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Jones v. Lake County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

August 11, 2014



RESA L. SPRINGMANN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kenneth Jones was employed by the Lake County Sheriff's Department from the beginning of 2008 until October 2012. The Plaintiff has sued his former employer, including the Sheriffs who were holding office during the relevant time periods. He alleges that his male supervisor at the Lake County Jail, where the Plaintiff worked as a Corrections Officer, subjected him to a sexually hostile work environment by making sexually offensive comments, innuendoes, and gestures, and that his employer did not take action to correct or stop this behavior. He also maintains that his employer retaliated against him after he filed an EEOC Complaint about his supervisor's conduct. The Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all the Plaintiff's claims.


Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is the moment in litigation where the nonmoving party is required to marshal and present the court with evidence on which a reasonable jury could rely to find in her favor. Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); see also N.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1(a) (stating that the movant must provide a "Statement of Material Facts' that identifies the facts that the moving party contends are not genuinely disputed"). In response, the nonmoving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone but must use the evidentiary tools listed in Rule 56 to designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000); N.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1(b) (directing that a response in opposition to a motion for summary judgment must include "a section labeled Statement of Genuine Disputes' that identifies the material facts that the party contends are genuinely disputed so as to make a trial necessary").

Although a bare contention that an issue of fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, see Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 491-92 (7th Cir. 2000), and avoid "the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true." Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003) (noting the often stated proposition that "summary judgment cannot be used to resolve swearing contests between litigants"). A material fact must be outcome determinative under the governing law. Insolia, 216 F.3d at 598-99. "Irrelevant or unnecessary facts do not deter summary judgment, even when in dispute." Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008).


A. Evidentiary Disputes

The Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Strike Defendants' Exhibits Filed in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 38], challenging the admissibility of all but three of the Defendants' exhibits. The Plaintiff asserts that four documents offered by the Defendants as evidence of the Lake County Sheriff Department's sexual harassment policy contain hearsay and have not been authenticated. In response to the Plaintiff's challenge, the Defendants submit the Affidavit of Mark Purevich, the records keeper for the Lake County Sheriff's Department who is familiar with the business records maintained by the Department. Purevich states that the Department's records were created at or near the time by, or from information transmitted by, someone with knowledge, and maintained by the Department in the course of its regularly conducted activity. He further states that the exhibits at issue "accurately represent, state, and declare the sexual harassment policy that was in effect during" the Plaintiff's employment. (Purevich Aff. ΒΆ 4, ECF No. 42-1.) To authenticate the policy documents, the Defendants were required to "produce evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is what the proponent claims it is, " Fed.R.Evid. 901(a), and they have done so. Accordingly, the Court may consider the policy. See Smith v. City of Chi., 242 F.3d 737, 741 (7th Cir. 2001) (noting that for purposes of summary judgment, "a court may consider any material that would be admissible or usable at trial, including properly authenticated and admissible documents or exhibits" (quotation marks omitted)); Woods v. City of Chi., 234 F.3d 979, 988 (7th Cir. 2000) (discussing admission of business records under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(6) when they have a sufficient indicia of trustworthiness based on the affidavit of a person who would be qualified to introduce the records as evidence at trial). Moreover, the Defendants do not appear to be offering the policy for the truth of the matters asserted within. See Fed.R.Evid. 801 (defining hearsay as an out of court statement offered "in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement"). The documents, which describe prohibited workplace activity and the procedures for reporting such activity, are intended to show the existence of the policy itself, and the truth or falsity of the statements within the policy are not relevant.[1]

Purevich was likewise able to authenticate other exhibits challenged by the Plaintiff-his training records, payroll records, and personnel records-and they will not be stricken.

The final exhibit the Plaintiff maintains should be stricken from the summary judgment record begins as follows: "After gathering information and interviewing Officer Jones regarding the E.E.O.C. complaint filed, the following conclusions have been made." (Ex. 18, ECF No. 30-18.) D.W. Travis is identified within the text of the document as its author. The Plaintiff argues that the report should be stricken because it contains legal conclusions and hearsay, and has not been authenticated. Purvich states in his Affidavit that the report is a record of the Lake County Sheriff's Department investigation that was conducted after it received his EEOC Complaint. With regard to the statements contained within the document, the Court declines, at this juncture, to dissect each statement. Whether the Defendant's investigatory findings and conclusions were accurate and complete, or are the subject of legitimate dispute, is not a determination the Court needs to make unless they ultimately go to a material issue of fact that may preclude summary judgment. For the reasons stated, the Court will deny the Plaintiff's Motion to Strike.[2]

The Defendants filed their own Motion to Strike [ECF No. 41], directed at certain of the Plaintiff's interrogatory answers, on grounds that they contain inadmissible hearsay. The Defendants challenge over ten pages of interrogatory responses. The Court, rather than address each statement, will sift through the responses and consider admissibility under the applicable federal rules. As the Court addresses the legal issues presented by the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and analyzes the facts under the governing procedural and substantive law, it will determine whether there are any irrelevant, inadmissible, conclusory, or speculative assertions that should be disregarded, and then handle them accordingly. Consequently, there is no need to strike any part of the Plaintiff's Interrogatory Answers, and the Court will deny the Defendants' Motion to Strike.

B. Statement of Facts

The following facts are supported by citations to admissible materials in the record, and will be expanded upon in the Analysis section:

The Lake County Sheriff's Department hired the Plaintiff in January 2008. The Plaintiff worked on "B-Turn" at the Lake County Jail where he was supervised by Sergeant Tim Hogan. In March 2010, Hogan became the Booking Supervisor. In April 2010, the Plaintiff moved from B-turn to Booking.[3] According to the Plaintiff, Hogan regularly made inappropriate and lewd comments to other officers within the Plaintiff's hearing. He cites to an incident in early 2010 when Hogan made reference to another officer about having sex with the officer's wife, and to incidents in May 2010: he asked another officer to smell his breath because "it smells like your wife's pussy;" he told officers that the officer with the biggest breasts could go to lunch first and then told a female officer this meant she would be going last, and; he told the Plaintiff ...

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