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Henderson v. Bonaventura

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 17, 2014

KRISTY HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN BONAVENTURA et al., Defendants.

ORDER

ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.

This case arises out of the termination of a Deputy Constable of the Las Vegas Township Constable's Office ("LVTCO"). Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 67). For the reasons given herein, the Court grants the motion as a motion for summary judgment.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Kristy Henderson was a Deputy Constable with LVTCO for several years, having been appointed by Defendant Constable John Bonaventura's predecessor. (Compl. ¶ 8, Oct. 21, 2013, ECF No. 1). After Bonaventura was elected, Defendant Deputy Constable Lou Toomin directed Plaintiff to appear in a pilot episode of a reality television program about LVTCO, which she did. ( Id. ¶ 9). Bonaventura soon began making sexual comments to Henderson on a regular basis, asking her to sit on his face and wear a miniskirt and garters to work, telling her that her "hard body" made part of his body hard, and other vulgar and sexually harassing comments. ( Id. ¶ 10).

In January 2012, members of the Clark County Board of Commissioners expressed their concern over the proposed reality show because it depicted several deputies using profanity and abusive language with members of the public, as well as other unprofessional and embarrassing behavior. ( Id. ¶ 12). The Board held a hearing on January 3, 2012 at which they expressed displeasure with the idea of the show, and Deputy John Watkins, whom Bonaventura had sent to represent him, assured the Board that Bonaventura had no intention of moving forward with the show. ( Id. ¶ 13).

In early 2012, Lt. Hadi Sadjadi (presumably also of the LVTCO, though not explicitly so alleged) questioned Plaintiff and her boyfriend, Deputy Ray Jacoby, about an incident involving Jacoby that had resulted in a citizens complaint against him. ( See id. ¶¶ 14-15). Plaintiff did not receive forty-eight hours notice of the interview, and during the interview, Sadjadi did not inform Plaintiff of her rights under the "Peace Officer's Bill of Rights in Chapter 289 of the Nevada Revised Statutes ("NRS") or of her right to representation. ( Id. ¶ 14). When Plaintiff complained of the alleged violations of Chapter 289, Lt. Sadjadi told her to speak to Bonaventura. ( See id. ¶ 17). Deputy Chief Dean Lauer ultimately gave Plaintiff a verbal warning as a result of the incident. ( Id. ¶ 16). When Plaintiff spoke with Bonaventura about the alleged Chapter 289 violations at her interview with Lt. Sadjadi, Bonaventura told her LTVCO "would not love her again" until she "dumped Ray [Jacoby]." ( Id. ¶ 18). She was also told not to worry, because LTVCO needed its "female, its Jew, and its black." ( Id. ¶ 18).[1]

In early July 2012, Toomin directed Plaintiff to write a biography for the reality show, because the producers wanted to feature her in the show. ( Id. ¶ 19). Plaintiff expressed her concerns because LVTCO had assured the Board that there would be no show after the Board expressed its concerns, and Toomin told her it was a secret and that she should not tell anyone. ( Id. ). Plaintiff contacted County Commissioner Steve Sisolak to express her concerns but also wrote the biography as instructed, telling her superiors she was only complying out of fear of reprisal for non-compliance. ( Id. ). Plaintiff then advised Bonaventura and Toomin that she would not participate in the realty show. ( Id. ¶ 20). On July 13, 2012, Bonaventura terminated Plaintiff. ( Id. ).

Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and received a Right-to-Sue Letter ("RTS") on August 30, 2013. ( Id. ¶¶ 22-24).[2] Plaintiff sued Bonaventura, Toomin, LVTCO (collectively "LTVCO Defendants"), and Clark County in this Court less than ninety days later on October 21, 2013. The Complaint lists seven nominal causes of action: (1) Hostile Workplace Environment ("HWE") under Title VII; (2) Sexual Harrassment (Quid Pro Quo) under Title VII; (3) Retaliation under Title VII; (4) Breach of Contract; (5) Violations of Chapter 289 and the Due Process Clauses of the U.S. and Nevada Constitutions; (6) Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (in both contract and tort); and (7) Wrongful Discharge. Clark County moved to dismiss, and LTVCO Defendants moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. The Court granted the County's motion when Plaintiff failed to timely oppose it. The Court dismissed the fourth, fifth, and sixth causes of action as against LTVCO Defendants for improper claimsplitting based on a pending state court case. The Court dismissed the seventh cause of action as against LTVCO Defendants based on Nevada's employment-at-will doctrine. LTVCO Defendants have now filed a successive motion to dismiss or for summary judgment as against the remaining three causes of action under Title VII.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Dismissal

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) mandates that a court dismiss a cause of action that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the complaint's sufficiency. See N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, dismissal is appropriate only when the complaint does not give the defendant fair notice of a legally cognizable claim and the grounds on which it rests. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In considering whether the complaint is sufficient to state a claim, the court will take all material allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986). The court, however, is not required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences. See Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). A formulaic recitation of a cause of action with conclusory allegations is not sufficient; a plaintiff must plead facts pertaining to his own case making a violation plausible, not just possible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) ("A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."). In other words, under the modern interpretation of Rule 8(a), a plaintiff must not only specify or imply a cognizable legal theory ( Conley review), but also must plead the facts of his own case so that the court can determine whether the plaintiff has any plausible basis for relief under the legal theory he has specified or implied, assuming the facts are as he alleges ( Twombly-Iqbal review).

"Generally, a district court may not consider any material beyond the pleadings in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. However, material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint may be considered on a motion to dismiss." Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). Similarly, "documents whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss" without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 454 (9th Cir. 1994). Moreover, under Federal Rule of Evidence 201, a court may take judicial notice of "matters of public record." Mack v. S. Bay Beer Distribs., Inc., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986). Otherwise, if the district court considers materials outside of the pleadings, the motion to dismiss is converted into a motion for summary judgment. See Arpin v. Santa Clara Valley Transp. Agency, 261 F.3d 912, 925 (9th Cir. 2001).

B. Summary Judgment

A court must grant summary judgment when "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). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. See 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 jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See id. A principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually ...


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