The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spero, United States Magistrate Judge.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OR, IN THE
ALTERNATIVE, PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Defendants filed a Motion For Summary Judgment Or, In The Alternative,
Motion For Partial Summary Judgment ("the Motion") on October 27, 2000.
For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion is DENIED.
Plaintiff Del Erdmann, a Caucasian male homosexual, alleges that his
employer, Tranquility Inc. (d.b.a. San Miguel Villa), and Velda Pierce
(who owns and operates San Miguel Villa) discriminated against him based
upon religion and sexual orientation. Specifically, he alleges that Velda
Pierce, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day
Saints ("Mormon Church"), discriminated against Plaintiff and created a
hostile and abusive work environment based on religion — namely,
her belief that homosexuality is immoral. He further alleges that
Pierce's conduct gave rise to his constructive discharge.
1. Erdmann's Employment History With San Miguel Villa
In August 1997, Plaintiff Del Erdmann interviewed for a job with San
Miguel Villa. Plaintiff's Statement of Disputed Issues in Support of
Opposition at 1. The interview was conducted by Velda Pierce, whose son
was also present at the interview. Deposition of Del K. Erdmann ("Erdmann
Depo.") at 28, Exh. 1 to Declaration of Wendy A. Moss in Support of
Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment ("Moss Decl.").*fn2 In the
interview, Pierce asked Plaintiff, whose previous job was in New York,
why he had returned to
the San Francisco Bay area. Id. at 22, 28-29. Plaintiff explained that
his "significant other" had relocated to the Bay Area and so he had
decided to relocate as well. Id. at 29. It is undisputed that Pierce was
of the opinion at the time of the interview that Plaintiff was a
homosexual. See Plaintiff's Statement of Disputed Issues In Support of
Opposition To Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment at ¶ 4.*fn3 At
the end of the interview, Pierce offered Plaintiff the position of MDS
coordinator, and Plaintiff accepted the offer. Erdmann Depo. at 31-32,
Exh. 1 to Moss Decl.
Until November 1998, Plaintiff was "very happy" in his employment with
San Miguel Villa. Id. at 84. In June 1998, Erdmann was promoted to the
position of Assistant Director of Nursing and received a salary increase.
Id. at 63. This promotion was recommended by Robert Pritchard, the
director of nursing at that time, and approved by Velda Pierce. Id. at
69; see also Pierce Depo. at 52, Exh. 2 to Declaration of Henry Y. Ku In
Support of Opposition To Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment/Summary
Adjudication ("Ku Decl."); Deposition of Robert Allen Pritchard
("Pritchard Depo.") at 11, Exh. 3 to Ku Decl. In his new position,
Plaintiff worked as Mr. Pritchard's assistant. Erdmann Depo. at 69, Exh.
1 to Moss Decl.
As an employee at San Miguel Villa, Plaintiff did not try to keep his
sexual orientation a secret. Erdmann Depo. at 59, Exh. 1 to Ku Decl. On
the other hand, aside from a few co-workers with whom he occasionally
socialized outside of work, Plaintiff did not tell his co-workers that he
was gay. Id. at 60-61. Nor did he tell Velda Pierce or his immediate
supervisor, Robert Pritchard, that he was gay, although both were aware
that he was gay. Id. at 58-60; Pierce Depo. at 69-70, Pritchard Depo. at
30, Exh. 3 to Ku Decl.
Sometime before November 11, 1998, Joseph Alagon, a registered nurse
"with more supervisorial duties than other nurses" employed by San Miguel
Villa, told Robert Pritchard that he was uncomfortable with Plaintiff's
conduct. Pritchard Depo. at 33-34, Exh. 3 to Ku Decl. Alagon told
Pritchard that while Pritchard was absent from work due to a serious
illness, Plaintiff had asked Alagon to come in to his office to discuss
how Plaintiff and Alagon could work together to cover for Pritchard in
his absence. Id. at 33. Alagon was particularly uncomfortable with the
fact that Plaintiff had closed the door to his office at the beginning of
this meeting. Id. at 34. Alagon also told Pritchard that Plaintiff had
approached him more than once to ask him if he needed help. Id. at 33. The
first time Plaintiff asked, Alagon declined Plaintiff's offer. Id. The
second time Plaintiff offered assistance, Alagon said something like "I
don't want your help, I told you before" and "please
leave me alone." Id. When Pritchard asked Alagon whether he felt that he
had been "harassed," Alagon said that he did not, but that he felt
uncomfortable with Plaintiff's conduct. Id. at 35. Alagon and Pritchard
did not discuss Alagon's feelings about homosexuals during this
conversation. Id. at 37. Apparently, Alagon stopped coming to work after
this meeting. See Pierce Depo. at 92, Exh. 2 to Ku Decl.
Following the discussion between Pritchard and Alagon, Pritchard
informed Velda Pierce of his conversation with Alagon. Id. at 36. He and
Pierce agreed that Alagon's reluctance to work with Plaintiff was not
good for teamwork and that they should try to resolve the problem by
having a meeting with both Plaintiff and Alagon present. Id. at 37.
Sometime thereafter, Pierce had a telephone conversation with Alagon in
which she asked him to come in to discuss his continued employment with
San Miguel Villa. Pierce Depo. at 87, Exh. 2 to Ku Decl. On November 12,
a meeting was held in which Plaintiff, Alagon, Pierce and Pritchard
participated (see below).
In the meantime, on November 11, Plaintiff asked to talk to Velda
Pierce. Erdmann Depo. at 75, Exh. 1 to Ku Decl. According to Plaintiff,
he had been told by a co-worker that another co-worker had said that
Plaintiff had said Pierce only hired "drunks and drug addicts as nurses."
Id. at 76. Plaintiff went to Pierce's office to tell her about the
statement and let Pierce know that Plaintiff had not made such a
statement. Id. at 77. During the course of the conversation, Pierce told
Plaintiff that "some people are troublemakers and they may be friends to
your face but they're going to stab you in the back." Id. at 78.
Plaintiff responded by mentioning the incident that had occurred with
Joseph Alagon, when Alagon told Plaintiff to leave him alone. Id. He told
Pierce, "Well, it's kind of the way Joseph Alagon was then. He was real
nice to me and then all of a sudden I asked him if he needed help and he
screamed back at me." Erdmann Depo. at 78, Exh. 1 to Ku Decl. At that
point, Pierce began to discuss Plaintiff's homosexuality. Id.; see also
Pierce Depo. at 76, Exh. 2 to Ku Decl. (describing meeting with Plaintiff
in which Pierce told Plaintiff that she believed homosexuality was
immoral and that when Plaintiff died, "he would go before the Lord and
the Lord would question his homosexual ways."). According to Plaintiff,
Pierce told Plaintiff that it is "immoral" to be a homosexual, and that
he should become heterosexual and a Mormon or he would go to hell. Id.
According to Pierce, Plaintiff was "tearful" during this meeting and told
her he did not want to discuss the subject, then walked out of her
office. Pierce Depo. at 77, Exh. 2 to Ku Decl. On the same day, Plaintiff
told his supervisor, Robert Pritchard, about the meeting. Erdmann Depo.
at 80, Exh. 1 to Ku Decl.
On November 12, Velda Pierce called Pritchard and instructed him to
bring Plaintiff to her office for a meeting with Joseph Alagon. Pierce
Depo. at 88, Exh. 2 to Ku Decl. Alagon was already in Pierce's office
when Plaintiff and Pritchard arrived. Id. Pierce then began to talk to
Alagon and Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff describes the meeting as follows:
Erdmann Depo. at 98-99, Exh. 1 to Ku Decl. Pierce then instructed
Plaintiff and Alagon to shake hands. Id. at 101. Plaintiff complied
because "Mrs. Pierce is the boss, the owner" and he was "scared of losing
[his] job." Id. at 102. It was evident to Pierce, however, that Plaintiff
was "very angry." Pierce Depo. at 96, Exh. 2 to Ku Decl. The two shook
hands, but Alagon never came back. Pierce Depo. at 96, Exh. 2 to Ku
Plaintiff resigned the following day, on November 13. Erdmann Depo. at
121, Exh. 1 to Ku Decl. 121. He did not tell Pierce the reasons for his
resignation. Id. at 123. However, he stated in his deposition that it was
clear to him that she knew "exactly why [he] was quitting," namely, that
he was "being persecuted for being a homosexual and [he] ...