Not what you're
looking for? Try an advanced search.
Buy This Entire Record For
BADLAM v. REYNOLDS METALS CO.
April 19, 1999
PATRICIA BADLAM, PLAINTIFF,
REYNOLDS METALS COMPANY AND UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, THE ALUMINUM, BRICK AND GLASS DIVISION, LOCAL NO. 450-A, DEFENDANTS. SUSAN MCGREGOR, PLAINTIFF, V. REYNOLDS METALS COMPANY AND UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, THE ALUMINUM, BRICK AND GLASS DIVISION, LOCAL NO. 450-A, DEFENDANTS. EDNA NORTON, PLAINTIFF, V. REYNOLDS METALS COMPANY AND UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, THE ALUMINUM, BRICK AND GLASS DIVISION, LOCAL NO. 450-A, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: McAVOY, Chief Judge.
MEMORANDUM — DECISION & ORDER
The three female plaintiffs herein, Edna Norton ("Norton"),
Patricia Badlam ("Badlam"), and Susan McGregor ("McGregor"),
commenced the instant litigation against the Defendants Reynolds
Metals Company ("Reynolds") and The Aluminum Brick and Glass
Workers International Union Local No. 450 (the "Union") asserting
claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
("Title VII"), New York State Human Rights Law § 296 ("HRL"), and
common law causes of action for negligent hiring, retention and
supervision. Plaintiff Norton also asserts a claim for
defamation. Presently before the Court are motions by both
defendants pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 56 seeking dismissal of the
Complaints in their entirety.
Because this is a motion for summary judgment by the
defendants, the following facts are presented in the light most
favorable to plaintiffs. See Ertman v. United States,
165 F.3d 204, 206 (2d Cir. 1999).
The instant litigation stems from alleged occurrences at
Reynolds' St. Lawrence Reduction Plant (the "plant") in Massena,
New York. Essentially, plaintiffs allege that male coworkers
sexually harassed them, that they continuously complained to
their supervisors to no avail, and that the Union failed to file
grievances on their behalf.
Norton began working for Reynolds in 1980. In 1987, she began
Reynolds' Cast House. Norton began experiencing ill treatment in
the early 1990s. Specifically, she alleges that she was the
subject of sexual innuendos, profanity, derogatory comments, and
sexually offensive touching, and has been exposed to pornography,
male workers exposing themselves, and crude graphic depictions on
the walls. For example, Norton asserts that she was constantly
referred to as an "old cunt," "slut," "whore," "bitch," "dyke,"
and "prostitute;" certain male workers tried to have her grab
their penises; coworkers exposed themselves to her; she found
sexually explicit photographs in her locker; coworkers ran their
tongues in and out in a sexually explicit manner; and she
witnessed pornographic videos and magazines throughout the
workplace, profanity, and tasteless drawings. Norton further
alleges that she was treated differently than male employees
because she was required to retrain on a crane on account of her
sex.*fn1 Norton asserts that she repeatedly complained to
supervisors, upper-level management, the plant superintendent,
Reynolds' corporate headquarters, Union stewards, the Union
vice-president, and the Union president, all to no avail.
The Union attempted to resolve Norton's complaints informally
by speaking directly with Norton's coworkers and setting up
meetings with Reynolds officials. The Union arranged meetings
with Norton, her supervisor, Eric Prashaw; Cast House
Superintendent, Terry Conroy; Plant Manager, Fred Swafford;
Director of Human Resources, Les Carey; and Cast House
Superintendent, Alf Maki. The Union also advised Norton to follow
Reynolds' sexual harassment policy, including contacting
Reynolds' EEO office at Corporate Headquarters.
Norton alleges that the Union failed to take any effective
action on her behalf and that it failed to rectify a breach of
the Union contract by not filing a grievance. Norton similarly
contends that Reynolds did not have an effective sexual
harassment policy and that it failed to take appropriate
corrective action. In sum, Norton claims that she was
discriminated against on the basis of her sex with respect to the
terms and conditions of her employment with Reynolds and her
rights and privileges as a Union member.
Badlam commenced employment with Reynolds in 1989 where she
worked continuously until an industrial accident on September 6,
1991. After a period of disability leave, Badlam returned to work
without restriction. In February 1993, Badlam's physician again
declared her disabled. On or about February 15, 1993, her
physician released her to return to light-work duty with certain
medical restrictions. Throughout 1992 and 1993, Badlam received
workers compensation and disability payments when she was out of
Badlam contacted Union President Jim Peets ("Peets") for
assistance in obtaining light-work duty at Reynolds. Peets
apparently contacted Reynolds and was informed that no light duty
positions were available.
In May 1994, Badlam underwent a functional capacity
examination, the results of which indicated that her medical
condition had improved. In July 1994, Badlam's attorney contacted
Peets for further assistance. Peets requested that Badlam provide
him with the relevant medical information regarding her
restrictions so he could properly represent her interests in
negotiating her return to work.
Like Norton, Badlam contends that she was continuously
subjected to a hostile work environment while employed at
Reynolds and was the brunt of sexual innuendo, offensive
comments, crude graphic depictions, and disparate treatment by
her co-workers. For example, Badlam alleges that she was
constantly called a "cunt," that coworkers mocked her on account
of her breasts, that a male coworker struck her in the face, that
coworkers requested her to wear sexy clothing, that coworkers
told her to stay home and get pregnant rather than work, and that
she found a drawing of a nude women with her name on it next to
an erect penis. Badlam also asserts that the Union failed to
represent her on account of her gender because it did not take
appropriate action to rid Reynolds of sexual harassment.
McGregor began working at Reynolds in 1990. On January 1, 1993,
McGregor was injured in an automobile accident and was deemed
totally disabled by her personal physician until July 1994. In
November 1993, McGregor was laid off due to a reduction in force,
but was later recalled in accordance with the Collective
Bargaining Agreement ("CBA").
At the time McGregor was recalled, she had a medical
restriction limiting her to lifting thirty pounds. Because of
that restriction, she could not return to work at the time of
recall and was permitted to waive recall under the CBA. Thus,
McGregor remained on layoff. McGregor later contacted the Union
and Reynolds' Human Resources Department for assistance in
obtaining light-duty work. Reynolds apparently stated that
McGregor could return to the Cast House if her lifting
restrictions were raised to fifty pounds. Approximately one month
later, McGregor contacted her physician, who raised her lifting
restrictions to forty-five pounds. Peets contacted Reynolds about
finding a position that did not require lifting. Reynolds
determined that it had a vacancy in the Labor Pool, which could
accommodate McGregor's restrictions.
Accordingly, McGregor returned to work in the Labor Pool on
August 8, 1994 until she was rendered disabled with back pain on
September 27, 1994. The Union intervened on McGregor's behalf and
requested that Reynolds place her in a position that could
accommodate her occupational restrictions. On November 29, 1994,
Reynolds provided McGregor with a temporary position sweeping the
maintenance shop area. This temporary assignment ended in March
1995, when McGregor was returned to her regular position in the
McGregor then filed a grievance requesting that Reynolds
reevaluate her restrictions. The Union pursued the grievance to
the "Third Step" of the grievance procedure outlined in the CBA.
The grievance was denied because there was no longer a vacancy in
maintenance. On March 31, 1995, McGregor again left work on
In September 1995, McGregor filed another grievance protesting
her "unlawful termination" and requesting a light duty position.
The Union pursued that grievance to Step Three where, according
to the Union, the grievance was denied because McGregor was not
terminated and Reynolds had no vacancies available within her
McGregor returned to work in January 1997 and was permanently
assigned to a janitor position. She claims that during her
employment at Reynolds she also has been subjected to a hostile
work environment and was denied representation by the Union
because of her sex. McGregor alleges that coworkers touched her
buttocks, referred to her as "fat ass," "dumb
cunt," and a "fucken bitch;" and that she repeatedly found
pornography in the workplace.
Defendants now move for summary judgment seeking dismissal of
the Complaints in their entirety.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
judgment may be entered in favor of the moving party if "there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and  the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91
L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, all facts
must be construed in favor of the nonmoving party. Id.; Buttry
v. General Signal Corp., 68 F.3d 1488, 1492 (2d Cir. 1995).
Where the moving party has supported the motion by affidavits
and/or documentary evidence, the non-movant "may not rest upon
mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but
the adverse party's response, by affidavits or as otherwise
provided in  rule , must set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue [of material fact] for trial. If
the adverse party does not so respond, summary judgment, if
appropriate, shall be entered against the adverse party."
FED.R.CIV.P. 56(e); BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc. v. W.R.
Grace & Co., 77 F.3d 603, 615 (2d Cir. 1996).
The Court is aware of the dangers of summary judgment in
connection with a Title VII claim. "Because direct evidence of .
. . discriminatory intent will rarely be found, `affidavits and
depositions must be carefully scrutinized for circumstantial
proof which, if believed, would show discrimination.'" Schwapp
v. Town of Avon, 118 F.3d 106, 110 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting
Gallo v. Prudential Residential Services, L.P., 22 F.3d 1219,
1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). "However, even in the discrimination
context, a plaintiff must provide more than conclusory
allegations of discrimination to defeat a motion for summary
judgment." Schwapp, 118 F.3d at 110 (citing Meiri v. Dacon,
759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir. 1985), cert. denied 474 U.S. 829,
106 S.Ct. 91, 88 L.Ed.2d 74 (1985)).
With this standard in mind, the Court will now address
defendants' motions for summary judgment.
B. Reynolds' Motion for Summary Judgment
Reynolds moves for summary judgment arguing that: (1)
plaintiffs failed to avail themselves of Reynolds' sexual
harassment policy and complaint procedures; (2) Reynolds
exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct any alleged
sexual harassment; and (3) plaintiffs' complaints of harassment
are non-actionable because they would be equally offensive to
both sexes and, thus, plaintiffs were not singled out because of
their sex. Plaintiffs respond that Reynolds' sexual harassment
policy and complaint procedure is insufficient, plaintiffs
repeatedly complained to Reynolds' officials who failed to take
corrective action, and plaintiffs were subjected to rude,
obscene, and vulgar treatment because of their sex.*fn2
Title VII provides that "[i]t shall be an unlawful employment
practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any
individual with respect to [her] compensation, terms, conditions,
or privileges of employment, because of such individual's . . .
sex. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). Title VII is not limited to
economic or tangible discrimination, but extends to "sexual
harassment so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of
the victim's employment and create an abusive working
environment." Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 118
S.Ct. 2275, 2283, 141 L.Ed.2d 662 (1998) (internal quotations and
citations omitted). "Title VII affords employees the right to
work in an environment free from discriminatory intimidation,
ridicule, and insult." Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson,
477 U.S. 57, 106 S.Ct. 2399, 2404-05, 91 L.Ed.2d 49 (1986).
In the present case, plaintiffs assert a hostile work
environment sexual harassment claim against defendants. To
prevail on their hostile work environment claims against
Reynolds, plaintiffs must demonstrate: (1) that their workplace
was permeated with discriminatory intimidation that was
sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of their
work environment, see Faragher, 118 S.Ct. at 2283 n. 1; and (2)
that a specific basis exists for imputing the conduct that
created the hostile environment to Reynolds. Schwapp v. Town of
Avon, 118 F.3d 106, 110 (2d Cir. 1997); see Van Zant v. KLM
Royal Dutch Airlines, 80 F.3d 708, 715 (2d Cir. 1996).*fn3
1. Whether Reynolds Was Permeated with Discriminatory
Intimidation that was Sufficiently Severe or Pervasive to Alter