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Kemske v. Johnson Controls, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 2, 2014

MARIGRACE L. KEMSKE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNSON CONTROLS, INC., Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Marigrace L. Kemske, Pro se, Smyrna, Delaware. Plaintiff.

R. Stokes Nolte and Carmen N. Couden, Esquires, Reilly Janiczek & McDevitt PC, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorneys for Defendant.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

Leonard P. Stark, U.S. District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Marigrace L. Kemske (" Plaintiff" or " Kemske" ) filed this action against Defendant Johnson Controls, Inc. (" Defendant" or " JCI" ) alleging employment discrimination by reason of sex pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (" Title VII" ), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (D.I. 17), opposed by Plaintiff.[1] For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Kemske's employment with JCI was terminated on September 7, 2010. (D.I. 20 at App. 137) On June 20, 2011, Kemske filed a charge of discrimination against JCI with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ), alleging discrimination by reason of sex in connection with her discharge. ( Id. ) Therein, Kemske states that JCI's reasons for her discharge were that she had harassed another employee on more than one occasion. ( Id. ) In addition, the charge of discrimination states that JCI took into consideration that Kemske had been absent from work. ( Id. ) The charge of discrimination further states that male employees were given preferential treatment and, particularly, that Kemske was treated differently than male employees who engaged in the same conduct as her, but were not terminated. ( Id. ) Following its investigation, the EEOC was unable to conclude that the information obtained established violations of the statute and closed the file. ( Id. at App. 139) The EEOC's right to sue letter is dated July 2, 2012. ( Id. ) Kemske filed the instant lawsuit on October 3, 2012, alleging discriminatory acts occurred when she was wrongfully terminated and that JCI created and perpetuated a hostile work environment. (D.I. 1) JCI moves for summary judgment, which Plaintiff opposes. (D.I. 17, 24, 26)

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Kemske was hired by JCI in July 1996 as an assembler and was later promoted to truck loader. (D.I. 20 at App. 84, 137) JCI manufactures automotive and marine batteries at a facility located in Middletown, Delaware. ( Id. at App. 2, 13) The facility employs approximately 145 employees, many of whom are represented by the International Union United Automobile,

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Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (the " Union" ). ( Id. at App. 2, 13, 49-50) Some of the terms and conditions of employment for represented employees are governed by a collective bargaining agreement (" CBA" ) between JCI and the Union. ( Id. at App. 2, 13, 19-31, 50, 86)

JCI publishes Equal Employment Opportunity (" EEO" ) and No Harassment policies prohibiting discrimination or harassment in any form or degree in the workplace; maintains a workplace violence policy, which prohibits, among other things, threats of harm, intimidation, and coercion; and has an ethics policy, which states that neither physical nor mental abuse or harassment will be tolerated. ( Id. at 3, 14, 51, 56-58, 60-61) In addition to these policies, JCI has established plant rules that govern employee conduct in the workplace. ( Id. at App. 2, 13, 35-38, 50) Kemske was provided a copy of JCI's plant rules, as well as copies of the EEO and No Harassment policies, during her new hire orientation. ( Id. at App. 90, 94, 98-100)

Because some infractions are considered more serious than others, JCI divides plant rule violations into three categories, according to severity: A-rule, B-rule, and C-rule violations. ( Id. at App. 2, 13, 35-38, 50-51) The least serious offenses are A-rule violations such as idleness, negligence on the job, and frequent tardiness or absences. ( Id. at App. 2, 13-14, 35-38, 50, 93) A-rule violations normally result in a four-step progressive disciplinary process, with termination as the fourth and final step. ( Id. ) Next, in the level of serousness are the B-rule violations, such as hindering or limiting production or horseplay, and they typically result in a two-step progressive disciplinary procedure involving a final warning for the first violation and discharge for the second. ( Id. at App. 3, 14, 35-38, 50) The most serious offenses are C-rule violations such as disobedience, insubordination, threatening or intimidating behavior, or the use of foul or abusive language directed toward fellow workers, visitors, members of management, supervisors, or customers. ( Id. at App. 3, 14, 35-38, 51, 92-93) Employees who commit C-rule violations are subject to immediate discharge. ( Id. ) An employee who has a dispute with JCI, including one relating to discharge from employment, may file a written grievance, which will be handled in accordance with the CBA's grievance and arbitration procedures. ( Id. at App. 2, 13, 25-28, 50, 82)

In December 2009, Kemske's supervisor, Heath Yarnall (" Yarnall" ) made Sharon Adams (" Adams" ), the JCI Health and Safety Supervisor at the Middletown plant, aware of an incident in which Kemske had walked up to co-worker Rick Larimore (" Larimore" ) (an individual with whom Kemske had had a brief consensual relationship), called him names, and yelled at him. ( Id. at App. 4-5) A Ruan Transport [2] contractor witnessed the incident. ( Id. at App. 4)

Yarnall told Adams that Kemske claimed Larimore was harassing her and that he got away with it more than other employees did. ( Id. ) Adams investigated the incident and Kemske's allegations of favoritism. ( Id. App. 4-6) Adams found no evidence of harassment by Larimore or favoritism shown to him by JCI and, further, that Kemske herself had engaged in inappropriate behavior, including directing false allegations and abusive language at

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Larimore. ( Id. at App. 6) Adams concluded that Kemske had repeatedly directed unwelcome remarks and inappropriate comments to Larimore over several months, in violation of JCI's No Harassment policy and in violation of ...


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