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Murguia v. Palmer

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 12, 2015

EUGENE MURGUIA, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
JACK PALMER, an individual, ADAM WATSON, an individual, and DAMON HAYCOCK, an individual, et al., Defendants.

ORDER (Defs' Motion for Summary Judgment - dkt. no. 47)

MIRANDA M. DU, District Judge.

I. SUMMARY

Before the Court is Defendants Jack Palmer, Adam Watson, and Damon Haycock's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion") (dkt. no. 47). For the reasons stated below, the Motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

This case arises from the alleged employment discrimination against Plaintiff Eugene Murguia. The following facts are taken from the Complaint. (Dkt. no. 1-2.)

Plaintiff is a Sergeant at Northern Nevada Correctional Center ("NNCC"). Defendant Jack Palmer ("Palmer") is the Warden of NNCC, Adam Watson ("Watson") was the Associate Warden, and Damon Haycock ("Haycock") was the Acting Associate Warden. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants conspired together to thwart his promotion as a method of retaliation for the assistance that he gave to a co-worker in making a report to the Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") Officer against Defendants.

In April 2011, Plaintiff witnessed Haycock, with Watson present, "pin" another employee, Dan Henson, into a corner and verbally assault and threaten him. (Dkt. no. 1-2 at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff supported Henson in his report of the incident through official channels. ( Id. at ¶ 8.) Plaintiff and Henson were never interviewed regarding the incident, and no disciplinary action ever took place. ( Id. )

Subsequently, due to Plaintiff's aid to Henson in his complaint regarding the assault by Haycock, all Defendants agreed that Plaintiff would be non-promotable as a sanction. ( Id. at ¶ 9.) Haycock admitted to engaging in derogatory comments with Watson and Palmer about Plaintiff with respect to his ability to be promoted to Lieutenant. ( Id. ) One or more witnesses observed Defendants participating in such conversations, and Watson at one point angrily told Plaintiff to his face, "you will never be promoted." ( Id. at ¶ 12.) This comment occurred one week before Plaintiff interviewed for a Lieutenant position. ( Id. at ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff was among the top five qualifiers for a Lieutenant position, yet he was not selected for the promotion. ( Id. ) Two positions for Lieutenant were open, but only one individual who ranked below Plaintiff and who had been Sergeant for a shorter amount of time was selected for the promotion. ( Id. at ¶ 14.) A later set of interviews for which Plaintiff was again in the top five qualifiers was cancelled by Palmer, because he wanted to be a part of the interview process but was too busy to attend. ( Id. ) Plaintiff believes that participation of wardens in the interview process is rare. ( Id. ) Candidates for the position were required to re-qualify, and Palmer sabotaged Plaintiff's ability to qualify by taking over the scoring process and downgrading Plaintiff. ( Id. )

Plaintiff made reports with the EEO Officer regarding the incidences. ( Id. at ¶ 10.) The information was forwarded to the Inspector General's office. ( Id. ) However, Plaintiff believes that any action or investigation regarding his complaint was quashed by the administration. ( Id. )

Plaintiff filed this action alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a state law claim for tortious discharge.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims. (Dkt. no. 8.) The Court granted the motion in part and dismissed Plaintiff's claim for tortious discharge. (Dkt. no. 19.)

Defendants now seek summary judgment on the remaining claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights. Plaintiff filed an opposition (dkt. no. ...


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