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Hellums v. MacY's West Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

September 25, 2014

JENNIFER HELLUMS, Plaintiff,
v.
MACY'S WEST STORES, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Macy's West Stores, Inc.'s ("Macy's") motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 22). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 20, 2013, Plaintiff Jennifer Hellums ("Hellums") served Macy's with a complaint alleging (1) constructive discharge, (2) sexual harassment in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, RCW Chapter 49.60 ("WLAD"), and (3) a violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, RCW Chapter 19.86 ("CPA").[1] Dkt. 1, Exh. A.

On August 20, 2014, Macy's filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 22. On September 8, 2014, Hellums responded. Dkt. 27. On September 12, 2014, Macy's replied. Dkt. 29.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In early 2011, Macy's hired Hellums at its Tacoma mall store to sell clothes. Dkt. 28-1, Deposition of Jennifer Hellums ("Hellums Dep.") at 26-27. Hellums subsequently transferred to the cosmetics department. Id. at 27-29.

In May to August of 2012, Hellums claims that she was harassed by a coworker, Merife DiPierro. Hellums alleges that the first incident was in late May 2012 when Ms. DiPierro touched Hellums twice in the vaginal area while they were at the cosmetics counter in front of two other coworkers, Sally Morris and Rosa Aslanyan. Id. at 94-96. Hellums did not report this incident to either the human resources ("HR") department or her management.

In late July of 2012, Hellums informed a coworker, Kris Pak, about the incident with Ms. DiPierro. Ms. Pak then told another coworker, Doris Hannah, of the incident. On August 3, 2012, Ms. Hannah told Ms. DiPierro what Ms. Pak had told her about the alleged incident between Hellums and Ms. DiPierro. Upon hearing this story, Ms. DiPierro informed the Macy's HR Director for her store, Kathy Mihok, that Hellums said that Ms. DiPierro had "fingered" her in the genital area. Dkt. 28-4. Later that same day, Ms. Mihok began her investigation. Id. She interviewed Ms. Hannah, Ms. Pak, Ms. Morris, and Hellums regarding the sexual assault allegations. Id.

During Ms. Mihok's initial investigation, Ms. DiPierro denied that she sexually touched Hellums and claimed that Hellums defamed her character. Id. However, both Ms. Morris and Hellums stated that Ms. DiPierro twice pushed her hand into Hellums's genitals. Dkt. 28-3 at 8-10. Based on the investigation, Ms. Mihok and the District Director of HR, Debbi Fontana, were unable to determine whether the incident actually happened and declined to issue corrective action. Dkt. 28-5 at 26. Ms. Mihok was leaving on vacation and told the involved employees "to stop the gossip." Id. at 28. Ms. Mihok continued her investigation after she returned from her two-week vacation.

After the investigation, Hellums claims that Ms. DiPierro began telling other employees that she was going to harm Hellums. Specifically, two employees told Hellums that DiPierro was claiming that she was going to physically assault Hellums. Dkt. 28-6 at 7. Although this was disclosed on August 3, 2012, Hellums did not report the rumors until August 8, 2012. Id. Hellums also claims that sometime between August 3, and August 8, Ms. DiPierro tried to hit Hellums with her car in the mall parking lot. Hellums Dep. at 125-129. Although there is no record of this conversation, Hellums claims that she called Ms. Mihok and reported the incident in the parking lot. Id. Hellums also claims that Ms. Mihok told her to stop talking about the situation and to mind her own business. Id. at 126.

On August 14, 2014, Hellums submitted her resignation form through a coworker. Dkt. 28-6 at 9. Hellums stated various reasons for leaving, one of which because of a "hostile work environment." Id. Although Hellums's last day at work was August 8, her resignation became effective August 27, 2012.

III. DISCUSSION

Macy's moves for summary judgment on Hellums's claims for hostile work environment ...


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