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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Braun Electric Co.

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 24, 2014

U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
BRAUN ELECTRIC COMPANY, and DOES 1-10, Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 50)

LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT TO PARTIES AND COUNSEL

Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseload in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters. This Court cannot address all arguments, evidence and matters raised by parties and addresses only the arguments, evidence and matters necessary to reach the decision in this order given the shortage of district judges and staff. The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact the offices of United States Senators Feinstein and Boxer to address this Court's inability to accommodate the parties and this action. The parties are required to consider consent to a Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings in that the Magistrate Judges' availability is far more realistic and accommodating to parties than that of U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill who must prioritize criminal and older civil cases.

INTRODUCTION

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") brought this action for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 against Defendant Braun Electric Company ("Braun") to seek relief for charging party Samara Schmidt ("Schmidt") and other similarly situated individuals who were adversely affected by Braun's unlawful conduct. After filing the complaint and obtaining information through the discovery process, the EEOC identified Debra Rios ("Rios") as an interested party seeking relief through this action. Currently before the Court is Defendant Braun's motion for summary judgment, or, in the alternative, summary adjudication of the EEOC's complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES Braun's motion and ORDERS the parties to submit supplemental briefing.

BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Schmidt was employed by Braun from approximately July 2010 until her departure on May 13, 2011 after starting as a temporary worker. Rios was employed by Braun from 2004 until 2012. David Robertson ("Robertson") was employed as a Senior Project Manager at Braun from approximately 1999 until his termination following Schmidt's complaint in 2011. For purposes of this motion, the parties agree that Schmidt and Rios were subject to actionable sexual harassment at the workplace during their employment at Braun.

Crystal Lewis ("Lewis") was employed by Braun from 2004 to 2008. During her employment, Robertson made a sexual comment to her about a "dominatrix." Lewis verbally complained about Robertson's comment to Braun's Human Resources Manager Brenda Wood ("Wood"). A few days later, Robertson apologized to Lewis for his comment and did not make further sexual comments to her during her employment at Braun.

Shortly after Rios began her employment at Braun in 2004, she began complaining to her supervisor Tom Horan ("Horan") and later to Braun's Vice President David Reed ("Reed") about Robertson's behavior toward her and that Robertson subjected her to unwanted touching. Rios spoke to Horan many times about Robertson's conduct. Rios pointed out to Horan that he can hear what Robertson was saying to her, told Horan she found it unacceptable, and asked Horan why nothing was being done about Robertson's conduct. Rios also spoke with Reed twice about Robertson's unwanted touching, including draping his arm around her shoulders, and, if not stopped at that point, dropping his hand down her back. In addition, on four or five separate occasions, Rios called Vice President Reed over to listen to what Misty Hunt ("Hunt"), another Braun employee, had to say regarding Robertson's conduct toward her. After Lindsey Miller ("Miller") began her employment with Braun, Rios stated to Reed that Robertson was talking to Miller the way he had talked to Hunt.

In August 2010, an anonymous male caller complained to Wood that Robertson was making sexual comments to Miller, who was under Robertson's supervision. The caller told Wood that, at a company barbeque, Robertson stated that Miller would strip on a pole and that Miller had brought cookies made from her breast milk. Wood contacted Miller as a result of the complaint and met with her. Miller informed Wood that Robertson regularly made sexual comments to her and to other female employees. Robertson stated that he wanted to put Miller and another female together and eat them like a Big Mac and called Miller "Princess Lay Me" at a work meeting with other attendees present. The EEOC also introduces evidence that Robertson told Miller he wanted to spank her with a greasy spatula on a weekly basis, offered Miller "peniscillin [sic]" on multiple occasions, commented that Miller's perfume smells like "teenage pussy, " and stated that he wanted to drink her bath water and rape her with a garden weasel. (Doc. 59, Exh. J). During Miller's meeting with Wood, Wood told Miller that Robertson was "old school oil field" and that Miller should not take any offense.

After meeting with Miller, Wood contacted and met with Vice President Reed about Robertson, and they decided to write him up and give him a warning. Reed summoned Robertson, and they met with Wood. During the meeting, Robertson received a written "Discipline Action Form" in his file and was counseled verbally and in writing that further harassing conduct could lead to greater discipline. Robertson admitted making sexual comments to Miller. After signing his write-up, Robertson slammed his fist into Wood's desk and stated "I'll never come back in your office. I'll be a good boy." (Woods Dep. 100:5-6).

Robertson was instructed not to discuss this matter with Miller. The day after Wood's meeting with Miller, Robertson confronted Miller about the complaint and told her had been written up. When Wood called Miller to check up, Miller told Wood that Robertson confronted her about the complaint. Two months later, Robertson received a monetary bonus from Braun. Robertson continued in a supervisory position over Miller, and no changes were made to his responsibilities, supervisory role, or compensation.

Schmidt was transferred to Robertson's supervision in September 2010. During her employment at Braun, Schmidt complained to Dennis Brown ("Brown"), a safety manager, and Oscar Sandoval ("Sandoval"), a foreman, that she found Robertson's conduct toward her to be offensive. Pursuant to her resignation from Braun, her last day of employment was May 13, 2011. On her last day, Schmidt met with Wood for her exit interview. Schmidt informed Wood that Robertson sexually harassed her during her employment at Braun. Schmidt stated that Robertson called Schmidt a "slippery clitted bulldyke, " told Schmidt he wanted to see her and a female co-worker kiss and touch their breasts, and asked Schmidt if she wanted "creamy jizz." Wood told Schmidt that Robertson was "old school oil field" and that was just the way he is.

After Schmidt's exit interview and resignation, Wood interviewed Miller regarding Schmidt's complaints about Robertson. Miller felt threatened by Wood during the interview and told Wood nothing had been done by Braun after she asked for help. The EEOC introduces evidence that Wood then told Miller there was nothing she could ...


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