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White v. Carry-On Trailer, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

July 6, 2018

LISA M. WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
CARRY-ON TRAILER, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT E. PAYNE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 25) . Lisa M. White ("White") seeks to amend the Complaint to add several factual allegations in support of her hostile work environment and retaliation claims. For the reasons set forth below, the motion was denied. See ECF No. 54.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         The dispute here relates to interactions between White and her direct supervisor, James Wilson Dean ("Dean"), while they were employed at Carry-On. White had originally worked for Carry-On from 2005 to 2006, and was re-hired on or around June 13, 2016 to serve as an assembly line worker at the company's manufacturing facility in Montross, Virginia ("the Montross Plant"). Dean was employed as a plant supervisor at that location from February 25, 2016 to October 25, 2016. Pursuant to Carry-On's direction, Dean acted as White's direct supervisor between June 13 and October 17. Compl. (ECF No. 1) ¶¶ 20, 31-33.

         According to White, Dean routinely made unwanted sexual advances and sexually explicit or degrading comments towards female assembly line workers at the Montross Plant. For example, Dean sometimes slapped female employees on their buttocks when they were working, and placed stickers on their backs and buttocks. On one occasion, he picked up an employee, Ms. Ochoa-Chavez, with his hand on her crotch area, leading Ochoa-Chavez to submit a complaint to Greg Moon ("Moon"), Carry-On's human resources manager. Carry-On allegedly failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into that conduct and did not discipline Dean. Other female workers similarly complained about Dean's sexual harassment, but Carry-On did not investigate those complaints and took no preventive or corrective measures against Dean. Id. ¶¶ 21-30. In fact, White claims, Carry-On lacked a coherent sexual harassment policy, as the one it had contained material inconsistencies. Id. ¶¶ 14-19.

         White in particular became a frequent target of Dean's inappropriate actions. During the period in which Dean supervised White, he often talked in crude terms about her buttocks, looked at her in a sexually suggestive manner, and intentionally touched or rubbed her buttocks and breasts or undergarments. In addition, when White rebuffed Dean's advances, he allegedly treated her less favorably than another female employee, Vanessa Becerra ("Becerra"), who "welcome[d]" that conduct. Specifically, Dean assigned White to less desirable or more difficult work on the assembly line or elsewhere in the Montross Plant, and he continued to insult and display sexually charged behavior at her. He also threatened to switch White to the night shift, which he knew would interfere with her family responsibilities. Id. ¶¶ 34-43, 46.

         On or around October 17, 2016, White submitted a formal complaint and report about Dean's behavior to Moon and the Montross Plant's general manager. Carry-On terminated Dean's employment on October 31. The next day, Carry-On reassigned White to the night shift. White contends that this reassignment was retaliation for complaining about Dean's inappropriate conduct, which had only occurred because Carry-On had facilitated a hostile work environment. Id. ¶¶ 47-51.

         As a result, on February 17, 2017, White filed a Charge of Discrimination against Carry-On with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Id. ¶ 7; see also EEOC Charge (ECF No. 1-1) . The EEOC Charge contained essentially the same allegations outlined above, although it described Dean's vulgar comments to White in more detail. In particular, as in the Complaint here, White's retaliation claim was predicated solely on her assignment to the night shift. See EEOC Charge at 2 ("After Dean's employment ended, my supervisors temporarily switched me to the night shift. I believe this shift change was retaliation for me reporting Dean's conduct.").

         B. Procedural Background

         White first sued Carry-On and Dean in Virginia state court on August 25, 2017 ("the State Action"). That Action was based on the same facts asserted here and in the EEOC Charge. After the parties had conducted some discovery, including Carry-On's production of White's entire personnel file, the State Action was stayed pending resolution of this case. Def. Opp. (ECF No. 27) at 2 & n. 1.

         On or around September 28, 2017, the EEOC responded to the EEOC Charge by issuing a Dismissal and Notice of Suit Rights. Compl. ¶ 9. Then, on December 12, White timely filed this Complaint pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). She asserted:

(1) A sexually hostile work environment claim, under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), based on Dean's conduct towards White and other female employees and Carry-On's failure to address or punish that behavior, Compl. ¶¶ 55-62;
(2) A sexual harassment/quid pro quo claim, under 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-2(a)(1), based on Dean's less favorable treatment of White compared to others, like Becerra, who did not resist Dean's ...

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