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Hoss v. The Art Institutes International-Kansas City, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 5, 2014

AMIE C. HOSS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE ART INSTITUTES INTERNATIONAL-KANSAS CITY, INC. and EDUCATION MANAGEMENT CORP., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. THOMAS MARTEN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Amie C. Hoss filed suit against the defendants in this case on May 3, 2013, alleging hostile work environment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case comes before the court on the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 38). Having reviewed the briefs, the court is prepared to rule.

I. Undisputed Facts

Plaintiff Amie C. Hoss worked for defendant The Art Institutes International-Kansas City, Inc. (the School)[1] as an Assistant Director of Admissions from April 25, 2011 through May 3, 2012. Hoss reported first to Arthur Ripley and then to Angela Vietti, the Senior Director of Admissions. At the date of her termination, Hoss was one of more than twenty employees working as an Assistant Director of Admissions, 60% of whom were female.

Hoss's Performance Evaluations

Hoss received formal evaluations on her performance during the prior quarter. In this review process, a supervisor - either Ripley or Vietti - filled out a electronic form grading Hoss in three areas: individual goals, universal goals and competencies. Each area included several subsections. Hoss earned one of three ratings on each subsection:

(1) below performance expectations, (2) meets performance expectations and (3) exceeds performance expectations. Based on the ratings of the subsections, the supervisor would assign a rating to each area. Each area receives a weigted percentage of the final overall rating: 40% for individual goals, 30% for universal goals and 30% for competencies. Based on these weighted percentages and the ratings assigned by the supervisor, the review form itself calculates the employee's overall rating. If the employee's overall rating is below performance expectations, the employee receives a Formal Warning Notice.

In her Fiscal Year 2012 first quarter performance review, which covered the period of June 25, 2011 through September 23, 2011, Hoss's supervisor Ripley rated her "below performance expectations" for two out of three of her individual goals, one of the universal goals and several competencies. Hoss had generated seven applications in the period, well short of her individual goal of twenty-one. She was responsible for starting four new students and generated only two. Overall, however, the review stated that Hoss "meets performance expectations" overall.

In her Fiscal Year 2012 second quarter performance review, which covered the review period from September 24, 2011 through December 23, 2011, Vietti rated Hoss "below performance expectations" in individual goals, one of the universal goals and two competency subsections. Hoss had generated only five applications despite her goal of twenty-four, and she achieved three new starts despite her goal of nine. Hoss's overall rating was "below performance expectations." The School sends employees a warning letter, called a Formal Warning Notice, when they fail to meet expectations. As a result of her unsatisfactory performance review, Hoss received a Formal Warning Notice dated January 30, 2012, which stated:

It is expected that you will meet or exceed all performance expectations for your position this quarter, including those outlined in this letter. If you fail to do so, I will re-evaluate the situation to determine if more time for improvement is warranted or if you should be removed from your position and your employment with the company terminated.

Dkt. 39, Exh. A, p. 45-46. Hoss testified that after receiving this notice, she understood that the School was contemplating terminating her employment if her performance did not improve. Id. at 46.

In her Fiscal Year 2012 third quarter performance review, which covered the review period from December 24, 2011 through March 23, 2012, Vietti rated Hoss "below performance expectations" in individual goals, one universal goal and several competencies. Again, she fell short of her applications goal of twenty-four, generating only six applications this quarter. She also fell short of her new starting student goal of three, generating only one. Hoss's overall rating was "below performance expectations" once again.

Sexual Harassment

While working at the School, Hoss experienced sexual harassment by a co-worker, Luis Nunez. In December of 2011, Hoss attended a week-long training in Pasadena, California with Nunez and Stephanie Finkelstein, another co-worker. In Pasadena, Nunez did several things that made Hoss feel uncomfortable. He hugged Hoss and touched her arms multiple times. He frequently commented that he thought Hoss was a "wild party girl" and that he wanted to hear about these experiences. He stared at her over breakfast one morning. Nunez also approached Hoss and Finkelstein and asked to come back to their hotel room. Hoss walked away and Finkelstein told Nunez "No, all you would see is Amie going to sleep and me staying up and watching television." Hoss did not tell Nunez to stop hugging or touching her. She was aware of the procedure for reporting complaints at the School, including telling a manager or human resource officer or calling the hotline. Although she felt uncomfortable, she did not report his physical contact, comments or other behavior at the time.

In February of 2012, Hoss and two female co-workers were discussing their belief that another employee stared at their breasts during conversation. Nunez interjected that he would not do that because he's an "ass man." Hoss did not respond and instead returned to work. She considered the comment ...


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