PATTERSON v. AUGAT WIRING SYSTEMS, INC. Civil Action No. 96-A-218-N.
944 F.Supp. 1509 (1996)
Cheryl Denise PATTERSON, Plaintiff, v. AUGAT WIRING SYSTEMS, INC., et al., Defendants.
United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division.
October 28, 1996.
W. Melvin Haas, III, William M. Clifton, III, Haynesworth, Baldwin, Johnson & Harper, Macon, GA, for George Kohlman, Jack Foster, Ken Thomas, and Steve Abelman.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ALBRITTON, District Judge.
This cause is before the court on the Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings filed by defendant Augat Wiring Systems, Inc. ("Augat") on April 11, 1996.
Cheryl Denise Patterson ("the Plaintiff") filed this action in this court on February 8, 1996. Named as defendants were Augat,
In her Complaint, the Plaintiff claims that the Defendants are liable for sexual and racial harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and various torts under Alabama law. Count One of the Complaint alleges that the Defendants unlawfully discriminated against the Plaintiff on the basis of sex and/or race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Counts Two and Four allege that the Defendants unlawfully discriminated against the Plaintiff in the terms and conditions of her employment on the basis of sex and/or race, in violation of Title VII and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981"), respectively. Counts Three and Five allege that the Defendants retaliated against the Plaintiff because she opposed their practices of discrimination and harassment and because she filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and participated in a subsequent investigation, in violation of Title VII and § 1981, respectively. Lastly, Counts Six, Eight,
On April 11, 1996, Augat filed a Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings. Augat contends that the disparate treatment claims, contained in Counts One, Two, and Three, are limited to matters arising within 180 days of the filing of the Plaintiff's EEOC charge. Augat also contends that the § 1981 claim, contained in Count Four, is limited, in part, by the statute of limitations. Augat further contends that the Plaintiff's claim of retaliation for her opposition to discrimination, contained in Count Five, is not within the purview of § 1981. Additionally, Augat contends that Count Six fails to state a claim against it for invasion of privacy. Augat also contends that the exclusivity provisions of Alabama's workers' compensation statute bar the claims for negligent supervision and retention, contained in Counts Eight and Nine, respectively. Moreover, Augat contends that it is not vicariously liable for assault and battery, contained in Count Ten. Lastly, Augat contends that it is not liable for outrageous conduct, contained in Count Eleven.
The court has jurisdiction over Counts One, Two, Three, Four, and Five on the basis of a federal question. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The court also has jurisdiction over Counts Six, Eight, Nine, Ten, and Eleven on the basis of supplemental jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
For the reasons that follow, the court finds that the motion is due to be DENIED.
A. The Parties
The pleadings establish the following facts: The Plaintiff is a black female Alabama resident who was employed at Augat during all times relevant in this cause. Augat is an Alabama corporation. Sweeney, an Alabama resident, was a Customer Service Manager at Augat and the Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. Kohlman was Vice-President of Materials at Augat. Foster was Vice-President of Human Resources at Augat. Thomas was Human Resources Manager at Augat. Lastly, Abelman was Vice-President and General Manager of Wiring at Augat.
B. Pre-Filing of EEOC Charge
In 1991, Augat hired the Plaintiff as a Customer Service Representative when Augat purchased the Plaintiff's former employer, National Industries; the Plaintiff had the same job at National Industries, beginning in January 1987. The Plaintiff alleges that Sweeney continually subjected her to sexist and racist slurs. According to the Plaintiff, Sweeney frequently cursed at, and directed demeaning and hostile language toward, the Plaintiff and other female employees at Augat. Specifically, in November 1993, the Plaintiff claims that Sweeney harassed her while she was pregnant and told her that she should have her legs sewn together. According to the Plaintiff, she hemorrhaged as a result of stress created by Sweeney's harassment, and her son was born prematurely. The Plaintiff also alleges that Sweeney engaged in a pattern of discriminatory conduct and created a hostile environment at Augat, adversely affecting the Plaintiff's health.
The Plaintiff claims that she repeatedly reported the discriminatory, hostile, and harassing conduct to Kohlman, Foster, Abelman, and Thomas. According to the Plaintiff, Kohlman, Foster, Abelman, and Thomas offered excuses for Sweeney's conduct. The Plaintiff claims that although she begged Augat to transfer her to another position, even offering to take a $3,000 annual pay cut to be transferred, Augat refused such requests.
The Plaintiff alleges that in November 1994 Augat finally investigated the Plaintiff's complaints, interviewed other employees, and acknowledged that the complaints were valid. Nonetheless, the Plaintiff claims that Augat took no effective action to remedy her complaints. Instead, the Plaintiff alleges that Kohlman, Foster, Abelman, and Thomas encouraged the continuation of the hostile and discriminatory environment.
In particular, the Plaintiff claims that in November and December 1994, Augat forced her to travel with Sweeney to Detroit on business. During that time, the Plaintiff alleges that Sweeney told her that he was "so desperate for sex, he would even have it with a black woman." According to the Plaintiff, after those trips, Thomas and Foster told the Plaintiff that she could not sue Augat. The Plaintiff claims that in February 1995 Kohlman told the Plaintiff that the only reason Abelman ever spoke to her was that he believed that the Plaintiff had a potential legal action.
Although Augat investigated Sweeney's alleged misconduct, according to the Plaintiff, his misconduct continued. The Plaintiff claims that on February 27, 1995 Sweeney told the Plaintiff that "I will write your damn ass up." According to the Plaintiff, Sweeney did not do so because he had no reason to discipline her. The Plaintiff also claims that on March 17, 1995 Sweeney told the Plaintiff, "You forgot to put [the purchase order] on [the load sheet] you bozo."
C. Post-Filing of EEOC Charge
On March 30, 1995, the Plaintiff filed a charge of sex and/or race discrimination and retaliation with the EEOC. According to the Plaintiff, after she filed the EEOC charge, the discrimination and retaliation continued and even escalated. The Plaintiff alleges that on one occasion Kohlman summoned her to his office where he harassed her. The Plaintiff claims that because of certain mechanical parts were unavailable for shipment, Kohlman told her, "I am going to bust your God damn ass. I am going to give you something to go tell Ken Thomas and Jack Foster because I am going to bust your ass and you are going to have something to tell them because I am going to bust your God damn ass." The Plaintiff asserts that she was not at fault for this botched shipment and that Kohlman knew this. At the meeting when the Plaintiff told Kohlman that she was not responsible for the botched shipment, the Plaintiff claims that Kohlman responded, "I don't want to hear none of that God damn shit out of you. I don't want to hear no shit about whose fault it was. I'm just going to bust your ass, I'm giving you fair warning right now, your ass is busted." As a result of that conversation, the Plaintiff alleges that she became emotionally distraught.
On May 8, 1995, the Plaintiff claims that Sweeney, against the Plaintiff's wishes, entered her vehicle as she was driving away
The Plaintiff claims that, as a result of her opposition to such treatment and her EEOC charge, the retaliation against her escalated. In mid- to late-May 1995, the Plaintiff was transferred to a position in the manufacturing plant. According to the Plaintiff, the plant was noisy and dusty, making the environment less desirable to work in compared to the customer service department. Furthermore, the Plaintiff claims that she was stripped of most duties at the plant. At the plant, the Plaintiff alleges that she was closely watched and documented. The Plaintiff claims that on several occasions she asked to be reinstated as a Customer Service Representative, but Augat denied her requests.
After being laid off for two weeks, the Plaintiff returned to Augat. The Plaintiff claims that her new supervisor, Allen Head ("Head"), yelled and screamed at her that he had not told her to be on layoff. However, the Plaintiff asserts that Head knew about her layoff at the time it occurred, and that Augat approved of the layoff. The Plaintiff alleges that when she confronted Head, he yelled at her, exclaiming that her eye looked infected and contagious, and ordered her to leave the premises and not return without a doctor's note. The Plaintiff claims that although she told Head that she had been to an opthamologist, he insisted on humiliating her in front of her co-workers and in sending her home.
D. Injuries Claimed
The Plaintiff alleges that, as a consequence of the intense and continued harassment and retaliation, she suffered serious psychological and medical problems requiring her to take a leave of absence from Augat. During her leave, she was treated by a medical doctor and by a psychologist. The Plaintiff claims that her condition was so serious that the psychologist told her that it would cause total incapacity if left untreated. The Plaintiff alleges that, while on leave, Augat continued to harass her by attempting to get her to come to the plant to sign papers relating to her leave, even though other employees, in similar situations, were not required to do so. Furthermore, the Plaintiff maintains that such harassment occurred after Augat had agreed to send the papers to her.
In September 1995, Augat ordered the Plaintiff to return to work. The Plaintiff alleges that she attempted to return but Augat refused to reinstate her as a Customer Service Representative. According to the Plaintiff, Augat made it clear that she would not be able to return to that position and that this position had been permanently filled. The Plaintiff claims that Augat's attitude and actions remained hostile toward the Plaintiff. As a result, the Plaintiff alleges that she was unable to return to Augat "because her health would not withstand the stress and intimidation."
The Plaintiff believes that all of the adverse treatment that she received by Augat is based on her race and/or sex and that it is in retaliation for opposing discriminatory treatment and for filing an EEOC charge. According to the Plaintiff, she was denied training, transfers, and promotions, and was subjected to sexual and racial harassment and a hostile work environment during her entire period of employment at Augat. The Plaintiff asserts that she always performed her job at Augat in a more than satisfactory manner. The Plaintiff claims that as a direct result of the hostile work environment created by the Defendants, she suffered tremendous stress and anxiety. The Plaintiff also claims that she suffered damage to her career, embarrassment, emotional distress, and damage to her psychological well-being.
"Federal district courts have applied a `fairly restrictive standard in ruling on motions for judgment on the pleadings.'" Bryan Ashley Int'l. Inc. v. Shelby Williams Indus., Inc.,
SECTION 1981 AND TITLE VII CLAIMS
A. Augat Contends that Counts One, Two, and Three are Limited to Matters Arising Within 180 Days of the Filing of the Plaintiff's EEOC Charge
Title VII requires an individual to file a timely charge with the EEOC before pursuing a statutory claim in court. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). A charge is timely if it is filed within 180 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred. Id. Failure to file before this time elapses requires the court to dismiss a subsequent lawsuit as untimely. See, e.g., Delaware State College v. Ricks,
There is an exception to the 180-day filing requirement, however, where the actions by an employer are part of a pattern of discrimination such that they constitute a continuing violation. Under this doctrine, actions that took place more than 180 days prior to an EEOC filing may, in some instances, be included in the plaintiff's claim. Calloway v. Partners Nat'l Health Plans,
In Beavers v. American Cast Iron Pipe Co.,
In this case, the Plaintiff filed her claim with the EEOC on March 30, 1995. Although most of the alleged events occurred outside of the 180-day period, this observation overlooks facts representing a hostile work environment. The pleadings establish that beginning in 1991, when Augat purchased National Industries, Sweeney directed lewd and demeaning remarks, sexual advances, and patently offensive behavior at the Plaintiff, continuing until September 1995 when the Plaintiff was allegedly constructively discharged. The connection between these alleged incidents is sufficient at this stage of the litigation to be considered an ongoing pattern of racial discrimination and sexual harassment by Augat, constituting a hostile work environment. See, e.g., Saville v. Houston County Healthcare Auth.,
Augat Contends that Count Four is Limited, in Part, by the Statute of Limitations
In Count Four, the Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants unlawfully discriminated against her in the terms and conditions of her employment on the basis of her race, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Augat contends that the § 1981 claim in Count Four is limited, in part, by the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations for § 1981 actions is determined by applying the state statute of limitations for personal injury claims. Goodman v. Lukens Steel Co.,
In this case, the Plaintiff did not file her Complaint until February 8, 1996. Based on the above discussion of Counts One, Two, and Three, the court concludes that a reasonable jury could find that the Plaintiff's allegations, if shown to violate § 1981, constitute a continuing violation based upon a hostile work environment. As stated, it is for the jury to decide when the alleged hostile work environment ended. Accordingly, Augat's Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings is due to be DENIED on this claim against the Defendants.
Augat Contends that Count Five is Not Within the Purview of § 1981
In Count Five, the Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants systematically retaliated against her, culminating in her discharge, because she opposed the Defendants' practices of discrimination and harassment, because she filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and because she participated in an investigation of the Defendants' alleged misconduct, all in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Augat contends that the Plaintiff's § 1981 claim for retaliation should not encompass an allegation of retaliation for the filing of EEOC charges, and should be limited to a claim for retaliatory discharge for the Plaintiff's opposition to discrimination.
Section 1981 provides that all persons "shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts ... as is enjoyed by white citizens...." 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a). In Patterson v. McLean Credit Union,
On November 21, 1991, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1991 ("the Act"), Pub.L. No. 102-166, 105 Stat. 1071 (1991). In response to Patterson, the Act amended § 1981, Rivers v. Roadway Express, Inc.,
Id. at 1546, n. 2 (citing Patterson, 491 U.S. at 170-71, 109 S.Ct. at 2369-70). As a result, Augat argues that because Patterson did not rule on whether retaliation claims were actionable under § 1981, Congress could not have intended to overrule a supposed-Patterson prohibition on such claims. Augat further argues that lower courts' pre-Patterson prohibitions on retaliation claims under § 1981, see, e.g., Sherman v. Burke Contracting, Inc.,
Under the plain language of § 1981(b), § 1981 applies to discriminatory acts occurring in the performance of contracts, and is not restricted to discriminatory acts that result in changes to the contractual relationship. Although § 1981(b) does not directly state that retaliation claims are actionable under § 1981, the legislative purpose of § 1981(b) clearly evinces that Congress intended such claims to be actionable under § 1981. The express purpose of the Act is, inter alia, "to provide appropriate remedies for intentional discrimination and unlawful harassment in the workplace," and "to respond to recent decisions of the Supreme Court by expanding the scope of relevant civil rights statutes in order to provide adequate protection to victims of discrimination." Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub.L. No. 102-166, §§ 3(1) and (4), 105 Stat. 1071 (1991).
Section 1981(b)'s legislative history also indicates that retaliation claims for filing EEOC charges are actionable under § 1981. Congress legislatively overruled Patterson. Jones, 977 F.2d at 534. Even assuming, as Augat insists, that Patterson does not specifically prohibit retaliation claims under § 1981, Congress still intended to make retaliation claims actionable under § 1981. The House Committee on Education and Labor ("the Committee"), the committee to whom the bill to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was assigned, stated that
H.R.Rep. No. 40(I), 102d Cong., 1st Sess. 92 (1991), reprinted in 1991 U.S.C.C.A.N. 549, 630 (emphasis added). The fact that the Committee listed "discharge" along with "retaliation" shows that Congress intended to make not only retaliatory discharge but also retaliation in general actionable under § 1981. In particular, the Committee Report indicates that Congress clearly intended § 1981(b) to encompass retaliation against an employee for filing EEOC charges:
H.R.Rep. No. 40(I), 102d Cong., 1st Sess. 92 n. 92 (1991), reprinted in 1991 U.S.C.C.A.N. 549, 630. Importantly, this quotation states that the Act overrules not only Patterson but also Sherman, the Eleventh Circuit case that Augat primarily relies on in contending that retaliation claims for filing EEOC charges are not actionable under § 1981.
In addition to § 1981(b)'s plain language, legislative purpose, and legislative history, case law reinforces the interpretation that retaliation claims for filing EEOC charges are actionable under § 1981. Recently, the Eleventh Circuit summarily affirmed Cabiness v. YKK (USA), Inc.,
Similarly, other courts that have interpreted § 1981(b) overwhelmingly indicate that retaliation claims are actionable under § 1981. See, e.g., Steverson v. Goldstein,
Accordingly, the Augat's Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings is due to be DENIED on this claim.
STATE LAW CLAIMS
A. Intentional Tort Claims
As Sweeney's employer, Augat can be held liable only if: (1) Sweeney's "wrongful acts were done in the line and scope of his employment" with Augat; (2) Sweeney's "acts were in furtherance of the business" of Augat; or (3) Augat "participated in, authorized, or ratified the wrongful acts." See Joyner v. AAA Cooper Transp.,
Potts v. BE & K Constr. Co.,
The Plaintiff claims that Augat is vicariously liable for Sweeney's alleged assault and battery because Sweeney's acts were within the line and scope of his employment at Augat. The Plaintiff also claims that Augat is directly liable for ratifying all of Sweeney's alleged intentional torts as well as torts committed by other Augat employees. To prove employer ratification in Alabama,
Potts, 604 So.2d at 400.
1. Augat Contends that Count Six Does Not State a Claim for Invasion of Privacy
In Count Six, the Plaintiff claims that the Defendants violated her right to privacy under
a. The Claim for Invasion of Privacy
In Alabama, there are four acts that constitute an invasion of privacy: "(1) the intrusion upon the plaintiff's physical solitude or seclusion; (2) publicity which violates the ordinary decencies; (3) putting the plaintiff in a false but not necessarily defamatory position in the public eye; and (4) the appropriation of some element of the plaintiff's personality for a commercial use." Phillips v. Smalley Maintenance Servs., Inc.,
The pleadings establish the following facts that the Plaintiff contends amount to an invasion of her privacy by the Defendants. These facts include Sweeney's continual sexist, racial, and otherwise demeaning and profane statements directed toward the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff claims, for example, that Sweeney told her, while she was pregnant, that she should have her legs sewn together. The Plaintiff also claims that Sweeney told her that he was "so desperate for sex, he would even have it with a black woman." Furthermore, the Plaintiff alleges that Sweeney entered her vehicle, against her wishes, and proceeded to curse at and harass her.
Augat contends that the only fact pleaded by the Plaintiff that is potentially applicable to a claim of invasion of privacy is Sweeney's one statement regarding his desire for biracial sex. In support of its contention, Augat cites Moman v. Gregerson's Foods, Inc.,
Augat insists that the Alabama Supreme Court, in Moman, held that foul language or sexual touching normally do not sustain a claim for invasion of privacy. Augat's interpretation of Moman, however, is strongly misleading. In Moman, the plaintiff sued her former supervisor and employer, a corporation, for, inter alia, invasion of her privacy. The corporation filed a motion for summary judgment only on the plaintiff's claim against it, and not for the claim against the supervisor. The Alabama Supreme Court, in Moman, never addressed whether the supervisor invaded the plaintiff's privacy. Instead, the court only discussed whether the corporation itself was liable for ratifying the supervisor's alleged misconduct; the court held that the corporation did not ratify the supervisor's alleged misconduct because it lacked knowledge of that conduct. In contrast to Augat's insinuations, the court never held that the supervisor's alleged profanity and sexual touching did not state a claim for invasion of privacy.
In the other case that Augat cites, McIsaac, the Alabama Supreme Court held that several requests by an employer for an employee to have dinner with him, to kiss him, or to have an affair with him does not support a claim for invasion of privacy. Unlike the defendant in McIsaac, however, the pleadings establish that Sweeney did not merely make sexual advances toward the Plaintiff but, instead, persisted in conduct that created a hostile work environment.
b. The Claim Against Augat
The Plaintiff claims that Augat ratified the alleged invasion of privacy by Sweeney and other Augat employees. As an employer, liability against Augat for invasion of privacy is dependant first upon a finding that Sweeney or other Augat employees committed invasion of privacy. As such, this court will assume for purposes of the claim against Augat that Sweeney or other Augat employees committed such tortious conduct. In this case, the pleaded facts do not indicate that the alleged tortious conduct by Sweeney and other Augat employees were within the line and scope of their employment or in furtherance of Augat's business. Therefore, the question for the court is whether Augat participated in, authorized, or ratified the alleged tortious conduct of Sweeney or its other employees, and is directly liable.
Augat seems to argue that it lacked actual knowledge of its employees' alleged invasion of the Plaintiff's privacy. Augat cites Moman in contending that more than two other persons beside the victim need to inform a tortfeasor's employer about the tortfeasor's conduct. Moman, however, does not state anything remotely close to such a contention. Importantly, in Moman, the plaintiff never informed any management personnel of the tortfeasor's conduct. The Moman plaintiff argued that the tortfeasor's employer ratified the tortfeasor's alleged misconduct because, inter alia, two other employees had complained about the tortfeasor's alleged misconduct directed at them, and not at the plaintiff. The court found no evidence that anyone in management knew of the tortfeasor's alleged misconduct toward the plaintiff.
In contrast, the Plaintiff's Complaint establishes that she reported Sweeney's tortious conduct to top-management personnel at Augat on several occasions. Significantly, Augat does not contend that it did not know of Sweeney's alleged misconduct directed at the Plaintiff, but instead seems to contend that there needs to be more than two other persons also complaining about Sweeney's alleged misconduct in order to be extra sure that Augat knew about Sweeney's alleged misconduct. This court disagrees and finds that the Plaintiff's pleaded facts establish that Augat knew of Sweeney alleged invasion of the Plaintiff's privacy.
Augat does not address the second or third element of ratification. With respect to the second element, assuming the conduct of Sweeney or other Augat employees constituted an invasion of the Plaintiff's privacy, because of the many complaints directed at Augat's top-management personnel, at the very least, Augat should have known that such conduct constituted a continuing tort. In discussing the third element, the Alabama Supreme Court stated that "[E]vidence that an employer, after learning of the tortious conduct, failed to stop the tortious conduct of the offending employee presents a question of fact, unique under the circumstances of each case, as to whether the steps taken to stop the conduct were adequate." Potts, 604 So.2d at 401. The Plaintiff's Complaint establishes that after the Plaintiff reported Sweeney's tortious conduct to Augat's top-management personnel, "Augat conducted a so-called `investigation' of [the P]laintiff's
2. Augat Contends that It is Not Liable for Assault and Battery in Count Ten
In Count Ten, the Plaintiff claims that the Defendants committed assault and battery against her under Alabama law. Augat contends that the Plaintiff fails to state a claim for vicarious liability against Augat.
a. The Claim of Assault and Battery
Under Alabama law, an assault and battery consists of the "touching by one person of the person of another in rudeness or anger." Whitlow v. Bruno's, Inc.,
Surrency v. Harbison,
The pleadings establish that, while the Plaintiff was employed at Augat, and on Augat's premises, Sweeney entered the Plaintiff's vehicle, against her wishes, and placed his hand on the Plaintiff in a rude and angry manner. The pleadings further establish that, as a result, the Plaintiff's leg was scratched and she was physically bruised. As pleaded, a jury could reasonably find that these facts constitute the tort of assault and battery by Sweeney. Accordingly, Augat's motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings is due to be DENIED on the basis that the Complaint fails to state a claim.
b. The Claim Against Augat
The Plaintiff claims that Augat ratified Sweeney's alleged assault and battery. For purposes of this claim against Augat, this court will assume that Sweeney committed assault and battery. The Plaintiff asserts that the assault and battery is part of a general pattern of retaliation that occurred both before and after the assault and battery, and that this pattern constitutes Augat's ratification or encouragement of Sweeney's assault and battery. This court disagrees, because the assault and battery is the basis of this ratification claim and is separate from other tortious conduct that is the basis of other claims. See, e.g., Saville, 852 F.Supp. at 1542 n. 37 (denying summary judgment by institutional defendants on invasion of privacy claim but granting summary judgment on assault and battery claim). In this case, it is undisputed that after Sweeney was counseled by Augat, he did not assault or batter the Plaintiff again. As such, Sweeney's alleged assault and battery was not a continuing tort. This court thus finds that Augat did not ratify Sweeney's alleged assault and battery, and is not directly liable for such misconduct.
The Plaintiff also claims that Sweeney's alleged misconduct was within the line and scope of his employment at Augat. The Alabama Supreme Court stated that the determination of whether certain conduct of an employee is within the line and scope of his or her employment depends upon "`the service in which the employee is engaged.'" Doe v. Swift,
Based on the pleadings, however, it is unclear whether Sweeney's alleged assault and battery, which related to Sweeney's anger that the Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge, was motivated solely for personal reasons. The Alabama Supreme Court stated that
Hudson v. Muller,
3. Augat Contends that It is Not Liable for Outrageous Conduct in Count Eleven
In Count Eleven, the Plaintiff claims that the Defendants committed the tort of outrageous conduct against the Plaintiff. Augat contends that it is not liable for such conduct.
a. The Conduct
To recover under the tort of outrageous conduct
Surrency, 489 So.2d at 1105-06 (internal quotation marks omitted). In fact, the Alabama Supreme Court recently observed that in the twelve years since Inmon was decided, the court found outrageous conduct as a matter
Although the tort of outrageous conduct is narrow, a question of fact exists as to whether Sweeney's alleged racial discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment constitute outrageous conduct and whether the Plaintiff suffered "emotional distress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it." The facts complained of by the Plaintiff seem to fall between conduct recognized in Alabama as sufficient to state a claim for outrageous conduct and conduct that fails to state such a claim. Compare Busby, 551 So.2d at 324 (stating, in dicta,
b. The Claim Against Augat
The Plaintiff claims that Augat ratified the alleged outrageous conduct of Sweeney and other Augat employees. For purposes of this claim against Augat, the court will assume that Sweeney or other Augat employees committed outrageous conduct. The pleaded facts do not indicate that the alleged tortious conduct by Sweeney and other Augat employees were within the line and scope of their employment or in furtherance of Augat's business. Therefore, the question
The Plaintiff's pleaded facts establish that Augat knew of the alleged outrageous conduct of Sweeney and other Augat employees. Assuming the alleged conduct amounted to outrageous conduct, because of the many complaints on several occasions directed to Augat's top-management personnel, at the very least, Augat should have known that such conduct constituted sexual harassment and/or a continuing tort. Based on the pleadings, after the Plaintiff reported the alleged tortious conduct of Sweeney and other Augat employees to Augat's top-management personnel, Augat investigated the Plaintiff's complaints, interviewed other employees, and acknowledged that the Plaintiff's complaints were valid. However, the pleaded facts establish that no effective action was taken to remedy the problem. Even after Augat learned of the alleged tortious conduct of Sweeney and other Augat employees, the pleadings establish that the Plaintiff was subjected to continued harassment and hostility by Sweeney and other Augat employees and was constructively discharged for discriminatory and retaliatory reasons. As such, the pleadings establish facts that amount to inadequate remedial action by Augat. Accordingly, Augat's Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings is due to be DENIED on this claim against Augat.
B. Augat Contends that It is Not Liable for Negligent Supervision and Retention in Counts Eight and Nine
1. Augat's Contentions
In Counts Eight and Nine, the Plaintiff claims that Augat negligently supervised and retained Sweeney, resulting in injury to the Plaintiff. Augat contends that the exclusivity provision, § 25-5-53 of the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act ("AWCA"), Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-1 et seq., bars the negligent supervision and negligent retention claims.
Section 25-5-53 only applies to injuries subject to the AWCA. See, e.g., Lowman v. Piedmont Executive Shirt Mfg. Co.,
The exclusivity provision of § 25-5-53 is an affirmative defense to employer liability under the AWCA. Baptist Memorial Hosp. v. Gosa, No. 195016, 1996 WL 506231, at *2, ___ So.2d ___, ___ (Ala. Sept. 6, 1996). Section 25-5-53 provides, in part, that
§ 25-5-53 (emphasis added).
The Alabama Supreme Court held that harassment and extreme verbal abuse are "purely psychological injuries" and are not barred by § 25-5-53. Busby, 551 So.2d at 325. The pleaded facts establish that the alleged harassment and retaliation do not constitute "injury" as defined by § 25-5-1(9) because such conduct resulted in mental anguish "that has neither been produced nor proximately caused by some physical injury to the body." As such, the negligent supervision and retaliation claims, to the extent they are based upon harassment and retaliation allegations, are not barred by § 25-5-53.
With respect to the assault and battery allegations as bases for the negligent supervision and retention claims, it is questionable whether the scratch and bruises allegedly suffered by the Plaintiff constitute sufficient "physical injury" to her body to be covered under the AWCA. Citing non-Alabama case law, one commentator explained the nature of physical injury compared to non-physical injury as follows:
2A Arthur Larson, The Law of Workmen's Compensation Law § 68.34(a), at 13-180 (1995) (original emphasis). Moreover, in Ritter v. Allied Chem. Corp.,
2. Negligent Supervision Claim
In Alabama, to recover against an employer under the theory of negligent supervision, a plaintiff first must show "by affirmative proof that the alleged incompetence of the employee was actually known to the employer or was discoverable by the employer if it had exercised care and proper diligence." Ledbetter v. United Am. Ins. Co.,
As an employer, Augat had a duty to reasonably supervise its employees. The facts in the pleadings establish that Sweeney was an incompetent employee. The pleadings further establish that his alleged misconduct was known or discoverable had Augat exercised due and proper diligence. The Plaintiff alleges that when her complaints concerning Sweeney's conduct finally led to an investigation by Augat, no effective remedial action was taken. Instead, the Plaintiff claims that the harassment and retaliation continued and escalated until the time of the Plaintiffs constructive discharge. Based on these pleaded facts, Augat did not exercise reasonable care in supervising Sweeney, proximately causing the Plaintiff mental anguish and ultimately leading to her constructive discharge. Accordingly, Augat's motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings is due to be DENIED on this claim against Augat.
3. Negligent Retention Claim
The Alabama Supreme Court has held that an employer "must use due care to avoid the ... retention of an employee whom [the employer] knows or should know is a person unworthy, by habits, temperament, or nature, to deal with the persons invited to the premises by the employer." Brown v. Vanity Fair Mills, Inc., 291 Ala. 80,
Augat, as an employer, had a duty to Patterson, an invitee on Augat's premises, not to unreasonably retain unworthy employees. See, e.g., Lawson v. Williams,
For the foregoing reasons, Augat's Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings is due to be and is hereby DENIED.
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