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Richards v. Steel

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 9, 2015

MARY R. RICHARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. STEEL, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant U.S. Steel's Motion (Doc. 33) for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. 37) and the Defendant filed a Reply (Doc. 40). Local Rule 7.1(c) states that reply briefs are not favored and should be filed only in exceptional circumstance. Defendant states such circumstances and the Court will consider the reply brief. Also before the Court is Defendant's Objection To and Motion to Strike Evidence and Statements of Facy (sic) Submitted by Plaintiff in Support of her Response to U.S. Steel's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 39).

1. Background

This is a Civil Rights Employment Complaint based on the following:

August 16, 2010: Ms. Richards filed an EEOC Complaint alleging failure to promote and receive a pay raise due to being the only female in the Electrical Learner Program. Ms. Richards also alleged that she was suspended on July 14, 2010, after being accused of calling the staff at the health clinic "nuts" and "crazy." She also states that she filed a complaint of discrimination against the company about one and a half years ago and believed she was being retaliated against. The Complaint further alleges that her area manager, Dan Harris, stated she was not promoted because she had not worked with tools enough. The complaint period is 6-3-2010 to 07-14-2010, but the complaint also states that in January 2010, Mr. Harris told Ms. Richards she would never meet his standards as an electrician. There is a handwritten note on the EEOC Complaint, "Lowry McBride - area manager Jesse Byrd - supervision - both have now retaliated with suspension." (Doc. 37-4, pg 3).

September 3, 2010: Ms. Richards filed a Union Civil & Human Rights Complaint alleging inappropriate, unwelcomed, and offensive touching by area manager Lowery McBride in that he pulled a microphone off of Ms. Richards' right chest without permission. Mr. McBride also blocked doorway preventing Ms. Richards from exiting room. (Doc. 37-4, pg1).

Early 2011: Harassment from Lydia Kachigian, U.S. Steel Human Resources, informing Ms. Richards, "Just because you don't like Jesse's rough management style doesn't mean we have to do anything, and you need to adjust to your environment." Also, Human Resources failed to take action on her complaints.

January 28, 2011: Ms. Richards filed a Union Civil & Human Rights Complaint alleging inappropriate sexual jokes while in break room with co-workers present by supervisor Jesse Byrd. The complaint further alleges unnecessary, unreasonable comments while performing her job at the BOF electrical shop; innuendos about weight in front of co-workers; and demeaning remarks when she asked for information about the work she had completed.

Ms. Richards worked for Jesse Byrd in the BOF from April 2010 until January 9th, 2011. During this period Ms. Richard states the following incidents occurred:

1) Mr. Byrd, "randomly gave out tools.... and did not give me the same tools." (Doc. 37-7, page 20).
2) Mr. Byrd "got snippy" and only gave Ms. Richards one stick ruler when she requested two. (Doc. 37-7, page 24).
Mr. Byrd provided LED lights to "everybody" at Christmans, but failed to provide one to Ms. Richards when she returned to work in February. (Doc. 37-7, page 26).
4) The first day Ms. Richards worked for Mr. Byrd he inquired whether she could, "draw a motor circuit." Ms. Richards responded that they were taught that in school and Mr. Byrd asked if she could draw one without mistakes. Ms. Richards did not respond to that question. "I was irritated by him doing that to me." Mr. Byrd then asked what Ms. Richards learned in blueprint class and she asked for a specific question and he stated, "No, I need to know what you know" to which Ms. Richard, "I just looked at him." Mr. Byrd only asked these questions of Ms. Richards. (Doc. 37-7, page 37-38).

5) Ms. Richards stepped on a bucket to reach some screws and Mr. Byrd asked, "You think that bucket will hold all that?" Ms. Richards acknowledges that there were safety procedures and that, "I probably should not have stood on the bucket" but "That doesn't change what he said." (Doc. 37-7, page 44). Ms. Richards states that comment was about her weight. (Doc. 37-7, page 45). "That is not talking about anything else but how big I am." (Doc. 37-7, page 80).

6) Ms. Richards lost a glove and asked Mr. Byrd for a pair of gloves. He responded, "Well, do you want one glove or two?" Ms. Richards stated, "If you're going to give me one glove, make sure it's the right hand, or you can give me a pair, whatever works for you, " and then Mr. Byrd made a remark about people being incompetent. Mr. Byrd then gave Ms. Richards a pair of gloves that were too big, because he stated he did have any size small. (Doc. 37-7, page 46).

7) Ms. Richards came to work and a co-worker informed her that, "Jesse is going to jump you about not putting that stuff away." Mr. Byrd did "jump" her about it and she responded that, "I did exactly what you said, put the box in that room. I can't read your mind, you have to tell me." (Doc. 37-7, page 49)
8) Mr. Byrd informed Ms. Richards that she would probably be fired and that there was no way he was going to save her over an unspecified incident in which she and Jerry Schneider were attempting to fix, "the incident and I don't know exactly what went wrong" but Ms. Richards attempted to reach Mr. Byrd and then had another employee, Dan Guy, in to assist. During this incident, Mr. Byrd asked Ms. Richards, "Are you listening to me?" and Ms. Richards responded, "Are you talking to me?" When Mr. Byrd stated he was speaking to her, Ms. Richards responded, "Jesse, I can hear everything you say, but I'm not going to turn around again because the last time I turned around, you told me I was scared of you, so I can listen sitting sideways." (Doc. 37-7, pages 66-67).
9) On New Year's Eve, 2011, Mr. Byrd refused Ms. Richards overtime stating, "Before I let you work the overtime, I'll jump off the bridge, " and Ms. Richards responded that "I'll take you to the bridge." (Doc. 37-7, page 69.) Ms. Richards was allowed to work the overtime by Dan Guy. (Doc. 37-7, page 70-71)
10) Ms. Richards' partner overheated and Mr. Byrd, "starts screaming to me to get down the ladder." Ms. Richards responds, "I will. Let me make sure my partner is able to get down the ladder" and Mr. Byrd states, "Just get down." (Doc. 37-7, page 86). Then later, in the break room, Mr. Byrd, "went bizerk" when Ms. Richard requested to go back up for her tools and required her to sit down for 15 or 20 minutes. While sitting there, a guy sitting across from Ms. Richards asked to get her a Gatorade and Ms. Richards responded, "My boss won't buy Gatorade" just as Mr. Byrd was walking in and overheard. Ms. Richards states that, "Jesse is towering over me walking toward me telling me to tell him my boss was a prick." Ms. Richards responded, "I don't have to, you already did." Ms. Richards states that Mr. Byrd became angry and was "pacing back and forth like a mad dog" and got behind her and that "He does that kind of stuff to make you do something stupid so he can fire you." (Doc. 37-7, pages 86-90).
11) While in the break room with several co-workers, Mr. Byrd told a joke that he had asked his wife why her ass was getting so big, and his wife came back with a remark that they need to put Miracle-Gro on his dick to make it grow. The joke was not told directly to Ms. Richards and when she attempted to leave, Mitch Lemons was standing in the doorway, "So, it was useless for me to get and leave because there was someone blocking the door." (Doc. 37-7, pages 92-93

February 12, 2011: Ms. Richards called Sexual Harassment Hotline to report incident on June 14, 2010, of Jesse Byrd grabbing her jacket, pulling it open, and stating, "I like that.". In her deposition, she states that she assumed he was referring to her chest and "I was shocked, I was scared, and I just got the hell away from him." (Doc. 37-7, page 39). However, Ms. Richards' personal notes state that, "He was referring to my addition of some pockets for my tools." (Doc. 33-7).

September 29, 2011: Ms. Richards' unexcused absence and improper report off. (Doc. 37-6).

October 2, 2011: Ms. Richards receives Notification of Discipline which states 5 Day Suspension Subject to Discharge. (Doc. 33-3)

October 7, 2011: Notice sent to Ms. Richards that her 5 Day Suspension had been converted to a discharge effective October 2, 2011. (Doc. 33-3).

February 17, 2012: Ms. Richards had continued to work under Union grievances procedures and was informed on this date that the discharge was being upheld and that the union would be taking it to arbitration. (Doc. 33-3)

Summer of 2014: Arbitration awarded Ms. Richards a 30-day suspension and retention as employee at U.S. Steel. (Doc. 33-3).

Based on the above, Ms. Richards is claiming one count of retaliation for having initiated an internal sexual harassment claim in January 2011 and for not calling off work on September 29, 2011; one count of intentional infliction of emotional distress in that the defendant's action were willful and intentional in a series of actions seeking to discharge Plaintiff in write-ups and ignoring her complaints of harassment which resulted in tremendous ...


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