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Holmes v. North Texas Health Care Laundry Cooperative Association

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

January 18, 2018




         Before the court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 72), filed November 18, 2016. After careful consideration of the motion, response, reply, appendixes, record, and applicable law, the court grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 72).

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This case arises out of the employment of Plaintiff Christina Holmes (“Plaintiff” or “Holmes”) by Defendant North Texas Health Care Laundry Cooperative Association, d/b/a North Texas Health Care Laundry (“NTHCL” or “Defendant”). Holmes alleges that shortly after she began working at NTHCL she was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances by David Hernandez (“Hernandez”), NTHCL's general manager, culminating in numerous sexual encounters over the course of several months. Holmes commenced this action on June 23, 2015, asserting federal claims against NTHCL for sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), as well as state law claims of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery, assault, gross negligence, and negligent investigation. She seeks compensatory and exemplary damages, as well as prejudgment and postjudgment interest, attorney's fees, and costs. NTHCL has filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that no genuine disputes of material fact exist with respect to Holmes's asserted claims, and that it is, therefore, entitled to entry of judgment as a matter of law. NTHCL also seeks summary judgment on its Ellerth/Faragher[1] affirmative defense with respect to Holmes's Title VII claims. The court now sets forth the facts upon which it relies to resolve the summary judgment motion. In setting forth the facts, the court applies the summary judgment standard as set forth in the following section. The facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted.

         NTHCL is a specialty laundry service based in Grand Prairie, Texas, and provides clean linens to numerous hospitals and clinics in Texas. Foussard Montague Associates, Inc. (“FMA”), NTHCL's management company, provides it with a general manager to work out of its Grand Prairie facility. At all relevant times, Hernandez held the general manager position at NTHCL and was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the facility.

         On July 15, 2013, NTHCL hired Holmes to work as a customer service representative. On her first day, Holmes met with Mary Khan (“Khan”), NTHCL's human resources manager, to review and complete her employee paperwork and review safety videos. As part of her orientation that day, Holmes received a copy of NTHCL's Employee Handbook “outlin[ing] the policies and work rules of the company and [her] responsibilities as an employee.” Def.'s Summ. J. App. 46. Together, Holmes and Khan reviewed portions of the Employee Handbook. Holmes also signed an acknowledgment page confirming that she received the Employee Notebook and would read it. Id. at 46.[2] The Employee Handbook contains a “Policy Against Harassment, ” which provides:

North Texas Health Care Laundry Cooperative Association is committed to providing a work place that is free of unlawful discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, age or citizenship. Unlawful harassment, including that of a sexual nature, is also prohibited. Sexual harassment is strictly prohibited. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favor, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute[] sexual harassment when submission to such conduct is either explicitly or implicitly made a condition of employment, used as a basis for employment decisions, or has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with work performance or creates a hostile atmosphere.
Employment means anything that affects the employment relationship. Examples include promotions, disciplinary actions and work assignments. Sexual harassment also includes, but is not limited to, unsolicited and unwelcome sexually related comments or jokes, touching, art work, magazines or calendars. If you believe you have been sexually harassed, you are expected to report it promptly to your manager or supervisor or General Manager.
An investigation will follow. Any warranted corrective action will be taken. Retaliation against any employee who has reported a sexual harassment complaint is strictly prohibited.

Id. at 44-45.

         Initially, Holmes was supervised by Jake McCuiston (“McCuiston”), NTHCL's Customer Service Manager. In or around September 2013, McCuiston found another job and tendered his resignation. FMA made the decision to transfer another NTHCL employee, Will Chavez (“Chavez”), into the Customer Service Manager position, and he became Holmes's direct supervisor.

         In or around October 2013, Holmes and Hernandez began exchanging text and e-mail messages of an informal nature using their work e-mail accounts. Beginning in March 2014, e-mail and text messages became more frequent and more personal. On March 12, 2014, for example, Holmes sent Hernandez a text message containing a link to “Gorilla, ” a sexually graphic song by Bruno Mars. Id. at 544.[3] Holmes also referenced romantic songs in her communications with Hernandez, such as “All of Me” by John Legend, [4] stating her belief that “every verse of that song applies to us.” Id. at 116.

         At around this time, Holmes and Hernandez began to use private g-mail accounts to communicate with each other, rather than their work e-mails. Holmes created her own g-mail account under the name “, ” which she only used for purposes of communicating with Hernandez. Id. at 5. On March 13, 2014, Holmes sent a g-mail message to Hernandez at his g-mail address, “, ” stating “I am incredibly attracted to you. I don't know what it is. I feel safe when I am around you but you also make me feel sexy. I haven't felt that way, ever.” Id. at 56.

         After this e-mail, Holmes and Hernandez exchanged hundreds of e-mails, many of which were sexually graphic and lascivious in nature, many initiated by Holmes, others initiated by Hernandez, and many in which Holmes stated that she missed Hernandez, wanted to be with him, and loved him. See Id. at 70, 81-381. Among the hundreds of e-mails are the following excerpts authored by Holmes and sent to Hernandez:

• March 13, 2014
I look forward to each morning that I get to see you and don't want this time with you to end. You have turned me into a teenager again, and I am all giddy and happy now. I try not to show it because I don't want anyone to suspect anything, but it is oh so hard to contain my feelings. My favorite is doggy style. I want you to be in control, that's what I like. I am not a big fan of oral, has to do with my messed up head (part of my story that has yet to be told). My fantasy have [sic] never been very interesting, until recently. Now it's you.

Id. at 84.

• March 16, 2014:
First time I thought of you while pleasuring myself was when I stayed in Temple the first time for the transition. . . . .
It was the first time I thought about us in detail. You knocked on my door, walked in, and started kissing me. I pulled you by your tie and you lifted my skirt. I was sitting on the desk when I felt you inside me. We made it to the bed and I was riding you. You finish...

Id. at 130.

• March 20, 2014:
And I want you. I am sitting in a hot bath thinking of you. I want to play with my p***y but I know it couldn't feel even remotely close to you eating or f**king it. Damn it I want your c**k inside me morning and night.

Id. at 159.

• March 22, 2014:
I am sitting in a bubble bath right now. I am so wet right now, and I don't mean from the water. I wish you were sitting behind me while I hold you [sic] c**k. I am sliding my left hand down to my wet p***y. Now I am gently caressing between my lips. Mmmmmm.... You do this much better. I don't know how you are so in tune with my body. More so than me. How do you do that?

Id. at 192.

• March 24, 2014:
I love when you have my back, and my front, and when I am sitting on you. I like that I can feel you inside me even when I am not with you. Each time I think about it I can feel you hitting my spot deep inside. You are so good and I cant [sic] get enough.

Id. at 199.

• March 28, 2014:
Then you flip me around by grabbing my hair and thrust all 9 inches of your rock hard c**k into my wet p***y and instantly make me cum again. Over and over. Then I ride your c**k, while you hold onto my high heels, until I make you cum.

Id. at 233. These e-mails are just examples of the voluminous e-mails exchanged by Holmes and Hernandez between March 2014 and the beginning of May 2014, that are sexually graphic.

         Holmes also sent e-mail messages to Hernandez stating that she did not want their relationship to end. For example, she e-mailed him and said: “I am so thankful I have found you and you have found me to bring my emotions alive. I love this feeling. I don't ever want it to stop[]”; and “I will have this memory locked away for the rest of my life. It is such a sexy and intimate memory. I want more. I thought I was addicted before, now I don't even know how to describe it[.]” Id. at 84, 119, 135, 166. Holmes also sent Hernandez photos of herself. Id. at 259, 261.

         In addition to these e-mails, Holmes informed Hernandez in many other e-mails that she missed him, wanted to be with him, and loved him. Id. at 86, 101, 111, 145, 156, 159, 162, 179, 180, 185, 200-03, 212-13, 215, 221, 227, 241, 244, 273, 276-77. Some examples are the following e-mails sent by Holmes to Hernandez:

• March 15, 2014
When he [sic] is gone, I am checking this email like crazy! I can't wait to see you [sic] have to say. I can't wait for any and every opportunity to communicate and think about you.

         Id. at 107.

• March 16, 2014
I cherish every minute I have with you and I don't want it to end.

Id. at 116.

• March 19, 2014
I would live [sic] to be able to run into your arms every night. I would be the happiest girl in the world . . . I can't wait to see you tonight, until then You will be on my mind. ...

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