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Hoover v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.

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

June 21, 2018

ADAM HOOVER, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37). Plaintiff opposed Defendant's Motion (Doc. 50), and Defendant replied (Docs. 51 and 52). This Court referred the matter to the Magistrate Judge, and the Magistrate Judge issued a thorough Report and Recommendation concluding that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff timely filed Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 57) to which Defendant has responded (Doc. 58). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37) is granted as to Count V and Count VI, but is denied as to Counts I - IV and VII.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         The facts in this case are largely undisputed, and the Magistrate Judge did an excellent job reciting them in her Report and Recommendation (Doc. 56). The Court will summarize those facts here solely for ease of analysis.

         Plaintiff, a homosexual male, testified to being bullied extensively in high school and in college due to his sexual orientation. As the sole breadwinner for his family (including his mother and two younger siblings), Plaintiff began working as a Chipotle crew member on October 1, 2013, even though he was already attending college full-time. Chipotle promoted him to Take-Out Specialist in January, 2014. In March, 2014, Plaintiff was transferred to the Bridgetown location. Plaintiff was well liked by fellow employees at the Bridgetown location, and he was selected to be a Kitchen-Manager-in-Training (“KMIT”) in early February, 2015.

         In late February, 2015, Plaintiff experienced a bullying incident at Miami University. On March 2, 2015, Plaintiff worked a closing shift at Chipotle and intended to commit suicide when he left the store. Without telling anyone about his suicidal plan, he used social media to stage a fake kidnapping and reported that he was being held against his will in the trunk of a car (“the incident”). He abandoned his car with the doors and trunk open and walked for approximately two hours. Meanwhile, Bridgetown co-workers alerted to the social media post gathered to search for him. Plaintiff eventually walked to a house and asked the occupants to call the police, claiming he had been kidnapped.

         After 30 minutes of discussion, Plaintiff admitted to police that he was contemplating suicide and had faked the kidnapping. He was taken to a hospital and released the next day, diagnosed with “adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood” and “sleep disturbance.” (UC Medical Records, Doc. 37-11 at PageID 859.) Plaintiff was not prescribed medication, but he was instructed to pursue outpatient mental health counseling and decrease his work hours. He later pled guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from the false report and was sentenced to mandatory counseling and volunteer work. He remained in counseling for four months.

         Plaintiff took a week off from school and work after the incident. To accommodate his anxiety, his counselor recommended that he ease back into work and that he work initially in the back of the house because there had been significant media coverage of the incident.

         Plaintiff testified that his supervisors, Matthew Kimball, Molly Johnson and Chance Nathanson, began treating him differently upon his return to work. Plaintiff asked to work only three days the first week he returned, and his supervisors accommodated his request. However, Plaintiff asked for additional hours beginning on March 18 and during the following week, but Kimball did not want to schedule him full-time right away.

         On March 25, 2015, Plaintiff met at an Orange Leaf yogurt shop with two current (one of whom was Hannah Kestermann) and one former Chipotle co-workers. At Orange Leaf, Plaintiff indicated that he “felt as though he was being shut out and . . . treated as fragile.” (Kestermann depo., Doc. 37-13 at PageID 920.) Plaintiff also expressed concern that he was no longer on track to be promoted to Kitchen Manager and would lose the raise associated with the promotion. He discussed consulting an attorney to discuss his employment rights and asked his co-workers if they would support him if he engaged Chipotle in litigation.

         The next day, Kestermann reported Plaintiff's concerns to Kimball. Specifically, she told Kimball that Plaintiff felt he was being treated differently and unfairly, that he feared his Kitchen Manager training was being delayed, and that he intended to consult a lawyer if the situation did not change. (Kestermann depo., Doc. 37-13 at PageID 923.) She further told Kimball that Plaintiff worried about expressing his opinion to management for fear of repercussions. (Id.)

         Kestermann then observed Kimball telephone Nathanson and tell Nathanson that Plaintiff was planning a lawsuit to “get rid of the management above him.” (Id.) Plaintiff's supervisors-including Kimball and Nathanson-jointly agreed to terminate Plaintiff's employment, but Nathanson was not present two days later, on March 28, 2015, when Kimball told Plaintiff he was fired.

         B. ...

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