Cecil v. Louisville Water Co., 112508 FED6, 07-6232

Docket Nº:07-6232
Party Name:DIANA CECIL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. LOUISVILLE WATER COMPANY; JOHN L. HUBER; GREGORY C. HEITZMAN, Vice-President; ROBERT K. MILLER, Vice-President; MICHAEL STURGEON, Human Resources; JOHN ANDERSON; RONALD D. EILER, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:November 25, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

DIANA CECIL, Plaintiff-Appellant,



No. 07-6232

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 25, 2008





McKEAGUE, Circuit Judge.

At oral argument, counsel for appellant Diana Cecil analogized her client's case to a pointillist painting,1 in which each allegedly discriminatory incident is a tiny dot in the bigger picture of disparate treatment, hostile work environment, and retaliation by her former employer, the Louisville Water Company ("LWC"). Because we are unable to perceive anything but broad brush strokes and general, conclusory allegations, we AFFIRM the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of LWC.


A. Factual Background

In October 2001, LWC, a municipal water utility, hired Cecil as a Right of Way Associate. She was responsible for drafting deeds of easement and purchase agreements, and for meeting with property owners to obtain the easements on which LWC installed its water facilities. At the time of her hire, Wayne Kimbel, a male, also worked as a Right of Way Associate. Cecil's "process owner," or supervisor, was Ron Eiler.

Almost immediately, Cecil became unhappy with her employment at LWC. She claims Eiler assigned her administrative work and never asked Kimbel to complete similar clerical tasks. She also testified that Eiler would leave files or envelopes on her desk in the morning, but would personally go over plans and explain projects with Kimbel. In April 2002, Cecil claims she volunteered for the River Bank Infiltration ("RBI") project—a high-profile capital project—but that Eiler awarded the project to Kimbel and assigned Cecil a statistical cost analysis project instead. She alleges her project was "unattainable" because the necessary statistics had not been compiled. When she asked for help on the project, she claims Eiler denied her request and mocked her.

Cecil also argues that Eiler consistently denied her training. While she received no training at the beginning of her employment, Kimbel attended a negotiations seminar. Kimbel also received field training with the survey crew in 1999 and training on booster station placement in 2004. At one point, in February 2002, Cecil obtained permission to schedule a field training to visit construction sites. Eiler apparently pulled the training and offered it to Kimbel. Another time, in April 2002, Cecil claims she requested survey training to better understand engineering plans. After denying it, Eiler apparently stated "You just want to play in the dirt!"

Cecil further alleges that she was subjected to "open mockery and verbal abuse" by Eiler and other male LWC employees. Early in her employment, Eiler told her that she "dressed too nice" and that she would "intimidate property owners" if she dressed that way in the field. After Eiler denied her survey training in April 2002, Cecil claims he laughed and said she reminded him of Lisa Douglas, Eva Gabor's character on the television show Green Acres. This humiliated her because the character was a dim-witted, overly-dressed woman in a rural environment. Another LWC employee, Sheila Lowe, contends that on various occasions Eiler said the field was no place for a lady, and that there were spiders and snakes out there. Further, in May 2002, LWC's Vice President of Human Resources, James Wehrle, told two male co-workers to "pass it around that Diana is easy."

Cecil also claims the male employees at LWC embarrassed and intimidated her. She alleges that Eiler constantly monitored the arrival and departure times of the women he supervised. She alleges that Eiler treated her unpleasantly, humiliated her, and told her to talk to Debra Vaughn, another employee in the Right of Way department, whenever she asked for help.2 In January 2002, Cecil claims two male survey technicians stood over her until she produced a file for a land surveyor, Brian Bobbitt. Apparently, Eiler knew she did not have the file, but he did not intervene. In March 2002, Cecil also alleges Eiler became angry and embarrassed her in a company meeting. Finally, Cecil claims that one of the project engineers, Anthony Hewitt, refused to accompany her to a job site early in her employment. In April 2002, after she had an unpleasant encounter on a job site with Hewitt, Eiler apparently refused to speak to him about his behavior.

In May 2002, after Wehrle's comment about being "easy," Cecil discussed her difficulties with Debra Vaughn. Vaughn told Rhonda Plunkett, LWC's Director of Cultural Diversity. Plunkett then discussed the complaint with John Anderson, LWC's Employee Relations Manager. Anderson met with Cecil and began an investigation. On September 6, 2002, Anderson cited Eiler with a code of conduct violation.3 He referred to Eiler's "inappropriate and unnecessary comments and statements that leave a 'perception' of unacceptable biases towards certain individuals and/or groups of people." J.A. at 254.

A few days after Anderson cited Eiler with a violation, Cecil claims another process owner, Patti Kaelin, told her that Eiler was writing derogatory remarks about her and other female employees in the margins of "green bar sheets," the payroll sheets that were distributed on the floor. Cecil claims she reported this. The same day, Eiler was removed from his position and was later transferred to a resource coordinator position, apparently due to a reorganization of the Right of Way Department.

Cecil contends that after Eiler's reassignment, he continued to harass her. He was permitted to remain in the same location for over a month, even though he should have been in a different building. Even after he relocated in November 2002, Cecil claims Eiler periodically visited her floor for no apparent business purpose.

Project managers and engineers were also apparently uncooperative and refused to work with Cecil after Eiler was transferred. Cecil contends Anthony Hewitt was so angry that he stopped speaking to her. In October 2002, she apparently reported this to her new process owner, Cindy Kowalski, who told her that she would have to wait until emotions settled and Hewitt was able to work through it. She alleges that she addressed her problems with the project managers in a meeting with Greg Heitzman, the Senior Vice President of Operations. Heitzman apparently told Cecil that was the "ripple effect" and that she should have thought about it before she came forward.

Cecil also claims she received a negative performance review and was excluded from a meeting in October 2002 as retaliation for complaining about Eiler.

On January 9, 2003, Cecil filed a charge against LWC with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. On April 5, 2004, she filed a complaint of discrimination with the Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs ("OFCCP"). On June 10, 2004, the OFCCP informed her that it had notified LWC of her complaint and would begin an investigation.

Cecil alleges various acts of retaliation that occurred after she complained to the EEOC and OFCCP. In October 2003, after returning from medical leave, her tank site and easement acquisition duties were reassigned to a part-time contract employee, David Benedict. Her tank site duties were ultimately removed from her responsibilities in June 2004. Cecil also alleges that in March 2004, she was required to relocate her desk so that she was adjacent to Eiler's immediate supervisor, which made her uncomfortable. In June 2004, she claims she was excluded from a plant tour. In August 2004, after the OFCCP on-site investigation, Cecil received an unsatisfactory review from her then-process owner, Patti Kaelin. She also alleges that in April 2005, Kaelin set unattainable goals for her by proposing that she acquire eighty easements for the year. Finally, throughout this time, Cecil claims she received threatening phone calls and that LWC employees stalked her.

Cecil also alleges that the discipline she received was retaliatory. On July 2, 2004, Cecil was warned for an outburst at a June 2004 meeting in which she disagreed with Kaelin over proposed language in an easement agreement. She was not formally disciplined for this conduct. Cecil was cited on July 15, 2004 with a Class I violation for violating LWC's tardiness policy.4 On July 16, 2004, she was assessed another Class I violation for leaving her work station during work hours.5Cecil received only a 1% salary increase in 2005 due to her two Class I violations.6 She was again cited for tardiness on October 7, 2005.

Cecil's employment with LWC ended on November 2, 2005. The company claims she was discharged because she refused to sign a Post-Decisional Leave Statement and a Personal Quality Improvement Commitment ("PQIC") Statement, or "last chance agreement," related to her second violation of LWC's tardiness policy.

B. Procedural History

After receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, and while she was still employed at LWC, Cecil timely commenced this action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.7 She asserted claims of gender discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation. On two occasions thereafter, LWC's Chief Executive Officer, John Huber, sent an email to all LWC employees informing them of the discrimination lawsuits filed against the company.

After completion of discovery, and after Cecil had been discharged, LWC moved for summary judgment on all claims. Before the...

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