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CRENSHAW v. DELRAY FARMS

June 25, 1997

SONJA V. CRENSHAW, Plaintiff,
v.
DELRAY FARMS, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KOCORAS

 CHARLES P. KOCORAS, District Judge:

 This matter is before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons set forth below, this motion is granted.

 BACKGROUND

 The following undisputed facts are gleaned primarily from the parties' 12(M) and 12(N) Statements. Plaintiff Sonja Crenshaw ("Crenshaw") is a twenty-nine year old black female who was employed by defendant Delray Farms, Inc. ("Delray") from August 1995 to August 10, 1996. During her first week of employment, Crenshaw was given a copy of Delray's employee handbook, which she read and became familiar with. The handbook set forth that Delray had a policy forbidding sexual harassment, that Delray discouraged its employees from sexually harassing each other, and that this policy was important to Delray. The handbook also stated, and Crenshaw was aware, the Delray had an "Open Door Policy", pursuant to which employees were encouraged to bring any complaints or concerns they might have to their manager's attention. This point was reiterated to Crenshaw by her manager during her first week of employment at Delray and also at a meeting Crenshaw attended in August 1995. Crenshaw understood that she was required to follow the rules and regulations in the handbook, which she felt were fair and reasonable, and that her failure to do so could result in disciplinary action or termination. Crenshaw also understood that the employee handbook did not promise that employees would receive raises or promotions; however, on March 28, 1996, she received a raise from $ 4.75 per hour to $ 5.25.

 Crenshaw was employed at Delray's Halsted Street store, where she worked as a cashier from the time of her hiring until December 1995. During this period, Crenshaw did not experience any harassment or discrimination. In December 1995, Crenshaw was transferred to the meat department at Delray and given the position of "meat counter helper" or "server". During her first week in the meat department, Crenshaw was bent over, reaching into a meat case to take out some meat. At the same time, a co-worker, Harold Altman ("Altman"), also reached into the meat case with his right hand. As he was doing so, Altman grabbed Crenshaw's left breast and held it until Crenshaw reached up and pushed him away. Crenshaw told Altman to keep his hands off and reported the incident to David Baker ("Baker"), the meat department supervisor. Baker told Crenshaw that Altman was an "asshole" who always did things like that, and he then went to the store manager's office and paged Altman.

 The next week, Crenshaw was in the Delray lunchroom when Altman entered. She did not ask him to leave, despite his earlier conduct, because she thought that everything had been straightened out when Baker spoke to him. Altman approached her and other employees with a photo album containing pictures of his wedding and his child. After looking at the album, Altman told Crenshaw that his wife was fat and that he needed somebody small like her to pick up in the air and have sex with. Crenshaw ignored this comment and left the lunchroom, but she did not report the incident because she did not think that it was sexual harassment.

 On or about December 13 or 14, Crenshaw was cleaning up at the end of her shift, in the presence of Altman and several other Delray employees and customers. Altman walked behind Crenshaw and grabbed and squeezed her buttocks with his right hand for several seconds. Crenshaw told Altman to keep his hands off of her. Altman, who was laughing and smiling, then told Crenshaw to go over and sweep his section; when she refused, he called her an "ignorant ass bitch." Crenshaw immediately reported this incident to Lee Chamblis, one of her supervisors, who told her that he was busy and could not do anything at the moment. Crenshaw, who had finished her shift, left the store upset and crying. Her husband, Demetrius Hill ("Hill"), was in the parking lot to pick her up, and she told him what happened. At this time, Altman and another employee left the store and entered the parking lot. Hill confronted Altman, telling him that if he had a problem with Crenshaw he should discuss it with management. Altman told Hill that Crenshaw had to give him the respect he deserved. After leaving Delray, Crenshaw went to her mother's house and called manager Chester Shipp ("Shipp"), who told her that he would deal with Altman in the morning. As a result of this incident, Altman was immediately transferred to another store and Crenshaw was suspended without pay for seven days. Crenshaw does not assert that Altman harassed her after this time.

 Around the same time as this incident, Crenshaw had been working in the meat department with Tommie Carroll ("Carroll") and "Eddie", when Carroll told her that he had a sick wife at home who could not have sex. Carroll told Crenshaw that "I bet you satisfy your husband", asked her if he could have sex with her, and stated that he would make Crenshaw feel really good because he "doesn't get it at home." Crenshaw told Carroll "no" and walked away. Eddie told Carroll to leave Crenshaw alone, and Baker told him "don't start no shit, you all leave Sonja alone." Crenshaw did not report this incident to anyone at Delray because she felt that Eddie's objection had addressed her concerns. Crenshaw was not harassed by Carroll again.

 In February or March, 1996, Crenshaw was in the lunchroom with Roberto Aeyers ("Aeyers"). While she was sitting in a chair, Aeyers came up behind her, rubbed his penis on her back and said "Oh, mamasita." Crenshaw was not sure if it was in fact his penis, and the incident lasted about "half a second." Crenshaw got up, pushing her chair back hard, and told Aeyers to get his hands (sic) off of her. She then went to Cesar Martinez ("Martinez"), a manager, and reported the incident. Aeyers was immediately called to the store manager's office over the intercom, which Crenshaw felt properly and quickly addressed her complaint. Crenshaw was not harassed again by Aeyers in any manner.

 In May 1996, while Crenshaw was again a cashier at Delray, meat department worker Sinatra Porter ("Porter") asked Crenshaw if she had a boyfriend. When she said that she was married, Porter asked her if she cheated around and told her that he had a lot of money and would give it to her if she would "be with him". Crenshaw reported this incident to manager Mike Guerin the same day, and manager George Theoharris ("Theoharris") paged Porter to the manager's office and gave him a written warning. Three or four days later, Porter grabbed Crenshaw by the arms as she was walking by and attempted to kiss her on the face. Crenshaw ran away and told Theoharris, who immediately summoned Porter to the office and gave him a write-up for the incident. Crenshaw felt at the time that Delray's response was appropriate. About one week later, Crenshaw was in the women's bathroom with the door locked when Porter popped the lock open and came in. Porter allegedly attempted to grab Crenshaw, who pushed him away and ran to the front of the store. She reported this incident to Theoharris and two other supervisors, and Porter again received a written reprimand. Porter did not harass Crenshaw again after this incident. Furthermore, it was common for men to use the women's washroom at Delray when it was unoccupied, and the door lock could be easily opened from the outside.

 On or around July 4, 1996, Crenshaw was waiting in the parking lot for a ride home from work, when she was approached by Alex Delaney ("Delaney"), a parking lot attendant. He told Crenshaw that the pants she was wearing "made his groins growl" and that he wanted to take her to the Taste of Chicago and then to a hotel. Crenshaw related that Delaney wanted to "eat me out" and "do all types of tricks with me". Crenshaw did not report this incident because she did not think it was necessary. Delaney did not harass Crenshaw after this point.

 Crenshaw also asserts that a supervisor, Mike Guerin ("Guerin") harassed her as well. Crenshaw alleges that Guerin often put his arm around her, told her that she was his favorite girl, and said that he would take care of her. Guerin never said anything sexual to Crenshaw, and he did not touch her anywhere else on her body.

 Finally, in early August 1996, Crenshaw was surrounded in the parking lot by supervisors "Paul" and "Charles" and managers Jim Keslinke and "Coaster". The men all yelled at her, threatened her job, and told her that her job was more important than caring for her sick son. Crenshaw was very scared, and ran to her mother's car. She left Delray and did not go back. On August 11, 1996, Crenshaw's employment with Delray ended. Immediately before her employment ended, Crenshaw was suspended for three days for not reporting to work; in all, she had been disciplined by Delray on seven different occasions. On July 23, 1996, Crenshaw filed the present suit against Delray, alleging that she was sexually harassed and retaliated against, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In response, Delray has filed this present motion for summary judgment. Before we turn to its merits, we will outline the legal standard which guides our inquiry.

 LEGAL STANDARD

 Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Once a motion has been filed for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues on which the nonmovant bears the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). The nonmovant may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or upon conclusory ...


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