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Williams v. OmniSource Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

January 9, 2018

James Williams, Plaintiff
v.
OmniSource Corporation, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge.

         I. Background

         James G. Williams was hired by OmniSource Corporation in March 2007. Williams was employed as a maintenance mechanic at the company's Hill Avenue facility in Toledo, Ohio. He became a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 20 after being employed with OmniSource for sixty days. As a member of Local 20, Williams received a copy of the applicable collective bargaining agreement between OmniSource and the Union. David Dawson was hired by OmniSource in December 2012 and was the maintenance supervisor for the Hill Avenue facility during the events at issue.

         Williams contends he was harassed by Dawson and other employees as summarized in the complaint's statement of relevant facts:

6. Plaintiff states that he was employed by Omnisource as a maintenance worker/mechanic. At times, his supervisor, Dave Dawson, has grabbed, pushed and pulled him while working. He has screamed at Plaintiff and chased him with his arms extended. Specifically, Plaintiff states on one occasion, David Dawson put his hands on Plaintiff from behind when Plaintiff was holding a lit torch.
7. Plaintiff states that on another occasion, Dave Dawson chased Plaintiff around with a forklift. In the past, Hector Munoz, a co-worker, has told Plaintiff he is an “asshole, ” and is “worthless, ” told Plaintiff to “suck my penis, ” and threated Plaintiff that he would “screw” Plaintiff “in the anus, ” in the presence of Dave Dawson, who took no action as a result. Management was aware of Munoz's harassment, which occurred on a daily basis.
8. Plaintiff states that despite these actions being witnesses by other employees and his supervisor and Plaintiff's reports of the conduct to the Plant Manager, no disciplinary action was taken against Defendant Dawson.
9. Thereafter, on September 17, 2013, Defendant Dawson was following Plaintiff and harassing him. Dawson approached Plaintiff and demanded his resignation. Plaintiff states that he refused to resign, and felt cornered by Dawson and another employee. He smacked a nearby railed [sic] and stated that Dawson made him sick.
10. Another Supervisor then was paged and appeared with an off duty Toledo Police Officer, who escorted Plaintiff from the property. Plaintiff was suspended until the situation was “figured out.” Plaintiff then suffered a panic attack, and was hospitalized for four days.
11. Nine days later, Plaintiff states that he was again requested to resign his employment. He refused.
12. The following day, Plaintiff was arrested at his home following a police report being filed by Dawson and Omnisource. Plaintiff states that the statements contained in the police report are false.

(Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 24 at pp. 3-4).

         Plaintiff was subsequently terminated from employment from OmniSource and contends Local 20 did nothing to assist him.

         Based upon this background, Williams initiated this litigation asserting the following claims: (1) assault and battery against OmniSource and Dawson; (2) negligent hiring, detention, and supervision against OmniSource; (3) disability discrimination under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a) and O.R.C. § 4112.02(a)(13) against OmniSource; (4) negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, or both against OmniSource and Dawson; (5) defamation against OmniSource and Dawson; (6) invasion of privacy against OmniSource and Dawson; (7) breach of the collective bargaining agreement under 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) against OmniSource; and (8) breach of duty of fair representation against Local 20.

         This matter is before me on the Defendants' motions for summary judgment (Doc. Nos. 35 and 37), Plaintiff's opposition (Doc. Nos. 38 and 39), and Defendants' replies (Doc. Nos. 43 and 44). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' motions are granted.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant demonstrates there is no genuine dispute of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). All evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, White v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 533 F.3d 381, 390 (6th Cir. 2008), and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the nonmovant's favor. Rose v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 766 F.3d 532, 535 (6th Cir. 2014). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could resolve the dispute and return a verdict in the nonmovant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A disputed fact is material only if its resolution might affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive law. Rogers v. O'Donnell, 737 F.3d 1026, 1030 (6th Cir. 2013).

         III. Relevant Facts

         Williams testified he taught Dawson how to do work orders after Dawson began working at OmniSource. (Doc. No. 36-9 at p. 67) Williams stated he did not like Dawson. (Id. at p. 73). He also testified the harassment by Dawson began about several months after Dawson became his supervisor. (Id. at p. 79). Williams stated he was harassed by Dawson beginning in the spring of 2013 at which time Dawson's father was dying. (Id.) Dawson's father passed away on June 6, 2013. (Id.) All of the relevant events occurred in 2013.

         Williams complained that Dawson would harass him by getting “right in his ear, ” follow him around, and startle him. These incidents were described by Angelo Alfaro, a former co-worker:

Q: All right. Did you every observe anything as to how, regarding how Mr. Dawson treated Jim Williams?
A: All I seen was - I called Jim on the radio and said I needed hydraulic fluid in my forklift. He said, bring it up. I took it up there. We opened it up together, a little chitchat, bullshit, and then Jim went over to grab some hydraulic fluid and Dave Dawson walked up and squatted down when Jim was putting oil in and, I mean, got right in his ear. You could say, what, not even 18 inches from his ear. It was not a whisper. It was not a yell, but it was like, Jim, how long is this going to take. Is it going to take you long. I need you over here. I need you to do this. I put you to do that. Jim was like, give me a minute. Let me put the oil in here and I will be right with you.
Dawson continued to be in his ear and telling him, hey, how long is this going to take Jim. Can Angelo do it. I am like, I can't do it. I'm not a maintenance man. Jim got up and walked around to the other side of the lift. Dawson was right on his tail. He came right around again, 18 inches away from his ear and started going again. Jim, how long is this going to take you. Jim, how long is this going to take you. Jim said, just let me get this done. I will be right with you. So Jim walks around and he comes back over. Dawson, again, still on his tail and this probably went on - he went on the lift probably three times.
Q: Did Mr. Williams get loud or - A: No.
(Doc. No. 36-1 at p. 2). Alfaro also described a second incident:
A: Another time, I will say this is probably a couple of days later, maybe, a week at the most, I was driving the forklift in to get serviced. Jim was on the left side of the maintenance room. He was torching something. I don't know what he was torching but he was cutting something with a torch. Mr. Dawson come up on him. He wasn't running or anything or anything like that. He just walked up to him and grabbed Jim and startled him and said Jim. And then Jim fell back with the torch. That's when Jim got mad. He said, you can't be grabbing people like that. I could have hurt somebody or hurt myself with this. That's when I just turned and walked out.

(Id. at pp. 2-3). Mr. Alfaro also testified he experienced being startled by Dawson and advised him to stop this behavior. (Id.) Alfaro agreed that Williams never complained to him about being mistreated by Dawson. (Id. at p. 4).

         The same incident with the torch was described by plant manager, Jon Kinsman:

A: I was doing my normal rounds with the golf cart and then I had, Dave Dawson was on the golf cart. And we were coming up. I usually take rounds all around the yard. That particular day we came across - Jim was sitting and torching and I stopped the cart and told Dave that again he needed to have a shield on. He didn't have his shield on. He came back from behind and tapped James on the shoulder. And as soon as he touched him on the shoulder James jumped up, turned around, and got really, really - his demeanor was just really, like mad, just that quick and I said, James I says, look, you need to calm down. He said something like, the guy does not have to grab you. I said, James, he didn't grab you. He tapped you.
I said, if anything, I said, he should have went around to your peripheral vision or come straight on to get your attention. Because I used to be an operator. I know when somebody came up from behind me and tapped me usually believe it or not, I came around with a full swing, if somebody came up behind me. That's a reflex for me. I told him he had to be peripheral or in front. He kept getting loud. Obviously, there were some other people inside of the maintenance shop. I said, James, let's go inside the office. Let's talk in there.
So we all went in there. James was saying, well, you know, you didn't have to grab me. I said, look, he didn't grab you. I asked him if he wanted his union steward at the time, too, and he said, no, not really. I want to get back to work. I said ok. But I said, are you sure you don't want your steward because, I said, obviously you're pretty upset about this. But usually when these guys get upset, the first thing I -- if I take them in the room I ask them if they want their steward there. He said, no, I just want to get back to work.

(Doc. No. 36-5 at p. 2).

         On September 13th, Williams recounted an incident with a baler getting jammed. Williams was directed by Dawson to remove the belt from the baler. (Id. at 84). Williams asked who was responsible for the situation and was given an explanation by co-worker Ken Samples. (Id.) Williams testified there was a discussion regarding the baler and that he (Williams) became “loudly verbal but I wasn't yelling.” (Id. at p. 4).

         The incident was reported to Krista Zsiros, the Human Resources Manager for OmniSource. Zsiros investigated and collected statements by employees who witnessed the incidents. (Doc. No. 36-11 at ¶ 5). The unsigned statement of employee Jon Dale indicated the arguing between Williams, Hector Munoz, and Ken Samples lasted 45 minutes and that Dawson tried to stop Williams from arguing. (Id. at Exh. A, p. 1). Statements by Munoz and Samples characterized Williams as “getting out of control going off on everybody, ” and “unprofessional and belligerent.” (Id. at pp. 3-4).

         Williams called off work on Monday, September 16th to take care of issues related to his father's estate. (Id.) He returned to work on Tuesday, September 17th.

         Upon his return to work, Williams contends he was confronted about resigning. (Doc. No. 36-9 at p. 23). Williams could not recall telling other employees he was quitting his job. (Id.) Williams testified that Dawson wanted his resignation:

A: Him [Dawson] and Hector had me cornered in the kitchen area and they was both screaming at me, give us your resignation, and that's when I felt threatened and I was backed into a corner by two employees.
Dave Dawson, he doesn't ask for nothing. No. He was just screaming his head off at me. He just didn't know what - you know, I wasn't resigning and I wasn't quitting. Man is trying to grab me. I'm just trying to get away from you before something happens. I'm trying to quell the situation by me taking points off my record to get away from you.

(Id.)

Q: Okay, when Mr. Dawson asked you if you were quitting, did you say I'm sick of your ass, let's do it?
A: Yeah, I told him - I told him he literally made me sick. I literally told him he makes me sick.
Q: Did you have tools in your hand during this conversation?
A: I had stuff, a couple things out my locker, like screw drivers and stuff like that. No big crowbar.
Q: Okay. What did you have in your hands?
A: I had a screwdriver, I had a Stanley knife, I had a nail puller, and I had my laser level, because my waterline in my house broke and my corner -- corner of my porch sunk down almost two-and-a-half foot. It almost crashed on the ground. I had to re-block it up, so I needed some specialty tools to get it back in order. So I needed these for the weekend. My tools are at work.
. . . .
Q: Did you bang anything on the steel railing as Dawson and Hector were walking down the stairs?
A: Dave Dawson turned around to scream at me one more time and I had a nail puller about this big. I smacked it on the railing and I said you literally make me sick. And that's all that happened right there. Then he went running like a little girl, Tom, Tom. And it was, like, you can't handle a man situation. Why are you in my face six times in four hours?
Q: Well, he wasn't in your face as he was walking down the steps, was he?
A: Well, no, I made sure Hector was between us. I put space between us. They wanted me to go first and they wasn't pushing me off that 24 - - two-and-a-half foot story set of steps. So Dave was holding the door saying come on, come on. I said, no. I said, you go. I said, I will go with you to your office, no problem. Then I said, come on, Hector, let's go. So I created space between me and Dave, because I didn't want him to turn around and punch at me after being - - you know, and my mindset right there was like, hey, dude, six times you tried to grab me in four hours. I'm putting space between - - even if I walked with him, I would wait till he got to the bottom of the steps and I would walk out -down then.

(Id. at p. 24). Upon descending the stairs, Williams sat down in a golf cart and waited. Another supervisor, Tom Meredith, approached him along with an off-duty police officer and advised Williams he was suspended until further notice. Williams then left the premises and went home. (Id. at p. 25).

         Dawson's account of the incident was as follows:

A: I came in and did my regular duties. I check in with the guys. I got caught up with something on my desk that I needed. I had to get away from my desk at approximately 9:30 in the morning. I went down walking through the plant and went to the balers' area and I saw Jim. I do believe it was around the balers' conveyer and feed, and I had walked up to Jim and asked him what he was doing. And he told me to get out of his face and then I approached Jim again, as he started walking away. And he told me to leave him alone, to get out of his face.
So I went up to the - - I left that area and went up to the operator's station and I spoke with the operator about, you know, how the operation of the balers was going. I left that area. I was going back through the plant up to the shop. I had been spoken to by a couple of different people, did you know James was quitting. Doug was one of those people. I do believe Doug Mulligan was one of those people and Hector Munos. As I was going back to the shop, I ran into Tom Meredith and Hector Munos and I mentioned to Tom about James quitting. So Tom Meredith asked me if James was filling out a letter of resignation, then, if he was quitting. If that is what you heard.
So I then asked Hector if he would go up to the maintenance department with me to speak with James. I was not sure if James was up there. When I first went into the shop, you know, I was - - James, you know, saying, James out loud, to see if he was in the shop area. He was not in the shop area. So I then went upstairs to their break room area. When I opened up the door, me and Hector, I walked in the room and James was not there. I peeked around the corner into their locker room and James was in their locker room. I asked James if he would come out in this room and I would like to speak to him.
And I asked James if it was true, I heard that you are quitting, and he said, did you hear that from me. And I said no., But I need to know if that statement is true. If you are quitting I need you to fill out a letter of resignation, and he was upset. Then he said, I'm sick of your ass. Let's go do it. So I left the room and Hector was behind me as I started down the stairway. I heard this loud bang on the guard rail. I left the area. He never looked back. I was concerned for my safety, and when I got outside I think I ran into Tom Meredith and I told him what had happened, real briefly. So then I left and I went up front to get security, the on-duty police officer, And then we went back and spoke with James.

(Doc. No. 36-3 at pp. 6-7).

         The Union steward, Robert Vasquez testified that he was summoned to speak with Williams before Meredith and the police officer arrived.

Q: Do you remember the discussion and what went on when you got there?
A: For me to go upstairs and try to calm Jim down and from what they told me to ask him what happened. They said he was being mad, I guess.
Q: All right. And when you got there did you have a discussion with Jim Williams?
A: Yes.
Q: Okay. And what did you observe about him at that time?
A: That he had his work clothes on. He had a wrench in his hand and that he was upset because of what - his supervisor was wanting to talk to him and he ...

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