643 F.3d 502 (6th Cir. 2011), 09-5564, Williams v. CSX Transp. Co., Inc.

Docket Nº:09-5564.
Citation:643 F.3d 502
Opinion Judge:MERRITT, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Stephanie WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CSX TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:Justin S. Gilbert, Gilbert, Russell, McWherter PLC, Jackson, Tennessee, for Appellant. Christopher W. Cardwell, Gullett, Sanford, Robinson & Martin, PLLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee. Justin S. Gilbert, Gilbert, Russell, McWherter PLC, Jackson, Tennessee, Gregory G. Paul, Morgan & Paul, PL...
Judge Panel:Before: MERRITT, ROGERS, and WHITE, Circuit Judges. MERRITT, J., delivered the opinion of the court. ROGERS (pp. 513-14), and WHITE (pp. 514-20), JJ., delivered separate opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. ROGERS, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part. HELENE N....
Case Date:June 28, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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643 F.3d 502 (6th Cir. 2011)

Stephanie WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

CSX TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 09-5564.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

June 28, 2011

Argued: Jan. 13, 2011.

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ARGUED:

Justin S. Gilbert, Gilbert, Russell, McWherter PLC, Jackson, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Christopher W. Cardwell, Gullett, Sanford, Robinson & Martin, PLLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Justin S. Gilbert, Gilbert, Russell, McWherter PLC, Jackson, Tennessee, Gregory G. Paul, Morgan & Paul, PLLC, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, for Appellant.

Christopher W. Cardwell, Mary Taylor Gallagher, Gullett, Sanford, Robinson & Martin, PLLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: MERRITT, ROGERS, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.

MERRITT, J., delivered the opinion of the court. ROGERS (pp. 513-14), and WHITE (pp. 514-20), JJ., delivered separate opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part.

OPINION

MERRITT, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff, Stephanie Williams, sued her employer, CSX Transportation Company, Inc. (" CSX" ), for allegedly subjecting her to both racially and sexually hostile work environments. The district court held that Williams failed to file a document that meets the test for a " charge" with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on her claim of a sexually hostile work environment and, thus, failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. For that reason, the district court granted summary judgment to CSX on that claim. We disagree and reverse. As for Williams's racially hostile work environment claim, the district court granted judgment as a matter of law to CSX at the close of Williams's case in chief. The district court reasoned that her evidence of a racially hostile work environment was not sufficiently " severe" or " pervasive" to create a jury question. On that claim, and on a collateral evidentiary issue, we affirm.

I. Facts and Procedural Background

Stephanie Williams began working as a clerk for CSX at its Bruceton, Tennessee, facility in April 2002. CSX operates railroad lines. Clerks' duties include, among other things, performing janitorial work. CSX's Bruceton facility was small; there were four clerks, including Williams, and a few supervisors. Conductors and engineers would also pass through the Bruceton facility on a regular basis. Among her coworkers and supervisors at the Bruceton facility, Williams was the only black employee and the only female employee.

Williams alleges that, between 2002 and 2004, her supervisors treated her differently than her white male counterparts. First, she asserts that Ed Anderson, a supervisor, required her once to clean

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feces off the walls of a restroom and out of a urinal, and that her white male counterparts never had to complete such a task. Second, Williams alleges that Anderson ordered her on four separate occasions to strip the restroom floor using an inappropriate tool. Williams requested a power tool from Anderson, who told her it was not in the budget. A different supervisor, Tim Magargle, once permitted a white male clerk to rent a power tool to complete the same task. Third, Williams alleges that Anderson refused to reimburse her for the mileage expense of driving her personal vehicle twice weekly during 2003 from Bruceton to New Johnsonville, Tennessee— even though corporate policy was to reimburse such mileage and the white male employees in her office received reimbursement. Fourth, Williams asserts that her car was vandalized: the right exterior was " keyed," and the tires on the same wheel were punctured five successive times, resulting in five flat tires.

In addition to these incidents, Williams alleges that a single racist and sexist confrontation occurred at the CSX Bruceton facility. According to Williams, Jeff Wingo and Tim Magargle, two supervisors, were watching the Republican National Convention on television on the evening of September 2, 2004 when Williams entered and indicated she did not want to watch. Wingo allegedly told Williams that she was a Democrat only because she was a black woman; that unmarried women cannot " have the love of God in their heart[s]" ; and that this country should " get rid of" Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton because without those two " monkeys" the country " would be a whole lot better." The following day, Williams alleges that Wingo told her that if she returned to school, she would not have to pay for her education because she was a single black mother. Several days later, an anonymous caller, professing to be white, reported Wingo's conduct to a CSX ethics hotline. The caller stated that Wingo " takes delight in harassing employees of other races."

Williams also alleges that Wingo made two racist statements in passing to her between one to six months before the confrontation. Wingo once asked Williams why black people cannot name their children " stuff that people can pronounce, like John or Sue." He also told Williams that black people should " go back to where [they] came from." Notably, Williams does not allege that any of her coworkers or supervisors other than Wingo ever made a single sexist or racist remark.

Two months after the Wingo incident, on November 9, 2004, Williams lost her job at the Bruceton facility through multiple-step process. First, CSX eliminated the position of another one of the Bruceton clerks. That clerk then exercised his right under CSX policy to displace a more junior employee at the Bruceton facility, and that more junior employee in turn exercised his right to displace Williams— who had the shortest tenure of the four Bruceton clerks. After this occurred, Williams exercised her own displacement right to obtain a clerical position at CSX's Nashville facility, which is located approximately one hundred miles from Bruceton.

Williams's dislocation from Bruceton to Nashville precipitated the first of her two relevant administrative filings with the EEOC. In November 18, 2004, Williams filed a so-called " Charge Information Form" with the EEOC. In that filing, which spanned seven pages, Williams recounted the Wingo incident in detail. She alleged that the elimination of the other clerk's position, which led to her dislocation to the Nashville facility, was in retaliation against her for the anonymous call to the CSX ethics hotline reporting the Wingo incident. She also alleged, independently,

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that her dislocation to the Nashville facility was an act of discrimination based on her race and sex. She expressly stated that the Bruceton facility was " a very hostile work environment." Although Williams provided her signature at the bottom of the seventh page, she did not sign it under oath or penalty of perjury. Nothing on the " Charge Information Form" suggested a need to do so.

The EEOC office then completed for Williams a second filing, a so-called " Charge of Discrimination." In a single page, this filing attempted to lay out the essence of Williams's allegations. The general thrust was that discrimination and retaliation caused Williams's dislocation to the Nashville facility. The allegations mentioned neither Wingo's conduct nor any other indication of a hostile work environment; however, the second sentence stated that Williams was " subjected to unequal terms and conditions of [her] employment." Within a field entitled " discrimination based on," three boxes were marked: " race," " sex," and " retaliation." Within a field entitled " date(s) discrimination took place," the " earliest" date listed was September 2, 2004 (the date of the Wingo incident). Immediately below, the box indicating that the discrimination was a " continuing action" was marked. Unlike the " Charge Information Form," this form prompted Williams to sign under a line stating that she " declare[d] under penalty of perjury that the above is true and correct." Williams signed the form, under penalty of perjury, on December 30, 2004.1

Williams sued CSX in federal district court for discrimination, retaliation, and both sexually and racially hostile work environments. The district court granted summary judgment to CSX on what appeared to be Williams's core claims: that her dislocation to the Nashville facility was the result of discrimination and retaliation. The district court found that Williams's dislocation was caused by an employee-consolidation effort emanating from CSX's corporate headquarters, not discrimination or retaliation. Williams does not appeal the disposition of those claims.

That left Williams's two hostile work environment claims. As to her claim of a sexually hostile work environment, the district court granted summary judgment to CSX on the theory that Williams failed to exhaust her administrative remedies: she did not file a " charge" containing sufficient allegations of a hostile work environment. As to her claim of a racially hostile work environment (which did not require exhaustion), the district court permitted Williams to proceed to trial. At the close of Williams's case in chief, however, the district court granted judgment as a matter of law to CSX. The district court believed that Williams's evidence of a racially hostile work environment was not sufficiently " severe or pervasive" to create a jury question on that claim. Williams now appeals the district court's judgments on her hostile work environment claims.

II. Sexually Hostile Work Environment

Williams asserts her claim of a sexually hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Before a plaintiff may sue under Title VII in federal court, she must first exhaust her...

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