United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge
LeBlanc (“LeBlanc”) and Laressa B. Brantley
“Plaintiffs”) sue their former employer, Sunset
Management, Inc. (“Sunset”), and their former
supervisor, Wayne Greene (“Greene”) (collectively
“Defendants”). Plaintiffs allege claims of (1)
wrongful discharge; (2) sexual harassment and retaliation
pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), (3)
and intentional infliction of emotional distress
(“IIED”). [ECF No. 1-1]. Pursuant to the
parties' consent to proceed before the undersigned [ECF
No. 9] and their request to consolidate [ECF No. 10], the
cases were referred to the undersigned for a final order [ECF
No. 11] and consolidated for pretrial proceedings [ECF No.
was hired by Sunset in October 2013 as an assistant branch
manager in Sunset's Sumter, South Carolina branch.
LeBlanc Complaint ¶ 7. When LeBlanc joined the branch,
she worked with Greene, the branch manager; Greene's
wife, Brenda (“Brenda”), who was an assistant
branch manager; and Brenda's sister, Kathy Thompson,
another assistant branch manager. LeBlanc Dep. at
41:15-19:1. When Thompson left her position, Sunset
hired Brantley in February 2014. Brantley Compl. ¶ 7.
and LeBlanc both suffered sexual harassment by Greene during
their employment at Sunset. LeBlanc Aff. ¶ 5; Brantley
Aff. ¶ 5. Both Plaintiffs stated in their affidavits
that Greene placed his hands on their thighs and ran his hand
up their legs. Id. at ¶ 6. Greene often pulled
Brantley and LeBlanc to him and kissed them on the neck,
cheek, and face. Id. at ¶ 7. Greene also placed
his hand down Brantley's shirt. Id. Greene
forced Brantley and LeBlanc to model their work clothes and
would make lewd comments about their appearance. Id.
at ¶¶ 8, 9. On one occasion, Greene commented about
the shapeliness of LeBlanc's backside while she was
wearing a green pantsuit. LeBlanc Aff. ¶ 10. Greene also
stated that Brantley's legs went all the way to heaven.
Brantley Aff. ¶ 10.
was supervised by James Maas (“Maas”),
Sunset's South Carolina regional supervisor. Plaintiffs
had regular conflict with Greene and Brenda, about which they
regularly complained to Maas. Specifically, Plaintiffs
complained about Greene's and Brenda's work habits,
management styles, and harsh communication styles. Maas. Aff.
¶ 6-7; Brantley Dep. at 221:12-23. Maas also stated
that he reprimanded Greene once when it was reported to him
that Greene had told Brantley that her Harley Davidson riding
boots looked “butch.” Maas Aff. ¶ 15.
Maas's reprimand included instructions that Greene not
make such comments anymore. Id. Maas states that he
was not made aware of any additional comments following the
reprimand of Greene. Plaintiffs claim they complained to Maas
of Greene's sexual harassment in July 2014. LeBlanc Aff.
¶ 12; Brantley Aff. ¶ 13. Maas states Plaintiffs
never complained to him about any sexual harassment. Maas
Aff. ¶ 14.
2014, Greene required surgery, and he left Brenda in charge
of the branch. LeBlanc Dep. 63:25-64:2. On Thursday, July 17,
2014, Brenda and Brantley had a conflict over Brantley's
work, and Brenda instructed Brantley to leave. LeBlanc Dep.
186:4-16. When LeBlanc questioned Brenda's decision to
instruct Brantley to leave, Brenda told LeBlanc to call Maas.
LeBlanc Dep. 63:16-66:20. LeBlanc called Maas, who spoke with
Brenda and Brenda resigned on the phone with Maas. Brenda did
not report to work the following day, Friday, July 18, when
Maas met with Plaintiffs at the branch. LeBlanc Dep. 68:7-19.
Maas changed the locks and removed Brenda's name from the
bank account and replaced it with Brantley's.
Id. According to LeBlanc, Maas told Plaintiffs to
keep up the good work and informed them that he was leaving
for vacation. Id. Maas did not return from vacation
until July 28, 2014. Maas Aff. ¶ 11.
to Maas, in the intervening period before he returned from
vacation, Lee Knight, Vice President of Sunset, learned of
the altercation and Brenda's resignation, met with
Plaintiffs, and terminated their employment. LeBlanc Dep.
38:10-18. According to Knight, Sunset accepted Brenda's
resignation and decided to staff the Sumter branch with new
employees who Sunset hoped could work together as a team.
Knight Aff. ¶¶ 10-12. Knight and Maas stated they
did not learn of Plaintiff's complaints of sexual
harassment until they received notice of their filed charges
of discrimination from the EEOC, long after Plaintiffs were
no longer employed by Sunset. Knight Aff. ¶
Maas Aff. ¶ 16. Knight and Maas state that Maas had no
involvement in Knight's decision to terminate Plaintiffs.
Knight Aff. ¶ 13; Maas Aff. ¶13. Knight states it
was exclusively his own decision to terminate Plaintiffs
because the performance of the Sumter branch was “going
in the wrong direction” and Plaintiffs had acted
“unprofessionally” and not as “team
players.” Knight Aff. ¶ 10. Plaintiffs also note
that termination decision was Knight's and not
Maas's. Brantley Dep. 219:4-220:7.
Standard on Summary Judgment
court shall grant summary judgment “if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of
demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate; if the
movant carries its burden, then the burden shifts to the
non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If a movant
asserts that a fact cannot be disputed, it must support that
assertion either by “citing to particular parts of
materials in the record, including depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes
of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or
other materials;” or “showing . . . that an
adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support
the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).
considering a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of
the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable
inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes over facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual
disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be
counted.” Id. at 248.