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McDowell v. Southwest Airlines Co.

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

September 10, 2019

MERCEDEZ MCDOWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          James Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge

         Mercedez McDowell alleges that she was subjected to sexual harassment during her employment as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines. She further alleges that Southwest retaliated against her for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC by making her work more weekends and denying her medical leave. Southwest has moved for summary judgment on the claims. For the reasons explained below, the Court GRANTS Southwest's motion. Dkt. [33].

         I. Facts and Background

          The Court views and recites the evidence in the light most favorable to Ms. McDowell and draws all reasonable inferences in her favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         Ms. McDowell started working for Southwest as a flight attendant around May 2014. Dkt. 43-1 ¶ 2. She alleges she was subjected to nine incidents of sexual harassment between 2015 and 2018.

         A. Incident # 1

         Sometime in 2015, dkt. 35-1 at 68:14-21 (McDowell Dep.), a male flight attendant described his sexual experiences to Ms. McDowell and told her that he could make her have an orgasm. Dkt. 35-1 at 77 (McDowell Dep. Ex. 1). He then called her hotel room repeatedly that night. Id.

         B. Incident # 2

         On August 16, 2016, Ms. McDowell was sitting in a jump seat during a turbulent flight when a male employee told her that if there was turbulence, she could “catch him” with her body. Dkt. 35-1 at 124 (McDowell Dep. Ex. 7). He then acted like there was turbulence, laid his torso across her lap, and asked if he could hold on to her. Id.

         C. Incident # 3

         Also on August 16, 2016, a pilot, upon hearing that Ms. McDowell's first name was Mercedez, said “Mercedez. I own one and it rides well.” Dkt. 35-1 at 77, 125 (McDowell Dep. Ex. 8).

         D. Incident # 4

         Nine days later, an elderly female passenger whispered something in Ms. McDowell's ear. Id. at 77, 125. Since it looked like the elderly woman kissed Ms. McDowell, a pilot asked “[a]re you giving out kisses?” Id. She said no and turned around. Id. The pilot then “placed his hand on her buttock, ” dkt. 43 at 4, and said “sorry, that was the best thing to happen all day, ” dkt. 35-1 at 125.

         E.Ms. McDowell's EEOC Charge

         On September 1, 2016, Ms. McDowell filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that she was “subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, sexual harassment, and a hostile work environment based on sex” when working at Southwest. Id. at 77. She reported the four incidents above and claimed that they were causing her anxiety which required mental-health counseling. Id. at 77-78.

         F.Additional Incidents

         After filing her EEOC charge, Ms. McDowell recalled or experienced other incidents of alleged harassment that she did not report to the EEOC. These incidents include:

Incident # 5: Sometime during her first six months on the job, a male pilot placed his hand on Ms. McDowell's thigh when speaking to her. Id. at 118 (McDowell Dep. Ex. 5).
Incident # 6: In December 2015, a male passenger reached toward the midsection of her apron and grabbed peanuts. Id.
Incident # 7: In February 2017, a flight attendant hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, made sexual innuendos, massaged her shoulders, touched her leg, and implied that she was “hot.” Id. at 118, 127-28 (McDowell Dep. Ex. 11).
Incident # 8: In September 2017, a pilot told Ms. McDowell that he was not the official captain for the flight, but he could “be your captain if you wanted me to, ” adding that he was “usually PG.” Id. at 119-20.
Incident # 9: In May 2018, a pilot refused to give her the flight briefing, choosing instead to explain it to the other flight attendants only. Id. at 120.

         Ms. McDowell further alleges that Southwest encouraged sexual harassment because its flight-attendants' lounge has posters that showcased female flight attendants' legs and breasts while male flight attendants were shown in pants and button-up shirts. Dkt. 43-1 ¶ 23.

         G. Ms. ...


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