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Lopez v. Whirlpool Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

May 28, 2019

HEATHER LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LINDA R. READE JUDGE

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. INTRODUCTION. . ............................................................................ 2

         II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY ................................................... 2

         III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION ..................................................... 2

         IV. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD .................................................... 3

         V. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND .................................................. 4

         B. Overview of the Dispute ............................................................... 4

         VI. ANALYSIS ........................................................................................ 8

         A. Sexual Harassment ..................................................................... 8

         1. Parties' arguments ............................................................. 8

         2. Applicable law .................................................................. 9

         3. Application ..................................................................... 10

         b. The fifth element of the prima facie case ....................... 15

         B. Retaliation .............................................................................. 18

         1. Parties' arguments ........................................................... 18

         2. Applicable law ................................................................. 19

         3. Application ..................................................................... 19

         VII. CONCLUSION ................................................................................. 21

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The matter before the court is Defendant Whirlpool Corporation's (“Whirlpool”) “Motion for Summary Judgment” (“Motion”) (docket no. 32).

         II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 20, 2017, Plaintiff Heather Lopez filed a “Petition at Law and Jury Demand” (“Petition”) (docket no. 5) in the Iowa District Court for Linn County. In the Petition, Lopez alleges discrimination (Count I) and retaliation (Count II) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and the Iowa Civil Rights Act (“ICRA”), Iowa Code section 216.6. See generally Petition ¶¶ 20-26, 30-35. On February 8, 2018, Whirlpool filed a Notice of Removal (docket no. 1), bringing the case before the court. On March 8, 2018, Whirlpool filed an Answer and Affirmative Defenses (docket no. 13).

         On March 25, 2019, Whirlpool filed the Motion. On April 22, 2019, Lopez filed a Resistance (“Lopez's Resistance”) (docket no. 38). On April 29, 2019, Whirlpool filed a Reply (docket no. 39). Neither party has requested oral argument, and the court finds that oral argument is unnecessary. The matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.

         III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

         The court has original jurisdiction over Lopez's claim arising under Title VII. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over Lopez's claim arising under the ICRA because it is so related to the claim within the court's original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) (“[T]he district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy. . . .”).

         IV. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Summary judgment is proper ‘if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show'” an absence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Hilde v. City of Eveleth, 777 F.3d 998, 1003 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc)). “A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case.” Massey-Diez v. Univ. of Iowa Cmty. Med. Servs., Inc., 826 F.3d 1149, 1157 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Gazal v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., 647 F.3d 833, 837-38 (8th Cir. 2011)). “The movant ‘bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion,' and must identify ‘those portions of [the record] . . . which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'” Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (alterations in original) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Once the movant has done so, “the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324).

         On a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts “in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009)). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial, ” and summary judgment is appropriate. Ricci, 557 U.S. at 586 (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). “The nonmovant ‘must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts' . . . .” Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586). Instead, “[t]o survive a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must substantiate [its] allegations with sufficient probative evidence [that] would permit a finding in [its] favor based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy.” Williams v. Mannis, 889 F.3d 926, 931 (8th Cir. 2018) (third alteration in original) (quoting Barber v. C1 Truck Driver Training, LLC, 656 F.3d 782, 801 (8th Cir. 2011)). Mere “self-serving allegations and denials are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact.” Anuforo v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 614 F.3d 799, 807 (8th Cir. 2010). “Evidence, not contentions, avoids summary judgment.” Reasonover v. St. Louis Cty., 447 F.3d 569, 578 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Mayer v. Nextel W. Corp., 318 F.3d 803, 809 (8th Cir. 2003)).

         V. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving parties, and affording them all reasonable inferences, the uncontested material facts are as follows.

         A. ...


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