970 F.2d 178 (6th Cir. 1992), 91-3511, Kauffman v. Allied Signal, Inc. Autolite Div.

Docket Nº:91-3511.
Citation:970 F.2d 178
Party Name:Lucille R. KAUFFMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ALLIED SIGNAL, INC., AUTOLITE DIVISION, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:July 22, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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970 F.2d 178 (6th Cir. 1992)

Lucille R. KAUFFMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,



No. 91-3511.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 22, 1992

Argued Nov. 14, 1991.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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R. Kevin Greenfield (argued and briefed), DeNune & Killam, Sylvania, Ohio, for plaintiff-appellant.

Joseph P. Dawson (briefed), Cary Rodman Cooper (argued and briefed), Cooper, Straub, Walinski & Cramer, Toledo, Ohio, E. Sharon Clark, Southfield, Mich., for defendant-appellee.

Before: BOGGS and NORRIS, Circuit Judges, and BERTELSMAN, Chief District Judge. [*]

BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

This is a sexual harassment case involving a supervisor in which a female employee seeks damages under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., against her employer under a "hostile environment theory" and a "quid pro quo theory." She also brought a state law claim under Ohio law for intentional infliction of serious emotional distress. The district court granted summary judgment for the employer. We affirm in part and reverse in part.


Plaintiff Lucille R. Kauffman has been employed as a machine operator for the past fourteen years by defendant Allied Signal, Inc., Autolite Division, at its Fostoria, Ohio plant. Donald R. Butts had been employed by Allied for at least twenty years as a production supervisor until he retired in 1986. In 1987, Butts came back to work for Allied as a temporary full-time production supervisor pursuant to an agreement with the Rumpf Corporation, a temporary employment service.

Butts's duties as a production supervisor included assigning jobs, delegating work, analyzing problems, supervising the work force, transferring product from process to process, and reporting attendance. Plaintiff contends that Butts could discipline employees, which included firing and hiring in conjunction with his immediate supervisor, the Employee Relations Department ("ERD"), and the Union. Allied maintains that Butts had no individual power to fire or hire employees, as all such decisions had to go through the ERD. Only the ERD is authorized to hire and fire, and Allied argues that as a supervisor, Butts did not have the power to hire, fire, promote, or discipline employees on his own.

In early 1988, Kauffman took medical leave to have breast enlargement surgery in order to enhance her looks and self-esteem. Kauffman considered this a very private matter and told only a few close friends, including co-workers, about her surgery, in confidence. Kauffman did not tell Butts about her surgery. However, when Kauffman returned to work on April 11, 1988, Butts came up behind her machine, touched her left breast, and stated to Kauffman, "You didn't tell me you were going on medical leave. Why didn't you tell me you were getting new tits? When do I get to see them?" Butts also tried to look down Kauffman's shirt, while Kauffman immediately pushed him away and said "That's enough Don."

The next day, April 12, 1988, Butts took Kauffman off her regular machine, No. 110, and assigned her to machine No. 108, a manual press that was disliked within the department because it created extra work and was difficult to operate. A co-worker, Joyce Cooper, testified on deposition that working with No. 108 was "torture," as it required more manual labor than any other machine and the operator constantly had to baby-sit it. When Cooper asked Butts why he had put Kauffman on machine No. 108 and if there was something wrong with Kauffman's regular machine, Butts responded that "No, there's nothing wrong with her machine, I put her on 108 for punishment because she wouldn't show me her tits."

On April 13, 1988, while Kauffman was again working at her regular machine, No. 110, Butts threw a spark plug insulator at her and hit her on the right hip. Butts also told employee William Barfield, in front of

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a co-worker, John McMeen, "If you get to see Lou's tits before I do I'll be pissed." That evening, Butts instructed another co-worker, R.T. Smith, a millwright, to ask Kauffman, "to show you her tits." Smith did this, but apologized after Kauffman became hysterical and started crying. During this three-day period, Kauffman alleges that she was also approached by at least twenty other co-workers who made comments about her surgery.

On April 13, 1988, Kauffman went to her union representative, who brought her complaint to the attention of Sam Harmon, Director of Employee Relations (DER). Butts was confronted with these allegations and was terminated immediately, on April 14, 1988. Allied has had a written policy against sexual harassment since 1981. It urges employees to present complaints of sexual harassment to the management through the DER. There is also a grievance procedure available through the collective bargaining agreement. Allied testified that the company's policy was posted throughout the plant and that it was also the subject of "special" meetings with supervisors before 1986 and was discussed thereafter with supervisors on many occasions. However, neither plaintiff nor co-worker Barfield had ever seen this policy displayed on any bulletin boards or message centers within the plant. In fact, neither employee knew that Allied had a sexual harassment policy.

Taking the record in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the district court stated that at the time of the harassment, none of Allied's top-level managers were ever aware of any specific procedure to handle such complaints and that there had not been any meetings in the last five years with either supervisory personnel or salaried employees on the subject. Until Kauffman complained to her union representative, Allied had received only one other complaint of sexual harassment by a supervisor.

As a result of these harassing incidents, Kauffman was forced to take a medical leave of absence, and remained away from work until July 18, 1988. Kauffman claims that when she returned to work she met increased pressure and hostility, and that she developed fear as a result of her notoriety at the plant. Kauffman also testified that when she returned to work, she was placed on three different shifts and given several different job assignments that differed from those she had received before the harassment.

Kauffman was forced to take a second medical leave of absence in October 1988. During this leave, she suffered a nervous breakdown. Her psychiatrist testified that as a result of the sexual harassment in April 1988, Kauffman suffers a post-traumatic stress disorder. Kauffman is presently unable to return to work, based on her psychiatrist's recommendation. Kauffman also testified that she fears returning to work due to threats which she has received or been made aware of through various employees and agents working at Allied. 1

Kauffman originally filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. After receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, she filed this lawsuit against Allied. The district court granted summary judgment for Allied and plaintiff appeals.


The question before us is whether a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Allied should be held liable for sexual harassment by one of its supervisors. The district court, in granting Allied summary judgment, examined Allied's liability based upon the doctrine of respondeat superior. The court found that Allied was not liable under this doctrine because Allied had no knowledge of Butts's actions and had no reason to know of these actions because there had been no prior complaints

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against Butts; that Butts's harassment did not benefit Allied; that Allied had a written policy against sexual harassment; and that Allied took immediate and effective remedial action by discharging Butts. The district court also held that because Butts did not have the authority to hire, fire, promote or discipline Kauffman on his own, and because Allied's policy worked in this case, Allied was not liable as a matter of law for Butts's harassment of Kauffman.

This court reviews grants of summary judgment de novo and it applies the same test as used by the district court. See EEOC v. University of Detroit, 904 F.2d 331, 334 (6th Cir.1990). Under Rule 56(c), Fed.R.Civ.P., summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Canderm Pharmacal, Ltd. v. Elder Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 862 F.2d 597, 601 (6th Cir.1988).

The moving party need not support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials "negating" the opponent's claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (emphasis in original). "[T]he burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing'--that is, pointing out to the district court--that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. at 2554. The summary judgment standard requires a determination of whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element of its case. Id. at 322, 106 S.Ct. at 2551; Taylor v. Medtronics, Inc., 861 F.2d 980, 987 (6th Cir.1988). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Accordingly, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court should determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury...

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