United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
V. EAGAN UNITED UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an employment discrimination case arising under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e, et seq. (Title VII). Now before the Court is
defendant Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Company's
motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 11).
complaint, plaintiff Samantha Payne alleges the following
facts: on August 14, 2012, defendant, a beverage bottling
company, hired plaintiff, a female. Dkt. # 2-1, at
On January 31, 2015, plaintiff began working as an inventory
control supervisor at defendant's plant in Okmulgee,
Oklahoma; she held this position until defendant terminated
her on January 19, 2017. Dkt. # 2-1, at 3, 9. As an inventory
control supervisor, plaintiff reported directly to Brian
Caldwell, the inventory control manager at the Okmulgee
plant. Id. at 3. Caldwell, in turn, reported
directly to Rick Randleman, who was the Okmulgee plant
manager until defendant transferred him to another plant in
August 2016. Id. In her position, plaintiff had the
authority to discipline employees, and if there were a need
to do so she would consult with Caldwell and Nancy Cummings,
a human resources (HR) manager for defendant. Id.
During plaintiff's five years of employment with
defendant, she received performance appraisals only in 2015
and 2016, and they were both positive. Id. At all
times relevant to this lawsuit, plaintiff was (and still is)
married to Lyle Payne, a driver who worked for defendant when
the events that form the basis of plaintiff's complaint
took place. Id.
beginning of January 2013, Bobby Sadler (a person plaintiff
identifies only by name, but who the Court presumes was
plaintiff's colleague) harassed Payne and several other
women. Id. Plaintiff reported this to HR, and
defendant gave Sadler a “verbal counseling.”
Id. After this counseling, Sadler “became
obsessed with wanting to know” who reported him to HR,
and while the harassment stopped for “about two weeks,
” it then “began again and continued.”
Id. at 3-4. In “March or April of 2013,
” plaintiff again reported Sadler to HR, but
“instead of disciplining him, [defendant] promoted
[him] to warehouse supervisor and he became [plaintiff's]
boss.” Id. at 4. As plaintiff explains
further, “Sadler and Caldwell were best friends and now
Sadler was reporting to his best friend and [m]anager of the
[w]arehouse at the time, Caldwell.” Id.
summer of 2013, plaintiff was required to work two hours
extra every day. Id. One day, Caldwell claimed
falsely that she left early without telling him. Id.
As a consequence, Sadler gave plaintiff a corrective action,
which she “took . . . to Randleman, ” who
“removed it.” Id.
“June or July of 2014” Caldwell tried to have
plaintiff and a coworker fired for time clock fraud, and both
plaintiff and her coworker received a “final
warning.” Id. A “few months later,
however, ” another employee “left the [Okmulgee
plant] to go to the store while still on the clock, [and]
Caldwell only gave him a verbal discussion.”
January 31, 2015, defendant promoted plaintiff to inventory
control supervisor. Id. “Caldwell was always
upset about the reports of sexual harassment against Sadler
and he always suspected it was [plaintiff] who had made these
reports . . . .” Id. Accordingly,
“[f]rom the very beginning” of plaintiff's
tenure as inventory control supervisor, Caldwell would
“load her up with work” and repeatedly complained
to HR about her. Id. In April 2015, Sadler was
“fired for sexually harassing more women.”
Id. at 5.
November 2015, “Caldwell disciplined [plaintiff] for
failing to discipline an employee who did not report to
[plaintiff] for being on his cell phone. While [plaintiff]
did not directly discipline this employee, she did report his
violation of policy to his direct supervisor.”
addition, Caldwell (at a time that plaintiff does not
specify) “reported his suspicions that something
untoward was going on between plaintiff and Randleman.”
Id. While Randleman was the Okmulgee plant manager,
he “repeatedly stalked” and “attempted to
have a romantic relationship” with plaintiff.
Id. Specifically, “he insisted [plaintiff]
join him for lunch almost daily, ” “sent her more
than 5, 000 text messages (including at times when she was
not at work), ” and drove “past her home for no
reason.” Id. On one occasion, Randleman's
wife went to defendant's HR office, “causing . . .
a scene” and “demanding [plaintiff] be
terminated.” Id. at 6. Mrs. Randleman did this
because she found the text messages between plaintiff and her
husband and was suspicious of their relationship.
Id. As a result of this incident, in August 2016
defendant transferred Randleman to another plant, and Heather
Johnson replaced him as manager of the Okmulgee plant.
Id. Immediately after Randleman was transferred,
Caldwell “began his efforts to terminate
[plaintiff]” because he felt Randleman could no longer
protect her. Id.
December 2016, plaintiff reported Caldwell to Johnson because
plaintiff “discovered that Caldwell and Phil Bosnick
[the other inventory control supervisor] were taking time off
from work without utilizing their paid time off, thus
stealing from the company.” Id.
December 9, 2016, Jennifer Mitchell, the Okmulgee plant's
night supervisor, told plaintiff that “she was worried
about [plaintiff] because [plaintiff] was married to a driver
and the drivers were bringing in the Union.”
Id. at 7. Plaintiff did not know about the
drivers' effort to unionize, but after her conversation
with Mitchell, plaintiff “learned that her husband was
in support of the Union.” Id. Plaintiff was
never “in support of the Union, but she did think the
drivers needed to go outside of [defendant] to get change
because management wasn't listening to the
drivers.” Id. On December 30, 2016,
defendant's drivers “voted for the Union.”
Id. On December 31, 2016, Randy Bullard, a transport
bulk driver, told plaintiff he thought her job was in
jeopardy because “the Union election was
the union election, plaintiff's relationship with
Caldwell was “more chilly than usual, ” and he
“stopped replying to her texts and emails.”
Id. On January 4, 2017, Caldwell texted plaintiff
and asked her to meet in Johnson's office. Id.
There, Caldwell and Johnson told plaintiff that on December
31, 2016, while conducting an end of year inventory audit,
plaintiff said, in front of hourly employees, that two other
employees who had been recently transferred had “gotten
what they deserve.” Id. Plaintiff denied
making that statement, but Johnson and Caldwell insisted that
she would be “getting a corrective action in her
file” for making it. Id. at 7-8.
January 19, 2017, Johnson and Cummings met plaintiff in her
office and stated that “they had learned she was
discussing her corrective action with hourly
employees.” Id. at 8. Plaintiff denied doing
so, but admitted to telling her husband about the corrective
action. Id. In response, Johnson and Cummings
stated, “this has nothing to do with [your
husband]” and that “they didn't believe
her;” Johnson and Cummings then fired plaintiff.
Id. Plaintiff received no termination paperwork.
Id. Plaintiff “believes Caldwell wanted her
terminated because she reported Sadler's harassment to
[HR] and because of Randleman's infatuation with
[plaintiff]. Coupled with the successful election of the
Union . . . it was time to get rid of [Plaintiff].”
Id. at 9. Upon plaintiff's termination,
“Caldwell and Johnson asked an hourly associate, Kelly
Hardenger, to make a list of anything in the past that
[plaintiff] may have done that was against policy.”
Id. In addition, “several other former
coworkers of [plaintiff] have stated that [Caldwell] was
questioning them about [plaintiff] after her
defendant terminated plaintiff, plaintiff contacted “as
many employees as she could who had been in the break room
the night of the audit, ” and “none of them were
interviewed by Johnson, Caldwell, or Cummings.”
Id. at 8. In addition, plaintiff contacted Millie
Bennet “in the Coca-Cola corporate office and asked her
to investigate her corrective action and termination.”
Id. After Bennet investigated, she told plaintiff
that plaintiff was “in the wrong, ” but Bennet
admitted that the only people she spoke with were Johnson and
Cummings. Id. “Several male managers and
supervisors at [defendant] have discussed their own
discipline and the discipline of others with hourly employees
and have not been terminated.” Id. In
addition, defendant has a “progressive discipline
policy which was not followed in [plaintiff's]
after defendant's termination of plaintiff (at a time
plaintiff does not specify), Randleman's wife contacted
her and “threatened to tell [plaintiff's] husband
about the text messages” between plaintiff and
Randleman. Id. “Apparently, someone had made a
complaint to Bennet after [plaintiff's] termination . . .
about plaintiff's relationship with Randleman, which
prompted an investigation . . . .” Id. And
Mrs. Randleman was afraid defendant would fire her husband if
defendant learned that he had harassed plaintiff. Id
at 8-9. Plaintiff told Mrs. Randleman to “go
ahead” and tell her husband, however, because
plaintiff's husband already knew of Randleman's
“infatuation” with her. Id. at 8. Mrs.
Randleman then told plaintiff that if plaintiff denied any
relationship with Randleman, he would help plaintiff get her
job back. Id. at 9. Plaintiff agreed to this, and
“[w]hen Bennet called [plaintiff] to ask if Randleman
had kissed her, [plaintiff] denied this had occurred, even
though it had, but only once and against [plaintiff's]
protests.” Id. Plaintiff denied
Randleman's conduct “because of the communications
she had with Mrs. Randleman and her promise to have Randleman
help her get her job back if she denied any inappropriate
behavior on [Randleman's] part.” Id.
2, 2017, plaintiff submitted an intake questionnaire to the
EEOC stating, inter alia, that the bases for her
claim of employment discrimination were sex and retaliation.
Dkt. # 13-1, at 2. Attached to her intake questionnaire was a
narrative statement describing the discriminatory conduct.
Id. at 5-7. On July 24, 2017, plaintiff filed a
charge of discrimination against defendant with the EEOC,
alleging sex discrimination and retaliation. Dkt. # 11-1.
Attached to the charge was the same narrative statement that
was attached to her intake questionnaire. Id. at
3-5. On September 26, 2017, plaintiff filed this ...