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HIMAKA v. BUDDHIST CHURCHES OF AMERICA

November 22, 1995

CAROL J. HIMAKA, Plaintiff,
v.
BUDDHIST CHURCHES OF AMERICA, JAY SHINSEKI a.k.a. DENNIS SHINSEKI, SEI SHOHARA, SEIGEN YAMAOKA, and DOES I-X, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JENSEN

 On October 25, 1995, the Court heard arguments on defendant's motion for summary judgment, defendant's motion to dismiss the new causes of action included in plaintiff's second amended complaint, and defendant's motion for Rule 11 sanctions. Having considered the arguments of counsel and the papers submitted, the Court hereby GRANTS defendant's motion for summary judgment, GRANTS defendant's motion to dismiss, and DENIES defendant's motion for Rule 11 sanctions.

 A. Factual Background

 Plaintiff was employed as national director of the Department of Buddhist Education for the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA). She is ordained as a Buddhist minister. Remaining defendant BCA is a tax-exempt religious "umbrella" organization which has various individual Buddhist temples as constituent members.

 Plaintiff alleges that in 1991, she began receiving a series of heavy breathing telephone calls at her residence. She says that her phone number was not listed in the telephone utility's directory, but was published in the BCA information directory. She claims that the heavy breathing calls continued for the next few years, even though she changed her unlisted phone number several times.

 In 1993, plaintiff went to an annual meeting of the Buddhist's Ministers' Association ("BMA") held at a Red Lion Inn in San Jose, California. On the first evening of the meeting, at approximately 12:30 a.m., plaintiff claims she was awakened by a telephone call very similar in character and nature to the harassing telephone calls she had been receiving at her home since 1991. According to plaintiff, the caller spent several seconds breathing heavily and then whispered, "I want you" over and over. Plaintiff says that she asked, "Who is it?" and, when she received no response, hung up the phone.

 After hanging up the phone, plaintiff says that she contacted the management of the Red Lion Inn, reported the call and asked if the hotel could tell her who placed the call. The next morning, the hotel management called plaintiff, told her they had traced the call to another room in the hotel and said they would put the party in that room on the line. Plaintiff alleges that Dennis Shinseki, a minister at the White River Buddhist Temple in Auburn, Washington, then came on the line. *fn1"

 According to plaintiff, when Shinseki came on the telephone line, he claimed that he did not place the call and asserted that several people had been in his room. Plaintiff reported the entire incident to Bishop Seigen Yamaoka, her BCA superior. Plaintiff asserts that she feared for her safety when she learned that Bishop Yamaoka would not ask Shinseki to leave the meeting or the hotel and so she stayed at her home in San Leandro the next evening.

 After the incident was reported, several meetings were held between Bishop Yamaoka and the plaintiff, Shinseki, and/or other BCA staff members in an apparent attempt to get a complete story and to take responsive action. Yamaoka sent several letters to Shinseki outlining the disciplinary sanctions and rehabilitative efforts expected by the BCA. Shinseki was to go into a counseling program and make a written acknowledgment that he would not harass plaintiff Himaka in the future. Yamaoka warned Shinseki that failure to comply and further incidents could lead to a loss of ministerial status.

 Shinseki sent two letters to plaintiff, neither of which she felt to be an appropriate apology for his behavior at the annual meeting. Plaintiff alleges that Shinseki only attended one counseling session. Plaintiff also alleges that Shinseki changed his version of the incident several times -- originally claiming that other people were in the room and that someone else made the call, then admitting that he made the call and not denying plaintiff's version of the statements made in the call, and finally, admitting that he made the call but disputing plaintiff's version of the statements made by him in the call.

 An Investigative Report of the incident was rendered by members of a specially designated committee of the BCA. The committee found that Shinseki had attempted "to obscure the truth in a serious investigation while performing as a minister of the BCA." Himaka Declaration, Ex. 7 at 9. The report concluded that "sufficient facts supported a finding of misconduct to warrant certain specific sanctions" against Shinseki. Himaka Declaration, Ex. 7 at 10.

 B. Procedural History

 Plaintiff filed suit on August 12, 1994. Defendants first moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the Buddhist Church was not an "employer" with 15 or more employees within the scope of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. At a hearing held November 23, 1994, the Court orally denied defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint, but indicated that plaintiff's Title VII and Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) claims against the individual defendants were improper. In an Order filed December 13, 1994, the Court memorialized its oral ruling: the Court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint, holding that the BCA was an "employer" within the scope of Title VII, but granted defendants' motion to dismiss the Title VII and FEHA claims against the individual defendants. Plaintiff's remaining claims against the individual defendants were not dismissed. Dec. 13, 1994 Order, at 17.

 Defendants next moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that application of Title VII and state law to the employment relationship between a church and its minister violates the First Amendment. In an Order dated January 19, 1995, the Court denied the motion to dismiss the complaint, but granted the motion to dismiss certain causes of action. Specifically, the Court ordered plaintiff's state and federal claims for unlawful retaliation dismissed on First Amendment grounds. The Court also ordered plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress dismissed on statute of limitations grounds. The Court ruled, however, that plaintiff's other claims remained in the action. January 19, 1995 Order, at 17.

 Defendants next moved to dismiss plaintiff's claims for sexual harassment/discrimination arising under Article I, Section 8 of the California Constitution. In an order filed May 8, 1995, the Court dismissed plaintiff's California Constitutional claims. As these were the only remaining claims against the individual defendants, the individual defendants are no longer parties to the action.

 Plaintiff then sought leave to amend her complaint. In an order entered September 7, 1995, the Court granted in part and denied in part plaintiff's motion for leave to amend. The order granted plaintiff leave to amend her complaint:

 
(a) to include the new factual allegations based on defunding plaintiff's position;
 
(b) to add as a defendant the BCA Ministers Association; and
 
(c) to add a contract claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

 However, the order specifically denied plaintiff leave to amend:

 
(a) to add a tort claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy;
 
(b) to reallege claims arising under the California Constitution, Article I, Section 8.

 On September 18, 1995, plaintiff filed her second amended complaint.

 In the second amended complaint, plaintiff Himaka alleges causes of action for sexual harassment, disparate wage treatment, other employment discrimination on the basis of gender, and retaliation, all in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. In addition, plaintiff alleges a state law cause of action for breach of a covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied by her employment contract.

 Now before the Court are defendant's motions for summary judgment on the sexual harassment and discrimination claims, dismissal of the new causes of action for retaliation and breach of covenant for failure to state a claim, and Rule 11 sanctions.

 A. Summary Judgment Motion

 1. Legal Standard

 The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication 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 party ...


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