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Haug v. A&A Gaming LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

November 7, 2016

CHRISTINE HAUG Plaintiff,
v.
A&A GAMING, LLC, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge

         Before this Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment brought by Defendants Robert F. Abner and A&A Gaming, LLC (ECF No. 28) ("Defendants' Motion"), the opposition and reply thereto. The Court has reviewed Defendants' Motion, related memoranda, and applicable law. No hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons presented below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.

         I. Factual Background

         Christine Haug ("Plaintiff) began working for A&A Gaming, LLC ("A&A Gaming"), an establishment located in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, as a "cashier/bartender" on or about February 8, 2013. Compl. 3. A&A Gaming is located in the same building as the restaurant Bay Abner, Inc., also known as Abner's Crab House. Abner Dep. 5:21-7:3; O'Donnell Dep. 7:8-10. A&A Gaming employs about ten people and Bay Abner, Inc. employs about twenty five. Abner Dep. 7:15-8:5. While working at A&A Gaming, Plaintiffs supervisors were Bonnie O'Donnell and Shawn[1] Abner ("Shawn"). Def.'s Mot. 3.

         On or about March 28, 2013, while at work, Plaintiff was approached by Robert Abner, owner of both A&A Gaming and Bay Abner, Inc., and the two engaged in conversation. Compl. 3. According to Plaintiff, Mr. Abner commented on Plaintiffs body, stating that "she was slim" and asked whether "she had a drug problem like his wife because she was so slim." Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Abner then whispered in Plaintiffs ear "if she would 'fill in' for his wife" while his wife was out of town. Id. at 4. Plaintiff then allegedly indicated to Mr. Abner that his conduct was inappropriate and unsettling, to which Mr. Abner laughed and walked away. Id.

         A few days later, on or about March 31, 2013, while Plaintiff was outside the establishment on a smoke break, she again conversed with Mr. Abner. Id. at 5. According to Plaintiff, Mr. Abner stated that '"she was a smart girl, and that she would be wise to take him up on his offer to "fill in" for his wife, ' and that he would 'give her whatever she wanted' and 'he would keep her happy.'" Id. at 6. Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Abner then grabbed the back of her head and pulled it towards him and said "that if she wanted her job, she better think about his offer 'to fill in for his wife.'" Id. After Plaintiff pushed Mr. Abner's arm away and walked back inside, Plaintiff claims that he followed her in and asked her how many kids she had. Id. at 7. Plaintiff claims that she told him that she had two children, to which Mr. Abner responded that Plaintiff "knows how to make children and that is what he wants." Id. Plaintiff then became distraught. Id.

         The next day, Plaintiff told Shawn and Ms. O'Donnell about the incident with Mr. Abner. Id. at 7-8. Plaintiff asked that Mr. Abner not be anywhere in the building while she was working, to which Ms. O'Donnell replied that that would not happen because Mr. Abner owned the building "but he said he is willing to apologize." Id. at 9. Ms. O'Donnell also expressed, according to Plaintiff, that Plaintiff should keep her mouth shut because if Mr. Abner's wife found out, "she will kick [Plaintiffs] ass." Id. Ms. O'Donnell then instructed Plaintiff to take a couple of days off. Id. Ms. O'Donnell testified that while Plaintiff was out, she kept Plaintiffs shifts open and that she "definitely wanted [Plaintiff] to come back" to work. Defs.' Mot. 6-7. Plaintiff did not return to work. Id. at 8.

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging three counts: (1) Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-l-17 ("Title VII") based on a "Hostile Work Environment"; (2) Defendants violated Title VII based on "QuidPro Quo Sexual Harassment"; and (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress. Compl. 10-14. This Court dismissed Plaintiffs cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         Defendants filed this Motion for Summary Judgment, alleging that there is no genuine dispute of material facts and Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Specifically, Defendants argue: (1) Plaintiffs allegations do not satisfy the requirements to establish a "hostile work environment"; (2) Plaintiffs allegation do not satisfy the requirements to establish "quidpro quo sexual harassment"; (3) neither named Defendant, Mr. Abner nor A& A Gaming, constitutes an "employer" for purposes of Title VII.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Court must grant summary judgment if "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). A genuine dispute exists where "there is sufficient evidence on which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party." Cox v. Cnty. of Prince William, 249 F.3d 295, 299 (4th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). When deciding summary judgment, the Court "must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, including questions of credibility and of the weight to be accorded particular evidence." Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 501 U.S. 496, 520 (1991) (citation omitted). Summary judgment is not a "disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather [is] an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed 'to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1).

         For the purposes of Defendants' Motion, Defendants rely on Plaintiffs version of events regarding the interactions between Plaintiff and Mr. Abner, explaining that "these disputes do not constitute disputes of material facts for purposes of a summary judgment motion[.]" Defs.' Mot. n.l.

         III. Analysis

         A. A&A Gaming constitutes an "employer" for purposes of Title VII.

         Defendants argue that neither Mr. Abner nor A&A Gaming constitute an "employer" under Title VII. Plaintiff "concedes that Title VII does not apply to individuals and concedes that the action should be dismissed against Robert Abner in his individual capacity." PL's Opp'n 16; see Papanicolas v. Project Execution & Control Consulting, LLC, 151 F.Supp.3d 628, 630 (D. Md. 2015) ("Title VII expressly does not apply to individuals, nor to entities that do not meet the applicable threshold number of employees."). Plaintiff maintains that A&A Gaming is an employer for purposes of Title VII.

         Title VII requires that an "employer" be defined as one who is "engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year . . . ." 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e(b). An employer with fewer than fifteen employees "does not satisfy Title VIFs statutory definition of employer and, therefore, is not subject to discrimination actions founded on Title VII." Tasciyan v. Med. Numerics, 820 F.Supp.2d 664, 671 (D. Md. 2011) (citation omitted). "[T]he threshold number of employees for application of Title VII is an element of a plaintiff s claim for relief, not a jurisdictional issue." Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 516 (2006).

         Defendants argue that because A&A Gaming employs less than fifteen people, it does not meet the definition of "employer" under Title VII. Plaintiff alleges that A&A Gaming meets the qualifications for "employer" because A&A Gaming and Bay Abner, Inc., both owned by Mr. Abner, constitute a single employer under the "integrated employer test." PL's Opp'n 14. The "integrated-employer test" seeks to determine whether two separate entities can be considered a "single employer" for Title VII purposes because they are "so interrelated that they constitute a single employer." Jarallah v. Thompson, 123 F.Supp.3d 719, 729 (D. Md. 2015), aff'd, 627 F.App'x 185 (4th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted). The integrated-employer test requires: "(1) common management; (2) interrelation between operations; (3) centralized control of labor relations; and (4) degree of common ownership/financial control." Id. (citations omitted).

In deciding the common management element, courts look to whether the separate corporations share a common manager who runs day-to-day operations and has the authority to hire and fire employees. See Hukill [v. Auto Care, Inc.], 192 F.3d [437, ] 443 [4th Cir. 1999)]; Baker v. Stuart Broad. Co.,560 F.2d 389, 392 (8th Cir. 1977) (finding common management and ownership where the same individual was president of both corporations and ran day-to-day operations). The second element-interrelation between operations-can also be shown through evidence of a common manager who runs day-to-day operations and through employee transfers between locations. See Hukill 192 F.3d at 443. The third factor-control of labor operations-is shown when a single party controls employment decisions across multiple corporations. See Id. at 444 (finding no centralized control of labor relations when the company had "no power to hire, fire, or supervise employees" at the allegedly related companies). Employment decisions include the power to hire, ...

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