United States District Court, D. Nevada
PATRICIA A. WILLIAMS, Plaintiffs,
ARIA RESORT & CASINO, LLC, Defendants.
before the court is Aria Resort & Casino, LLC's
(“Aria”) motion for summary judgment. (ECF No.
34). No. response has been filed, and the time to do so has
before the court is Aria's amended motion for summary
judgment. (ECF No. 36). Plaintiff Patricia Williams
(“Williams”) filed a response (ECF No. 41), to
which Aria replied (ECF No. 42).
civil rights action arises out of alleged instances of race
and gender discrimination faced by Williams prior to her
termination from Aria in January 2016. (ECF No. 1). Unless
otherwise noted, the following facts are
who is a mixed-race black woman, was hired as a cook in
Aria's in-room dining department (“IRD”) in
November 2009. (ECF No. 36 at 5). Thereafter, between May
2010 and July 2014, Williams was disciplined on seven
different occasions for her various violations of Aria's
employee code of conduct. See (ECF No. 36-2 at
8-30). These disciplinary actions included verbal warnings,
written warnings, a one-day suspension, and one three-day
suspension-all pursuant to Aria's practice of imposing
“progressive discipline, ” as mandated by its
collective bargaining agreement with the culinary
union. (ECF No. 36 at 5).
about February 9, 2015, Williams went to speak with
Aria's employee relations manager, Todd Owen
(“Owen”), to inquire about her seniority and the
potential for her to transfer to the new TMobile Arena when
it opened. (ECF No. 36-1 at 69). After discussing
Williams' seniority, Owen asked her if she was aware of
any incidents in IRD that would be considered misconduct.
(ECF No. 36-1 at 69). At the time, Owen had been
investigating a complaint lodged by one IRD employee against
another. Id. at 70.
Williams did not have any information to provide regarding
the subject of Owen's inquiry, Williams did report that
one of her coworkers, George Reed (“Reed”), had
been making vulgar and sexualized comments in the workplace.
Id. Owen then asked Williams to send him an email
detailing the inappropriate behavior. Id. When
Williams expressed concern that she did not want to get
anyone in trouble, Owen assured her that her statement would
be “strictly confidential.” Id.
February 10, 2015, Williams sent Owen an email describing
incidents in which employees used profanity and engaged in
horseplay and sexualized conversations. (ECF No. 36-2 at 33).
The email did not describe any incidents regarding
Williams' race or ethnicity and did not assert that any
of the reported sexualized comments had been made to her or
about her. Id. However, the email went on to state:
“I have had two different male cooks swipe my derriere
as they passed by me as I was working on my
the course of his investigation, Owen and his team met with
all IRD employees, none of whom corroborated the allegations
made by Williams in her February 10, 2015, email. (ECF No.
36-1 at 26). Where violations were confirmed as to other
employees, however, disciplinary action was taken. (ECF No.
36-2 at 82). As an additional precaution, Owen held pre-shift
meetings in IRD to remind employees of Aria's policies
and how to report concerns or inappropriate conduct. (ECF No.
41-15 at 69-70). Aria also conducted in-person training
sessions regarding harassment for all IRD employees.
Id. (ECF No. 36-1).
April 15, 2015, while working their shifts, Williams and Reed
engaged in a verbal altercation that resulted in both
employees receiving “last and final
warnings.” (ECF No. 36-2 at 53-55). Just prior to the
altercation, Reed had opened a cooling drawer in the kitchen
that was situated directly behind Williams, at which point
Williams asked Reed to step to the side, so the two
wouldn't “bump and touch each other.” (ECF
No. 36-1 at 63). According to post-incident written
statements by Reed, Williams, and other employees who were
present at the time, Reed and Williams began arguing loudly
in the kitchen, which drew the attention of the chef on duty
who separated the two by sending Reed to the chef's
office. (ECF No. 36-2 at 36, 38-40).
after the incident with Reed, on April 16, 2015, Williams was
called to the office of Human Resources Business Partner
Frank Quezada (“Quezada”) to discuss the
incident. (ECF No. 36-1 at 51). At this meeting, Williams
disclosed to Quezada a separate incident involving co-workers
Reed, Guadalupe Jiminez (“Jiminez”), Jeffrey
Baptista (“Baptista”), and Fanghao Tian
(“Tian”). (ECF No. 36-1 at 51). According to
Williams, she overheard these co-workers discussing her skin
and eye color and questioning how she could be black if her
skin is so light. Id. Baptista is alleged to have
responded that her skin was light because she was a
the April 15, 2015, incident, Williams was not scheduled to
work the same shift as Reed, and the two never had any
further interactions. (ECF No. 36-1 at 104-105).
on December 1, 2015, Williams engaged in another verbal
altercation with a different co-worker, Jiminez. Williams had
picked up a ticket for a food order off the printer, and when
she realized that the order was for Jiminez, she hung the
ticket on Jiminez's station. (ECF No. 36-1 at 96-99). The
parties dispute what happened next. Williams alleges that
Jiminez got angry and began yelling at her for touching his
ticket. Id. at 98. Other employees who were present
at the time reported, via written statements to management,
that Williams began to yell at Jiminez and told him to
“shut up” and instructed him not to talk to her.
(ECF No. 36-2 at 62, 66).
December 4, 2015, Williams was placed on suspension pending
investigation. (ECF No. 36-2 at 70). Thereafter, on December
10, 2015, Williams was given a “due process meeting,
” which Aria extends to its employees after certain
disciplinary matters to allow employees to tell their side of
the story. (ECF No. 36-2 at 70). The meeting was facilitated
by Quezada, and was attended by Williams, Executive Room Chef
Brendan Arenth, and a shop steward. (ECF No. 36 at 10). At
that meeting, Williams admitted that she told Jiminez to
“shut up” and “don't talk to me.”
(ECF No. 36-2 at 73).
the hearing, and considering all employee statements and
testimony, Aria terminated Williams' employment on
January 12, 2016. (ECF No. 36-2 at 76). The “Separation
PAN” prepared by Aria, which details the basis upon
which Williams was terminated, cites
Misconduct; specifically, engaging in high unprofessional,
rude and discourteous behavior, where [she was] loud and
demeaning in nature as well [as] engag[ed] in behavior that
is in direct violation of the final warning issued on
(ECF No. 36-2 at 76).
January 23, 2017, Williams submitted a charge of
discrimination (the “charge”) with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (ECF
No. 36-2 at 79). In her charge, Williams contends she was
discriminated against based on her gender and race and that
she was retaliated against for participating in a human
resources investigation. Id. She also claims she was
subjected to harassment by co-workers Reed, Tian, Baptista,
and Jimenez. Id. She claims each of these co-workers
made racially and sexually offensive comments about her,
threatened her, and made fun of her. Id. On February
24, 2017, the EEOC issued a “dismissal and notice of
rights, ” stating that it was “unable to conclude
the information obtained established violations of the
statutes.” Id. at 80.
Williams filed the instant suit on May 24, 2017, alleging six
causes of action for: (1) unlawful retaliation under Title
VII; (2) unlawful gender discrimination under Title VII; (3)
unlawful race discrimination under Title VII; (4) § 1981
civil rights violation; (5) assault and battery; and (6)
negligent supervision. (ECF No. 1). Aria now moves for summary
judgment as to all of Williams' claims. (ECF No. 36).
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow 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 dispute as to any
material fact and 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).
purposes of summary judgment, disputed factual issues should
be construed in favor of the non-moving party. Lujan v.
Nat'l Wildlife Fed., 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990).
However, to be entitled to a denial of summary judgment, the
nonmoving party must “set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.
determining summary judgment, a court applies a
burden-shifting analysis. The moving party must first satisfy
its initial burden. “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 case.” C.A.R. Transp.
Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480
(9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).
contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of
proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its
burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an
essential element of the non-moving party's case; or (2)
by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a
showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that
party's case on which that party will bear the burden of
proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at
323-24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden,
summary judgment must be denied, and the court need not
consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes
v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159- 60 (1970).
moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then
shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine
issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
(1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the
opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact
conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the
claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge
to resolve the parties' differing ...