United States District Court, D. Minnesota
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. MAGNUSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the Motion is
Stephanie Sims was a bus driver for Defendant Metro Transit
from September 2013 until July 2017. (Sims Dep. (Ellingstad
Decl. Ex. 1) (Docket No. 49-1) at 43.) On Wednesday, January
18, 2017, she walked into the drivers' lounge at one of
Metro Transit's bus garages. (Id. at 81.)
Playing on the television was a Netflix series called
“Luke Cage.” Sims observed nudity on the screen
and demanded that the other drivers stop playing the show.
(Id. at 81, 84.) She claims that her co-workers
argued with her briefly before turning off the television.
(Id. at 85-87.) She also contends that she left the
lounge and returned, and the show was again playing on the
television. (Id. at 90-91.) Her co-workers turned it
off after she again complained. (Id. at 111.) It is
undisputed that the program in question contained two scenes
with nudity, each lasting less than a minute. (Ellingstad
Decl. Ex. 2 at 16.)
now contends that when she arrived at work on the day of the
incident, she also overheard a conversation between two other
employees, one of whom used the word “boner.”
(Sims Dep. at 70.) She does not dispute that the conversation
was not about her or directed toward her, nor does she
dispute that when she complained to a manager, the employee
was immediately counseled about his use of language.
(Id. at 73, 74.) She contends that another employee
referred to his “johnson” in her presence that
day as well but admits that the manager present for that
alleged conversation immediately told the employee to stop.
(Id. at 76-77.)
reported the TV-show incident to several managers, all of
whom told her they would address the situation. (Id.
at 99-101.) They immediately ensured that the television in
the lounge was no longer able to connect to the streaming
device and that the streaming device was ultimately removed
from the garage. (Hill Dep. (Ellingstad Aff. Ex. 3) at 21.)
In addition, a manager invited Sims into her office and
provided her with Met Council policies regarding sexual
harassment and the Union's phone number. (Sims Dep. at
101.) Moreover, the manager of the employee who brought the
streaming device counseled him in a one-on-one session, and
the other employees present were spoken to about respectful
workplace policies and the prohibition on retaliation.
(Bailly Dep. (Ellingstad Aff. Ex. 7) at 55.)
contends that a co-worker called her at home that evening and
told her that the drivers in the lounge were angry with her
and planned to confront her. (Sims Dep. at 127.) Sims worked
without incident on Thursday, but on Friday two of her
co-workers again reported that other employees had threatened
Sims and were mad at her. (Id. at 145-148.) She
reported the alleged threats to her supervisor, who offered
Sims several suggestions to help her feel safe. (Id.
at 158.) Sims rejected all of the suggestions, and eventually
submitted a doctor's note that she could not have any
contact with any Metro Transit employees. (Ellingstad Aff.
Ex. 14.) As a result, Metro Transit terminated her
employment. This lawsuit followed.
raised six causes of action against Defendants Metro Transit,
the Met Council, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local No.
1005. In October 2018, the Court granted the Union's
motion to dismiss and dismissed Sims's claims against the
Union with prejudice. (Docket No. 29.) Thus, the only two
remaining Defendants are Metro Transit and the Met Council.
of the Complaint claims termination in violation of the MHRA
and Title VII against Metro Transit and the Met Council.
Count II claims retaliation, but does not list the statutory
basis for the claim or the Defendants against whom it is
brought. Count III alleges “negligence infliction of
emotional distress” against “Defendants and Metro
Transit.” Count IV claims respondeat superior liability
against Metro Transit and the Met Council. Count V claims
vicarious liability as to all three Defendants, arguing that
“Defendants” acted within the scope of their
employment so their actions should be imputed to Metro
Transit and the Met Council. Count VI claims that Defendants
were negligent in handling her complaint. Plaintiff's
opposition brief does not mention either her negligence claim
or her vicarious liability claim, appearing to concede that
Defendants' Motion should be granted as to these claims.
judgment is proper if there are no disputed issues of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must view the
evidence and inferences that “may be reasonably drawn
from the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party.” Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank of
Mo., 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The moving party
bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of
material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). A party opposing a properly supported motion for
summary judgment may not rest on mere allegations or denials,
but must set forth specific facts in the record showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986).
VII prohibits discrimination “against any individual
with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or
privileges of employment, because of such individual's
race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).Prohibited discrimination can
include “requiring people to work in a discriminatorily
hostile or abusive environment.” Harris v. Forklift
Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993). A workplace is
hostile or abusive when it is “permeated with
‘discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult'
that is ‘sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the
conditions of the victim's employment and create an
abusive working environment.'” Id.
(quoting Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S.
57, 65, 67 (1986)). The “critical issue . . . is
whether members of one sex are exposed to disadvantageous
terms or conditions of employment to which members of the
other sex are not exposed.” Id. at 25
(Ginsburg, J., concurring). The severity of the harassment is
judged both objectively and subjectively: “[s]o long as
the environment would reasonably be perceived, and is
perceived, as hostile or abusive, ” it is actionable.
Id. at 22.
workplace-harassment claims fail for multiple reasons under
these standards. First, her exposure to two brief scenes of
nudity on a television in the drivers' lounge cannot
“reasonably be perceived . . . as hostile or
abusive.” Id. There is no dispute that Sims
found the scenes offensive and believes that they created a
hostile work environment, but her subjective beliefs are only
part of the equation. Considering all of the circumstances in
the light most favorable to Sims, and even taking as true her