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Coleman v. General Motors LLC

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 20, 2014

GENERAL MOTORS LLC, et al., Defendants.


CARLOS MURGUIA, District Judge.

Pro se plaintiff Charlotte Coleman filed this action alleging that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation by defendant General Motors LLC ("GM"). Plaintiff also alleges the following claims against fellow GM employees: assault and defamation against Joan Thomas, defamation against Richard Cheers, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Christoffer Listenbee. The following parties have filed motions for summary judgment: plaintiff (Docs. 100, 105); defendant GM (Doc. 103); defendant Thomas (Docs. 101, 112); and defendant Listenbee (Doc. 114).

Plaintiff has asked for additional time to respond to GM, Thomas, and Listenbee's reply briefing (Doc. 128). Neither Thomas nor Listenbee filed a reply to their summary judgment motions, and plaintiff filed timely responses thereto, so plaintiff's request for additional briefing makes no sense. With respect to GM, who did file a reply brief, the court may grant leave to file a sur-reply in extraordinary circumstances upon a showing of good cause. Layne Christensen Co. v. Bro-Tech Corp., No. 09-2381-JWL-GLR, 2011 WL 6934112, at *1 (D. Kan. Dec. 30, 2011). Plaintiff has made no such showing. For these reasons, the court denies plaintiff's Motion Requesting Time (Doc. 128).

The court notes that, in all of the summary judgment briefing, plaintiff failed to follow Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and District of Kansas Local Rule 56.1. In both moving for summary judgment and responding to defendants' motions for summary judgment, plaintiff failed to cite to any portion of the record. Moreover, plaintiff failed to put forth a single affidavit or declaration, and the court notes that plaintiff's complaints (Docs. 1, 9) are not verified or otherwise sworn. However, because of plaintiff's status as a pro se litigant, the court will construe plaintiff's summary judgment motions and responses more liberally than it might construe a response filed by a licensed attorney. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 & n.3 (10th Cir. 1991) (citing Overton v. United States, 925 F.2d 1282 (10th Cir. 1990) for the proposition that liberal construal of pro se pleadings includes review of summary judgment briefs).

Regarding defendants' motions for summary judgment, the court will deem admitted those facts to which plaintiff wholly failed to respond or otherwise controvert. Moreover, to the extent plaintiff has labeled defendants' factual assertions as contested, but where she failed to specifically controvert those assertions, the court deems those facts admitted as well. D. Kan. Rule 56.1(a) ("All material facts set forth in the statement of the movant will be deemed admitted for the purpose of summary judgment unless specifically controverted by the statement of the opposing party."). With respect to plaintiff's own motions for summary judgment, most, if not all, of plaintiff's asserted facts are either unsupported by the record, constitute inadmissible hearsay, or are otherwise immaterial, rendering them inapplicable here. Gilkey v. Prot. One Alarm Monitoring, Inc., No. 12-1150-EFM, 2013 WL 1309027, at *1 (D. Kan. Mar. 29, 2013), aff'd, 517 F.Appx. 627 (10th Cir. 2013). With this framework in mind, the court turns to the motions at hand.

I. Background

Plaintiff, an African-American female, began working for defendant GM in September 1986 and transferred to GM's Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas City, Kansas, in January 2010. From January 2011 to November 2012, plaintiff worked during GM's second shift. In June 2011, plaintiff reported to GM's security department that her car windshield had been damaged while her car was parked in an employee parking lot. According to the GM Global Security Incident Report created contemporaneously with plaintiff's report, plaintiff suspected James Bryant or Lisa Harrison (not defendants here) of the vandalism. (Doc. 104-4.)

Plaintiff claims she was subjected to harassment in 2011 by fellow employees, who are described below.

A. Joan Thomas

Joan Thomas, an African-American female, was an hourly co-worker. Plaintiff contends that Thomas called plaintiff names on November 8, 2011, such as "crazy motherfucker, " "trouble maker, " and "black monkey." (Doc. 116 at 4.) Also in November 2011, plaintiff alleges that she had an altercation with Thomas. Plaintiff contends that Thomas struck plaintiff's right knee with a mallet and pushed her against an automobile on the assembly line. Plaintiff reported Thomas's alleged physical contact to GM Labor Relations Department representative Ca-Sandra Tutt, an African-American female, but plaintiff did not report any alleged use of offensive language. (Doc. 104-1 ¶¶ 6, 9.) Ms. Tutt investigated the matter by interviewing plaintiff, Thomas, and witnesses who were present. Thomas denied striking or pushing plaintiff, and no witnesses corroborated that an altercation occurred. ( Id. ¶ 7.) Notwithstanding, GM offered plaintiff a transfer to another job, department, or shift, but plaintiff declined.

Plaintiff also contends that on December 12, 2011, Thomas "made threaten to me" and "stated for me to come outside; so she could kick mine a**using other offensive words." (Doc. 116 at 5.) Plaintiff does not set forth the "other offensive words, " and GM has no record of plaintiff making a report about this incident.

B. Richard Cheers

Richard Cheers, an African-American male, was also an hourly co-worker. Plaintiff alleges that Cheers told co-workers that she was "gay" and had a venereal disease and that he would come into her work area to harass her. Plaintiff provides no specifics regarding Cheers's alleged harassing conduct, such as when it occurred or what he said. Plaintiff did not report Cheers's purported harassing behavior to GM.

C. Christopher Listenbee

Christopher Listenbee, an African-American male, was another hourly co-worker plaintiff claims harassed her. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Listenbee spread gossip about her and that he requested other (unnamed) male co-workers to grab their genital area in front of plaintiff. Plaintiff states that "[t]his was reported to the 3 GM/EAP reps, " (Doc. 106 at 4), but GM has no record of plaintiff making any complaint regarding Listenbee.

D. Christopher Andrews

Plaintiff alleges that Christopher Andrews(not a named defendant here), an African-American male, spread gossip about her and would come into her work area to "intimidate" her by standing in an open space while watching television and making "indecent" poses. (Doc. 104-1 ¶ 13.) Plaintiff reported these "poses, " and GM assigned Ms. Tutt to investigate the allegations. Ms. Tutt interviewed plaintiff, Andrews, and plaintiff's supervisor. ( Id. ¶ 14.) During the investigation, plaintiff described Andrews as "swinging his arms and legs (stretching) and standing with his hands on his hips or behind his back and star[ing] at [the] TV." ( Id. ) In response to plaintiff's complaint, Ms. Tutt watched Andrews and observed that, after completing his work assignment, he "would stand in the identified open space and watch TV until his next job" and would "swing his arms back and ...

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