Grizzard v. Nashville Hosp. Capital, LLC, 3:18-cv-00034

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
PartiesRACHEL GRIZZARD, Plaintiffs, v. NASHVILLE HOSPITALITY CAPITAL, LLC, et al., Defendants.
Docket Number3:18-cv-00034
Decision Date30 July 2021



No. 3:18-cv-00034

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

July 30, 2021



Pending before the Court are two motions. Defendant Nashville Hospitality Capital, LLC (“NHC”) has filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 50, “Defendant NHC’s Motion”), and a memorandum in support thereof. (Doc. No. 51). Defendant Wischermann Partners, Inc. has filed its own motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 47, “Defendant Wischermann’s Motion”), and a memorandum in support thereof. (Doc. No. 48). Plaintiff opted to file a single Response in opposition to both Motions. (Doc. No. 54).[1] Each Defendant has filed a Reply. (Doc. No. 59, “Defendant NHC’s Reply”); and (Doc. No. 58, “Defendant Wischermann’s Reply”). Both Motions (collectively, “Motions”) are ripe for review.

For the reasons discussed herein, Defendant Wischermann’s Motion will be granted. Defendant NHC’s Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


A. Factual Background

Plaintiff began working at The Westin Nashville Hotel (“The Westin”)[3] in November/December 2016 and reported to Executive Steward Jamy Mathis. (Doc. No. 57 at ¶¶ 8, 10). As Mathis worked day shifts, Plaintiff reported to, and received direction and supervision on her day-to-day activities from, either the Executive Chef or Antonio Johnson (a cook) when working overnight. (Id. at ¶ 12). On December 31, 2016, Mathis extended Plaintiff an offer of permanent employment as an overnight cleaner at The Westin, telling Plaintiff that her permanent employment status would become official after she completed 520 hours or 90 days of work. (Id. at ¶ 13).

On January 9, 2017, Plaintiff worked an overnight shift at The Westin. (Id. at ¶ 16). On her lunch break, Plaintiff went to the kitchen area to place an order with the overnight cook, Johnson. (Id.). When she arrived at the kitchen, Plaintiff found Johnson and another employee, Jevon Wiggins, discussing paying women for sexual favors. (Id.). Johnson then told Plaintiff that he liked the way her lips looked and asked Plaintiff whether she knew anyone who would perform oral sex on him in exchange for $30 or $50. (Id.). Plaintiff said that she “does not talk to or hang with people like that.” (Id.). Johnson then asked Plaintiff how much she would charge to perform oral sex on him.[4] (Id.). Plaintiff rejected this request and took her food to the second-floor cafeteria to eat her lunch alone. (Id.). Johnson thereafter came to the second-floor cafeteria, sat directly across from Plaintiff, and again asked Plaintiff to perform oral sex in exchange for money by asking her to “suck his dick for $30.” (Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiff rejected this request and left the cafeteria. (Id.).

After this interaction, an elevator malfunction left Plaintiff stuck in the dark on an elevator for an hour or two, causing Plaintiff to have panic and anxiety attacks. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-21). As a result of this and her interactions with Johnson, Plaintiff went to the second-floor break room to lie down on the floor.[5] (Id.). After she returned to work, Johnson treated her in a hostile manner. (Id. at ¶ 22).

Plaintiff later spoke about Johnson’s actions with another individual, Demarco Ridley, and he advised Plaintiff to report the incidents to Mathis. (Id. at ¶ 23). Plaintiff thereafter reported Johnson’s statements and two solicitations for sex to Mathis on the morning of January 10, 2017 (the day after the incidents). (Id. at ¶ 24). Mathis told Plaintiff that she would convey Plaintiff’s complaint to Human Resources and later informed Plaintiff that she had done so. (Id. at ¶ 26).

Mikea Brown is The Westin’s Director of Human Resources. (Id. at ¶ 27). Brown testified that on January 17, 2017, The Westin suspended Johnson pending completion of its investigation. (Id. at ¶ 37). The investigative file included a written statement from Ridley which stated that he received a call from Plaintiff, who was very upset because Johnson had requested that she perform oral sex on him (Johnson) in exchange for $30. (Id. at ¶ 31).[6] Additionally, the investigative file included a written statement by Plaintiff detailing the incident in the kitchen and Johnson’s subsequent request in the cafeteria for oral sex.[7] (Id. at ¶¶ 33, 34). On January 23, 2017, Johnson was issued a written warning for engaging in “inappropriate conversations in the workplace” and was allowed to return to work. (Id. at ¶ 40).

Plaintiff’s last day working at The Westin was on January 23, 2017. (Id. at ¶ 43). The following day, Mathis called Plaintiff and asked her to come to The Westin for a conversation. (Id. at ¶ 44). During this conversation, Mathis told Plaintiff: “I don’t want you to think you done nothing wrong. Everything’s all right, but we’re going to have - [Brown] said we’re going to have to let you go. That’s because you’re a liability.” (Id.). Mathis explained what was meant by calling Plaintiff a “liability” and linked Plaintiff’s termination to her harassment complaint. (Id.). Plaintiff testified that after receiving this news she went to speak with Brown. (Id. at ¶ 45). Brown told Plaintiff that she was fired not because of the incident with Johnson, but rather because security footage showed Plaintiff sleeping on the floor. (Id. at ¶ 46). On the same day, The Westin informed PeopleReady that it had decided to end Plaintiff’s employment because it was seeking to hire its own staff. (Id. at ¶¶ 51-55).

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit against Defendant NHC and PeopleReady (the temp agency Plaintiff worked for) on January 9, 2018. (Id. at ¶ 56; Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff thereafter filed a First Amended Complaint on February 5, 2018, removing PeopleReady as a defendant. (Doc. No. 57 at ¶ 57; Doc. No. 7). Defendant NHC filed its Answer to the First Amended Complaint on February 22, 2018. (Doc. No. 57 at ¶ 57; Doc. No. 8). On October 16, 2018, the Court entered an Order granting Defendant NHC permission to file an Amended Answer. (Doc. No. 57 at ¶ 58; Doc. No. 13). In its Amended Answer, Defendant NHC asserted that it was not the employer of the individual who allegedly harassed Plaintiff and that “Plaintiff was employed or controlled by People Ready [sic] and/or [Defendant] Wischermann.” (Doc. No. 54-2 at ¶ 11; Doc. No. 14).

On January 13, 2019, Plaintiff petitioned the Court to amend her First Amended Complaint to add Defendant Wischermann. (Doc. No. 57 at ¶ 59; Doc. No. 21). Plaintiff provided a summons for service and informed the Court that if her request were granted promptly, “Defendant Wishermann Partners [sic] will be served in person at its Registered Agent on Monday, January 14, 2019.” (Doc. No. 57 at ¶ 59; Doc. No. 21). The Court granted Plaintiff permission to amend on January 30, 2019. (Doc. No. 57 at ¶ 59; Doc. No. 23). Plaintiff issued service to Defendant Wischermann on January 31, 2019, and service was executed on February 4, 2019. (Doc. No. 57 at ¶ 59; Doc. No. 25). Defendant Wischermann accepted service, then filed an Answer on March 1, 2019. (Doc. No. 57 at ¶ 59; Doc. No. 32).

The Second Amended Complaint asserts counts for i) sexual harassment in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”), ii) sex discrimination in violation of the THRA, iii) retaliation in violation of the THRA, and iv) violations of the Tennessee Public Protection Act (“TPPA”).[8] (Doc. No. 24).


Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). “By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). In other words, even if genuine, a factual dispute that is irrelevant or unnecessary under applicable law is of no value in defeating a motion for summary judgment. See id. at 248. On the other hand, “summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine[.]’” Id.

A fact is “material” within the meaning of Rule 56(c) “if its proof or disproof might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A genuine dispute of material fact exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Harris v. Klare, 902 F.3d 630, 634-35 (6th Cir. 2018).

The party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial burden of identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts. Pittman v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc., 901 F.3d 619, 627-28 (6th Cir. 2018). If the summary judgment movant meets that burden, then in response the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 628.

A party asserting that a fact cannot be or genuinely is disputed-i.e., a party seeking summary judgment and a party opposing summary judgment, respectively-must support the assertion by citing to materials in the record, including, but not limited to, depositions, documents, affidavits or declarations. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, this court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Tlapanco v. Elges, 969 F.3d 638, 647 (6th Cir. 2020) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Likewise, the court should view the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Pittman, 901 F.3d at 628. Credibility judgments and weighing of evidence are improper. ...

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