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Cardona v. BRC Rubber & Plastics, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

December 20, 2018

ALMA CARDONA, Plaintiff,
v.
BRC RUBBER & PLASTICS, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 25], filed by Defendant BRC Rubber & Plastics, Inc. The Plaintiff, Alma Cardona, filed this action against her former employer asserting that she was harassed “because of her sex, female, and national origin, Honduran, ” which created a hostile work environment. (Compl. ¶¶ 25, 26.)

         The Defendant submits that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because there is no evidence that any employment action the Defendant took against the Plaintiff was motivated by, or in any way related to, her sex or her national origin. Rather, the evidence is that the Defendant terminated the Plaintiff's employment because it found that she violated the company's Zero Tolerance Policy by making a threat against another employee. The Defendant also moves for summary judgment on grounds that there is no evidence from which a reasonably jury could conclude that the Plaintiff was subject to a hostile work environment because of her sex or her national origin.

         In response, the Plaintiff maintains that the reason the Defendant cited for terminating her employment was a pretext for national origin discrimination. She denies making a threatening comment and submits that the Defendant engaged in a pattern or practice of treating Hispanic employees less favorable “than their American co-workers.” (Pl.'s Br. 7, ECF No. 27.)

         For the reasons stated in this Opinion and Order, the Court grants the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The Plaintiff is a female of Honduran descent and speaks both Spanish and English. She worked for the Defendant on second shift as a Finisher, which required her to inspect processed parts and to trim the part if necessary.

         In April 2016, the Plaintiff requested a meeting with the human resources supervisor, Mary Condon. During the April 5, 2016, meeting, the Plaintiff and two other female co-workers complained to Condon about Rickie Westbrook, an African-American male who was a second shift lead operator. They complained that Westbrook told them not to wander away from their workstations or to use their cellphones at work, and that he kept track of how often they used the restroom. If they were absent, Westbrook asked them where they were. Condon informed the women that Westbrook was doing his job by correcting behavior that the Defendant did not permit in the workplace.

         Another BRC employee, Kenneth Ramirez, saw the women talking to Condon in her office. He informed Condon that a group of four employees, including those who were in her office, had a long history of hating Westbrook and wanted to get rid of him. According to Ramirez, he overhead and understood their conversations in Spanish. Ramirez provided Condon with additional background and told her that many of the employees on second shift were tired of the antics of the discontented employees.

         Around this same time, Westbrook reported to his shift supervisor and to Condon that the Plaintiff told him nobody liked him, and later said she was going to have her husband (a former BRC employee) “get” him. On April 11, Condon spoke to Travis Riddle, another BRC employee. Riddle informed Condon about some of the disparaging comments that the Plaintiff was making about Westbrook. He also reported that the Plaintiff stated that Westbrook was going to “get his” one day. Riddle reported that he inquired of the Plaintiff what that meant, and she stated that it would be a surprise one day knowing that they both lived in the same town.

         On April 12, Westbrook wrote a statement that he was advised by Riddle that the Plaintiff was making untrue statement about his sexual orientation and how he behaved during his time in prison. According to Westbrook, Riddle also told him about the threat the Plaintiff had made.

         On April 12, Condon met with the Plaintiff. Because the Plaintiff wanted an interpreter present, Condon involved a salaried member of the management team, Noe Cruz, to interpret their conversation. Condon told the Plaintiff about her conversation with Riddle. Condon told the Plaintiff that the drama on the second shift was counterproductive, and that Condon was determined to get to the source of it. She explained that the Plaintiff's dislike of Westbrook appeared to be a contributing factor. Condon also advised that, based on what Riddle told her, the Plaintiff had stated a threat against Westbrook. The Plaintiff stated that she did not know what Condon was talking about and denied making any threat. Condon suspended the Plaintiff pending her investigation into the situation.

         After Cruz left the meeting, the Plaintiff and Condon continued to talk in English. The Plaintiff claimed that she was not the person causing all the drama on the second shift. She asserted that because she could speak English she got pulled into situations in which she was not directly involved. Condon advised the Plaintiff not to allow others' issues to become her own, and that her willingness to become involved in other people's business could potentially cost her a job.[1]

         On April 13, Condon asked Ramirez if he had ever personally witnessed the Plaintiff make a threatening comment regarding Westbrook. Ramirez told Condon that he overheard the Plaintiff tell another employee, in Spanish, that her husband ...


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