819 F.2d 630 (6th Cir. 1987), 86-5288, Yates v. Avco Corp.

Docket Nº:86-5288.
Citation:819 F.2d 630
Party Name:Charlotte Lynn Rawlins YATES and Cheryl Jenkins Mathis, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. AVCO CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:May 21, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 630

819 F.2d 630 (6th Cir. 1987)

Charlotte Lynn Rawlins YATES and Cheryl Jenkins Mathis,



AVCO CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 86-5288.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 21, 1987

Argued Feb. 10, 1987.

Page 631

Robert E. Boston, Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis, Nashville, Tenn., J. Kevin Hennessy, argued, Chicago, Ill., Don A. Banta, for defendant-appellant.

Frank G. Clement, Jr., argued, Clement, Gibson, Mossman & Pate, Nashville, Tenn., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Before MARTIN, WELLFORD, and NELSON, Circuit Judges.

BOYCE F. MARTIN, Jr., Circuit Judge.

Avco Corporation appeals the judgment holding them liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 2000e-2000e-17, for the sexual harassment of two female employees by their supervisor, Edwin Sanders, in the course of his duties. Sanders did not appeal the judgment entered against him personally. We feel on this record there is sufficient evidence to affirm on the issue of Avco's liability. However, Charlotte Yates (Street) did not adequately prove she was constructively discharged from her employment at Avco Corporation. We also find that the district court erred in finding that Avco retaliated against Cheryl Mathis. For the reasons stated below the judgment of the district court is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for a recalculation of damages consistent with this opinion.

I. Facts

The complaints in this case by Charlotte Yates (Street) and Cheryl Mathis arose from the actions of one individual, their supervisor, twenty-eight year Avco employee Edwin Sanders. Avco manufactures and assembles wing components for the aerospace industry in Nashville, Tennessee

Page 632

at five separate facilities. Mathis was hired in February, 1980, and was transferred to Sanders's supervision in June, 1982. Street was hired in the summer of 1982 and put under Sanders's supervision in June, 1983 while Mathis was on sick leave. Both plaintiffs were secretaries.

Cheryl Mathis's relationship with Mr. Sanders began on terms she described as good, but it later became clear that Sanders sought some kind of personal relationship with her. Whenever Mathis was in his office he wanted the door to outside offices closed, and he began discussing very personal matters with her, such as the lack of a sexual relationship with his wife. He then began bombarding her with unwelcome invitations for drinks, lunch, dinner, breakfast, and asking himself to her house. Mathis made it clear that she was not interested in a personal relationship with her married boss. On a couple of occasions Sanders did in fact insist on coming to her apartment during the day and at those times Mathis asked a girlfriend from Avco to come with her.

Sanders also commented on Mathis's appearance, making lewd references to parts of her body. As Mathis rejected Sanders's advances, he would become belligerent. By the spring of 1983 Mathis began to suffer from severe bouts of trembling and crying which became progressively worse and eventually caused her to be hospitalized on two separate occasions, once for a week in June, 1983, and again in July for a few days. During this entire summer Mathis remained out on sick leave, not returning to work until September, 1983. She received her full pay until July 18, when her sick leave benefits expired. She was then compensated at the lesser "disability" rate of pay. When she returned from extended sick leave in September, 1983, Mathis held the same job, title, grade and compensation rate and remained under Sanders's supervision.

As soon as she returned to work, Sanders's harassment resumed. He talked of "putting her on his mistress list" and made lewd jokes and comments. When Mathis resisted his advances Sanders became hostile, giving her more work than she could handle during her part-time hours. Once again she began to experience trembling, crying and emotional distress, and once again she was forced to seek medical help and did not work.

The other employee in this litigation, Charlotte Street, had been transferred to Sanders's supervision in June, 1983 while Cheryl Mathis was on sick leave. Sanders's behavior toward Street was similar to his behavior with Mathis. He incessantly asked her to lunch, dinner and drinks, mentioned sleeping together on more than one occasion, tried to discuss his and her personal relationships and made frequent sexually suggestive comments. He would call Street into his office "because [he] wanted to watch [her] walk out" and then make groaning sounds.

The harassment not only tormented Street and Mathis, it created hostility between them and other members of the department who apparently resented the plaintiffs' familiarity with Sanders. When Street could stand no more of this, she complained to Joe Baron, Manager of Personnel. In October, 1983, while Mathis was out on sick leave, Avco became aware that Mathis's emotional problems were connected to the work situation at Avco and questioned her. Avco then began an investigation of both complaints. During the initial part of the investigation Sanders continued in his job; however, he was later put on administrative leave pending a decision about his future with Avco.

In late November, 1983, Mathis informed Baron that she wanted to be transferred out of Sanders's supervision to another facility, and November 29, she was assigned to the lower position of Secretary II, Grade 05, at the Cumberland River Facility. Her salary and benefits remained the same. Avco documented Mathis's transfer as being due to "return from extended sick leave." When Mathis was later offered a new Secretary III job at the main plant she was asked to sign a statement which said that her transfer to the Secretary II position had been at her request. Mathis chose to remain at the CRF Secretary II position

Page 633

rather than sign the statement which she believed would exculpate Avco from any liability. It is the actions surrounding her transfer and its documentation which Mathis contends constitute Avco's retaliation.

When both Street and Mathis complained of harassment, they were asked not to go to the EEOC and were assured that Avco would be their representative in the matter. The company refused to give them transcripts of the tape recorded statements each had made in connection with the company's investigation. Though both asked for written assurance that their jobs would be protected and for corrections in their personnel files regarding the sick leave each was forced to take because of the uncomfortable positions in which they had been placed, neither of these things was ever done. The original sick leave was never reinstated for either Mathis or Street.

As a result of the Avco internal investigation Ed Sanders was found to have harassed employees, was drastically demoted, and received a substantial cut in salary. Though this meant Sanders would no longer be a supervisor, the plaintiffs were forced to endure unnecessary personal hardship to get to this stage. Both of their personnel files contained references to extended sick leave rather than giving any indication of the true reason for their absences. Even after Sanders was penalized, Avco refused to correct their personnel records. Though the company arranged an administrative leave for Sanders while he was under investigation, this same arrangement was never made for Mathis or Street. These discrepancies help to demonstrate that Avco's sexual harassment policy was not functioning properly nor implemented equitably.

II. Proceedings Below

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-5(f)(5), the claims were referred to a magistrate on August 14, 1984, and a hearing was held in April, 1985. The magistrate found that the plaintiffs had established a prima facie case against both defendants in that (1) as women they were members of a protected class; (2) they were subject to unwelcome sexual harassment, as it was not solicited and not desired; (3) the harassment was based on sex because there was no evidence that men were subjected to similar harassment; (4) because the harassment was sufficiently persistent and severe to affect the psychological well-being of the plaintiffs it affected a "term, condition, or privilege of employment;" and (5) a sufficient respondeat superior relationship existed to hold Avco liable for Sanders's actions. See Highlander v. K.F.C. National Management Co., 805 F.2d 644, 649 (6th Cir.1986); Rabidue v. Osceola Refining Co., 805 F.2d 611, 619-20 (6th Cir.1986). The magistrate found not only that Sanders had been given the authority to hire, fire and promote, but Avco had at least constructive knowledge of Sanders's behavior based on earlier allegations against him. Thus, he found both Sanders and Avco liable to Mathis and Street and ordered that they be awarded back-pay for the time they were out on sick leave, plus prejudgment interest; that Street be awarded incidental expenses incurred in her job search; that Street be reinstated if she desired; that Avco correct the misleading impressions in the personnel files, including placing a copy of his report in the files; and that Mathis and Street be awarded their expenses in bringing the action, including reasonable attorney's fees. The magistrate also found that should either plaintiff return to Avco, the Court should use its broad powers to ensure no contact between them and Sanders, including but not limited to, transferring him to another facility.

The district court adopted the magistrate's report with the exception that it did not agree with the injunctive order to transfer Sanders.

III. Issues on Appeal

As we noted above, Sanders did not appeal the judgment entered against him by the district court....

To continue reading