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Hnin v. TOA (USA), LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

May 5, 2014

CUNG HNIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
TOA (USA), LLC, Defendant-Appellee

Argued April 15, 2014.

Page 500

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 1:12-cv-00116-SEB-MJD -- Sarah Evans Barker, Judge.

For Cung Hnin, Plaintiff - Appellant: Clinton Edward Blanck, Robert S. Rifkin, Maurer Rifkin & Hill, Carmel, IN.

For Toa (Usa) Llc, Defendant - Appellee: Brett Edward Buhl, Kenneth Brian Siepman, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Indianapolis, IN; Tobias E. Schlueter, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Chicago, IL.

Before RIPPLE and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges, ST. EVE, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 501

St. Eve., District Judge .

On January 25, 2012, Cung Hnin (" Hnin" ) filed a four-count Complaint against his former employer TOA (USA), LLC (" TOA" ) alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq., pursuant to the district court's original jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and two state law claims pursuant to the district court's supplemental jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). On July 22, 2013, TOA filed a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), and on October 31, 2013, the district court granted TOA's summary judgment motion in full. On

Page 502

appeal, Hnin challenges the district court's summary judgment ruling on his Title VII national origin discrimination claim and his Title VII retaliation claim. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Hnin is of Chin ethnicity from the country of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. In February 2007, Hnin began working at TOA's Mooreseville, Indiana automotive metal stamping plant as a temporary associate employed by Staffmark. In August 2007, TOA hired Hnin as an evening shift full-time associate in the metal stamping department. Hnin performed handwork, such as, inspecting stamping parts for defects, and re-working defective parts by using air-powered hand grinders and buffers. In addition, Hnin worked as a press assistant on production presses where he would catch parts from the conveyor belt as they were discharged from the presses, conduct spot inspections of the parts, and place the parts on pallets.

Upon being hired, all TOA associates, including Hnin, received a handbook setting forth TOA's standards of conduct. Under Section 401, Rules and Standards, the handbook states that " [u]nder normal circumstances, TOA (USA) endorses a policy of progressive discipline in which it attempts to provide associates with notice of deficiencies and an opportunity to improve." Rules and Standards Section 401 also states that some policy infractions are serious enough to warrant probation or dismissal without a prior warning, including violations of TOA's sexual harassment policy. TOA's sexual harassment policy states in relevant part:

TOA (USA) is committed to providing a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. Each individual has the right to work in a professional atmosphere that promotes equal opportunities and prohibits discriminatory practices, including sexual harassment. Accordingly, TOA (USA) expects that all relationships among persons will be business-like and free from bias, prejudice and harassment.
Unwelcome sexual conduct that interferes with an individual's job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment is prohibited. All associates are prohibited from engaging in unwelcome sexual conduct or making unwelcome sexual overtures, whether verbal or physical.
Behavior that constitutes sexual harassment is unacceptable in the workplace and in any work-related setting outside the workplace, including business-related social events.
TOA (USA) encourages reporting of all perceived incidents of sexual harassment, regardless of the offender's identity or position and regardless of whether the offender works for TOA (USA), a client or a supplier. TOA (USA) encourages the prompt reporting of complaints or concerns so that rapid and constructive action can be taken.
All complaints of harassment will be investigated promptly. Associates are required to cooperate in any investigation, which may include individual interviews with the parties involved, and, where necessary, with individuals who may have observed an alleged harassment or may have relevant knowledge. The complaint and the investigation will be handled with sensitivity, and confidentiality will be maintained throughout the investigative process, to the ...

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