Wilson v. Tulsa Junior College

Decision Date31 December 1998
Docket NumberNo. 96-5234,96-5234
Citation164 F.3d 534
Parties78 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1189, 74 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 45,689, 131 Ed. Law Rep. 686, 1999 CJ C.A.R. 202 Frances E. WILSON, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. TULSA JUNIOR COLLEGE, State of Oklahoma (ex rel.) separately and Kenneth Hall, in his capacity as Supervisor; Kenneth Hall, in his capacity as Tulsa Junior College supervisor, Defendants-Appellants,
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

Thomas L. Vogt of Jones, Givens, Gotcher & Bogan, P.C., Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Defendants-Appellants.

Joe L. White of Collinsville, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before SEYMOUR, Chief Judge, EBEL and BRISCOE, Circuit Judges.

SEYMOUR, Chief Judge.

Frances Wilson brought suit against Tulsa Junior College (TJC) 1 and Kenneth Hall in his capacity as a supervisor at TJC, asserting claims under Title VII for hostile work environment sexual harassment, quid pro quo sexual harassment, and retaliation. The jury returned a verdict against TJC on the hostile environment claim, awarding Ms. Wilson $100,000 in compensatory damages, and in favor of TJC on the quid pro quo and retaliation claims. The district court denied TJC's motion for judgment as a matter of law on the hostile environment claim. TJC appeals, and we affirm.


On appeal, TJC contends the district court erred in denying its motion for judgment as a matter of law, asserting (1) that its formal policy against sexual harassment and Ms. Wilson's failure to utilize its reporting procedures shielded TJC from liability; and (2) that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support a finding that TJC knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take appropriate remedial action.

We review de novo a district court's disposition of a motion for judgment as a matter of law, applying the same standard as the district court. Judgment as a matter of law is warranted "only if the evidence points but one way and is susceptible to no reasonable inferences supporting the party opposing the motion." Mason v. Oklahoma Turnpike Auth., 115 F.3d 1442, 1450 (10th Cir.1997). "We do not weigh the evidence, pass on the credibility of the witnesses, or substitute our conclusions for that of the jury. However, we must enter judgment as a matter of law in favor of the moving party if 'there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis ... with respect to a claim or defense ... under the controlling law.' " Harolds Stores, Inc. v. Dillard Dep't Stores, 82 F.3d 1533, 1546-47 (10th Cir.1996) (citation omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)). In conducting our review, "[t]he evidence and inferences therefrom must be construed most favorably to the nonmoving party." Wolfgang v. Mid-America Motorsports, Inc., 111 F.3d 1515, 1522 (10th Cir.1997). The record viewed in this light reflects the following evidence.

TJC is a community college in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that offers day, weekend, and evening courses in general education and job skills training, and provides the first two years of an undergraduate degree. In the 1993-94 academic year, there were approximately 1500 employees and 30,000 students affiliated with the college. TJC operates the Metro, Northeast, and Southeast Campuses, which are in separate locations in the city of Tulsa. The President, Vice-President, and Director of Personnel are housed in the Administrative Offices, which are removed from the campuses and located centrally in Tulsa.

The Administrative Offices are open during normal business hours. The only office on each campus that is open for twenty-four hours is the Campus Police Office. Under TJC's Policies, Practices, and Procedures Handbook for Full-Time Classified Staff for 1993-94 (the Handbook), TJC Campus Officers have "all power and authority vested by law and peace officers of the State of Oklahoma to arrest, bear arms, transport prisoners, make investigations, preserve the peace, and protect lives and property." Aplt.App. at 125. Among the primary objectives of the Campus Police are the protection of TJC's employees "from bodily harm or injury" and the rendering of "courteous information, service and assistance" to them. Id. at 126.

At the time the events at issue in this litigation occurred, TJC had a formal written sexual harassment policy in place, which was included in every new employee's orientation packet and redistributed annually in the Handbook. The sexual harassment policy for the 1993-94 school year provided that "sexual harassment of staff, faculty, students and visitors at any of the college's locations shall not be tolerated." Id. at 132. The policy included the following reporting procedure for victims of sexual harassment:

In order to implement this policy in the spirit in which it is written, any staff person who feels he/she has been sexually offended should bring the incident to the attention of his/her supervisor. If the staff person is uncomfortable in bringing this to the attention of the supervisor, then it should be shared with the Director of Personnel Services. Student incidents should be reported to the Dean of Student Services.

If further action is necessary, the staff member or student should file the complaint with the Director of Civil Rights (Vice President of Business and Auxiliary Services.) It is the responsibility of each supervisor within his/her area of control to report all formal complaints to the Director of Civil Rights.

Id. at 133.

In November 1992, TJC employed Ms. Wilson as a custodian for the Southeast Campus. Ms. Wilson was assigned to work the evening shift from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. and was directly supervised by Kenneth Hall and Jerry Back. Mr. Hall held the title of Campus Lead Custodian at the Southeast Campus and was responsible for preparing the custodians' work assignments and generally supervising their work. Mr. Hall in turn reported to Ralph Macon, the Custodial Supervisor. Mr. Back worked under Mr. Hall to help him with his supervisory duties.

Ordinarily two custodians worked together to clean the classrooms on Southeast Campus. On the evening of February 15, 1994, however, Ms. Wilson was working alone because her partner had been suspended. Near midnight, Mr. Hall entered the classroom where Ms. Wilson was cleaning and exposed his penis to her. Ms. Wilson testified that Mr. Hall requested oral sex and told her she could have every Friday off with pay and no one would know because he handled the payroll. Ms. Wilson further testified that Mr. Hall told her he could "make [her] life really good[ ] because he was [her] supervisor." Aplt.App. at 23. Mr. Hall threatened that he would return the next night for Ms. Wilson's answer and that if she refused him, "he could make [her] life hell." Id. Mr. Hall left the classroom, but returned shortly and followed Ms. Wilson for the rest of her shift, preventing her from reporting the incident to anyone. 2

When her shift was over at 1 a.m., Ms. Wilson drove to her home in Broken Arrow where she immediately called 911 and contacted the Broken Arrow Police Department (BAPD). Ms. Wilson specifically requested to speak with Sergeant Mike Martin because she knew he worked part-time as a TJC Southeast Campus Officer. The operator informed her that Sgt. Martin worked during the day and was unavailable. Ms. Wilson asked for several other TJC Southeast Campus Officers who worked at the BAPD, but none of them were on duty. Ms. Wilson relayed the incidents of the evening to the operator, but since the BAPD did not have jurisdiction over crimes committed at TJC, the operator connected her directly to the Tulsa Police Department (TPD).

Ms. Wilson repeated the events of the evening to the Tulsa operator. At the instruction of the operator, Ms. Wilson's son drove her into Tulsa where Ms. Wilson met an officer from the TPD with whom she filed a complaint against Mr. Hall. The officer also contacted Officer Tracy Crocker, a female undercover agent with the TPD, and arranged for Ms. Wilson to meet with Officer Crocker on the evening of February 16 to fit her with a body microphone in anticipation of her confrontation with Mr. Hall for an answer to his demands of the previous night.

At 7:00 a.m. on the morning of February 16, Sgt. Martin contacted Herb Weber, the Campus Police Supervisor for the Southeast Campus, and advised him that an unidentified, "hysterical female" had called the BAPD claiming that her supervisor Kenneth Hall had exposed himself to her during her shift. Id. at 299. Mr. Weber took no action with regard to the information he received from Sgt. Martin until 3 p.m. that day, when he instructed Al Read, his Assistant Supervisor who worked the evening shift, to investigate the matter. Mr. Weber did not attempt to find out who the complaining custodial employee was, although he admitted it would have been a relatively simple task. Aplt.App. at 299-300. Nor did Mr. Weber attempt to contact either the BAPD or TPD to gather more information about the complaint. Mr. Weber did not report the incident to his supervisor, Ben Horton, the Director of Security, or any other TJC administrator.

After the evening custodial shift reported for duty at 5:00 p.m., Mr. Read questioned Mr. Hall in his office about the incident, thereby alerting Mr. Hall to the fact that one of his female employees had contacted the BAPD about his conduct on the previous evening. Mr. Hall denied the allegations, and informed Mr. Read that he believed the phone call had been made by either Frances Wilson or Mary Foster in retaliation for recent reprimands he had given them about their absenteeism and work performance. Later that night, Mr. Hall told Mr. Read that he was "pretty sure the lady was Frances Wilson." Id. at 687. Mr. Hall, accompanied by Mr. Back, also provided Mr. Read with several examples of the allegedly provocative manner in which Ms. Wilson spoke and dressed on the job. Mr. Hall informed Mr. Read that both he and Mr. Back would gather together this information and...

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