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Flores v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

March 25, 2014

JUANA S. FLORES, Plaintiff,
v.
TYSON FOODS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOSEPH F. BATAILLON, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, Filing No. 176. Plaintiff, who is pro se, filed a motion in opposition to the summary judgment. Filing No. 180. Further, defendant filed a motion to strike, Filing No. 192, plaintiff's response, Filing No. 189, or in the alternative to submit objections. Plaintiff filed this action alleging employment discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. on the basis of sexual harassment, retaliation and constructive discharge. Plaintiff filed her claim with the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission who found no just cause. The court has carefully reviewed the motion, briefs, evidence and the relevant law and concludes the motion for summary judgment should be granted.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

On a motion for summary judgment, the question before the court is whether the record, when viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir. 2005). The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Where unresolved issues are primarily legal rather than factual, summary judgment is particularly appropriate." Koehn v. Indian Hills Cmty. Coll., 371 F.3d 394, 396 (8th Cir. 2004). The burden of establishing the nonexistence of any genuine issue of material fact is on the moving party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970).

"The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and must identify those portions of [the record]... which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'" Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042, (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). If the movant does so, "the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). On a motion for summary judgment, the "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts.'" Id. (quoting Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S.Ct. 2658, 2677 (2009)).

Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge. Id. The nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ' and must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)). Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Id.

There is no "discrimination case exception" to the application of summary judgment, which is a useful pretrial tool to determine whether any case, including one alleging discrimination, merits a trial. Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1043 (quoting Fercello v. County of Ramsey, 612 F.3d 1069, 1077 (8th Cir. 2010)). Nevertheless, "[a]t the summary judgment stage, the court should not weigh the evidence, make credibility determinations, or attempt to determine the truth of the matter." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The court's function is to determine whether a dispute about a material fact is genuine, that is, whether a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party based on the evidence. Id. at 248. To be material, a fact "must affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law." Id. "The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [the nonmoving party's favor]." Id. at 255. "If reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, " summary judgment is inappropriate. Id. at 250. In a discrimination case, when the record on summary judgment is fully developed, the "court need only decide whether, on the record as a whole, there is a genuine issue for trial on the ultimate question of discrimination vel non. " Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1054 (Colloton, J., concurring).

Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed, but must still allege sufficient facts to support claims advanced. Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff worked at the Tyson Food packing plant from May of 2009 until September 8, 2010, as a "trim outside skirt" on processing line 941. She worked the second shift, from 3 p.m. until 11:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Her job consisted of receiving a piece of meat from the person next to her, taking the fat off the meat, and cutting it into a specific shape. She then placed that cut of meat on the conveyor belt. Production supervisors, those in yellow hats, supervised these employees.

In September of 2010, her production supervisors included Aurelio Barrios and Elida Rodriquez. Supervisors on duty observed and corrected employees on the line and granted requests for bathroom breaks. Bill Hoisington, the plant superintendent for plaintiff's shift, wore a green hat and had more authority than did the yellow hats. Mark Sarratt served as the plant manager and was a step higher than Hoisington. Suzann Reynolds served as the human resources manager and received and investigated employee complaints, and her assistant, Lupita Medrano, likewise investigated complaints, including discrimination and harassment claims. Tyson has a discrimination policy. Further, all employees receive training and are given information about how to address discrimination and harassment issues. The employees also receive a hotline number. Plaintiff admits she received this training and orientation. See Filing No. 178, Attachments, 1-3; Filing No. 179, Attachments, 1-5. In addition, defendant posts the reporting process and phone numbers for all employees to see. Supervisors also receive additional training each year regarding harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

All of plaintiff's claims of discrimination and retaliation relate to her immediate line supervisor, Barrios. Plaintiff states that Barrios began harassing her from the first day of her employment. He allegedly invited her out, talked about going to dinner and eating tacos, told her she was pretty and had nice teeth, asked her to spend the night with him, and licked and bit his lip. Also, plaintiff contends Barrios untied her apron on several occasions and grabbed her bottom and touched her back and shoulders.

On or about September 1, 2010, Barrios told plaintiff she was not rotating the meat correctly. Two weeks prior, Barrios counseled plaintiff as well as other line employees that they were not rotating the meat as trained. Plaintiff began crying on September 1 and yelling at Barrios. Barrios told plaintiff to go to Hoisington's office to discuss the problem, but instead, she went to the personnel office. Medrano saw her crying and took her to the nurse's station. Plaintiff then went to Medrano's office to discuss her complaint, and then went back to work but knew if anything else happened she could talk to Medrano, Hoisington, or call the hotline. After her shift, Medrano had plaintiff write up her statement. Medrano stated there would be an investigation.

The next day plaintiff called the hotline before she went to work and reiterated her complaint. She indicated to the hotline operator that Barrios acted in the same manner towards other women. A hotline operator called plaintiff back and asked for more information so she could conduct a more thorough investigation. Plaintiff ...


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