Risinger v. Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation

Citation883 F.2d 475
Decision Date16 February 1990
Docket NumberNo. 88-3387,88-3387
Parties52 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 10, 51 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 39,268 Nina RISINGER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. OHIO BUREAU OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION and Barbara Riley, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)

Louis A. Jacobs, James D. McNamara (argued), Columbus, Ohio, for plaintiff-appellant.

Raymond J. Studer, Asst. Atty. Gen. (argued), Columbus, Ohio, for defendants-appellees.

Before KRUPANSKY and NELSON, Circuit Judges, and PECK, Senior Circuit Judge.

KRUPANSKY, Circuit Judge.

Nina Risinger (Risinger) has appealed from the judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, dismissing her cause of action against the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (Bureau) and her former supervisor, Barbara Riley (Riley). Nina Risinger, an employee of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation from 1979 until 1985, commenced the instant action on December 5, 1986 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio against the Bureau and Riley, alleging that the defendants had racially discriminated against her by subjecting her to a hostile work environment because she was an Oriental in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1981 and 1983. In addition, Risinger charged a pendent state law tort claim alleging that these actions also constituted a common law tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress under Ohio law.

On February 22, 1988, the district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the Bureau on the claims of intentional racial discrimination charged under 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1981 and 1983; summary judgment in favor of Riley under Title VII; and summary judgment in favor of both the Bureau and Riley on the pendent state tort claim. The district court thereupon ordered the Title VII claims against the Bureau and the Secs. 1981 and 1983 claims against Riley proceed to a bench trial.

On February 25, 1988, at the close of the appellant's case, the district court orally granted defendant's motion for dismissal

under Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On April 4, 1988, the district court issued written findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting its judgment in favor of the defendants. The pertinent findings of fact were as follow:


1. Plaintiff, Nina Risinger is of Chinese national origin.

2. Plaintiff began her employment with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (hereafter Bureau) as a Data Operator in the Key Edit Section of the Data Processing Division on December 10, 1979. She continued in that position until her resignation effective March 8, 1985.

4. At times relevant, defendant Barbara Riley was the Supervisor of the Key Edit Section and served as plaintiff's immediate supervisor.


9. Plantiff made a series of generalized allegations that she was treated differently because of her race and/or national origin. She contended she was subjected to name calling based on race and subjected to racially discriminatory treatment regarding visitors, phone usage, assignment to work outside of the Key Edit Section, and receipt of reprimands from her supervisor Barbara Riley, for eating at her desk and use of the restroom.


15. With the exception of defendant Barbara Riley's admission that on one occasion she may have called plaintiff a "Chink", [sic] no testimony was presented that set forth any specifics regarding any of plaintiff's allegations of name calling. No testimony was presented that would establish who performed the alleged discriminatory actions, when any such actions or comments occurred, where it occurred, or even the circumstances surrounding the allegations of discrimination.

16. No testimony offered by any of plaintiff's co-workers clearly specified any racially derogatory comments or actions made in the presence of defendant, Barbara Riley or any other supervisory level employees of the Bureau.

17. Testimony from the plaintiff's witnesses established that, [sic] other individuals of non-Oriental nationality and race, both blacks and whites, were subjected to cutting or derogatory comments by their fellow workers.

18. Comments which may have been made about plaintiff were typical of the atmosphere of bantering back and forth among most or all of the employees in this employment situation.

19. Defendants made available numerous avenues for plaintiff to discuss her allegations of discrimination. Plaintiff spoke on numerous occasions with Sheila Alexander, Equal Employment Opportunity officer for the Bureau. She also spoke with several supervisory level employees including her immediate supervisor defendant Barbara Riley, Edward Meyers, Director of the Data Processing Section of the Bureau, and Charles Penner, Deputy Administrator of the Bureau.

20. Plaintiff's claims of discrimination were properly investigated and reasonable attempts were made to counsel plaintiff.

21. In February 1984, plaintiff met with Ed Meyers. Plaintiff told Mr. Meyers that she felt she was not being treated fairly by her fellow employees and states she had been called "names." Specifically, her complaint alleged that she believed she was not treated fairly regarding the use of a telephone in Key Edit Section. As a result of that meeting Mr. Meyers contacted the supervisors of the Key Edit Section and asked them to investigate plaintiff's complaints.

22. Results of the investigation revealed that the plaintiff's complaint about the telephone appeared to have resulted from a dispute the plaintiff had with a co-worker, regarding the answering of a telephone in the computer room. Regarding the plaintiff's 23. A second meeting was held later during February of 1984, where Mr. Meyers advised the plaintiff of the findings of the investigation set forth above.

claim of name calling Mr. Meyers was informed of the circumstances surrounding the only incident of name calling that was identified. During the early stages of the plaintiff's employment, defendant Barbara Riley and the plaintiff were friends. Ms. Riley indicated that during this period, she and the plaintiff engaged in joking conversation. During that time Ms. Riley, in good nature, may have on one occasion, referred to the plaintiff as a "Chink."


25. On or about July 12, 1984 James Mayfield, the Administrator of the Bureau received a letter from Steven Clark, a representative of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. Mr. Clark's letter indicated that the plaintiff had made allegations that she had been subjected to racial slurs and discriminatory treatment at work.

26. Mr. Mayfield instructed his staff to conduct an investigation regarding this matter. As a result, Sheila Alexander, an Equal Employment Opportunity Officer of the Bureau, conducted an investigation. During the course of that investigation, she spoke with the plaintiff, the plaintiff's supervisors and seven of the plaintiff's co-workers. Some of the co-workers she spoke to were friends of the plaintiff while others were not.

27. As the result of the investigation conducted by Sheila Alexander, she determined that the plaintiff was not subject to discrimination. Rather, Ms. Alexander's finding was that the plaintiff's alleged difficulties were "due to differences in personality and perhaps her own sensitivity about her race, since she is the only Oriental in both units." In addition Ms. Alexander's findings stated that "documentation presented by Ms. Risinger did not show any incident of racial slurs since 1982."


29. On or about November 28, 1984, the plaintiff requested a leave of absence from January 7, 1985 through June 7, 1985. The basis of that request was indicated to be "personal reasons."


31. The plaintiff, on or about January 11, 1985, submitted a leave request for the period of January 7, 1985 through January 25, 1985, stating as the reason [sic] "for medical and child care."


37. The plaintiff submitted a letter of resignation on or about February 25, 1985. The effective date of plaintiff's resignation was March 8, 1985.


10. Defendants took all reasonable steps to investigate and address plaintiff's claims of discrimination. No testimony was presented to show that plaintiff established something more than lack of respect or personality conflict between herself and her fellow employees.

12. Plaintiff failed to present evidence that would establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The defendants have violated no statutory or constitutional rights of the plaintiff.

13. Plaintiff claims her resignation was not voluntary and was constructive in nature. A finding of constructive discharge requires the determination that working conditions would have been so difficult or unpleasant that a reasonable person in the employee's shoes would have felt compelled to resign....

14. Plaintiff has failed to present evidence that would support a finding that any reasonable person in plaintiff's shoes would have been compelled to resign.

Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law of District Court of April 4, 1988. In sum, the district court granted an order of dismissal in favor of both defendants, concluding that the appellant had failed to prove a prima facie claim for racial discrimination against the defendants under any of the following theories: intentional disparate conditions of employment and benefits under Title VII and Sections 1981 and 1983; a racially hostile work environment under Title VII or Sections 1981 and 1983; and constructive discharge under Title VII. On April 29, 1988, Risinger timely filed an appeal from the district court's order of dismissal of her claim and charged that the district court erred in concluding that she had failed to prove a prima facie case to support her assertions of a racially hostile work...

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