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Peck v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 3, 2015

LILA PECK, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD CO. and UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION DISCIPLINE INCOME PROTECTION PROGRAM, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

B. LYNN WINMILL, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court are the following motions: (1) Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Co.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 38); and (2) Plaintiff Lila Peck's three motions to strike (Dkts. 39, 41, and 45). The Court heard oral argument on January 15, 2015, and took the matter under advisement. For the reasons set forth below the Court will (1) deny Peck's motions to strike, (2) grant the Motion for Summary Judgment with regard to Peck's disparate treatment claim, and (3) deny the Motion for Summary Judgment with regard to Peck's retaliation claim.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Lila Peck claims she was retaliated against at her job for participating in an EEO investigation and ultimately fired because she is a woman. She has sued her employer, Union Pacific. She brings claims for retaliation and disparate treatment under Title VII.

Peck started training to become a Union Pacific Train Service employee in Pocatello, Idaho on June 6, 2011. Pl's SUF ¶ 2, Dkt. 40. She was part of a training class of ten. Id. She was the only female member of the training class. Id. As a trainee, Peck was not considered an official employee. All trainees must first complete a 60-day "probationary period" before becoming an employee and earning the right to obtain union benefits. Def's SOF ¶ 2, Dkt. 38-1.

On August 5, 2011, Peck overheard a vulgar conversation concerning strip clubs initiated by a classmate, Jason Martin. Pl's SUF ¶ 4. Two other trainees, Dave Williams, and Clint Knickrehm, also participated in the conversation. Id. Peck did not report the incident to Union Pacific's EEO compliance office, but an instructor named Jerome Kasczinski did. Id. A few days after the incident, Carol Gleason from the EEO Department called Peck and asked her if she knew anything about the strip-club conversation. Peck, fearing she would lose her job if she did not talk, told Ms. Gleason the names of those who participated in the conversation and what each participant said during the conversation. Def's SOF ¶ 7, Dkt. 38-1. As a result of the conversation, Jason Martin's job application was rejected. Id. ¶ 8.

Following Jason Martin's rejection as a job applicant, Peck's fellow trainees, Dave Williams, Clint Knickrehm, and Todd Aslett gave Peck "the cold shoulder." Id. ¶ 9. Specifically, Peck said that Todd Aslett "glared daggers" at her on two occasions; Clint Knickrehm shouted, "Yeah, we don't want any EEO violations here" before an EEO training video; and other Union Pacific employees avoided her and asked her whether she turned Jason Martin in for his vulgar conversation. Id.

On August 16, 2011, a couple of weeks after Peck overhead this conversation, she was placed on furlough because of a downturn in the economy. Id. ¶ 12. Peck had hoped the whole matter would "just blow over" while she was on furlough. Peck Dep. 82:20-25, Dkt. 40-4. But when Peck returned to work nearly a year later, in July 2012, people at the railroad continued to question her about the incident. Id. at 83:20-88:24. And, according to Peck, her supervisors did nothing to dispel the belief that Peck was somehow responsible for Jason Martin being fired. Pl's SUF ¶ 8. In fact, Peck says that the manager of Railroad Operations, Gary Pfinster, actually led others to believe that Peck had turned Jason Martin into the EEO Compliance office. Id. And in the context of a return to work class, Pfinster made comments and tolerated comments that insinuated that Peck had snitched on Jason Martin. Id.

Finally, tired of the perceived harassment, Peck called the Union Pacific Values Line to complain on October 30, 2012. Id. ¶ 7. In her complaint, Peck apparently not only implicated her peers in the harassment but also accused two superiors, Gary Pfinster and Jack Huddleston, of contributing to the harassment. Id. ¶ 9. However, before anything could be done about her Values Line complaint, Peck was involved in a derail incident.

The derail incident occurred on November 5, 2012. Union Pacific had assigned Pack to work as a student trainee with a crew in Idaho Falls. Pl's SUF ¶ 10. It was her first night working with this crew. Id. Matthew K. Wilson was the conductor in charge of the work, and he had apparently heard from random employees that he should be careful in the way he talked or behaved around Peck. Id. At the start of the shift, Wilson told Peck to just observe and see what they do on the job. Id.

Peck maintains that the Idaho Falls crew was the worst crew she had worked with. Id. ¶ 11. The crew constantly broke rules, such as jumping off a moving locomotive, throwing a switch when cars were still moving, stopping too close to a switch and failing to observe proper red zones. Id. Peck objected, but Wilson told her that they liked to hurry and get the job done and she should ignore their safety violations. Id.

At approximately 8:05 p.m. a collision and derailment occurred in the "malt yard" south of Idaho Falls. Id. ¶ 12. The crew's locomotive and one car were backing south off the main line to pick up some cars. Id. As the locomotive and car approached the 411 switch, Wilson told the engineer to stop, but he jumped off the car while it was still moving. Id. Peck, however, waited for the car to stop before jumping off, and by the time she climbed off the car and had gone around to the end of the car, Wilson had already thrown the 411 switch and was hurrying up the line of switches toward the cars they intended to pick up. Id. Peck tried to keep up with Wilson but she had not yet caught up when she heard him radio the engineer to back up. Id. The engineer apparently backed up at an excessive rate of speed, and Wilson had thrown the 411 switch the wrong way. Id. This caused the locomotive and car to back into a line of cars on the 411 siding, which derailed and damaged a car. Id. Wilson admitted he threw the switch the wrong way. Id. He admitted responsibility for the derailment. Id.

At the time of the derailment, Peck had completed her training but had not yet completed her 60-day probationary period. So she was not yet an official Union Pacific employee.

On November 7, 2012, Gary Pfinster and Ricky Wells decided that Peck's job application should be rejected. Pl's SUF ¶ 13. Pfinster called Melissa Schop of the Union Pacific EEO office seeking immediate approval of his decision to reject Peck's application. Id. Melissa Schop memorialized the conversation in an email to Carol Gleason, and Pfinster admitted it ...


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