Beckmann v. Ito, Civ. No. 18-00503 ACK-RT

Decision Date03 January 2020
Docket NumberCiv. No. 18-00503 ACK-RT
Citation430 F.Supp.3d 655
Parties Bryan W. BECKMANN, Plaintiff, v. Gordon I. ITO, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Hawaii

Mary A. Wilkowski, Honolulu, HI, for Plaintiff.

Dennis K. Ferm, Hawaii Disability Rights Center, Daniel K. Jacob, Office of the Attorney General, Ross T. Shinyama, John Everett Dubiel, Watanabe Ing LLP, Jeffrey S. Harris, Jennifer L. Gitter, Torkildson, Katz, Hetherington, Harris & Knorek, David N. Matsumiya, Marie Manuele Gavigan, Kanoelani Seumanu Kane, Department of the Attorney General, Honolulu, HI, for Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING THE STATE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND TO DISMISS THE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT; AND GORDON I. ITO AND KATHLEEN H. NAKASONE'S, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, SUBSTANTIVE JOINDERS

Alan C. Kay, Sr. United States District Judge

For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint filed by Defendants Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs of the State of Hawaii; Gordon I. Ito and Kathleen H. Nakasone, in their official capacities; and Colleen L. Chun, Paul S.K. Yuen, and Martha C. Im, in their official and individual capacities, ECF No. 30, and GRANTS the substantive joinders thereto filed by Defendants Gordon I. Ito and Kathleen H. Nakasone, in their individual capacities, ECF Nos. 34, 37 (defendants, collectively, the "State Defendants;" and the motions, collectively, "Motion" or "Mot.").

FACTUAL BACKGROUND...662

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND...665

STANDARD...667

DISCUSSION...668

IV. Sovereign Immunity...677
a. Eleventh Amendment Sovereign Immunity Under the ADEA (Counts THREE and FOUR)...677
b. Eleventh Amendment Sovereign Immunity Against Chapter 378 and Common Law Claims (Counts SEVEN through TWENTY-TWO...678
c. Punitive Damages...679
V. Hawaii Workers' Compensation Statute (Counts ELEVEN through TWENTY)...679
VI. Sufficiency of Allegations...683
a. Tortious Interference with Employment (Count ELEVEN)...683
b. Abuse of Authority (Count TWELVE)...684
c. Ratification (Count FOURTEEN)...685
d. Harassment (Count FIFTEEN)...685
e. Civil Conspiracy (Count TWENTY)...686

VIII. Allegation of Procedural Due Process Violation...686

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint and, at this stage, are accepted as true. Plaintiff Bryan W. Beckmann ("Beckmann") is employed in the Insurance Division of the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs ("DCCA"). Beckmann brings this lawsuit alleging that five DCCA employees "deliberately target[ed] him because of his protected status as a Caucasian [and] over 40 ... to achieve the singular goal of driving Plaintiff from State employment in violation of Federal and State anti-discrimination statutes, common law, and other rules and regulations ...." Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), ECF No. 21, at 5.

I. Events Concerning Beckmann's Hiring & Early Employment

Beckmann works as an Investigator within the Compliance and Enforcement ("C & E") Branch of the State of Hawaii DCCA's Insurance Division. SAC at 7.

Beckmann asserts that the discriminatory practices against him began immediately after he was hired in November 2012 as an Investigator III. SAC at 16. When Beckmann was offered the position, Defendant Ito, the Hawaii Insurance Commissioner, was absent and then-Chief Deputy Defendant Paul Yuen approved Beckmann's hire. SAC at 16. Shortly after Beckmann accepted the job offer, Defendant Ito requested to meet with Beckmann over Skype. SAC at 16. During the call, Defendant Ito "deliberately tried to make the job appear unattractive so [Beckmann] would rescind his acceptance." SAC at 17. Defendants Ito and Chun then conducted a criminal background check of Beckmann through the FBI database. Beckmann asserts that this background check was an improper attempt to locate information to prevent Beckmann from beginning his position even though he had already submitted to two prior FBI background checks. SAC at 17.

Despite Defendants Ito's and Chun's attempts to keep Beckmann from starting the job, he began work on March 4, 2013. SAC at 17. On Beckmann's first day, Defendant Ito commented that Beckmann should not have been offered the position without Defendant Ito's approval. SAC at 17. Beckmann understood this to mean that "he was not welcome in the Division." SAC at 17.

Beckmann asserts Defendant Chun next targeted him in mid-2013 by investigating Beckmann's use of a LexisNexis database to search his own name and his father's name. SAC at 19. Although the investigation was dropped, Defendant Chun instructed investigators not to work with Beckmann on companion investigations and to forbid Beckmann from entering the secure Fraud Branch space even though Beckmann's Filipina and Japanese colleagues were permitted to do so. SAC at 19-20.

When Beckmann continued to collaborate with investigators in the Fraud Branch, Defendant Chun reacted in anger. She directed investigators not to view a work site with Beckmann, made fraud investigators fearful of being seen with Beckmann and shunned female colleagues who liked Beckmann. SAC at 20.

II. Beckmann's Prior Private Detective Business

Prior to beginning work with the DCCA Insurance Division, Beckmann had plans to open a private investigation firm in Hawaii. SAC at 15. Beckmann had obtained his Hawaii private detective license and created a website marketing his services to Hawaii. SAC at 15. When he applied for the position with the DCCA Insurance Division, Beckmann disclosed his private detective license and discussed his business website with his DCCA interviewer, Sam Thomsen. SAC at 16. As a condition of his employment, Beckmann agreed to and did obtain an opinion from the Hawaii State Ethics Commission to determine whether the private detective work would conflict with his State employment. SAC at 16, 18. The Hawaii State Ethics Commission counseled that Beckmann could not obtain new business as a private investigator and would be required to recuse himself from any investigations relating to existing clients. SAC at 18. Defendant Ito was informed of this opinion by Mr. Thomsen in June 2013. SAC at 18-19. Although Beckmann initially sought reconsideration of the advisory opinion by the Hawaii State Ethics Commissioner, he ultimately decided not to pursue a private investigation business simultaneously with his State employment because he "underestimated the time required to run a private investigation firm as a second job." SAC at 19.

III. The Investigation Against Beckmann

Three years later, in the summer of 2016, Defendant Chun discovered Beckmann's website and reported the website to Defendant Ito. SAC at 21. Defendant Chun then bragged to her colleagues about the discovery of the website, indicating that Defendant Ito would open an internal investigation into Beckmann. SAC at 21.

Indeed, Defendant Ito opened an internal investigation. SAC at 21. Beckmann asserts that "Defendant Ito's goal [was] fabricating a case of employment misconduct against Plaintiff." SAC at 21. All State Defendants were included in the "bogus investigation." SAC at 21. The investigation resulted in a Preliminary Investigation Report, which recommended discipline and referral of the matter to the Hawaii State Ethics Commission for review and handling. SAC at 22. Beckmann was never questioned on the matter; the Special Investigation Unit was not involved to determine whether the website was active; Beckmann was not taken up on his offer to produce his redacted tax returns showing no income from the investigation work; and Beckmann's webmaster was never interviewed. SAC at 23. Beckmann therefore asserts, "The inescapable conclusion is that no Defendant wanted to learn the answers, and risk laying waste to the investigation's flimsy foundation and destroying the Commissioner's carefully-laid discriminatory plan to rid his Division of Plaintiff." SAC at 23. According to Beckmann, the form of the investigation violated his right to due process under his union contract. SAC at 23.

Beckmann ultimately received a charge letter and was put on a 30-day paid suspension on August 11, 2016. SAC at 24-25. He was charged with offering and soliciting services through his website in violation of Insurance Division instructions and policy. SAC at 24. Defendant Nakasone contacted Beckmann's webmaster and, although the webmaster offered an interview, Defendant Nakasone declined. SAC at 25-26.

On August 18, 2016, Defendant Nakasone met with Beckmann and his union representative. SAC at 25. Defendant Nakasone reported that Defendant Ito was opening an ethics investigation regarding Beckmann's website. SAC at 26. That same day, Defendant Nakasone sent a letter to the Hawaii State Ethics Commission "urging it to open a second investigation" into Beckmann. SAC at 26. Defendant Im drafted the letter at Defendant Ito's direction, and the letter was signed by Defendant Nakasone and approved by Defendant Yuen. SAC at 26.

Beckmann was instructed to return to work on September 9, 2016. SAC at 27. Because the investigation was ongoing, he was assigned to different duties. SAC at 27. Most notably, he was no longer involved in investigating cases, instead "relegated" to "a mind-numbing, undesirable assignment." SAC at 27. Beckmann took this as a "constructive[ ] demot[ion]." SAC at 27. When Beckmann returned, Mr. Thomsen—the...

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