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Holder v. Honda Manufacturing of Indiana LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 17, 2015

CLIFFORD W. HOLDER, Plaintiff,
v.
HONDA MANUFACTURING OF INDIANA LLC, Defendant.

ORDER

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant Honda Manufacturing of Indiana LLC's ("HMIN") Motion for Summary Judgment. [Filing No. 45.] HMIN contends that it is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff Clifford Holder's hostile work environment claims. Mr. Holder opposes HMIN's motion, [Filing No. 49], and HMIN asks the Court to strike some of the evidence that Mr. Holder designated with his response, [Filing No. 59]. For the reasons explained herein, the Court grants summary judgment in favor of HMIN, [Filing No. 45], and denies its Motion to Strike as moot, [Filing No. 59].

I.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has "repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, " Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

II.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are primarily undisputed, but all reasonable inferences have been made in favor of Mr. Holder, the non-movant, consistent with the standard of review on summary judgment.

Mr. Holder, an African American male, worked at HMIN from April 2008 until January 3, 2014. [Filing No. 45-1 at 6; Filing No. 45-1 at 13; Filing No. 1 at 2.] He was on an approved leave of absence from April 10, 2013, to July 7, 2013. [Filing No. 45-2 at 3.] He began as a process associate, was promoted to a team coordinator in April 2009, and became a team manager in July 2011. [Filing No. 45-1 at 15-19.] In February 2012, Mr. Holder was encouraged to apply for a position in the associate relations ("AR") department. [Filing No. 45-1 at 27-28.] He did so, and became an AR associate that same month. [Filing No. 45-1 at 29.]

Mr. Holder was one of four AR associates. [Filing No. 45-1 at 30.] He was supervised by Shawntea Stille-Jackson from February 2012 until June 2013 and by Brenda Fortkamp from July 2013 to January 2014. [Filing No. 45-1 at 35-36; Filing No. 45-2 at 2; Filing No. 45-3 at 2.] Mr. Holder had no complaints regarding how he was treated by Ms. Stille-Jackson or his co-workers in the AR department. [Filing No. 45-1 at 36-37.] Mr. Holder thought he was "treated differently" by Ms. Fortkamp, but he could not say that it was because of his race. [Filing No. 45-1 at 208.]

As an AR associate, Mr. Holder's duties included "investigat[ing] complaints of wrongdoings or harassment, to give briefings on the policies - in orientation, to be a voice on the floor as far as just out talking to associates and team managers... to see what issues or concerns they may have and bringing that back and reporting it to the appropriate people, just anything that we were asked to do." [Filing No. 45-1 at 29.] Mr. Holder spent approximately seventy percent of his time on investigations. [Filing No. 45-1 at 41.] He would conduct an investigation of alleged inappropriate conduct and review how previous incidents were handled to compile a consistency report. [Filing No. 45-1 at 48-49.]

A. Offensive Graffiti

In late 2012, HMIN noticed that graffiti was becoming more prevalent at its plant. [Filing No. 45-2 at 3.] Some of the graffiti contained offensive language directed at black HMIN employees, some of which threatened physical harm. [Filing No. 45-1 at 60.] Mr. Holder heard about the graffiti and "took it on [him]self to go look it up to see what was out there." [Filing No. 45-1 at 64.] Mr. Holder had access to the graffiti files through his role as an AR associate, although he had not been specifically asked to look at them. [Filing No. 45-1 at 64.] Mr. Holder spoke to Ms. Stille-Jackson, who was investigating the graffiti, and told her that it was "unacceptable." [Filing No. 45-1 at 56-57.] Ms. Stille-Jackson asked Mr. Holder if he would like to help with the investigation, and Mr. Holder told her that he would do his best to try to find out who was responsible for the offensive graffiti. [Filing No. 45-1 at 56-58.]

The offensive graffiti at issue was primarily found in a men's bathroom at HMIN, and a process was put into place to monitor the bathroom stalls every 30 minutes to check for graffiti. [Filing No. 45-1 at 83; Filing No. 45-2 at 3.] HMIN security would take pictures of any graffiti found, [Filing No. 45-1 at 78], the AR team would document it, [Filing No. 45-2 at 3], and it would be removed by HMIN's janitorial service after being documented, [Filing No. 45-2 at 4]. At one point a camera was installed outside the bathroom where the graffiti was most prevalent, but some HMIN associates found it and it was removed. [Filing No. 45-1 at 84-85.]

Mr. Holder later recommended that another camera be installed on a water fountain near one of the bathrooms to provide a view of people entering and exiting the bathroom. [Filing No. 45-1 at 88.] Ms. Stille-Jackson and the head of security agreed that was worth trying. [Filing No. 45-1 at 89-90.] A facilities manager was in charge of installing the camera, but it did not happen before Mr. Holder went on leave several weeks later. [Filing No. 45-1 at 90-91.] Mr. Holder never found out whether the camera was installed, but he does not believe it was. [Filing No. 45-1 at 91-92.]

On April 4, 2013, an HMIN associate approached Mr. Holder with his concerns about the offensive graffiti. [Filing No. 45-1 at 107-108; Filing No. 45-1 at 224.] Mr. Holder told the associate that "[HMIN] was doing everything possible to cease the graffiti." [Filing No. 45-1 at 224.] Mr. Holder testified at his deposition "[t]hat was not an accurate assessment of [his] feelings, " he did not "feel that it was [his] place to bad mouth [HMIN] to an employee." [Filing No. 45-1 at 108-09.]

Most of the instances of offensive graffiti occurred prior to Mr. Holder's approved leave in April 2013. [Filing No. 45-1 at 60.] One incident occurred in October 2013 after he returned from his leave, and fellow AR associate Bethany Fellows asked Mr. Holder to help her investigate. [Filing No. 45-1 at 60.] Mr. Holder told Ms. Fellows, "I don't want to be involved." [Filing No. 45-1 at 60.] Mr. Holder never told Ms. Stille-Jackson, Ms. Fortkamp, or anyone in management that he was uncomfortable being ...


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