Suiter v. Logan Cnty., CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:12CV-00155-GNS-HBB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
Writing for the CourtGreg N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 1:12CV-00155-GNS-HBB
Decision Date25 March 2015




March 25, 2015


This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge (DN 96) relating to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 81). The parties have filed objections, and this matter is ripe for a decision. For the reasons outlined below, the Court ACCEPTS and ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge in its entirety, and OVERRULES the objections of the parties.


In 2004, Plaintiff Cindra J. Suiter ("Suiter") was hired as a deputy jailer at the Logan County Detention Center ("LCDC"). In approximately 2008, Defendant Lieutenant DeWayne Reynolds ("Reynolds") allegedly made unwanted sexually advances towards her including unconsented touching, comments about her physical appearance, requests for dates, and questions regarding her personal life, including sexual activities. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12, DN 1).

On August 28, 2008, Suiter made her first verbal report of the offensive conduct to Captain Brandon Erby ("Erby") and Chief Deputy Richard Brooks, and Erby encouraged Suiter

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to raise her complaints with Jailer Bill Jenkins ("Jenkins"). (Erby Dep. 10:5-11:16, Jan. 21, 2014, DN 77-1). On September 2, 2008, Suiter met with Jenkins and made a written complaint.1 (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A-3 at 3-4, DN 81-4; Jenkins Dep. 34:3-35:17, June 11, 2013, DN 74-1).

Following Suiter's report of the harassment, Jenkins instructed both Suiter and Reynolds to avoid intentional contact at work. (Jenkins Aff. ¶ 4, DN 81-2; Jenkins Dep. 38:13-39:14, DN 74-2). According to Suiter, however, she remained in close proximity to Reynolds because they worked on the same side of the jail, and Reynolds' harassment continued.2 The record reflects an incident in a lounge area in which Reynolds stared and whistled at Suiter. (1 Suiter Dep. 51:3-6, Feb. 18, 2010, DN 71-3). In another incident, Reynolds waited for Suiter at the jail's booking desk and trapped Suiter in a locked hallway with him. (Holloway Dep. 33:25-34:11, Mar. 18, 2014, DN 84). One of Suiter's former co-workers, Melissa Holloway ("Holloway") testified that "anytime [Reynolds] got the chance to try to be around her just to intimidate her, I felt like he tried to do that." (Holloway Dep. 34:15-17).

During Jenkins' investigation, he interviewed employees and prisoners who interacted with Suiter and Reynolds. (Jenkins Aff. Ex. at 9-17, DN 81-3). The interviews reflected that Suiter frequently initiated conversations of a sexual nature and had been dating one of her co-workers. (Jenkins Aff. Ex. at 4-7, 11-12, 13, DN 81-3). Suiter had also been transferred to

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different shifts due to complaints from her supervisors. (Jenkins Aff. Ex. at 4-7, 11-12, 13, DN 81-3). Ultimately, Jenkins was unable to substantiate whether the sexual harassment actually occurred. (Jenkins Aff. ¶ 7; Jenkins Aff. Ex. at 17-20, DN 81-3).

Following the report of Reynolds' harassment, Suiter sought treatment from Dr. Corrie Vos, a licensed psychologist.3 (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex., DN 91-12). Dr. Vos opined that Suiter had serious depression and anxiety symptoms. (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex., DN 91-12). Upon Dr. Vos's recommendation, Suiter requested and was granted a medical leave of absence without pay. (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex., DN 91-10). On April 27, 2011, Dr. Voss released Suiter to return to work, but Suiter never returned. (Attach. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. D, DN 82-2; Attach. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E, DN 82-3).

Under the LCDC's personnel policies, "[e]mployees who fail to return to work for three consecutive days without notifying the Department Director shall be considered to have abandoned the job and hall be removed from employment with the county." (Attach. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. F, DN 82-4). Upon receipt of Dr. Voss' letter, Jenkins held Suiter's position open for four weeks, and on June 6, 2011, Suiter was terminated. (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex., DN 91-7; Attach. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E, DN 82-3).

Suiter filed this lawsuit alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1984 ("Title VII"), the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the tort of intentional infliction of

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emotional distress ("IIED").4 Following the completion of discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., DN 81). In the Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommended granting summary judgment on the following claims: (i) the Title VII retaliation and hostile work environment claims against Reynolds and Jenkins; (ii) the Title VII retaliation claim against Logan County; and (iii) the IIED claim. (Report & Recommendation 27, DN 96). The Magistrate Judge also recommended denying summary judgment on the hostile work environment claim against Logan County, and the IIED claim against Reynolds. (Report & Recommendation 27).

Both parties have filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Defs.' Objection to Report & Recommendation, DN 97; Pl.'s Objection to Report & Recommendation, DN 98). For the reasons outlined below, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation in its entirety and overrules the parties' objections.


This Court has subject-matter jurisdiction of claims arising under Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3). The Court also has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's pendent state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367.


In general, this Court conducts a de novo review of the portions of a U.S. magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a party objects. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In conducting its review, this Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in party, the findings or recommendations [of] . . . the magistrate." Id. As a sister court has noted:

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Objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation are reviewed de novo. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has stated that "[o]verly general objections do not satisfy the objection requirement." "The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious." Poorly drafted objections, general objections, or objections that require a judge's interpretation are ineffective and insufficient to preserve the right of appeal.

Dean v. Beckstrom, No. 13-129-DLB-EBA, 2014 WL 5460830, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 27, 2014) (internal citations omitted) (citation omitted).


Both parties have filed objections. Each party's objections are addressed separately below.

A. Plaintiff's Objections

In Plaintiff's objections, Suiter alleges errors relating to the recommended dismissals of: (i) the IIED claim; (ii) the retaliation claim; (iii) the individual capacity claim under Title VII asserted against Jenkins; and (iv) the official capacity claim against Jenkins. In raising those objections, Suiter provides scant citation to any legal authority and primarily relies upon her recitation of evidence in the record. Upon review, the Court overrules Plaintiff's objections.

1. Suiter failed to prove a prima facie case of retaliation or present evidence of pretext.

First, Plaintiff argues that her retaliation claim should not be dismissed. While the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff had presented proof of three of the four element of a prima facie case, the Report recommended the dismissal of this claim because Suiter failed to establish a causal connection between any protected activity and a retaliatory action. (Report & Recommendation 12-13). In addition, the Magistrate Judge concluded that Suiter failed to offer proof of pretext. (Report & Recommendation 13-14).

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After reviewing Suiter's objections and the record, the Court concludes that she failed to satisfy her burden of proving a prima face case. (Pl.'s Objections to Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, & Recommendations 2-4). As the Sixth Circuit has stated, "[i]n determining whether there is a causal relationship between a plaintiff's protected activity and an allegedly retaliatory act, courts may consider whether the employer treated the plaintiff differently from similarly situated individuals and whether there is a temporal connection between the protected activity and the retaliatory action." Barrett v. Whirlpool Corp., 556 F.3d 502, 516-17 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Allen v. Mich. Dep't of Corr., 165 F.3d 405, 413 (6th Cir. 1999)). In her objections, Plaintiff fails to identify any evidence in the record of similarly situated persons, or of a causal connection between her report of Reynolds's conduct and her termination more than two and a half years later. As the Sixth Circuit has held, "temporal proximity alone will not support an inference of retaliatory discrimination when there is no other compelling evidence." Arendale v. City of Memphis, 519 F.3d 587, 606 (6th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Nguyen v. City of Cleveland, 229 F.3d 559, 563 (6th Cir. 2000)). The period of two and a half years that passed between report and termination is too remote to establish any causal link. See Underhill v. Caudill, 186 F. Supp. 2d 736, 741 (W.D. Ky. 2001) (concluding that a period of four months is insufficient for temporal proximity).

Even if this Court were to assume that Suiter could meet her burden of proving a prima facie case and because Logan County met its burden, she has failed to demonstrate how the Magistrate Judge erred in concluding that she failed meet her ultimate burden to prove pretext. See Davis v. Cintas Corp., 717 F.3d 476, 492 (6th Cir. 2013). Suiter...

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