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October 2015

Gordon & Rees Atlanta Team Secures Summary Judgment in Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Gordon & Rees Atlanta partners Chad A. Shultz and Leslie K. Eason, and associate Julia C. Glasgow recently obtained a complete grant of summary judgment in favor of their client, a major airline. Denver partner John D. Keen served as local counsel.

Plaintiff, a former customer service agent, was terminated after an altercation with a coworker. After his termination, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the District of Wyoming, asserting claims for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, and a state law claim for outrageous conduct. Plaintiff, a gay man, contended that since the beginning of his employment in 2003, he had been subjected to sexual harassment by a gay supervisor and other coworkers. The record established that Plaintiff was the classic constant-complainer employee, fabricating a claim of some alleged offense every time he was disciplined (which was often). Complicating matters was the fact that, unbeknownst to the client, Plaintiff had been creating a paper trail of all of his perceived slights for 10+ years, ultimately resulting in him producing more than 2500 documents. The facts were so messy and so complicated that the state administrative agency issued a cause finding, which only encouraged Plaintiff and his attorney to continue their pursuit of the unfounded claims.

After extensive discovery, the Gordon & Rees team filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that the alleged sexual harassment was not sufficiently severe or pervasive. This position was bolstered by the fact that, following his termination, Plaintiff had at least three separate opportunities to make a claim of sexual harassment, yet failed to do so. The team also asserted that Plaintiff had failed to allege a viable retaliation claim. In response, Plaintiff asserted that he had developed sufficient evidence to support his claims. Once the briefs were filed, the team requested oral argument for the purpose of walking the judge through the very convoluted facts presented by opposing counsel. Shultz presented the argument on the client’s behalf, being careful to simplify the issues and keep opposing counsel on task (no minor accomplishment).

Two months after oral argument, there was still no ruling by the Court. As the trial date drew closer, extensive trial preparations began. The parties even attended the final pre-trial hearing at which the Court seemed to suggest that only partial summary judgment would be granted. Travel arrangements were made and all witnesses were subpoenaed. Then, a mere week before trial in a 58-page opinion, the Court concluded that Plaintiff “had not presented anything other than conclusory allegations and vague unsupported assertions to support” his claims. Accordingly, the Court granted the motion for summary judgment as to all of Plaintiff’s claims. The client was absolutely ecstatic and jumped on a plane for an impromptu celebration. Opposing counsel has suggested that they are going to appeal, so the saga may continue.

Leslie K. Eason
Chad A. Shultz



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