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Mitchell v. Isidore Newman School

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 23, 2017


         SECTION "F"



         Before the Court is the defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is DENIED without prejudice, but insofar as the motion may be construed as a motion to compel arbitration, the motion is GRANTED and the case is hereby stayed, again, pending arbitration.


         This Title VII lawsuit arises from allegations by a former bus driver at Isidore Newman School that she was discriminated against and subject to a hostile work environment based on her sex and that she was fired in retaliation for reporting this conduct to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

         This factual summary is drawn from the plaintiff's state court petition. In October 2013, Bertha Mitchell worked as the only female bus driver for Newman. Her immediate supervisor was Jeffrey Wilson, and Wilson's immediate supervisor was Fred Hill.

         During her first week of work, Mr. Wilson “brushed his hand against [Ms. Mitchell's] breasts at least two to three times.” By the third time, Ms. Mitchell was upset and uncomfortable and told him “you keep hitting my breasts.” He stopped. But, on later occasions, Wilson “would intentionally brush up against [Ms. Mitchell] while reaching for things on a bus instead of asking her to move out of the way.” Mr. Wilson made inappropriate remarks to Ms. Mitchell. Mr. Wilson regularly called Ms. Mitchell pet names like “honey” and “baby, ” yet he called male employees by their given names. Ms. Mitchell asked Mr. Wilson to keep his interactions with her professional, and asked to be called either Bertha or Ms. Mitchell.

         Mr. Wilson regularly asked Ms. Mitchell why she was not married, and told her he was looking for a wife. Mr. Wilson did not ask male employees about their marital status or dating life. When Ms. Mitchell told Mr. Wilson on one occasion that she could not get to work for 5:00 a.m. because the City buses would not be running that early, Mr. Wilson invited her to spend the night at his house. Mr. Wilson followed Ms. Mitchell around Newman campus, and regularly called Ms. Mitchell's cell phone unnecessarily.

         Ms. Mitchell met with Mr. Hill on several occasions to discuss Mr. Wilson's inappropriate behavior. On January 9, 2015, Ms. Mitchell complained in writing to Mr. Hill about Mr. Wilson's sexually harassing behavior and Mr. Hill's tacit approval of it. A meeting was convened among Mr. Hill, Mr. Wilson, and Ms. Mitchell. Mr. Hill told Mr. Wilson to stop calling Ms. Mitchell pet names.

         Shortly thereafter, Mr. Wilson placed garbage bags on Ms. Mitchell's bus as a means of retaliation against her for complaining. Ms. Mitchell sent Jeff Mallon (of Newman Human Resources) a letter on January 12, 2015, informing him that Ms. Mitchell had reported Mr. Wilson's behavior to Mr. Hill on multiple occasions, but that Mr. Hill did not fix the situation. This made Mr. Hill angry, and Mr. Hill began setting up Ms. Mitchell for failure, such as reprimanding her for parking a bus in an unauthorized area without having given her prior instruction not to park there.

         One time when she was off work, Mr. Hill contacted Ms. Mitchell at home and informed her that she must move her bus on Newman's premises before he got to work the next day (despite the fact that another driver on duty that day could have moved the bus). Ms. Mitchell had to ride public transportation three hours round trip to move a bus that she had not been instructed to move before. Despite complying with Mr. Hill's request, Ms. Mitchell was disciplined; she was suspended without pay for three weeks.

         Ms. Mitchell was regularly required to drive dirty, defective, or non-air-conditioned buses, while male bus drivers got to drive clean, air-conditioned buses. On one occasion, the bus she was assigned to drive was releasing smoke, a condition which she reported to Mr. Hill. Mr. Hill forced her to continue driving the bus even though he knew it had been filled with the wrong gas twice while on the road. As a result, Ms. Mitchell, faculty, and students inhaled smoke. When a teacher on the bus called Mr. Hill, he relented and allowed Ms. Mitchell to switch buses.

         Mr. Hill reduced Ms. Mitchell's hours, typically within one week of Ms. Mitchell complaining to him about Mr. Wilson's behavior. It was Mr. Wilson who picked up the extra work that Ms. Mitchell lost.

         During the last week of the school semester in 2015, Ms. Mitchell noticed that Mr. Wilson was following her again when she was leaving school. Ms. Mitchell talked to a neighborhood security guard, who instructed her to call the police, which she did on the last day of school. In June 2015, Mr. Wilson ...

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