United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. WATTERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Old Dominion Freight Line's motion
for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Court
grants the motion in part.
Dominion, a global trucking company, employed Kevin Brandt as
its Sales and Service Manager in its Billings, Montana
facility. In spring 2018, Brandt became aware of a workplace
incident involving an employee making a derogatory comment
about Native Americans to another employee named John
Crazybull, who is Native American. Brandt investigated the
incident, concluded it occurred, and issued a written warning
to the offending employee.
investigating the incident, Brandt learned that Crazybull
possibly sexually harassed other employees on more than one
occasion. A female employee reported Crazybull made sexual
comments to her on the loading dock. A male employee reported
even more aggressive conduct, such as Crazybull regularly
bear hugging him, grinding his groin into him, and saying
things like "would you like some Indian in you," or
"how about some dick in your ass." Yet another male
employee reported similar sexual and physical harassment.
Brandt reported his findings to the Human Resource Manager,
a phone call between Lillywhite and Brandt discussing the
employee who made a derogatory comment about Native
Americans, Brandt brought up the alleged sexual harassment
complaints against Crazybull. Lillywhite directed Brandt to
drop the sexual harassment investigation against Crazybull.
Brandt felt Lilly white's instruction was improper so,
pursuant to Old Dominion's "Open Door" policy,
Brandt went over Lillywhite's head and reported
CrazybulPs conduct to Scott Goodrich, Old Dominion's Vice
President for the Pacific Northwest. After the report was
made to Goodrich, Lillywhite reversed course and directed
Brandt to prepare a written warning to Crazybull.
Brandt and Lillywhite presented the written warning to
Crazybull, he denied all of the allegations. Based on
CrazybulPs reaction, Brandt was concerned he might become
violent. After the interview ended, Brant asked an employee
to look through the window of Crazybull's vehicle to see
if there was a gun inside. The employee reported back there
was a dash-mounted holster with a gun. Brandt consulted with
Goodrich and Lillywhite about the situation and it was
determined Brandt should send Crazybull home for the day.
Brandt spoke with Crazybull, who admitted to having a gun in
his car and agreed to take the rest of the day off.
that day, Brandt traveled to Salt Lake City for a regional
meeting and shortly thereafter learned Crazybull had been
terminated. A few weeks later, Lillywhite and Goodrich
terminated Brandt, citing a failure to enforce Old
Dominion's "No Weapons" policy. Brandt filed a
complaint against Old Dominion, alleging wrongful discharge
because his termination was without good cause, was in
retaliation for investigating the sexual harassment
allegations against Crazybull, and was in violation of Old
Dominion's own personnel policy.
Summary judgment standard
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party seeking summary judgment always
bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of
the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986).
facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there
is sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact-finder to return
a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477
U.S. at 248. If the moving party meets its initial
responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party
to establish that a genuine issue of fact exists.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
Dominion argues Brandt's exclusive remedy is the Montana
Human Rights Act because the gravamen of Brandt's
complaint is retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.
Brandt responds although his claim does contain an allegation
of retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, his primary
claim is his termination was without good cause and in
violation of Old Dominion's personnel policy.
MHRA provides an administrative process for persons who claim
they have been discriminated against. Griffith v. Butte
School Dist. No. 1,244 P.3d 321, 329 (Mont. 2010). One
such claim is an employee who was subject to retaliation by
his employer for reporting the sexual harassment of another
employee. Fandrich v. Capital Ford Lincoln Mercury,901 P.2d 112, 116 (Mont. 1995). A discrimination claim must
go through the MHRA administrative process before it may be
filed in court. Lay v. State Dept. of Military Affairs,
Disaster and Emergency Services Div.,351 P.3d 672, 675
(Mont. 2015). But some cases may include facts that support a
discrimination claim and facts that support a wrongful
discharge claim. Vettel-Becker v. Deaconess Medical
Center of Billings, Inc.,177 P.3d 1034, 1042 (Mont.
2008). A claim for wrongful discharge that is not premised on
discrimination does not need to go through the MHRA
administrative procedure. Vettel-Becker, 177 P.3d at
1042. To determine whether the ...