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Lints v. Graco Fluid Handling (A) Inc.

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

October 15, 2018

MATHEW T. LINTS, an individual. Plaintiff,
v.
GRACO FLUID HANDLING (A) INC., a Minnesota corporation, WHITE KNIGHT FLUID HANDLING, a Utah DBA, WHITE KNIGHT FLUID HANDLING, LLC, a Utah limited liability corporation, SIMMONS HOLDINGS, INC., a Utah corporation, and JOHN DOES 1-5, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDERDENYING [72] DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; ANDGRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART [71] PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          David Nuffer, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Mathew Lints (“Lints”) alleges claims of sexual harassment and retaliation against Defendants Graco Fluid Handling (A) Inc., White Knight Fluid Handling, White Knight Fluid Handling, LLC, Simmons Holdings, Inc., and John Does 1-5 (collectively, “White Knight”).[1]

         White Knight filed a Motion for Summary Judgment[2] on both of Lints's claims, which has been fully briefed.[3] White Knight primarily relies upon statements made by Lints to demonstrate that even if he had been subject to sexual harassment, White Knight took action and the behavior stopped. Lints attempts to back away from these statements, creating credibility issues. However, “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.”[4] Therefore, White Knight's Motion for Summary Judgment[5] is DENIED.

         Lints also filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment[6] with respect to White Knight's affirmative defenses. White Knight responded.[7] Lints replied.[8] Based upon the undisputed facts, dismissal is appropriate on some of White Knight's affirmative defenses because they either do not apply or are not supported by any proof. Therefore, Lints's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         Contents

         Undisputed Material Facts .............................................................................................................. 3

         Employment and Sexual Harassment at White Knight ....................................................... 3

         Lints's Employment History after White Knight ................................................................ 8

         EEOC Proceedings and Current Litigation ....................................................................... 10

         Summary Judgment Standard ....................................................................................................... 14

         Discussion ..................................................................................................................................... 15

         White Knight' Motion for Summary Judgment ................................................................ 15

         Genuine issues of material fact exist regarding Lints's claim for hostile work environment sexual harassment ................................................................ 15

         Genuine issues of material fact exist regarding Lints's claim for retaliation ....... 19

         Lints's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ................................................................ 21

         Lints has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted warranting summary judgment on White Knight's second affirmative defense ......................... 21

         Lints timely filed his Complaint warranting summary judgment on White Knight's third defense of failure to file within the limitation period ........ 22

         Lints's claims are not barred under the doctrine of estoppel or laches, warranting summary judgment on White Knight's eight defense ............................... 23

         To avoid confusion, summary judgment is appropriate on White Knight's tenth defense ...................................................................................................... 25

         White Knight did not contest summary judgment on its fourth, seventh, and ninth affirmative defenses, therefore summary judgment on these defenses is appropriate. . .............................................................................................. 25

         White Knight's fifth, sixth, and eleventh defenses survive summary judgment..26

         Order… ......................................................................................................................................... 28

         UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS[9]

         Employment and Sexual Harassment at White Knight

         1. White Knight hired Lints on January 22, 2010.[10]

         2. Lints alleges that he was subject to the following unwelcome sexual harassment by his co-worker, Nicole Mondragon:

a. On his first day of employment at White Knight, Ms. Mondragon asked Lints if he was married or had a girlfriend.[11]
b. On his second day, Ms. Mondragon asked Lints if he was Mormon and if he wore garments.[12]
c. Ms. Mondragon then “started wearing perfume and makeup” and “being flirtatious.”[13]
d. Ms. Mondragon “would walk by [Lints] more often” and “find excuses to be within [his] presence.”[14]
e. She would wear her shirt “loosely buttoned” and “find excuses to bend over in front of [Mr. Lints], revealing her breasts.”[15]
f. Ms. Mondragon wore “G strings” and sweatpants that “were rolled past her hips, and when she would squat down her underwear would show.” “She would hike [her underwear] up past her sweatpants.”[16]
g. Ms. Mondragon would also walk past the area where Lints was working and “rub her breasts or buttocks against Lints, ” between two to five times per day.[17]
h. Ms. Mondragon tried to insist that Lints allow her to give him a ride home in her car.[18]
i. Approximately two and a half weeks after Lints began working at White Knight, Ms. Mondragon “walked up behind [Lints] and pressed her breasts into [his] back and reached around and gave [him] a hug and stared rubbing [his] chest.” While doing so, Ms. Mondragon asked Lints why he was “not interested in dating her and having a relationship with her.”[19]
j. Ms. Mondragon walked up to Lints and another male co-worker, “jiggled her breasts” and said, “hey guys, do you think if I got my breasts enlarged, I could get laid?”[20]

         3. Ms. Mondragon was not Lints's supervisor.[21]

         4. Ms. Mondragon did not have any actual or implied authority over Lints.[22]

         5. During his first two to two-and-a-half weeks at White Knight, Lints complained to the two individuals that he believed to be his supervisors-Josh Simmons and Spencer Nauman-about Ms. Mondragon's behavior.[23]

         6. Lints also “think[s]” that he talked to Mr. Nauman “or somebody” again about Ms. Mondragon's behavior. After which, Ms. Mondragon's “strong advancements were . . . not as strong as they once were.”[24]

         7. On or about April 27, 2010, Lints asked Mr. Nauman to intervene in an incident that occurred between Ms. Mondragon and Lints while Ms. Mondragon was training Lints on a piece of machinery. When Mr. Nauman failed to do so, Lints approached Karen Bastian (who Lints believed to be the director of human resources) to report that he was being subjected to unwanted sexual advances by Ms. Mondragon.[25]

         8. Ms. Bastian called one of the owners of White Knight, Tom Simmons, to meet with Lints.[26] At that time, Lints repeated the details of Ms. Mondragon's behavior to Mr. Simons.[27] Lints specifically told Mr. Simmons that he had been sexually harassed by Ms. Mondragon.[28]

         9. On April 28, 2010, Mr. Simmons called Lints into his office. Mr. Simons asked Lints about Ms. Mondragon's behavior that Lints considered to be sexual harassment.[29]

         10. Lints told Mr. Simmons that Ms. Mondragon had not sexually harassed him again after Mr. Nauman had talked with her two months prior.[30]

         11. Lints stated that his “main concern” was that Ms. Mondragon did not treat him “great” like everyone else at White Knight.[31]

         12. Lints alleged that Ms. Mondragon “verbally attacked” him during the April 27, 2010 incident and that she had been “gossiping” about him.[32]

         13. Mr. Simmons told Lints:

People being mean and not getting along, that is a lot easier to deal with. Accusations of sexual harassment are a big deal and can land people in court and it can be a real pain in the neck and real expensive and it just causes trouble.[33]

         14. Mr. Simmons then moved on to discussing Lints's absences from work and terminated Lints.[34]

         15. During the time that he was employed by White Knight, Lints missed 13 days of work. Of those days, 11 were due to illness. Lints called either Mr. Simmons or Mr. Nauman each day that he was sick to tell them that he would not be coming in to work.[35]

         16. Lints missed work for the remaining 2 days due to personal reasons. Each time, Lints requested and received permission from Mr. Nauman to be absent.[36]

         17. When Lints returned to work from his last absence for illness, Mr. Nauman told him that “if [he] missed anymore work that [his] job may be in jeopardy.” Mr. Nauman also told Lints that “he wasn't blaming [Lints] for being sick but if he saw a repeated pattern in [Lints's] missing days of work then [they] would have to discuss other options.”[37]

         18. In response to Lints's discovery requests, White Knight did not identify any specific steps or actions taken to investigate Lints's complaints regarding Ms. Mondragon's behavior.[38]

         19. After Lints's termination, White Knight circulated a notice to its employees stating that “[o]n April 27, 2010, an employee of White Knight made a claim of sexual harassment that upper management had not been aware of until that time.”[39]

         20. White Knight's first documented verbal warning to Ms. Mondragon regarding her behavior (that White Knight was able to locate as part of these proceedings) was issued on April 30, 2010 and the first documented written warning was issued on July 15, 2010-after Lints's termination.[40]

         Lints's Employment History after White Knight

         21. After his termination from White Knight, Lints got a job in June 2010 that lasted for approximately two months. Lints was fired from that job because he failed to show up for work one day.[41]

         22. After that, Lints began painting or pulling weeds for friends and family.[42]

         23. Lints then worked from January 2011 through April 2011 at Park City Lodging.[43]

         24. Lints was next employed from September 2012 to November 2012 as a house painter.[44]

         25. He then worked for TruCo (snow removal) from approximately December 2012 through April 2013.[45]

         26. Lints then worked at Trading Places Hotel in Park City as a maintenance painter for “a couple weeks” until he quit in June 2013.[46]

         27. Lints next worked for Wildfire Landscaping for two months in 2013 and two months in 2014.[47]

         28. In June 2014, Lints moved to Wisconsin to “to focus 100 percent on [his] long track speed skating goals.”[48]

         29. At the time of his deposition on December 7, 2017, Lints was unemployed.[49]

         30. Lints does not recall filing for unemployment after his employment ended at White Knight (or any of the other subsequent companies he worked for).[50]

         31. Lints also testified that he received income from speed skating sponsorships.[51]

         32. When asked the amount of sponsorship income he received, Mr. Lints replied “I don't remember. It was mostly hit and miss fundraising.”[52]

         33. Lints does not have records that would show what those amounts were.[53]

         34. Lints's total reported income in 2010 was $4, 491 in (which included the income he made the first four months of the year working for White Knight). Lints's total reported income was $6, 983 in 2011; $2, 555 in 2012; $9, 041 in 2013; $9, 863 in 2014; and $9, 344 in 2015.[54]

         EEOC Proceedings and Current Litigation

         35. Lints filed his charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner (EEOC) on November 17, 2010.[55]

         36. In 2014, White Knight sold some of its assets to Graco Fluid Handling (A) Inc.[56]

         37. On February 4, 2014, Lints requested a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC.[57]

         38. On September 24, 2014, the EEOC issued a determination letter with respect to Lints's Charge of Discrimination.[58]

         39. The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue on June 15, 2015. The notice stated that Lints must file his lawsuit “within 90 days of receipt of this letter and Notice of Right to Sue.”[59]

         40. On September 11, 2015, Lints initiated this action.[60] Lints has asserted claims for sexual harassment and retaliation against White Knight.[61]

         41. With leave of the court, [62] Lints filed a Second Amended Complaint on March 9, 2017.[63]

         42. Lints's First Cause of Action states that “White Knight, directly and through employees and agents, subjected [Lints] to unlawful sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., in that [Lints's] acceptance of harassment by [White Knight] was an express and implied condition to the receipt of certain job benefits, and [White Knight's] harassment of [Lints]was the cause of tangible job detriments to [Lints]. . . . The acts of [White Knight] described above also created a hostile and sexually offensive working environment for [Lints].”[64]

         43. Lints's Second Cause of Action claims that “White Knight, directly and through employees and agents, took unlawful retaliatory action against [Lints] in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., in that [White Knight] terminated [Lints's] employment because he complained of sexual harassment and [White Knight's] unlawful employment practices.[65]

         44. On March 30, 2017, White Knight answered the Second Amended Complaint.[66]

         45. In its Answer, White Knight asserted the following defenses:

a. Second Defense: “[Lints's] allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted against Defendants.”[67]
b. Third Defense: “To the extent that any of [Lints's] claims were filed outside the applicable limitations period, those claims are barred.”[68]
c. Fourth Defense: “To the extent that [Lints] has failed to satisfy and/or exhaust the statutory, jurisdictional, or administrative perquisites for maintaining any of his claims, those claims are barred.”[69]
d. Fifth Defense: “[Lints] cannot recover damages to the extent that he has failed to mitigate his alleged damages.”[70]
e. Sixth Defense: “All actions regarding [Lints's] employment were undertaken without malice for legitimate, non-discriminatory, and nonretaliatory reasons.”[71]
f. Seventh Defense: “Some or all of [Lints's] claims and/or alleged damages may be barred and/or limited by the ...

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