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Walker v. Mod-U-Kraf Homes, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

December 19, 2013

ROBIN L. WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
MOD-U-KRAF HOMES, LLC, Defendant

For Robin L. Walker, Plaintiff: Terry Neill Grimes, Terry N. Grimes, ESQ., P.C., Franklin Commons, Roanoke, VA.

For Mod-U-Kraf, Inc., Defendant: Paul Granger Klockenbrink, LEAD ATTORNEY, John Reed Thomas, Jr., GENTRY LOCKE RAKES & MOORE, ROANOKE, VA.

OPINION

Page 590

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Hon. Glen E. Conrad, Chief United States District Judge.

This employment discrimination action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is presently before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the defendant's motion.

Factual Background

The following facts are presented in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (noting that all evidence must be construed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment).

Robin L. Walker, a 52-year-old woman, was previously employed by Mod-U-Kraf Homes, LLC (" Mod-U-Kraf), a modular

Page 591

home manufacturing company based in Rocky Mount, Virginia. Walker worked for Mod-U-Kraf on two different occasions: from 2007 to 2009, when she was laid off due to the downturn in the economy; and from May 2010 until July 2011, when her employment was terminated. She generally worked in the final finishing department, caulking and painting trim inside each house or " box" as it neared the end of the production line.

During her second period of employment with Mod-U-Kraf, Walker began dating one of her coworkers, Ray Cassidy. Cassidy was also terminated in July 2011.

Cassidy had a history of not getting along with another coworker, David Mullins. During his deposition, Cassidy described Mullins as a " loud foul mouth character who did nothing but stir up trouble" and a " nuisance." Cassidy Dep. at 34, ECF No. 28-2. Cassidy testified that Mullins " was always vulgar and loud and arrogant." Id. at 35. When asked if he could recall any specific vulgarities, Cassidy provided the following example:

I was working on a wall one day, and there [were] a couple people standing around with their hands in their pockets, and I am working. And he leaves his work area, comes over there, and he is showing them something on this telephone, you know, some photos or something. They are over there carrying on about that, and I am working on some walls.
And he comes over there and grabs his crotch and looks down and says -- and laughs -- [" ] While you are down there why don't you just . . . .[" ] You know, I jumped and got in his face. I said, [" ]Best thing you can do is get your tail back over to your work area and don't come back over here,[" ] and he cowered down and took off.

Id. at 35-36.

Cassidy also described what he considered to be high school-like behavior by Mullins and another coworker, James Young:

[Young] would grab his crotch and say, [" ]Hey, these nuts are looking for you.[" ] They would come to my work area and use my table saw and leave a big mess and then, you know, laugh about it. And then after it continued and continued, I approached them and said, . . . [" ]Look, you know, you guys aren't in high school anymore. You need to clean your mess up over here, and this is my work area.[" ] And they said, [" ]What are you going to do about it?[" ] And I said, [" ] You just -- you know, clean your mess up.[" ] I said, [" ]You got a saw over there. Don't come over here and leave your mess in my area.[" ]
. . .
And, you know, this was on an every-other daily basis. They would come over there just to -- just to get somebody's goat. Just to push people.

Id. at 43-44.

According to Cassidy, Mullins and Young made crude comments to men and women alike:

Q. [D]id Mr. Mullins say these nuts are looking for you or --
A. That was [Young's] favorite, but Mullins would go right along with it, blurt it out . . . .
Q. Did Mr. Mullins say these nuts are looking for you as well . . . ?
A. Yeah, yeah.
Q. He said the same thing.
A. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Page 592

Q. And these crude comments made by Mr. Young and Mr. Mullins were directed at men and women alike?
A. Oh, yeah.
Q. Didn't seem to care.
A. Anytime they had the opportunity, yeah. It was just their mentality. That's the way they think. It's just their mentality, you know. They see an opportunity to, you know, do something like that they go for it. Most people just walk on by and say, Oh, that's the way they are. Just deal with it. But when they start getting in your face, you know, it's time to stop.

Id. at 89-90.

Another incident occurred when Mullins made a vulgar comment to Cassidy in the presence of Walker. As Walker was going into a " box" to work, Mullins turned to Cassidy and said, " Well, go on up in that box if you want a blow job. And then he took off around the corner." Id. at 54. Cassidy testified that he later " got in [Mullins'] face" and told him to " stop this mess." Id. at 55.

When asked if he had ever heard Mullins make any other comments to Walker, Cassidy testified that he once overheard Mullins say, " Oh, I bet you could holler real loud, couldn't you." Id. at 56.

Walker and Cassidy routinely ate lunch together during their lunch break. When the employees broke for lunch on July 20, 2011, Walker and Cassidy walked across the parking lot to Cassidy's truck. Mullins, who was walking in front of Walker and Cassidy, turned around and said, " Wiener in your mouth, wiener in your mouth." Walker Dep. at 113, ECF No. 28-1. In response, Cassidy told Mullins to " shut [his] mouth up," and " called him a something redneck." Cassidy Dep. at 60, ECF No. 28-2.

Midway through lunch, Walker called a coworker, Sandra Burnopp, and told her to tell their supervisor, Wayne Craiger, to meet Walker and Cassidy at Cassidy's workstation when they got back from lunch, " because this stuff with David Mullins is going to stop today." Walker Dep. at 117, ECF No. 28-1. When they returned inside, " Mullins was looking right at [Walker and Cassidy] laughing." Id. at 118. Consequently, rather than returning to Cassidy's workstation ...


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