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Murphy v. Vaive Wood Products Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 24, 2018

CRYSTAL MURPHY, Plaintiff,
v.
VAIVE WOOD PRODUCTS CO., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [13]

          HONORABLE STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III JUDGE

         On May 11, 2017, Plaintiff Crystal Murphy filed a complaint against her former employer, Vaive Wood Products Co. ("Vaive"), alleging that Vaive committed two violations of Title VII. First, she claimed that Vaive tolerated and promoted a hostile work environment of severe and pervasive sexual harassment. Second, she alleged that Vaive terminated her employment for complaining about sexual harassment in the workplace.

         Currently pending before the Court is Vaive's motion for summary judgment. ECF 13. The Court held a hearing on April 17, 2018. For the reasons below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Vaive's motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Vaive Wood produces wooden pallets used for shipping. Murphy began work at Vaive in October 2015; her early work consisted of stamping pallets for heat treatment and color coding the pallets, ECF 13-2, PgID 88, but Vaive employees did whatever work was needed to produce the pallets, id. at 89. In addition to stamping the pallets, therefore, Murphy also cut, stacked, and nailed the pallets, drove forklifts, and unloaded and loaded trucks. Id. The entire production of pallets occurred in a single factory. Allan Scroggs, Vaive's Vice President, oversaw the day-to-day management of the company. ECF 13, PgID 56. Phil Kotewa served as the Plant Supervisor (or Plant Manager) and was the primary supervisor of the factory's activities. Below Kotewa were a number of mid-level supervisors, including Chris Romero, who worked as Vaive's assembly foreman. Id. During Murphy's employment, only one other woman worked at Vaive, and she served on the business side. Murphy worked in the male-dominated factory setting. Id. All parties agree that Murphy's first few months were unremarkable.

         Starting in February 2016, Murphy alleges that multiple incidents of harassing conduct toward her occurred. She references different alleged instances in her complaint, her responses to interrogatories, and her deposition. For clarity and simplicity, the Court will list the relevant allegations with the name of the person who committed the alleged act.

         Wesley Ivory[1]

- In February 2016, Murphy reported the first alleged incident of harassment, that Ivory touched her leg.[2]
- In April 2016, Ivory told Murphy he wanted her to be his "Twinkie." ECF 1, PgID 2.
- Also in April 2016, Ivory told Murphy: "I'm going to . . . make you choke on my dick." Id.
- On several occasions, Ivory smacked Murphy's butt and grabbed at her legs and breasts. Id. at 3; see also ECF 13-18, PgID 193 (identifying Ivory as the individual who performed the acts alleged in the complaint).
- Moreover, Ivory would grab Murphy's leg "[a]ll the time." ECF 13-2, PgID 93.
- On an unknown date, Ivory allegedly talked about Murphy's bra size to another coworker. ECF 13-18, PgID 190.
- On multiple occasions, Ivory allegedly told Murphy he would rape her. Id. at 191.

         Jason Moran

- On an unknown date, Moran shook a forklift that Murphy was standing on and stared at her breasts while they also shook. She pushed them together with her arms to make them stop shaking to which Moran responded: "great, now your cleavage looks better." ECF 1, PgID 2; see also ECF 13-18, PgID 193 (identifying Moran as the person who performed the acts alleged in the complaint).
- On May 31, 2016, Moran sent Murphy a photo of a woman's tongue nailed to a surface with the caption: "Thou shalt not snitch."[3]

         "Ralph"[4]

- On an unknown date, "Ralph" walked behind Murphy with a sign that read: "wide load." ECF 13-18, PgID 190.

         John Tieman and ...


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