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Payne v. Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 13, 2018




         Now before the Court is defendant Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Company's motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint (Dkt. # 22).

         I. Background

         In her amended complaint, plaintiff Samantha Payne, a female, alleges the following: on August 14, 2012, defendant, a beverage bottling company, hired her. Dkt. # 21, at 2. On January 31, 2015, plaintiff began working as an inventory control supervisor at defendant's plant in Okmulgee, Oklahoma (the plant); she held this position until defendant terminated her on January 19, 2017. Id. at 2, 7. In her capacity as the inventory control supervisor, she reported directly to Brian Caldwell, the inventory control manager. Id. at 2. Caldwell, in turn, reported directly to the plant manager. Id.

         Up and until August 2016, Rick Randleman was the plant manager; he had the power to hire and fire plaintiff and otherwise affect the terms and conditions of her employment. Id. While Randleman was the plant manager, plaintiff alleges, he repeatedly stalked and attempted to have a romantic relationship with her. Id. at 3. She claims that he: insisted she join him for lunch “almost daily;” sent her more than 5, 000 text messages (some of which were sent outside of work hours); drove past her home for “no reason, ” and “often” touched her and attempted to kiss her. Id.

         According to plaintiff, she repeatedly rebuffed his advances, while attempting to remain friendly enough with him to protect her job. Id. Randleman's behavior made plaintiff very nervous and upset and created problems between her and her husband. Id. She did not, however, report his harassment to defendant because she feared doing so would result in her termination. Id.

         In July, 2016, Randleman's wife approached the plant's HR representative and demanded that defendant terminate plaintiff because she suspected an ongoing relationship between plaintiff and Randleman. Id. Mrs. Randleman “caused such a scene” that the area human resources manager, Nancy Cummings, had to step in to calm the situation. Id. As a result of the incident, in mid-August 2016, defendant transferred Randleman to its plaint in Oklahoma City. Id. According to plaintiff, after Randleman's transfer, he continued to harass and pursue her with repeated phone calls and text messages. Id. at 4. On one occasion, Randleman and plaintiff, along with other employees of defendant, attended a funeral. Id. The day after, plaintiff claims, Randleman called her to tell her how “hot” she looked and that he still missed her. Id.

         In addition, plaintiff alleges that, on November 16, 2016, she and some of her coworkers attended a coworker's funeral. Id. at 5. At the funeral's conclusion, according to plaintiff, Ray Moore, production manager at the plant, commented to some hourly employees about their attire, and his comment embarrassed and upset them. Id. This comment was reported to Caldwell and Heather Johnson (the plant manager who replaced Randleman), and Moore was asked to apologize to the hourly employees, but was not disciplined in any other fashion. Id.

         On November 18, 2016, several transport drivers for defendant reported to plaintiff that Kevin Ward, transport manager for the plant, was making fun of Caldwell in front of hourly employees in the break room. Id. On November 21, 2016, plaintiff reported this to Johnson, but defendant did not counsel or discipline Ward about the incident. Id.

         On January 4, 2017, Caldwell sent plaintiff a text asking her to meet in Johnson's office. Id. at 7. During the meeting, Caldwell and Johnson informed plaintiff they had learned that, on December 31, 2017, she stated, in front of hourly employees, that Morrow and Ward-whom defendant had recently transferred-had “gotten what they deserve.” Id. Johnson then advised plaintiff that she would be getting a corrective action in her file for discussing employee performance in front of hourly employees. Id.

         On January 19, 2017, Johnson and Caldwell again met with plaintiff. Id.[1] They told her that they were informed that she was discussing her corrective action with hourly employees. Id. Plaintiff denied this but admitted telling her husband (who is a driver for defendant) about her corrective action. Id. Johnson and Caldwell replied that the situation “had nothing to do” with her husband and that they did not believe her denial. They then terminated plaintiff; she did not receive any termination paperwork. Id.

         On June 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. Id. at 13. On September 26, 2017, plaintiff filed her complaint in Tulsa County District Court, State of Oklahoma. Dkt. # 2-1. On October 17, 2017, defendant removed this case to this Court, which, on December 21, 2017, dismissed plaintiff's complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. Dkt. # 2; Dkt. # 18. On January 12, 2018, plaintiff filed her amended complaint (Dkt. # 21). It alleges claims for: sexual discrimination and hostile work environment based on Randleman's conduct (counts one and two), retaliation based on Caldwell's conduct (count three), and sexual discrimination in the termination of her employment (count four). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint (Dkt. # 22). In response to defendant's motion, plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed her claim for retaliation (count three). Dkt. # 24, at 1. Accordingly, plaintiff's claim for retaliation (count three) is dismissed, and defendant's motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 22) is granted as to this count.

         II. Standard of Review

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must determine whether the claimant has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. A motion to dismiss is properly granted when a complaint provides no “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint must contain enough “facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” and the factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. (citations omitted). “Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 562. Although decided within an antitrust context, Twombly “expounded the pleading standard for all civil actions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 683 (2009). For the purpose of making the dismissal determination, a court must accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, even if doubtful in fact, and must construe the allegations in the light most favorable to a claimant. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Alv ...

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