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Hoffman v. Red Wing Brands of America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 16, 2014

JENELL K. HOFFMAN, an individual, Plaintiff,
RED WING BRANDS OF AMERICA, INC., a Minnesota corporation; JESSICA HELSLEY, an individual; JASON PFAU, an individual; and CHARLES CAVANAUGH, an individual; inclusive, Defendants.


LARRY R. HICKS, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Jessica Helsley's ("Helsley") Motion to Dismiss. Doc. #15.[1] Plaintiff Jenell K. Hoffman ("Hoffman") filed a Response (Doc. #22), to which Helsley replied (Doc. #28). Also before the Court is Defendants Charles Cavanaugh ("Cavanaugh") and Jason Pfau's ("Pfau") Motion to Dismiss. Doc. #40. Hoffman filed a Response (Doc. #42), to which Cavanaugh and Phau replied (Doc. #46).

I. Factual Background

This suit arises out of Hoffman's employment with Red Wing, during which time she alleges she endured systematic sexual harassment at the hands of her supervisors, Helsley, Cavanaugh, and Pfau. These acts of harassment include requesting that Hoffman use her body in a sexual and suggestive manner to sell work boots and shoes to male customers, subjecting Hoffman to crude and vivid sexual jokes, engaging in oral sex and sexual intercourse on company premises, and soliciting sex from Hoffman directly. Hoffman's supervisors gave her consistently negative feedback when she refused to engage in the aforementioned activities. Ultimately, Hoffman was fired from Red Wing for her resistance to what she characterizes as Red Wing's "perverse culture."

She filed a claim with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission ("NERC") and later the EEOC against Red Wing, alleging violations of Title VII for hostile work environment, retaliation, and quid pro quo sex discrimination. During the course of the NERC/EEOC investigation, Red Wing claimed to be in possession of an email containing sexually explicit content, allegedly sent from Hoffman's personal account to Red Wing servers. Hoffman denies ever having composed or sent such an email.

Hoffman filed the instant action on November 13, 2013, alleging causes of action for sex discrimination, quid pro quo sex harassment, and retaliation in violation of Title VII, as well as state law claims for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, and negligent retention.

II. Legal Standard

To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must satisfy the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) notice pleading standard. See Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2008). That is, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The Rule 8(a)(2) pleading standard does not require detailed factual allegations; however, a pleading that offers "labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action'" will not suffice. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

Furthermore, Rule 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference, based on the Court's judicial experience and common sense, that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. See id. at 678-79. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id. at 678 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts the facts alleged in the complaint as true. Id. However, "bare assertions... amount[ing] to nothing more than a formulaic recitation of the elements of a... claim... are not entitled to an assumption of truth." Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (brackets in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court discounts these allegations because "they do nothing more than state a legal conclusion-even if that conclusion is cast in the form of a factual allegation." Id. (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). "In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory factual content, ' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Id.

III. Discussion

A. Helsley's Motion to Dismiss

Helsley seeks dismissal of Hoffman's fourth claim for defamation, her fifth claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and her sixth claim for ...

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