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Heneage v. DTE Energy Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 10, 2018

NAOMI HENEAGE, Plaintiff,
v.
DTE ENERGY SERVICES, INC., a Michigan corporation; and NEWMONT NEVADA ENERGY INVESTMENT, LLC, a Nevada corporation, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LARRY R. HICKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the court is defendant Newmont Nevada Energy Investment, LLC's (“Newmont”) motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 91. Plaintiff Naomi Heneage (“Heneage”) filed an opposition (ECF No. 99) to which DTE replied (ECF No. 104).

         I. Facts and Procedural Background

         Defendant Newmont owns the TS Power Plant in Dunphy, Nevada. In late 2005, Newmont and defendant DTE Energy (“DTE”) entered into a contract for the operation of the power plant known as the Operation & Maintenance Services Agreement whereby DTE would operate the power plant on Newmont's behalf. Under the agreement, DTE was responsible for staffing and running the power plant while Newmont set certain operating objectives for the plant.[1] To meet its staffing needs, DTE held a job fair in Elko, Nevada, during which plaintiff Heneage applied for a position with DTE. Heneage was eventually hired as a shift supervisor and began her employment at the plant in March 2007.

         In early 2010, Newmont unilaterally terminated the operating agreement with DTE effective June 30, 2010. As a result of Newmont's termination of the operating agreement, all DTE power plant employees were terminated on June 30, including Heneage. Defendant Newmont then allowed current DTE employees to apply for retention employment at the plant. Heneage applied for retention employment, but was not retained by Newmont.

         On September 23, 2011, Heneage filed a complaint against both DTE and Newmont alleging two causes of action: (1) Title VII gender discrimination and retaliation; and (2) Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) retaliation. ECF No 2. In response, defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings (ECF No. 32) which was granted by the court (ECF No. 42). Heneage then appealed the court's order of dismissal to the Ninth Circuit. ECF No. 44.

         On June 18, 2015, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in-part and reversed in-part the court's order of dismissal. ECF No. 52. In particular, the Ninth Circuit held that Heneage had raised a permissible inference of gender discrimination by defendant Newmont as well as a permissible inference of Title VII retaliation by both defendants. Id. Thereafter, on October 22, 2015, Heneage filed a second amended complaint against defendants alleging two causes of action: (1) Title VII gender discrimination against defendant Newmont; and (2) Title VII retaliation against both defendants. ECF No. 63. In response, Newmont filed the present motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 91.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only 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 [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In assessing a motion for summary judgment, the evidence, together with all inferences that can reasonably be drawn therefrom, must be read in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Cnty of Tuolumne v. Sonora Cmty. Hosp., 236 F.3d 1148, 1154 (9th Cir. 2001).

         The moving party bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion, along with evidence showing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). On those issues for which it bears the burden of proof, the moving party must make a showing that is “sufficient for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party.” Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986); see also, Idema v. Dreamworks, Inc., 162 F.Supp.2d 1129, 1141 (C.D. Cal. 2001).

         To successfully rebut a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must point to facts supported by the record which demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact. Reese v. Jefferson Sch. Dist. No. 14J, 208 F.3d 736, 738 (9th Cir. 2000). A “material fact” is a fact “that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Where reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment is not appropriate. See v. Durang, 711 F.2d 141, 143 (9th Cir. 1983). A dispute regarding a material fact is considered genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248. The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient to establish a genuine dispute; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff. See Id. at 252.

         III. Discussion

         A. Title VII Gender Discrimination

         Title VII prohibits discrimination against an employee or an applicant for employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). To prevail on a Title VII discrimination claim, a plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination by presenting evidence that “gives rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination.” Cordova v. State Farm Ins. Co., 124 F.3d 1145, 1148 (9th Cir. 1997); see also, McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). A plaintiff can establish a prima facie case of ...


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