Penister v. Hollingsworth et al
ORDER granting 29 and 32 Motions for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 8/19/2015. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PINE BLUFF DIVISION
CITY OF PINE BLUFF, ARKANSAS; DEBE
HOLLINGSWORTH, Mayor, Individually and in Her
Official Capacity; JEFF HUBANKS, Chief of Police,
Individually and in His Official Capacity; MICHAEL
SWEENEY, Police Officer, Individually and in His
Official Capacity; and CHRIS POWELL, Individually
1. InJanuary 2013, Officer Keyyonna Penister was training to be a police
officer with the Pine Bluff Police Department. She alleges that for a week her
field training officer, Chris Powell, created a hostile work environment by
sexually harassing her. Penister has pleaded several claims against the city,
the mayor, Powell, officer Michael Sweeney, and the chief of police. NQ 21. In
her summary judgment papers, though, Penister has abandoned all her claims
except sexual harassment. Satcher v. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Board
ofTrustees, 558 F .3d 731, 734-35 (8th Cir. 2009). Her harassment claim against
Powell fails as a matter of law because individuals are not liable under Title
VII or the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. Schoffstall v. Henderson, 223 F.3d 818, 821
n.2 (8th Cir. 2000); Davis v. KARK-TV, Inc., 421 F.3d 699, 703-04 (8th Cir.
2005). Penister doesn't claim that officer Sweeney sexually harassed her.
What remains is a harassment claim against the city, the mayor, and the chief
of police. The Court takes the material facts, where genuinely disputed, in
Penister's favor. Nitsche v. CEO of Osage Valley Electric Co-operative, 446 F.3d
841, 845 (8th Cir. 2006).
2. Penister works for the Pine Bluff Police Department. When she was
training in January 2013, she spent two weeks at a time with different field
training officers. One of these officers was Chris Powell. Penister worked
with Powell from January 7th to January 13th. During this week, Powell
made sexual comments to her, showed her pictures of women in underwear
and heels, and asked her out for dinner and drinks.
On January 9th Penister text-messaged sergeant Neal, her former field
training officer, noting that Powell had made some sexual comments to her.
Sergeant Neal threatened to report Powell, but Penister said that she had it
under control. Sergeant Neal told her to alert him as soon as she thought
Powell had crossed the line.
On January 13th Penister took pictures of Powell touching her on the
shoulder, neck, and face. She sent the pictures to sergeant Neal with the
phrase ~~Powell is crossing the line!!!!". N2 33-14. Sergeant Neal reported the
harassment that day, N2 33-15; Powell was suspended that same day, N2 3317; and Penister was placed with a new field training officer on her next work
day. An investigation of Powell ensued; and he was eventually fired.
3. The Pine Bluff Police Department took immediate, remedial action.
Vajdl v. Mesabi Academy ofKidsPeace, Inc., 484 F .3d 546, 550 (8th Cir. 2007). The
initial exchange between Penister and sergeant Neal January 9th did not make
the Pine Bluff Police Department aware of sexual harassment. Penister said
she had Powell's unacceptable behavior under control, which stopped inquiry
by sergeant Neal. When Penister reported that Powell had finally crossed the
line on January 13th, the Department's system worked. She and Powell were
separated. The circumstances were investigated. And Powell was disciplined
in due course.
Penister's claim fails as a matter of law because it is
undisputed that the Department cured the hostile work environment
immediately after Powell sought a remedy. E.E.O.C. v. CRST Van Expedited,
Inc., 679 F.3d 657, 692-93 (8th Cir. 2012).
* * *
Motions for summary judgment, NQ 29 & NQ 32, granted.
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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