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Kubala v. Smith

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

December 27, 2019

KENNETH J. KUBALA, Plaintiff,
v.
RANDY SMITH, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          GEORGE J. LIMBERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The above case is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by Defendants Trumbull County, Ohio (“Defendant Trumbull) and Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith in his individual and official capacities (“Defendant Smith”) (collectively “Defendants”). ECF Dkt. #19. Defendants move for summary judgment in their favor on all three counts of a complaint filed by Plaintiff Kenneth J. Kubala (“Plaintiff”). Id. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment and DISMISSES Plaintiff's complaint in its entirety WITH PREJUDICE. Id.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 18, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas averring that he was employed by the Office of the Trumbull County Engineer from October 11, 2011 to May 11, 2018 and during the past several years of his employment, Defendant Smith had subjected him to a sexually hostile work environment. ECF Dkt. #1-1 at 2[1]. Plaintiff alleged the following 11 specific incidents that he described as “[s]exually hostile acts” by Defendant Smith toward him:

a. Smith asked Kubala to take off his shirt in his office in front of others, including human resources director, Herb Laukhart, who was present for the majority of these comments and interactions;
b. Smith encouraged Kubala to come and visit his renter, “Richard, ” at his rental property and clearly implied a sexual liaison;
c. Smith, in a “creepy” way, without knowing if he was joking or being serious, said his wife, Angela, was at a union conference and asked Kubala to come over to keep him from being “scared;”
d. Smith asked if Kubala had seen another elected official nude;
e. Smith called Kubala and said his renter, “Richard, ” was waiting for him on a sheepskin rug;
f. Smith, at a meeting, encouraged Kubala to place his “wiener” in the ear of another high-ranking Trumbull County Engineer's Office employee, who appeared to be sleeping;
g. Smith, on dozens and dozens of occasions, would lick the top of his Diet Pepsi can in an uncomfortable manner while looking at Kubala for some type of reaction;
h. Smith suggested that Kubala ride in a truck with the road superintendent while holding his “wiener;”
i. Smith asked Kubala to see Kubala's hands and said “You have nice, soft hands.” Smith asked Kubala to see his hands again three months later, Kubala said no and Smith grabbed Kubala's hand;
j. While at lunch at the Buena Vista Cafe, the hostess asked Smith and Kubala “How are you doing?” and Smith replied "We're trying to find Kubala a boyfriend or girlfriend; anyone will do, ” and;
k. On one occasion, Smith saw Kubala sitting outside the Starbucks at the Eastwood Mall with a female and said “Good to see you with a girl.”

Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff went on to aver that Defendant Smith's described conduct “permeated Kubala's work place with sexually based intimidation, ridicule and insult. All of Smith's sexually based conduct toward Kubala was unwanted by Kubala.” Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Smith's pervasive conduct drove him from his job so that he resigned and was therefore constructively discharged from his employment. Id. Plaintiff further alleged that Defendant Smith's conduct caused him to sustain economic losses and emotional and psychological injuries such that he had to seek mental health treatment. Id.

         In the second count of his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Trumbull is liable for the sexually hostile work environment created by Defendant Smith because of Defendant Smith's position in the hierarchy of Defendant Trumbull as it knew or should have known that Defendant Smith was sexually harassing him and creating a sexually hostile work environment. ECF Dkt. #1-1 at 5. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Trumbull County did not take any action to stop Defendant Smith from creating a sexually hostile work environment for Plaintiff and did nothing to repair or limit the damage caused by him to Plaintiff. Id.

         In the third count of his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Smith violated his civil rights by threatening him with job-related consequences if he participated in certain political activities and affiliated himself with certain individuals. ECF Dkt. #1-1 at 6. Plaintiff averred that these threats violated his right of freedom of speech and association under the United States and Ohio Constitutions and Defendant Trumbull knew or should have known of the threats due to Defendant Smith's place in the hierarchy of employment. Id. Plaintiff alleged emotional and psychological injuries for which he sought treatment from mental health professionals. Id. at 6-7.

         In conclusion, Plaintiff requested that the Court find that Defendants violated his rights “pursuant to Ohio Revised Code (“ORC”) §§ 4112.01 et seq. to be free from sexually harassing conduct and free from a sexually hostile work environment; [and] that Smith and Trumbull County, Ohio violated Kubala's constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association.” ECF Dkt. #1-1 at 7.

         On September 5, 2018, Defendants filed an answer to the complaint. ECF Dkt. #3. On October 26, 2018, the parties consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned. ECF Dkt. #6. On August 29, 2019, Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment. ECF Dkt. #19. Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment on November 1, 2019. ECF Dkt. #22. On November 12, 2019, Defendants filed a reply brief. ECF Dkt. #23.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW FOR MOTION FOR ...


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