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Radmer v. OS Salesco, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 28, 2016

Michael J. Radmer, Jr., Plaintiff,
OS Salesco, Inc., Defendant.

          Phillip Gainsley, Esq., Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          Ellen A. Brinkman, Esq., Briggs & Morgan, PA, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant.




         On October 7, 2016, the undersigned United States District Judge heard oral argument on Defendant OS Salesco, Inc.'s (“Omaha Steaks” or the “Company”) Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 21]. Plaintiff Michael J. Radmer, Jr.'s (“Radmer”) Complaint [Docket No. 1-1] asserts a Minnesota Human Rights Act claim against Omaha Steaks. Radmer's claim is premised upon alleged sexual harassment and assault on Radmer by his co-worker, direct supervisor, and former girlfriend Hilliary Jordan (“Jordan”) while working at the Company's St. Louis Park, Minnesota store. Compl. ¶¶ 1-15. For the reasons set forth below, Omaha Steaks' motion is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         A. Radmer and Jordan

         Radmer and Jordan met while they both were employees at U.S. Bank. Brinkman Decl. [Docket No. 24] Ex. 1 (“Radmer Dep.”) 69:9-10; 75:2-3. In December 2013, a few months after meeting, they developed a consensual, sexual relationship. Id. 76:17-77:12.

         In July 2014, Jordan left U.S. Bank and was hired as an Assistant Store Manager at an Omaha Steaks' store in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Brinkman Decl. Ex. 12. A few weeks after starting her new job, Jordan and company representatives raised concerns about store manager, Steve Clem (“Clem”). Id. Ex. 4 (“Oehmen Dep.”) at 24:11-19. When confronted with questions about “inventory variances, ” Clem resigned and Jordan was almost immediately promoted to Clem's position as store manager. Id. Ex. 2 at 12:10-18; 13:24-14:2. Jordan was promoted despite concerns about her credit rating, a factor Omaha Steaks considers when promoting individuals into fiduciary roles. Gainsley Decl. [Docket No. 28] Ex. K at 10; Ex. I at 17:23-18:7. At this time, Jordan was the only employee who worked at the St. Louis Park store. Oehmen Dep. 36:16-20.

         Radmer and Jordan's romantic relationship continued, and the two agreed to lease an apartment together starting in September 2014. Radmer Dep. 82:12-19. Around the time the apartment lease was set to begin, Radmer, dissatisfied with his job at U.S. Bank, stopped reporting to work and his employment with the bank ended. Id. 69:5-70:19. On September 8, 2014, Radmer moved into the new apartment. Id. 82:12-13. However, he moved out six days later after quarreling with Jordan. Id. 82:23-84:24. Radmer states their romantic relationship ended at this point. Id. 86:11-20.

         On September 15, 2014, one day after their breakup, Radmer sent Jordan a copy of his resume to apply for an open sales position at Omaha Steaks' St. Louis Park store. Brinkman Decl. Ex. 13. On September 19, 2014, Radmer formally interviewed for the position with Jordan. Id. Exs. 14, 15. Jordan, with the approval of Mark Oehman (“Oehmen”), the store's district manager, hired Radmer. Id. Ex. 3 (“Jordan Dep.”) 14:8-16. Jordan did not disclose to Oehmen her romantic relationship with Radmer, revealing only that they had been co-workers at U.S. Bank. Oehmen Dep. 63:9-24.

         Radmer's first day of employment at Omaha Steaks was September 30, 2014. Brinkman Decl. Ex. 6. Jordan conducted Radmer's orientation. Radmer Dep. 110:15-19. He received copies of Omaha Steaks' policies and was trained on how to access orientation and training materials on the Company's intranet. Id. 109:19-110:9. Radmer signed a “Statement of Understanding” certifying that he received a copy of the Employee Information book and that he was made aware of available human resource materials. Id. 108:21-25; Brinkman Decl. Ex. 9.

         On most days, Radmer and Jordan were the only Omaha Steaks employees working at the St. Louis Park store. During the course of Radmer's employment, Oehmen visited the store three times to perform training, review store performance, and work on the sales floor. Oehmen Dep. 70:5-11. Oehmen also occasionally spoke to Radmer on the telephone. Id. 70:12-17. He estimated the two talked between 15 and 20 times during Radmer's employment. Id. 121:16-19.

         B. Omaha Steaks' Policies

         One of the policies Radmer acknowledged receiving and reviewing was Omaha Steaks' harassment policy prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. Brinkman Decl. Ex. 8. This policy provides guidance on how to report harassment and other inappropriate workplace relationships, and outlines the Company's prohibition of retaliation against persons who make good faith reports of such behaviors. Id. Employees experiencing harassment of any kind are directed to report the behavior to a “supervisor, manager, director, vice president or any manager in Human Resources” as soon as possible. Id. While not prohibited, the Company “strongly” discourages managers and subordinate employees from having personal relationships:

If an employee dates, solicits for a date, makes sexual overtures toward, accepts sexual overtures from, or establishes or attempts to establish a close personal relationship with any employee working under their direct or indirect supervision or management, both of the involved employees are required to immediately disclose this fact in writing to the appropriate Division Head and the Vice President of Human Resources.

Id. Omaha Steaks' Open Door Policy encourages a work environment where employees may raise problems or concerns about their job. Id. The contact information for 20 Human Resources employees, including the Vice President of Human Resources, is also provided. Id.

         A copy of the Company's policies was stored inside the store and a copy of the Company's sexual harassment policy was also posted in the employee bathroom. Jordan Dep. 213:1-9; Oehmen Dep. 120:19-121:4.

         C. The Harassment

         Radmer alleges Jordan began to sexually harass him immediately after he was hired. She demanded Radmer kiss her at the beginning of every shift and she engaged in “continuous inappropriate flirtation” throughout the day. Radmer Dep. 17:8-10; 17:22-23. The harassment was both verbal and physical. Radmer reports that Jordan performed unwelcomed oral sex on him inside of the store on multiple occasions. Id. 23:20-21; 30:10-12. Radmer claims that before the first incident he told Jordan to stop, but he did not say anything the second or third time because he was “resigned” to the situation and his earlier objections “hadn't stopped her.” Id. 23:9-15; 29:16-19. Radmer also states that he and Jordan had sexual intercourse in the back room of the store. Id. 31:7-24. According to Radmer, Jordan threatened to fire him if her sexual advances were rebuffed. Id. 24:4-10.

         Jordan's sexual harassment also extended beyond that in the St. Louis Park store. Radmer, who was living with his parents, alleges that Jordan forced him to stay at her apartment as a condition for her to see a doctor for a pregnancy check. Id. 89:12-21. Radmer claims that Jordan would not agree to see a doctor unless he stayed in the apartment, prepared her meals, and slept in the same bed with her. Id. 134:1-13. According to Radmer, this was the third time Jordan claimed to be pregnant with his child and that he had “no choice” but to acquiesce to Jordan's demands because “[s]he had lied to me about scheduling prior appointments with doctors, and then came up with excuses” for avoiding medical attention. Id. 133:22-25; 134:8-13.

         1. The Assault

         In the evening of January 24, 2015, Radmer was at his parents' house with a female friend. Id. 151:25; 152:11-14. Jordan texted Radmer that she was coming over to drop off a rent check and pick up laundry. Id. 154:3-6. Although Radmer responded for Jordan to come by another time, Jordan arrived at the home. Id. 154:5-9.

         Radmer was at the house with another woman. Id. 152:6-10. Radmer had been drinking. Id. 152:21-22. Jordan entered the home by way of a hidden key and the two got into an altercation. Id. 154:10-17; 156:4-13. The police were called. Id. 158:9-15. Officers arrived and interviewed Jordan about what happened. Jordan told the interviewing officer that she and Radmer got into an argument about Radmer's drinking. Gainsley Decl. Ex. B. Jordan stated that when she attempted to get Radmer to stop drinking and go to bed, Radmer became physically violent. Id.

         Radmer was arrested and spent the night in jail. Radmer Dep. 158:19-25. The officer who interviewed Jordan did not see any marks or wounds on her neck. Gainsley Decl. Ex. B. An ambulance arrived, but Jordan refused transport and departed the scene in her own vehicle. Id. Radmer ...

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