a zero tolerance for any further incidents of sexual harassment. The agreement further stated that "[a]ny violations of the conditions described in this section will be cause for immediate termination of [Becker's] employment with Ample Industries." (Cracraft Aff. Ex. 8.) Subsequent to signing this agreement, Becker completed counseling and received a letter from a professional counselor ...


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