Waltman v. International Paper Co.

Decision Date16 June 1989
Docket NumberNo. 88-4088,88-4088
Citation875 F.2d 468
Parties50 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 179, 50 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 39,106, 58 USLW 2043, 14 Fed.R.Serv.3d 992 Susan WALTMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. INTERNATIONAL PAPER CO., Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Laurie W. Lyons, Henry C. Walker, Walker, Tooke, Perlman, Lyons & Clawson, Shreveport, La., for plaintiff-appellant.

Peggy R. Mastroianni, E.E.O.C., Washington, D.C., for amicus curiae-E.E.O.C.

A. Richard Gear, Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway, Shreveport, La., for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Before THORNBERRY, KING and JONES, Circuit Judges.

THORNBERRY, Circuit Judge:

Waltman, plaintiff-appellant, brought suit against her employer, International Paper Company (IPCO), defendant-appellee, alleging (1) claims for sexual harassment and sexual discrimination under Title VII and the Louisiana Fair Employment Act (LFEA); and (2) tort claims under Louisiana state law for invasion of privacy, assault, battery and intentional infliction of mental distress. The district court granted a partial summary judgment in IPCO's favor on the grounds that (1) the acts of sexual harassment that occurred more than 180 days before Waltman filed her EEOC claim were time-barred under Title VII because they did not constitute a continuing violation; (2) the acts of sexual harassment brought under state law that occurred before January 15, 1985 were time-barred because they did not constitute a continuing violation; (3) all the claims under Title VII and the LFEA were invalid because IPCO did not know and should not have known of the alleged sexual harassment and because IPCO took prompt remedial action upon learning of the harassment; and (4) Waltman did not state a valid claim for discriminatory failure to promote because she failed to demonstrate that IPCO's promotion decision was motivated by a discriminatory intent.

I. Facts.

Waltman began working at IPCO in April 1982. She worked in the powerhouse of the mill on the "B" shift. The first instance of sexual harassment occurred in the Spring of 1982 when an IPCO employee several times broadcast obscenities directed toward Waltman over the public address system. In response, other employees began making suggestive comments to Waltman. Waltman complained to her supervisor who said he would "take care of it." A foreman told the employee who had broadcast the obscenities to stop. The employee was not punished and no note regarding the incident was placed in his employment file.

In September of 1982, IPCO moved Waltman to the "A" shift. While on the A shift, Waltman's supervisor, Garrett, and his assistant urged Waltman to have sex with a co-worker. On several occasions, Garrett touched Waltman in an offensive manner--pinched her buttocks with pliers and tried to put his hands in her back pockets. In addition, Garrett and fellow employees often made sexually suggestive comments to Waltman, for example "I would like a piece of that," referring to Waltman.

During her tenure on the A shift, Waltman received over thirty pornographic notes in her locker. Sexually explicit pictures and graffiti were drawn on the walls of the powerhouse, on the restroom walls and in the elevator. 1 Some of these drawings were directed at Waltman. 2 Employees had sexually oriented calendars on the walls and in their lockers which were kept open. They also hung used tampons from their lockers. On more than one occasion, co-workers propositioned Waltman.

In October of 1983, Waltman reported the incidents recited above to Pardue, one of the IPCO managers. Pardue allegedly told her she should expect this type of behavior working with men. Pardue claims he spoke with Waltman's supervisor, Garrett, who was one of the men who had been harassing Waltman, about Waltman's complaints and told Garrett to inform his shift that this behavior was not acceptable. Garrett stated that Pardue never told him that Waltman had accused him of inappropriate touching and sexual comments. Garrett also could not recall Pardue ever instructing him to tell his crew to stop the harassment. Pardue did not discipline anyone nor did he investigate Waltman's claims. Rather, Pardue transferred Waltman to another shift.

During the summer of 1984, an IPCO employee told a truck driver that Waltman was a whore and that she would get hurt if she did not keep her mouth shut. Later, in the Fall of 1984, several other incidents occurred. A Brown and Root employee, who was working at the mill, grabbed Waltman's arms while she was carrying a vial of hot liquid; another Brown and Root worker then stuck his tongue in her ear. In a separate incident, an IPCO employee told Waltman he would cut off her breast and shove it down her throat. The same employee later dangled Waltman over a stairwell, more than thirty feet from the floor. In November 1984, one employee pinched Waltman's breasts. In another incident, a co-worker grabbed Waltman's thigh.

In addition to the specific incidents recited above, Waltman's fellow workers constantly directed lewd and suggestive comments toward her. Waltman estimated that eighty percent of the men in the powerhouse made sexually suggestive comments to her at some point. She also testified that a week did not go by without a co-worker directing a sexual comment at her.

In November of 1984, Waltman became ill, allegedly as a result of the sexual harassment. She took a sick leave from November 18, 1984 until February 8, 1985. Waltman was hospitalized for a few days for depression. She began seeing a psychiatrist in the middle of December.

At the beginning of January 1985, Waltman contacted Holt, her supervisor, and told him of all the incidents of sexual harassment she had experienced at the mill. Holt spoke with his superiors, who met several times to discuss Waltman's allegations. Senior managers also met with Garrett, who, according to one manager, denied Waltman's allegations concerning him. In separate testimony, Garrett stated that none of his superiors ever told him that he had done anything wrong. IPCO did not reprimand Garrett or any of the other people who had harassed Waltman, nor did IPCO further investigate any of Waltman's claims.

On January 14, 1985, Waltman met with senior plant managers. Waltman told them of the various harassing incidents. On January 18, 1985, the plant manager sent Waltman a letter saying that IPCO could not investigate her claims without identifying her. The letter also stated that IPCO would not begin the investigation until Waltman authorized it. On January 21, 1985, Waltman met with IPCO's human resources manager and the mill's personnel manager. At this meeting, the managers told Waltman it would be detrimental to her if they pursued an investigation of the IPCO workers Waltman had charged with harassment. Waltman stated that the managers also intimated that if Waltman pursued an investigation it would hurt her chances of a promotion and make it impossible for her to work at the mill.

On January 24, 1985, the plant manager drafted a letter to Waltman, stating that IPCO would investigate the incident involving the Brown and Root employees. The letter also stated that, pursuant to Waltman's wishes, IPCO would not investigate the incidents involving IPCO employees. The final sentence of the letter read: "We will respect your wishes and would appreciate your confirming this by signing the attached copy of this letter." Waltman signed the letter. Waltman alleges that when she signed the letter she understood that there would be an investigation of the IPCO workers, but that the investigation would be confidential and informal without any mention of her name. IPCO contends that Waltman wanted no investigation into the incidents involving the IPCO employees.

IPCO did not conduct an independent, internal investigation of the incidents Waltman alleged nor did IPCO take any concerted steps to remove or prohibit the pornographic graffiti around the mill. On occasion, they would wash the walls, but the graffiti persisted. In fact, the only step IPCO took to address the sexual harassment at the mill was to require that all the supervisors read the plant policy on sexual harassment out loud at a shift meeting.

IPCO took no disciplinary action against any of its employees. IPCO did contact Brown and Root about the incident involving the Brown and Root workers; Brown and Root placed warning letters in the employees' files.

It is noteworthy that throughout this period of harassment, Waltman never invoked the established grievance procedures at the plant.

On February 4, 1985, Waltman's doctor released her to return to work on February 8, 1985. During her first week back at work, Waltman observed that the sexual graffiti was still all over the walls. She also overheard sexual remarks about another woman. On February 13, 1985, there was a shift meeting, at which time the supervisor read out loud IPCO's policy on sexual harassment. Several employees responded to the policy statement with laughter and comments that women provoke sexual harassment by wearing tight jeans. At the meeting, Waltman announced her resignation. A few days after the shift meeting, an IPCO employee grabbed Waltman's breasts and directed a high pressure hose at her crotch.

Waltman submitted her official resignation on February 16, 1985. Her last day was ten days later. Waltman's effective termination date was March 14, 1985.

In addition to her claims of sexual harassment, Waltman alleges she was discriminatorily denied a promotion because she did not respond to co-workers sexual advances. Waltman was twice denied a promotion to operator. Waltman alleges that the people who were promoted before her were less qualified and that one person was promoted because she tolerated and, perhaps even encouraged, her fellow workers' sexual behavior.

On April 25, 1985, Waltman...

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