United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER ON SUMMARY-JUDGMENT MOTIONS (DOCS. 49,
M. EBEL U.S. CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE
Tiffany and John Huntz assert claims under Title VII and the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) against
their former employer, Sheriff Bill Elder, sued in his
official capacity, and the El Paso County Sheriff's
Office (collectively the “Sheriff's
Office”). Tiffany Huntz asserts two Title VII
claims, one alleging a sexually hostile work environment and
the other alleging the Sheriff's Office retaliated
against her for complaining about her hostile work
environment. The Court GRANTS the Sheriff's Office
summary judgment (Doc. 50) on both of those claims. In light
of this ruling, the Court DENIES as moot Tiffany Huntz's
motion for partial summary judgment on the Sheriff's
Office's affirmative defense (Doc. 49).
Huntz also asserts two causes of action, one a Title VII
claim alleging the Sheriff's Office retaliated against
him because his wife, Tiffany Huntz, complained about her
sexually hostile work environment; and the other an ADA claim
alleging that the Sheriff's Office failed to accommodate
John Huntz's shoulder impairment. Because there remain
genuinely disputed issues of material fact as to each of
these claims, the Court DENIES each side's
summary-judgment motions on these claims (Docs. 49, 50). The
Court GRANTS John Huntz partial summary judgment (Doc. 49) on
two of the Sheriff's Office's affirmative defenses,
which contend that John Huntz failed to mitigate his damages
and that accommodation of his shoulder impairment would
impose an undue hardship on the Sheriff's Office.
Tiffany Huntz's Title VII claim alleging a sexually
hostile work environment
Huntz contends that her work environment was hostile because
she was being sexually harassed by her second-level
supervisor, Commander Rob King. Tiffany Huntz has failed to
show, however, that King undertook any sexual harassment
within 300 days of Tiffany Huntz filing a complaint with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
See Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536
U.S. 101, 117 (2002) (applying 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)
to hostile-work-environment claim).
Court previously denied the Sheriff's Office's motion
to dismiss this claim because the EEOC charge was untimely,
based on Tiffany Huntz's allegation that, within 300 days
of her filing the EEOC charge, King continued sexually
harassing Huntz by publicly and falsely accusing her of
having a sexual relationship with then-Sheriff Terry Maketa.
But in response to the Sheriff's Office's
summary-judgment motion, Tiffany Huntz has failed to assert
sufficient evidence from which a jury could find that King
took such actions within 300 days of her filing the EEOC
did file his own Title VII lawsuit against the Sheriff's
Office within 300 days of Tiffany Huntz's EEOC charge,
and in doing so King alleged that Tiffany Huntz had a sexual
relationship with Sheriff Maketa. But a Title VII claim is
available against the employer-here the Sheriff's
Office-and not against King personally. See Haynes v.
Williams, 88 F.3d 898, 901 (10th Cir. 1996) (indicating
that “statutory liability” under Title VII
“is appropriately borne by employers, not individual
supervisors”). Tiffany Huntz has failed to establish
that King's conduct, in suing the Sheriff's Office,
can result in that Office's liability to Tiffany Huntz
under Title VII.
there are, then, no genuinely disputed issues of fact and the
Sheriff's Office is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law, the Court grants the Sheriff's Office summary
judgment on Tiffany Huntz's hostile-work-environment
claim and dismisses that claim with prejudice.
Tiffany Huntz's Title VII retaliation claim
Tiffany Huntz also contends that, after she complained to the
Sheriff's Office about King's harassment, the
Sheriff's Office retaliated against her in three ways:
First, she again asserts that King falsely and publicly
accused her of having a sexual relationship with then-Sheriff
Maketa. For the same reasons stated above, the Sheriff's
Office is entitled to summary judgment on this retaliation
Tiffany Huntz asserted evidence that another of her
second-level supervisors, Commander McDonald, a friend of
King's, ordered her not to speak to McDonald anymore and
he turned away from her whenever he met her in the hallway.
That evidence is insufficient to create a genuinely disputed
issue of material fact as to whether Commander McDonald's
treatment of Tiffany Huntz amounted to retaliation in
violation of Title VII. See Johnson v. Weld Cty.,
594 F.3d 1202, 1216 (10th Cir. 2010) (holding evidence that
both human resources director and plaintiff's direct
supervisor “gave her the ‘cold shoulder, '
sat farther away from her at meetings, became too busy to
answer her questions, and generally tried to avoid her”
was “insufficient to support a claim of
retaliation”). That is particularly true here, where
Tiffany Huntz could not identify any specific impact
McDonald's directive that she not speak to him had on her
ability to do her job.
Tiffany Huntz contends that, while she was off work on leave
under the Family Medical Leave Act, Undersheriff Breister, a
friend of King's, stated, in a letter notifying Tiffany
Huntz that her leave had expired, that upon her return, he
would address her performance issues. Although Tiffany Huntz
considered Breister's statement to be “a form of
harassment and intimidation” (Doc. 46-4 at 167), no
jury could find that Breister's statement would dissuade
a reasonable person from complaining about sexual harassment.
See Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry Co. v. White,
548 U.S. 53, 68 (2006).
these reasons, the Court grants the Sheriff's Office
summary judgment on all three of Tiffany Huntz's Title
VII retaliation claims and dismisses them with prejudice, as
The Sheriff's Office's affirmative defense to ...