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Hanson v. Kalahari Development LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

April 19, 2019

STEVEN L. HANSON, Plaintiff,
v.
KALAHARI DEVELOPMENT LLC, d/b/a KALAHARI RESORT & CONVENTION CENTER, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Steven Hanson worked as a supervisor in the maintenance department at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center from 2014 to 2016. Hanson contends that Kalahari violated his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in two ways: (1) failing to respond appropriately when he was harassed by coworkers because of his religion; and (2) terminating him for complaining about the harassment.

         Kalahari has filed a motion for summary judgment on all of Hanson's claims. Dkt. 12. Hanson has moved to strike one aspect of Kalahari's reply brief in support of their summary judgment motion because it introduces new evidence. Dkt. 25. The court will grant the motion to strike, but that evidence makes no difference to the result in this case. Even if the court disregards the evidence, Kalahari is entitled to summary judgment on all of Hanson's claims.

         UNDISPUTED FACTS

         The following facts are undisputed, except where noted.

         A. Hanson hired as maintenance supervisor

         In December 2014, Hanson was hired to work in the maintenance department at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, which is operated by defendant Kalahari Development, LLC. After completing an initial probationary period, Hanson assumed the role of third shift supervisor of the maintenance department in March 2015. During his employment at the Kalahari, Hanson reported to Jeff Beckwith, the facilities manager.

         Hanson's first year and a half at the Kalahari passed without incident, for the most part. Hanson acknowledges that there were some personality clashes within the maintenance department, and Beckwith observed that Hanson's tendency to tell his peers how to do their jobs was a source of friction between Hanson and the other supervisors. But the events that gave rise to this litigation didn't occur until the final two-and-a-half months of Hanson's employment.

         B. Alleged harassment

         At a supervisors' meeting in September 2016, as part of an icebreaker exercise initiated by Beckwith, Hanson revealed certain of his religious convictions to his colleagues. Hanson is a Seventh Day Adventist. When prompted to disclose a fact that others would not know about him, Hanson said that he “believed in the Ten Commandments and commented about how some people at work took the Lord's name in vain.” Dkt. 21, ¶ 4.

         The following week, on September 19, Hanson led the supervisors' weekly meeting because Beckwith was absent. During this meeting, some of Hanson's colleagues complained about having to work weekends because it interfered with their religious observances. Hanson responded that weekend work is a necessary aspect of working in the hospitality industry. He noted that, as a Seventh Day Adventist, he is supposed to refrain from working and focus only on worshipping the Lord from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown. Nonetheless, he had never requested that the Kalahari accommodate his religious beliefs by giving him Saturdays off. (Hanson says that he left this meeting feeling “attacked and distraught, ” id. ¶ 10, but he doesn't explain why.)

         Later that day, Hanson discovered that someone had drilled a hole through a Bible, stuck a bolt in it, and chained it to his work cart. Hanson immediately informed Beckwith what happened and emailed Todd Nelson, the owner of the Kalahari, the following:

It is so great working with these so called professionals. I want video documentation of WHO put a bolt through a red holy bible that was [on] a chain in the indoor maint[enance] shop and then walked out of the shop to hang it on the tool box . . . . I support good natured horseplay but this is not cool especially after I publicly announce I believe in and follow the ten commandments during one of the lets get to know each other meetings in this FAMILY ORIENTATED BUSINESS.

Dkt. 14-3, at 2. Nelson responded, “Sorry this happened to You. I have forwarded this onto Jeff Beckwith and my ...


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