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Nguyen v. State

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 16, 2015

KELLY NGUYEN, Plaintiff(s),
STATE OF NEVADA, et al., Defendant(s).


JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is defendant State of Nevada ex rel., Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation, Employment Security Division's ("DETR/ESD") motion for summary judgment. (Doc. # 27). Plaintiff Kelly Nguyen filed a response (doc. # 30), and defendant filed a reply, (doc. # 31).

Also before the court is plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment on her fourth and fifth claims for relief. (Doc. # 26). Defendant filed a response (doc. # 28), and plaintiff filed a reply (doc. # 29).

I. Background

The instant case involves claims of unlawful discrimination in violation of Title VII by plaintiff against her current employer, defendant DETR/ESD (Doc # 1). DETR/ESD is a department and division of the State of Nevada.

Nguyen is an Asian female. Her claims are largely based on race and sex discrimination. (Doc. # 1). Nguyen has been employed by DETR/ESD since September of 2002. (Doc. # 1). She has held the position of appeals referee II since January of 2011. (Doc. # 1).

In April of 2012, Nguyen applied for a promotion as chief appeals referee. Any persons who met the minimum qualifications of a "bachelor's degree in business administration, social science, English, or related field and four years of experience" could apply for the position. (Doc. # 27). DETR/ESD equates graduation from an accredited law school to one year of experience, but a law degree was not mandatory for the position. (Doc. # 27). Nguyen received a law degree from the University of Houston, but is not a member of the Nevada Bar. (Doc. # 30).

In May 2010, Nguyen interviewed for the position of chief appeals referee. Prior to DETR/ESD conducting interviews for chief appeals referee, human resources released a ranking of qualified candidates based on training and experience. (Doc. # 27). Human resources ranked Nguyen first and another female candidate second. (Doc. # 27). Craig Grossman ("Grossman") tied for third with another male candidate. (Doc. # 27). Nevada law requires that the top five candidates be invited to interview. (Doc. # 27-2). Of those invited to interview, Nguyen was the only minority and one of two women.

DETR/ESD promoted Grossman, a Caucasian male. A three person panel elected to appoint Grossman as chief appeals referee over the other five candidates that interviewed, including Nguyen.

Nguyen contends that Grossman was less qualified than she and was promoted because he submitted an organizational chart to the panel that incorrectly stated the number of employees he supervised. (Doc. # 1). Additionally, Nguyen claims that one of the panel members, Kelly Karch, is a close friend of Grossman and should have been excused from the panel. (Doc. # 1).

On July 30, 2012, Nguyen filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC. (Doc. # 30). On September 19, 2013, the EEOC dismissed Nguyen's charges due to a lack of evidence showing discrimination. (Doc. # 27). The State of Nevada Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Investigation Unit ("the investigation unit") also investigated Nguyen's allegations. (Doc. # 27). The investigation unit concluded that insufficient evidence existed to establish discrimination. (Doc. # 27).

Plaintiff alleges seven claims against DETR/ESD: (1) sex discrimination in violation of Title VII and NRS § 613.330(1); (2) race discrimination in violation of Title VII and NRS § 613.330(1); (3) retaliation in violation of Title VII and NRS § 613.330(1); (4) declatory judgment that Nev. Admin. Code § 284.696 (2014) codifies unlawful retaliation as Nevada Law; (5) injunction against the enforcement of Nev. Admin. Code § 284.696 (2014); (6) depravation of civil rights in violation of U.S.C. § 1981; and (7) negligent hiring and supervision.

Nguyen's complaint named both the State of Nevada and DETR/ESD as defendants in this matter. (Doc. # 1). Following defendants' failure to file an answer or otherwise respond, Nguyen filed a motion for default judgment against DETR/ESD and the State of Nevada. (Doc. # 7). Defendants filed a response in opposition. (Doc. # 8).

On February 27, 2014, the parties stipulated to allow defendant DETR/ESD more time to answer plaintiff's complaint. The court granted the parties' stipulation and mooted the motion for default judgment as to DETR/ESD. The court found no statutory justification for the State of Nevada to be a proper stand-alone defendant in this matter and denied plaintiff's motion for default judgment as to the State of Nevada. (Doc. # 12).

II. Legal standards

A. Summary judgment

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. "When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its ...

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