853 F.2d 418 (6th Cir. 1988), 87-5377, Poe v. Haydon

Docket Nº:87-5377.
Citation:853 F.2d 418
Party Name:Dec. P 38,219 Patsy Carolyn POE, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Donnie HAYDON, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:July 28, 1988
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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853 F.2d 418 (6th Cir. 1988)

Dec. P 38,219

Patsy Carolyn POE, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Donnie HAYDON, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 87-5377.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 28, 1988

Argued Jan. 25, 1988.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Edwin S. Hopson, argued, Rhonda E. Curry, Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs, Louisville, Ky., Monte D. Gross, Office of Legal and Legislative Service, Frankfort, Ky., for defendants-appellants.

William C. Jacobs, argued, Lexington, Ky., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before LIVELY, JONES and BOGGS, Circuit Judges.

BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

In this civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, various Kentucky state officials appeal the district court's order denying their motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. Because the district court did not properly address the issue of qualified immunity, we vacate the denial of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.


We begin with a brief overview of the facts. Patsy C. Poe was employed as a janitor by the Finance and Administration Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In July 1984, she began working on the night shift at the Capitol Building under the supervision of J.L. Henderson, the night foreman. 1

In December 1984, Poe asked her superior, appellant Donnie Haydon, Building Superintendent of the Capitol, for a day shift position in the Capitol. Haydon denied the request because there were no openings on the day shift, and the Governor required the bulk of the cleaning to take place on the night shift. Haydon asked Poe whether anyone was giving her a problem of any kind, and she responded that someone was bothering her on the night shift. Poe refused to give his name, however, and indicated she would work out the problem herself. Haydon offered his assistance in the event she could not handle the problem.

On December 10, 1984, Poe wrote a letter to Haydon's supervisor, appellant Robert Smither, Branch Manager of the Division of Physical Plant, accusing Henderson of physical and sexual harassment. Copies of the letter were sent to many of the appellants, including Smither's superior, appellant John Spicer, Director of Physical Plant. In her letter, Poe detailed incidents of harassment and requested the situation be changed. She indicated that she did not want to be transferred out of the Capitol,

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but simply wanted "to be left alone so I can do my job without being harassed by anyone."

Before Poe's next work shift, Spicer conducted a meeting with Henderson, Haydon and Smither to determine the facts. Henderson denied the allegations, but he was warned that sexual harassment would not be tolerated. After learning of Poe's request for a day shift position, Spicer instructed Smither to offer her the day shift in the New Capitol Annex Building (Capitol Annex), where there was an opening. Alternatively, Poe should be assigned two janitors to accompany her while she worked to prevent her from being alone at any given time.

That same day, Smither and Haydon met with Poe and her husband. Poe again asked to be moved to the day shift in the Capitol, but she was again advised there were no openings. After the meeting, she remained in her present position and was assigned to work with two other janitors to protect her from future harassment. Poe admitted that these two janitors were her friends and she felt safe with them. Nevertheless, she indicated the new arrangement was unworkable. As Poe explained in her deposition testimony, "[W]hen we go in to clean an office, we all had to go together and three people in one small office, there is no way it can be done ... [b]ecause you are running over top of each other. If one had to go out to get supplies, we had to quit working and come out and stand in the hallway until the other one come back."

Appellant Ventra Hammond, Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, initiated her own investigation at the request of Gordon Duke, Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet. Hammond met with Poe and Henderson separately. Based on these interviews, and Spicer's letter which described Poe's meeting with Smither and Haydon, Hammond prepared a December 20, 1984, memorandum to Duke detailing her findings. She concluded that it was "one person's word against the other's," but a further meeting should be held to discuss Poe's allegation of "possible management favoritism."

In addition to her interviews, Hammond asked Spicer to investigate Poe's allegations further. He, in turn, asked Haydon to obtain statements from Poe's witnesses, including fellow janitors Douglas Eversole and Elizabeth Perkins, and security guard Bessie Tracy. These witnesses confirmed Poe's allegations in various respects. Hammond received these statements after preparing her December 20 memorandum, but she did not believe they warranted revising the document.

According to Poe, Henderson did not cause any problems following the December 10 meeting. However, Poe informed Haydon by letter dated December 20 that she would be taking a leave of absence, "[d]ue to the sexual harassment, nervous condition and pressure of the matter concerning J.L. Henderson."

Appellant James Stewart, Director, Office of Management Services, first became aware of Poe's allegations when Spicer contacted him about Poe's leave of absence. He reviewed Hammond's files and informed Poe by letter dated February 20, 1985, that insufficient grounds existed for any disciplinary action against Henderson. After reiterating that a day shift position in the Capitol was unavailable, Stewart offered Poe several options: 1) return to work on the night shift in the Capitol; 2) accept a transfer to the Capitol Annex, which Stewart understood Poe had been offered earlier; 3) request leave without pay for medical reasons, if her health precluded her from working further; or 4) resign her position by submitting a letter of resignation.

By letter dated February 25, Poe denied that she was ever offered a job in the Capitol Annex, and believed that such a change would result in a cut in pay. Poe asked to return to her previous position on the night shift in the Capitol, but she wanted to be treated "as an equal employee" without anyone assigned to her as protection.

Stewart met with Poe, her attorney and several other employees on March 1, 1985.

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Poe again requested the day shift position in the Capitol. Since the day shift was unavailable, a position in the Capitol Annex was offered to her. Refusing this offer, Poe decided instead to return to the night shift in the Capitol, which she did that same day.

On March 28, 1985, Poe filed a sex discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the Finance and Administration Cabinet, in which she stated: "No reason has been given as to why I am constantly being harassed by Mr. Henderson. Also, no action has been taken against him." After learning of this statement, Smither, on the recommendation of Haydon, informed Poe by letter dated May 8, 1985, that she would be reassigned to the Capitol Annex on the night shift. She was later permitted to transfer to the day shift in that building.

On May 13, 1985, appellant Tony Miller, Commissioner of the Department of Facilities and Management, became involved when Poe and her husband came to his office complaining about Henderson's past harassment. Poe argued that it was unfair to move her to the Capitol Annex because of the EEOC charge. She brought with her EEOC affidavits containing witnesses' sworn statements regarding Henderson's alleged harassment. Although Miller thought the problem had been resolved earlier, he decided to contact appellant Lowell Clark, Stewart's successor as Director, Office of Management Services. At Miller's request, Clark interviewed three of Poe's witnesses (Perkins, Miller and Eversole) to verify their affidavits.

On May 17, 1985, Clark informed Miller of his conclusions. Clark concluded that there was still no proof of Poe's allegations. He also saw no reason to question Hammond's earlier investigation. When Clark learned that Poe had written a letter to the Attorney General about Henderson on May 10, 1985, which he interpreted as "stating that a problem is continuing to exist," he consulted with counsel for the Finance and Administration Cabinet. Counsel advised Clark that it was best to keep Poe and Henderson separated while the EEOC charge was being investigated. Clark thus determined that no change in Poe's assignment should be made. Upon receiving Clark's letter, Miller's office wrote to Poe on May 17 informing her that "it would be best if you remained in your present work assignment until the federal EEOC complaint is resolved."

On May 31, 1985, Poe filed a charge of retaliation with the EEOC, alleging her transfer to the Capitol Annex was in retaliation for her previous sex discrimination charge against the Finance and Administration Cabinet. She later abandoned her Title VII charges to pursue claims under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983.

On December 3, 1985, Poe filed the instant action against Henderson and the appellants, alleging violations of the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. In her complaint, she argued principally that the appellants were aware of the hostile and abusive work environment caused by Henderson's sexual harassment, but failed to take immediate action to correct the situation, including an adequate investigation of the matter. The appellants thus "acquiesced in, condoned and ratified the conduct of Henderson in creating Poe's employment-related, sexually harrassing [sic] environment." She also alleged that appellants reassigned her to the Capitol Annex in retaliation for her filing a charge of sex discrimination with the EEOC. Poe sought compensatory and punitive damages against each appellant, and...

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