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Tatum v. Schwartz

August 8, 2008

STACIA TATUM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TERESA SCHWARTZ, JONATHAN ZEH, AND LANCE JENSEN, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES; AND CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, DEFENDANTS.



ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY ADJUDICATION

Plaintiff Stacia Tatum ("Tatum"), a former secretary with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), brought this action against defendants Teresa Schwartz ("Schwartz"), Jonathan Zeh ("Zeh"), Lance Jensen ("Jensen") and CDCR (collectively "Defendants") alleging, among other things, hostile work environment sexual harassment and retaliation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Defendants now move for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Tatum filed a cross-motion for summary adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED and Tatum's cross-motion is DENIED.*fn1

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Tatum worked at the CDCR medical facility in Vacaville (California Medical Facility ("CMF")) from February 1998 until June 10, 2004.*fn2 Defendant Jensen was a Correctional Plant Manager in the Plant Operation Department ("Plant Ops") during the time Tatum worked at CMF and was her direct supervisor. Defendant Zeh was a Chief Engineer I during the time Tatum worked at CMF. Defendant Schwartz was the Warden at CMF from April 2003 to October 2005.

In September 2001, Tatum began working as an administrative assistant in Plant Ops. As an administrative assistant, Tatum's duties involved various administrative tasks, including obtaining gate clearances, taking minutes at meetings, answering and transferring phone calls, processing time sheets for all staff and proofreading memos. Tatum performed additional administrative tasks for Jensen. In addition to her administrative duties, Tatum supervised inmates who performed clerical duties, including an inmate named Oetter. Tatum supervised Oetter for approximately one week in April 2004. She ceased doing so, however, after discovering that he had been convicted of rape. In June 2007, Oetter was reassigned to a different work area.

On or before May 13, 2004, Tatum complained to Ruben Perez, an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EOC") counselor, that Jensen and Zeh had sexually harassed her. On May 14, 2004, Schwartz was informed of Tatum's allegations against Jensen and Zeh. Thereafter, Schwartz assigned Lieutenant Damino Cano to conduct an internal fact-finding inquiry, which commenced on May 20, 2004. Tatum alleges that in June 2004 she complained directly to Schwartz about the sexually hostile working environment created by Jensen and Zeh, but Schwartz refused to remedy the situation. On or about June 8, 2004, Tatum was allegedly offered a transfer to CMF's Education Department. On or about June 10, 2004 Tatum ceased working at CMF due to an alleged disability, though she allegedly had a final meeting with Schwartz on June 30, 2004.

In her complaint, Tatum alleges that she could not "function or think clearly for several months after she left work in June 2004" as a result of Jensen and Zeh's conduct. In 2005, she hired an attorney to assist her in obtaining workers' compensation benefits. Tatum claimed stress injury due to sexual harassment, intimidation and retaliation by Jensen and Zeh, and from being forced to work with an inmate convicted of rape. On April 28, 2005, Tatum filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. On May 6, 2005 Tatum requested a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC. On June 9, 2005, Tatum received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, advising her that she had ninety days to file suit under Title VII. On November 17, 2005, a workers' compensation ALJ issued an opinion finding that Tatum had been psychiatrically disabled due to the actions of her co-employees. The ALJ found that Tatum had been "temporarily totally disabled from June 10, 2004 to date and continuing."

In early 2006, Tatum's treating physician, David L. Green ("Green"), sent medical files to CMF indicating that Tatum could return to work provided that she was not placed in the proximity or under the supervision of Jensen or Zeh. She did not return, however, because she was allegedly offered a lower-paying position at a different facility. On June 27, 2006 Tatum filed the instant action alleging hostile work environment sexual harassment and retaliation. Specifically, Tatum alleges that Jensen and Zeh sexually harassed her by watching her inappropriately, making sexual advances, and forcing her to work in close proximity to an inmate convicted of rape. Tatum alleges that Zeh "would sneak into her office 30 to 40 times a day and stand behind her watching her."*fn3 She alleges that Jensen made inappropriate comments about her clothing and unwelcome sexual advances "suggesting that she and he needed 'to spend more time together.' " She alleges that Zeh and Jensen did not help her reassign Oetter, and that they intimidated her when she complained. Tatum further alleges that Schwartz's response to her complaint of harassment was to transfer her to a less desirable position. Finally, Tatum alleges that when she sought to return to work in May 2006, she was offered a lower-paying position at a different facility.

On July 9, 2006 Tatum filed a second charge of discrimination with the EEOC alleging that CDCR retaliated against her by: (1) not selecting her for a promotion in May 2005; and (2) offering her a lower-paying position at a different facility when she sought to return to work in May 2006. On August 9, 2006 Tatum received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC. On September 1, 2006, Tatum amended her complaint to add a claim for retaliation pursuant to Title VII.

On June 9, 2008, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication. On June 12, 2008, Tatum filed a cross-motion for summary adjudication.*fn4

II. OPINION

A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party sustains its burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by his or her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. The moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of a claim in the case on which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof. Id. at 323. There is no genuine issue of fact for trial where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (nonmoving party must present specific, significant probative evidence, not simply "some metaphysical doubt"). Conversely, a genuine dispute over a material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute, requiring a judge or jury to resolve the differing versions of the truth. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 253 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if, viewing the evidence and the inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135, 1137 (9th Cir. 1989).

B. First Claim: Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

Defendants argue that Tatum's first claim, hostile work environment/sexual harassment pursuant to ...


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