Zetwick v. Cnty. of Yolo

Decision Date05 November 2014
Docket NumberNo. 12–CV–02486.,12–CV–02486.
Citation66 F.Supp.3d 1274
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
PartiesVictoria ZETWICK, Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF YOLO; Edward G. Prieto, an individual; and Does 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendant.

Johnny L. Griffin, III, Manolo H. Olaso, Law Offices of Johnny L. Griffin III, Sacramento, CA, for Plaintiff.

Carolee G. Kilduff, Cori Rae Sarno, Angelo, Kilday & Kilduff, Sacramento, CA, for Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGEMENT

TROY L. NUNLEY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendants Yolo County, Edward G. Prieto, and DOES 1–50's (collectively hereinafter referred to as Defendants) Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 14.) Plaintiff Victoria Zetwick (Plaintiff) opposes Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 19.) The Court has carefully considered the arguments raised by both parties. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Victoria Zetwick initiated this case on October 3, 2012, alleging sexual harassment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ) (Title VII) against Defendant County of Yolo and DOES 1–50, sexual harassment under the California Fair Employment Housing Act (Cal. Gov.Code § 12900 et seq. ) (FEHA) against all Defendants, and failure to prevent sexual harassment under the FEHA (Cal. Gov.Code § 12940(k) ) against Defendant County of Yolo and DOES 1–50.1 (Complaint, ECF No. 1.) In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, during the course of her 14 year employment as a correctional officer with the Yolo County's Sherriff's Department (“the Department”), she was the victim of a hostile work environment. (ECF No. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff states that Yolo County Sheriff, Defendant Edward Prieto (Defendant Prieto), subjected Plaintiff and several dozen other female employees to unwelcome hugs and kisses. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 15–16.) Plaintiff alleges that her co-workers and supervisors would tease her about these acts. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 22.) Plaintiff further states that she reported Defendant Prieto's conduct to her supervisors, who failed to file a formal complaint, and that she was discouraged from making a formal complaint. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 18–19.) Plaintiff's complaint states that these interactions with Defendant Prieto created a hostile work environment because Plaintiff “found it difficult to concentrate at work when Prieto was nearby, her work was made inefficient during times she tried to avoid contact with Prieto, and she grew anxious and upset when Prieto was nearby or was said to be nearby.” (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 24.) Following the close of discovery, Defendants filed the motion at issue.

II. STANDARD OF LAW

Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party demonstrates no genuine issue as to any material fact exists, and therefore, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) ; Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis of its motion, and identifying those portions of “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any,” which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). [W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.” Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (internal quotations omitted). Indeed, summary judgment should be entered against a party who does not make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585–87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) ; First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288–289, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the denials of its pleadings, but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 251–52, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

In the endeavor 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 versions of the truth at trial.” First Nat'l Bank, 391 U.S. at 288–89, 88 S.Ct. 1575. Thus, the “purpose of summary judgment is to ‘pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.’ Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (quoting Rule 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any applicable affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) ; SEC v. Seaboard Corp., 677 F.2d 1301, 1305–06 (9th Cir.1982). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244–45 (E.D.Cal.1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898 (9th Cir.1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue that necessitates a jury trial, the opposing party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348. “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.’ Id. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348.

III. ANALYSIS
a. Hostile Work Environment under Title VII and FEHA2

To make a prima facie case of a hostile work environment, Plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) she was subjected to verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, (2) this conduct was unwelcome, and (3) the conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment.” Fuller v. City of Oakland, 47 F.3d 1522, 1527 (9th Cir.1995) (internal quotations omitted). “When the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment Title VII is violated.” Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21, 114 S.Ct. 367, 126 L.Ed.2d 295 (1993) (internal citations and quotations omitted). The working environment must be perceived as both subjectively and objectively abusive. Id. at 20–21, 114 S.Ct. 367. In addition, the “conduct must be extreme to amount to a change in the terms and conditions of employment.” Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 788, 118 S.Ct. 2275, 141 L.Ed.2d 662 (1998).

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff failed to prove a prima facie case on three grounds: 1) Plaintiff was not subjected to sexual conduct by Defendant Prieto; 2) Plaintiff never communicated to Defendant Prieto that his conduct was unwelcome3 ; 3) and Plaintiff was not subjected to severe or pervasive harassment. (ECF No. 14.) However, [t]o determine whether an environment is sufficiently hostile, we look to the totality of the circumstances, including the ‘frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance.’ Ray v. Henderson, 217 F.3d 1234, 1245 (9th Cir.2000) (quoting Harris, 510 U.S. at 23, 114 S.Ct. 367 ). Indeed, the parties' briefs demonstrate that many of these legal issues are intertwined within a complicated factual history. (ECF No. 14.) For that reason, the Court will analyze the facts holistically, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the Plaintiff. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

i. Defendant Prieto's Conduct Toward Plaintiff

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants created a hostile work environment between 1998 and 2011. (Complaint, ECF No. 1 at ¶ 25.) Her complaint specifies that during her employment with the Department, Plaintiff was subjected to unwelcome hugs and kisses from Defendant Prieto. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Prieto hugged her at least 100 times in “awkward, unsolicited, and unwelcome” encounters. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff explained that these encounters typically occurred at work-related ceremonies, such as GED graduations, promotional or welcome ceremonies,...

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3 cases
  • Gonzalez v. Cnty. of Yolo
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • 17 Julio 2015
    ...teasing is not normally sufficient to state a claim for a hostile work environment under Title VII. See Zetwick v. Cnty. of Yolo, 66 F. Supp. 3d 1274, 1286 (E.D. Cal. 2014) (citing Ostin v. Gaet Gourmet, Inc., No. 01-466, 2001 WL 34039106 (D. Or. Nov. 30, 2001) ("[O]ccasional vulgar banter,......
  • Zetwick v. Cnty. of Yolo
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • 23 Febrero 2017
    ...Motion for Summary Judgment, dismissed Zetwick's claims, and directed the Clerk of Court to close the case. Zetwick v. Cty. of Yolo , 66 F.Supp.3d 1274 (E.D. Cal. 2014). Judgment was entered accordingly on November 6, 2014. Zetwick timely filed her Notice Of Appeal on November 24, 2014. We ......
  • Armstead v. City of L.A.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of California
    • 5 Diciembre 2014

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