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GRANT v. COKEN COMPANY

MARISSA GRANT, Plaintiff,
v.
COKEN COMPANY, INC., E-QUALITY ELECTRIC, INC., and JOHNNY RAYBORN, an individual, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLANCHE MANNING, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Marissa Grant brings the present Complaint alleging claims of hostile work environment based on sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and retaliation in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., and the state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The only remaining defendant in this action is E-Quality Electric, Inc. ("E-Quality"), a former Illinois corporation. The court granted E-Quality's attorneys' motion to withdraw on April 10, 2003, based on counsels' assertions that E-Quality was involuntarily dissolved in June 2002 and that a judgment in an unrelated matter was partially satisfied by all of E-Quality's available cash and assets. On April 15, 2004, this court granted plaintiff's motion for leave to file a Motion for Summary Judgment against E-Quality. E-Quality has not responded to the plaintiff's motion despite repeated attempts to contact the defendant and/or defendants' counsel.*fn1 Accordingly, this court will address the plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment without the benefit of E-Quality's responses. For the reasons stated below, the court grants the plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count I, but denies her motion as to Counts II, III and VII.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

  Grant was employed by E-Quality as an apprentice electrician from May 3, 2000, to November 3, 2000, working at Midway International Airport in Chicago. Johnny Rayborn, a former defendant in this action, was the General Foreman at E-Quality during the relevant time period. As the General Foreman, Rayborn was considered a member of E-Quality's management. In the E-Quality organizational hierarchy, Rayborn was directly under the president and CEO, Reginald Harston.

  During Grant's employment with E-Quality, Rayborn harassed Grant with sexually suggestive comments, unwanted touching, and sexual advances on a daily basis. Grant continuously made Rayborn aware that she was not interested in his advances and did not appreciate his sexually offensive remarks and conduct. She repeatedly asked him to stop. Nevertheless, Rayborn would go to Grant's work area a couple of times a day and disrupt Grant's work while making these sexual comments and advances. Consequently, Grant would become extremely distracted and had difficulty maintaining her concentration at work. Due to Rayborn's conduct, Grant also experienced anxiety and stress and became fearful of Rayborn. She had trouble sleeping, became irritable, and experienced severe headaches and nausea.

  Meanwhile, a fellow co-worker asked Grant why she continued to let Rayborn talk to her in this manner. Grant responded that she had only a few months before receiving her "A" card and that if she complained to E-Quality's president, his wife, who was the union EEO liaison, would make it difficult for her to get the "A" card. Grant told her co-worker that she was keeping a log of Rayborn's sexual advances and comments because their immediate supervisor, Darvie Williams, told Grant to do so when she complained to him about Rayborn in May 2000. In addition, other co-workers witnessed Rayborn's sexual statements and advances toward Grant.

  On or about October 26, 2000, Grant complained to her union steward, Mark Flynn, that Rayborn was sexually harassing her. Grant also tried to complain to the union EEO liaison, but the liaison never returned Grant's telephone calls. Nonetheless, Flynn advised the president and CEO of E-Quality, Reginald Harston, of Grant's sexual harassment complaint. Flynn asked both Harston and Grant to wait until he determined the proper procedure for handling the sexual harassment complaint before they took any further steps. Despite Flynn's directions, Harston began interrogating E-Quality employees regarding Grant's harassment complaint. Harston also requested that Grant prepare a written statement and then interrogated Grant without her union steward present. Before Flynn got back to Grant and Harston about the proper procedures — and less than a week after Harston was made aware of Grant's sexual harassment complaint — Harston terminated Grant's employment with E-Quality.

  II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

  Summary judgment is proper when the "pleadings, deposition, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party opposing the summary judgment motion may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading; rather, it must respond with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). Usually, this court must evaluate the evidence supporting the summary judgment motion in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, when a party fails to respond to a motion for summary judgment, as in this case, its failure constitutes the admission that there are no genuine issues of material fact warranting a trial. See Flynn v. Sandahl, 58 F.3d 283, 288 (7th Cir. 1995). A party's failure to respond to a motion for summary judgment, however, does not constitute a waiver of the legal issues. See id. With these standards in mind, the court turns to Grant's Motion for Summary Judgment to determine whether she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Johnson v. Gudmundsson, 35 F.3d 1104, 1112 (7th Cir. 1994).

  III. DISCUSSION

  A. Sexual Harassment — Hostile Work Environment (Count I)

  In evaluating whether a work environment is hostile based on sexual harassment, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment; (2) the harassment was based on her sex; (3) the sexual harassment unreasonably interfered with her work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment that affected the psychological well-being of the plaintiff; and (4) there is a basis for employer liability. See McPherson v. City of Waukegan, 379 F.3d 430, 437-38 (7th Cir. 2004).

  Grant has set forth sufficient evidence establishing the first, second, and fourth elements of a hostile work environment claim. Specifically, during Grant's employment with E-Quality, the General Foreman, Johnny Rayborn, harassed her with sexually suggestive comments, offensive remarks, and unwanted touching. Further, he made sexual advances toward Grant almost daily. Grant made Rayborn aware that she was not interested in his advances and did not appreciate his sexually offensive remarks and comments were not welcome. Grant repeatedly asked Rayborn to stop. Rayborn's remarks were sexual in nature and based on Grant's gender. Finally, under the fourth element, E-Quality is strictly liable for Rayborn's conduct because he was a supervisory employee. See McPherson, 379 F.3d at 438.*fn3

  Thus, the court is left with the question of whether Grant has established that a hostile work environment existed. A plaintiff can establish that a hostile work environment existed if the conduct she was subjected to was so severe or pervasive that it altered her employment conditions and created an abusive working environment. See id. (citations and quotations omitted). To qualify as hostile, the work environment must be objectively and subjectively offensive, that is, it must be a work environment that a reasonable person ...


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