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Fritz-Lint v. Review Bd. of the Ind. Dep't of Workforce Dev.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 11, 2014

TERESA A. FRITZ-LINT, Appellant,
v.
REVIEW BOARD OF THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT and TRUTH PUBLISHING CO., INC., Appellees

APPEAL FROM THE REVIEW BOARD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT. Steven F. Bier, Chairperson, George H. Baker, Member, Lawrence A. Dailey, Member. Cause No. 14-R-282.

APPELLANT Pro se, TERESA A. FRITZ-LINT, Elkhart, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE REVIEW BOARD OF THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General of Indiana, KYLE HUNTER, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE TRUTH PUBLISHING CO., INC.: STEVEN M. BADGER, Badger Law, Carmel, Indiana.

BRADFORD, Judge. NAJAM, J., and MATHIAS, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 799

BRADFORD, Judge

Appellant Teresa Fritz-Lint was employed by Appellee Truth Publishing Co., Inc., (" Truth" ) and received training, which included review of Truth's anti-harassment policy (" the Policy" ). The Policy defined harassment as including such things as jokes about another person's protected status and related that violation of the Policy could result in termination. Fritz-Lint's husband sent her an email containing a picture with the following caption: " Black people started wearing their pants low, white people called it 'saggin.' Spell saggin backwards ... those sneaky white people." Fritz-Lint forwarded the email to two coworkers.

A few days later, somebody printed a copy of the picture and placed in on an African-American coworker's chair, who was offended and filed a complaint with Truth. Truth investigated, and while Fritz-Lint admitted that she had forwarded the email to two coworkers, she denied placing it on the African-American coworker's chair. Truth dismissed Fritz-Lint for violating its anti-harassment policy by distributing the email to other employees.

Fritz-Lint filed a claim for unemployment benefits, and a claims deputy from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (" the Department" ) found that she had been terminated for just cause and denied her claim. Fritz-Lint appealed and an administrative law judge (" ALJ" ) reversed the claims deputy. Truth appealed the ALJ's decision to Appellee the Department's Review Board (" the Board" ), which reversed the ALJ. Fritz-Lint appeals, contending that Truth failed to establish that she directed the email at issue to a member of a protected class or placed a copy of the email on the chair of a member of a protected class. Because we conclude that it was not necessary for Truth to make either of those showings, we affirm the Board's determination.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Fritz-Lint began working at Truth in 1996. As part of retraining in October of 2013, Fritz-Lint signed the Policy, which provides, in part, as follows:

The Elkhart Truth is committed to maintaining a work environment that is free of discrimination. In keeping with this commitment, we will not tolerate harassment of Elkhart Truth employees by anyone, including any supervisor, co-worker, vendor, client, customer, or any third party.
Harassment in violation of this policy consists of unwelcome conduct, whether verbal, physical, or visual, that is based upon a person's protected status, such as sex, color, race, religion, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation or other protected group status. The Elkhart Truth will not tolerate harassing conduct that affects tangible job benefits, that interferes unreasonably with an individual's work performance, or that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Such harassment may include, for ...

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