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Serrano v. Cinemark Usa, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

March 25, 2015

KIM SERRANO and AMANDA REED, Plaintiffs,
v.
CINEMARK USA, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, District Judge.

The Plaintiffs, Kim Serrano and Amanda Reed, were both assistant managers for Defendant Cinemark USA, Inc., at its movie theater located in Valparaiso, Indiana. After the Defendant terminated their employment for separate violations of its non-fraternization policy, the Plaintiffs sued under Title VII, claiming that their terminations were unlawful discrimination based on their sex. The Plaintiffs allege that they were disciplined more harshly than male assistant managers who violated the same work place policy that prohibited management level employees from fraternizing with subordinate employees. Reed also asserted a claim under the Equal Pay Act, which is no longer pending.

This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 34], and the supporting brief and exhibits. The Plaintiffs filed a combined brief in response, as well as supporting exhibits. The Defendant filed a reply brief.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The Defendant owns more than 300 movie theaters in the United States, including one in Valparaiso, Indiana. Generally, Cinemark's theaters have assistant managers and senior assistant managers who report to the general manager at that location. The general manager reports to a regional leader. Susan Westrick was the general manager of the Valparaiso Theater, and she reported to Charly Street, Cinemark's Midwest Regional Leader. Additionally, Kathleen Spina was Cinemark's Senior Human Resources Manager. She reported to Brad Smith, Vice President of Human Resources.

The Defendant uses written Employee Guidelines, which advise employees that the employment relationship is considered "at will." It also identifies certain types of misconduct as "generally requiring immediate termination." This misconduct includes:

Dating or otherwise socially fraternizing with employees under your supervision, regardless of their age.
Managers, Assistant Managers, and Assistant Manager Trainees are also strictly prohibited from dating or otherwise socially fraternizing with any Cinemark employee who has not reached the age of 18 whether or not such employee is under their supervision.

(Street Dep. Ex. 2, ECF No. 36-5.)

A. Kim Serrano

In late September 2010, one of the assistant managers at the Valparaiso Theater, Kim Serrano, met with Westrick and informed her that she had been having an affair with Valparaiso Theater employee Kyle Semento. Semento, who worked as an usher, was 18 years old. Serrano was 39 years old. Westrick told Serrano everything would be fine with respect to Serrano's job as long as nothing further happened until Semento officially quit his employment. Semento resigned his employment the next day. On or about October 10, 2010, Deb Good, the mother of one of Semento's friends, came to the Valparaiso Theater looking for Serrano, and complaining that Serrano was dating an employee. When Serrano learned of the incident, she warned Westrick that Good may contact Westrick. Serrano asked Westrick if she was going to tell Street, and Westrick advised her that it would be better coming from Serrano.

On October 11, 2010, Serrano called Street, and informed him about what was going on in her life, including the relationship with Semento. She advised that Westrick had assured her "everything would be fine." (Serrano Dep. 27.) Serrano informed Street about Good's arrival at the theater, and assured Street that she would get a restraining order if Good came to the theater again. Street told Serrano that he was glad she called him first so he did not hear about her conduct from someone else. He also informed Serrano that he would have to talk to Human Resources.

That same day, Street sent an email to Spina seeking advice about Serrano's conduct. Street informed Spina that Serrano was an extremely good assistant with no prior problems. He indicated that he only wanted to document the incident for her file, but recognized that he had "terminated many for fraternizing in the past." (ECF No. 36-6.) Spina reviewed the situation with Smith, Vice President of Human Resources. After consulting with Human Resources, Street decided to ...


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