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Jeavons v. Exxon Mobil Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

April 14, 2015


For Tonya Jeavons, Plaintiff: Cody Michael Martin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Tureau & Martin Law Firm, Gonzales, LA; Steven Curtis Tureau, Tureau & Martin, Gonzales, LA.

For Exxon Mobil Corporation, Defendant: Melanie Moreland Hartmann, LEAD ATTORNEY, Theresa R. Hagen, Kean Miller LLP, Baton Rouge, LA; Scott D. Huffstetler, Kean, Miller, Hawthorne, D'Armond, McCowan & Jarman, Baton Rouge, LA.



This case is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docs. 34, 36) filed by the defendant, Exxon Mobil Corporation (Exxon). Tonya Jeavons (Jeavons), the plaintiff, filed an opposition (Doc. 40) to which Exxon replied (Doc. 41). Oral argument is unnecessary.


Exxon hired Jeavons in August 2005 as an assistant operator on the cracking and light ends department. Jeavons worked under operators and first line supervisors, and she interacted with them regularly. Section supervisors were above the first line supervisors, and one of the section supervisors with whom Jeavons occasionally had contact was Lamar " Bo" Picou (Picou). Picou had other responsibilities, and Jeavons generally only saw Picou for several hours a month at safety meetings and during Picou's " walk arounds" of the facility. When they did interact, however, Jeavons and Picou did not get along, and Jeavons documented several run-ins between them.

The first incident occurred around 2010 or 2011. Picou refused to authorize Jeavons' request for a new coat for reasons that the parties dispute, though another supervisor, Ed Caputo (Caputo), ultimately authorized Jeavons to receive a new coat. Around the same time, there was another incident during a meeting: Jeavons refused to shake Picou's hand, preferring to offer him a " fist bump" to limit the potential spread of germs, and Picou ordered her to shake his hand. In a similar incident, Picou ordered a male employee, Kurt Pruyn (Pruyn), to shake his hand.

Their third run-in involved a special assignment. Jeavons claims that Picou told the first line supervisor to choose someone other than Jeavons and another female employee, though Exxon disputes this and claims that Picou had no involvement in the selection process. Regardless, Jeavons did receive the special assignment. Jeavons' next allegation is that Picou gave negative feedback during her 2010 performance review, though Jeavons' first line supervisor--the person in charge of writing the review after gathering feedback from other supervisors--gave her a positive review in his final report.

The fifth incident centers on a safety meeting. Picou was in charge of the meeting and was dissatisfied with Jeavons' response[1] to a question. This dissatisfaction led Picou to have a discussion with several operators and a first line supervisor about making people participate in, and pay attention during, safety meetings. Exxon notes, however, that Picou never mentioned any names. The final incident occurred on August 14, 2012, when Picou ordered Pruyn, and then Jeavons, to hold " expectations meetings" with him[2] without any non-supervisors present. Jeavons claims that Picou berated her for an extended period of time before ordering her to be more involved and more of a " team player."

Throughout this period, Jeavons claims that she was constantly in fear of Picou and that several coworkers told her to " play Picou's game" to avoid being " head-hunted (sic)." (Doc. 40 at 9, 13). She further claims that Picou had several targets over the years at Exxon, including her, Pruyn, and a female employee named Cathy Hargrave[3] (Hargrave). Due to her alleged anxiety and fear, Jeavons complained to Exxon's Human Resources Department. The department investigated the problem and interviewed several individuals, including Picou, Pruyn, and Jeavons. Ultimately, the department determined that Picou had not violated any internal harassment or equal opportunity rules, and they informed Jeavons of their decision on November 1, 2012.

On November 6, 2012, Jeavons announced her resignation. Jeavons had accepted a job with BASF, to whom she had initially applied in April of 2012; she received an offer in October for a position that began in late November. After Jeavons left, she contacted the EEOC in February of 2013 and ultimately filed a charge of discrimination on May 5, 2013. After receiving her right to sue letter, Jeavons filed her lawsuit, alleging a hostile work environment (HWE) related to harassment based on sex and constructive discharge due to the harassment under both federal and Louisiana employment discrimination statutes, on November 20, 2013.

Standard of Review

A motion for summary judgment should be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to the interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, show that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is genuine when " the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The admissibility of evidence for summary judgment purposes conforms to the rules of admissibility at trial. Pegram v. Honeywell, Inc., 361 F.3d 272, 285 (5th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). Material facts are those " that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Whether a fact is material will depend on the substantive law. Id. When addressing a summary judgment motion, the court must make reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Evans v. City of Bishop, 238 F.3d 586, 589 (5th Cir. 2000). If the movant meets his ...

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