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Christian v. Umpqua Bank

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 22, 2018

JENNIFER CHRISTIAN, formerly known as JENNIFER HAVEMAN, Plaintiff,
UMPQUA BANK, an Oregon-for-Profit Banking Institution, Defendant.

          LEAH C. LIVELY March, Higgins, Beaty & Hatch, P.C. Attorneys for Plaintiff

          LEAH C. LIVELY WM. BRENT HAMILTON, JR. Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP Attorneys for Defendant



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Umpqua Bank's Motion (#49) for Summary Judgment. After reviewing the parties' pleadings the Court concludes the record is sufficiently developed, and, therefore, oral argument is unnecessary.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion.


         The following facts are taken from the Joint Statement of Facts (#48) and the parties' summary-judgment materials and are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.

         In 2009 Defendant hired Plaintiff Jennifer Christian (formerly known as Jennifer Haveman) as a Universal Associate.

         Between 2011 and September 2014 Plaintiff worked at Defendant's downtown Vancouver location.

         In approximately 2013[1] Plaintiff opened an account for a customer referred to as “Brad.”[2] Plaintiff encountered and assisted the Customer on other occasions at the bank. In late 2013 or early 2014 Plaintiff received two or three notes from the Customer. Plaintiff does not recall how she received the notes or whether she had any contact with the Customer. In one note he told Plaintiff that she was beautiful and in another note he said he wanted to go out with her. After receiving the notes Plaintiff encountered the Customer at the bank and told him that she did not want to go out with him, to which he responded “ok.” The Customer did not attempt to touch Plaintiff physically nor did he say anything threatening or offensive to her. Plaintiff did not tell the bank manager, Chris Sanseri, about these notes.

         In early February 2014 Plaintiff received a letter from the Customer at the bank. Plaintiff did not see the Customer deliver the letter or interact with him. In the letter the Customer said things such as Plaintiff was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, Plaintiff was his dream girl, they were meant to be together, and he wanted to be with her. Plaintiff shared this letter with Sanseri and other employees.

         On Valentine's Day 2014 the Customer sent Plaintiff flowers and a card at the bank. Plaintiff was not at the bank when the flowers were delivered by a florist.

         Plaintiff discussed receiving the flowers and the first letter with Sanseri. Plaintiff expressed concern for her safety and told Sanseri that she thought it was a bad idea for the Customer to be allowed in the bank. Sanseri agreed and stated he “would not allow [the Customer] to come back” and if the Customer did return, Sanseri “would immediately tell him that he was no longer allowed to come back in the bank.” Sanseri asked Plaintiff whether she was comfortable calling the Customer to tell him that the flowers and letters were not appropriate. Plaintiff contends Sanseri said it would be better if Plaintiff told the Customer herself. Plaintiff also contends although she was not comfortable calling the Customer, she agreed to do so “because it was apparent to her that Sanseri did not want to do it.”

         Plaintiff called the Customer and told him the flowers were inappropriate and that she was not interested in dating him. The Customer responded “ok.”

         A few days after the telephone call the Customer left a second letter for Plaintiff at the bank. Again, Plaintiff was not present when the letter was delivered, and she did not have any interaction with the Customer. The second letter included statements similar to those in the first letter.

         Plaintiff did not have communications from the Customer or see him again until September 2014.

         On Saturday, September 13, 2014, Plaintiff was volunteering at a community block party. Defendant supports community events, encourages employees to volunteer, and routinely sends out an ice-cream truck to hand out free ice cream. Plaintiff arranged for the bank's ice-cream truck to be present at this community event, and she handed out the ice cream. During this event Plaintiff saw the Customer sitting on a wall near the truck and looking in her direction. Plaintiff does not have any information that the Customer came to the block party because of her or that he had any way of knowing Plaintiff would be at the block party. Plaintiff did not have any interaction with the Customer at this time nor does she recall telling Sanseri about this incident.

         On September 23, 2014, the Customer came into the bank to open a new bank account.[3] That day Plaintiff was assigned to work the new-accounts desk. Sanseri asked Plaintiff to open a new account for the Customer. Plaintiff told Sanseri that she did not feel comfortable opening the account because “that was [the Customer]” who had sent her flowers in February and was not supposed to return to the bank. Sanseri had not previously seen the Customer, could not identify him, and did not remember the situation. Sanseri, however, asked another associate to assist the Customer. Plaintiff, therefore, did not interact with the Customer although he “continuously looked in Plaintiff's direction.”

         On September 26, 2014, the Customer again returned to the bank “to hang out in the lobby.” The Customer had interactions with other employees and “stared” at Plaintiff, but he did not speak to or have any contact with her. Following this incident Plaintiff called Dan Souvenir, a former area manager, about the situation. After speaking to Souvenir Plaintiff called Bobbi Heitschmidt, the current area manager, and left a voicemail. Plaintiff also called and left a message for Kris Wolfram in Defendant's Human Relations Department. Heitschmidt returned Plaintiff's call later that day and asked her whether the Customer was still in the store and whether Plaintiff was in immediate danger. Plaintiff told Heitschmidt that she was “fearful for her safety.” Heitschmidt said she would find a way to help Plaintiff with the Customer. Following her conversation with Plaintiff Heitschmidt contacted Sanseri and Melissa Gonzales, Vice President of Corporate Security. Gonzales told Heitschmidt that the bank could apply for a no-trespassing order against the Customer if he posed a physical threat or if there was reason to believe there was a risk of imminent danger or harm to Plaintiff. Wolfram also returned Plaintiff's call on the same day. Plaintiff told Wolfram about all of the past incidents and that she was afraid of the Customer. Wolfram said she would call Sanseri and Heitschmidt and then call Plaintiff back after she had more information. Wolfram told Plaintiff that she should go to the breakroom in the back of the building if the Customer returned. After speaking with Heitschmidt, Sanseri met with Plaintiff to discuss Plaintiff's concerns and to reassure Plaintiff that the bank would take immediate action. Sanseri told Plaintiff that he had also spoken to Gonzales about getting a no-trespass order and that the bank could either close the Customer's account or ask him to go to another location. Plaintiff went home for the weekend after this meeting .

         On September 29, 30, and October 1, 2014, Plaintiff called in sick. Sanseri or Heitschmidt called Plaintiff each day to ask how she was feeling and to find out when she would return to work. Sanseri told Plaintiff that Defendant had not obtained a no-trespassing order; that the bank was short-staffed; and if Plaintiff returned to work, she could hide in the breakroom in the event the Customer returned. Plaintiff told Sanseri that she did not want to return to that branch because she feared for her safety.

         On October 1, 2014, Sanseri called Plaintiff at home and told her that he wanted to meet with her when she returned to determine whether Plaintiff had any evidence that the Customer threatened her or said or did anything that showed the Customer was an imminent danger to Plaintiff.

         On October 2, 2014, Plaintiff met with Sanseri, Heitschmidt, and Wolfram to discuss various options to address the situation, including a location transfer, closing the Customer's account, and investigating a no-trespassing order against the Customer. Wolfram asked Plaintiff to prepare a letter that described the incidents in order to assist the bank in obtaining a no-trespassing order and that listed Plaintiff's proposed solutions that would allow Plaintiff to return to work.

         On October 4, 2014, Plaintiff sent a letter (dated October 3, 2014) to Wolfram. Plaintiff stated she was making a “formal complaint” that she was “sexually harassed” by the Customer. Plaintiff summarized the events and requested, among other things, that the bank obtain a no-trespassing order against the Customer; the bank close the Customer's account; the bank transfer Plaintiff to the Salmon Creek location; no one talk to others about the reason for Plaintiff's transfer; Sanseri, Heitschmidt, and another employee participate in sensitivity training and “not hassle” Plaintiff about the incidents; and Plaintiff have reasonable time off for medical appointments and mental-health counseling “to recover from this frightening and threatening situation.” On October 4, 2014, Defendant closed the Customer's account and instructed the Customer that he could not return to any of Defendant's locations. Nevertheless, on October 6, 2014, the Customer went to the Vancouver location of the bank. Plaintiff was not present. Sanseri told the Customer that his account was closed and that he was not to return to any of Defendant's bank locations. The Customer has not returned to any of the bank's locations and has not had any further contact with Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff was temporarily transferred to the Evergreen location that was managed by Lori Wick. Wick was aware Plaintiff needed a “safe place to work, ” but she was not aware that Plaintiff had complained of sexual harassment. Plaintiff worked at this location for a few weeks. While she was at the Evergreen bank Plaintiff made three “significant” errors that were documented by Wick in an October 16, 2014, email to Plaintiff. In her email response Plaintiff “accepted responsibility” for one of the errors. In her Complaint, however, Plaintiff alleges she was “counseled regarding several mistakes that she did not make.”

         Plaintiff was eventually transferred to the Salmon Creek location per her request. Plaintiff accepted a reduction in her work hours from 30 to 25 hours per week. Naomi Camargo, Manager of the Salmon Creek bank, ...

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