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Plato v. Anderson Erickson Dairy Co.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 2, 2017

JUANETTE PLATO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ANDERSON ERICKSON DAIRY COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Mary Pat Gunderson, Judge.

         Juanette Plato appeals the district court order granting summary judgment on her employment-discrimination claims.

          Jill M. Zwagerman and Thomas J. Bullock of Newkirk Zwagerman, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Kerrie M. Murphy and Julie T. Bittner of MWH Law Group L.L.P., West Des Moines, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          DOYLE, Judge.

         Juanette Plato appeals the district court order granting summary judgment on her employment-discrimination claims in favor of Anderson Erickson Dairy Company (AE). She contends the district court erred in determining she failed to show a genuine issue of material fact in dispute on the question of whether AE discriminated against her based on her sex when it failed to hire her as human resources representative and in terminating her employment. Because the record, when viewed in the light most favorable to Plato, shows a dispute concerning material issues of fact, we reverse the summary-judgment order and remand the case for further proceedings.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Plato began working at AE as a human resources administrative assistant in October 2013.[1] Stacy Henson, AE's human resources manager and Plato's direct supervisor, thought Plato performed impressively in the position. When AE created a new position for a human resources representative that December, Henson encouraged Plato to apply. Plato provided her resume to Henson.

         In January 2014, Joel Abbott, AE's human resources director, and Henson interviewed five candidates for the human resources representative: Plato, another woman, and three men. During her interview, Plato asked Abbott if, at that time, he could think of any reason that would indicate she was not capable of doing the job human resources representative; Abbott replied, "No."

         After interviewing all the candidates, Plato remained Henson's first choice to fill the position. Abbott's first choice was Chad Van Hauen. His second choice was another male candidate. While discussing the candidates, Abbott told Henson "he didn't think that the plant environment would be a good environment for a female to work in" because it was "pretty rough" and "it would take someone stronger" to work "on the plant side." Abbott told Henson he did not think women were strong enough to handle that environment.

         Abbott offered Van Hauen the position of human resources representative. Abbott told Plato that he did not select her for the position because she did not have enough labor-relations experience. Van Hauen also lacked labor-relations experience.

         When Plato asked Abbott about another permanent position available at AE, he told her they were hiring for a position in the customer service department. Plato believed Abbott suggested that position because customer service was where the majority of the women at AE worked. Abbott also told Henson he thought Plato would "probably have a better fit with the customer service ladies."

         Plato continued to work as a human resources administrative assistant with Henson as her supervisor. Her first priority was to call employees for overtime. She was also responsible for keeping track of attendance at the plant, which was her second priority. If she completed these tasks, she was to do any additional work provided her. However, Plato was scheduled to work six-and-one-half-hours per day, and the duties of calling overtime and keeping track of attendance were often enough to keep a full-time employee busy. As a result, Henson asked Plato to work extra hours on occasion.

         Although Plato did not report to Van Hauen, he asked her to complete an assignment for him in July 2014. Van Hauen was frustrated when Plato was unable to do so. Although Plato was busy with her priority duties, Van Hauen thought she was giving him "excuses" as to why she could not complete the ...


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