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Sanders v. Corrections Corp. of America

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA, FRESNO DIVISION


December 22, 2009

TERRY SANDRES, AN INDIVIDUAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, A MARYLAND CORPORATION; CCA OF TENNESSEE, LLC, A TENNESSEE LIMITED LIABILITY [PROPOSED] THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT CORPORATION; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 50, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.

Assigned to: Hon. Oliver W. Wanger

Room3

State Court Case No. S-1500-CV-267904-DRL

for:

1. DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION (FEHA);

2. FAILURE TO PROVIDE REASONABLE ACCOMODATION (FEHA);

3. RETALIATION (FEHA);

4. WRONGFUL TERMINATION IN VIOLATION OF PUBLIC POLICY; and

5. FAILURE TO PERMIT INSPECTION OR COPYING OF EMPLOYMENT RECORDS DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

Plaintiff TERRY SANDRES complains and pleads as follows:

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

1. At all relevant times, Plaintiff TERRY SANDRES ("Plaintiff" or "Sandres") was and now is an individual residing in the County of Los Angeles, State of California.

2. At all relevant times, Defendant CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA ("Defendant" or "CCA") was and now is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Maryland, and doing business throughout the country, including at facilities in the State of California. At all relevant times, Defendant CCA of Tennessee LLC ("Defendant" or CCA") was and now is a limited liability corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Tennessee, and doing business throughout the country, including at facilities in the State of California. CCA is a corporation which operates prison and detention facilities, including one in California City, in Kern County, California, where Plaintiff worked.

3. Plaintiff is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that each Defendant was the agent and employee of its Co-Defendants, and in doing the things alleged in this Complaint was acting within the course and scope of that agency and employment.

4. The true names and capacities of Defendants sued herein as Does 1 through 50, inclusive, are unknown to Plaintiff, but Plaintiff will amend this Complaint when and if the true names of said Defendants become known to him. Plaintiff is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that each of the Defendants sued herein as a Doe is responsible in some manner for the events and happenings herein set forth and proximately caused injury and damages, and any reference to "Defendant" shall mean "Defendant and each of them."

5. Plaintiff Sandres began working for CCA as a corrections officer in or around July 2002. He regularly received positive performance reviews, raises, awards and letters of recognition.

6. On February 16, 2004, Sandres received a very serious injury to his arm during a football game with his team at work during work hours. Sandres' supervisor directed the employees involved to lie and state that the injury occurred during a training exercise. Several employees followed instructions and provided such false statements. Sandres refused to lie and told the truth about his injury. He did not want to make a false statement in support of his workers' compensation claim. In retaliation, Defendant wrongfully terminated Sandres for fabricated and false reasons. Sandres retained an attorney, and Defendant ultimately reinstated Sandres.

7. After Sandres was reinstated to his employment with Defendant, he needed to take medical leaves of absence periodically for treatment for his arm injury, including several surgeries. From the time he returned to work for Defendant, Sandres was often harassed and ostracized by his co-workers and supervisors for taking time off for medical treatment, for having filed a worker's compensation claim, and for reporting the unlawful conduct of his co-workers and supervisors. A supervisor even made implied threats against Sandres, advising Sandres in front of inmates that if anything were to happen to Sandres while he was in the prison population, he would not send anyone to help Sandres. The supervisor also referred to Sandres as a "snitch" in front of co-workers and inmates, hoping to incite violence against Sandres.

8. As a result of this harassment, retaliation, and threats against his physical safety, Sandres began to suffer stress and anxiety. In or about August 2007, Sandres filed a worker's compensation claim for these conditions. In or about August 2007, Sandres' doctor placed Sandres on a medical leave of absence due to disability. Defendant was aware Sandres had a disability that limited his major life activities.

9. In or around December 2007, Sandres was prepared to return to work, with modifications if necessary. Sandres was able to perform the essential job duties with reasonable accommodations. Defendant advised Sandres that he could not return to work until his worker's compensation claim was completed. Defendant refused to engage in an interactive process and refused to consider allowing Sandres to return to work with any reasonable accommodation. Thus, Defendant forced Sandres to remain on medical leave.

10. On or about August 18, 2008, Sandres called Defendant's human resources department to advise them that his worker's compensation claim was about to be resolved and to tell them that he wanted to return to work. Sandres left a voicemail message with the human resources department. On or about August 21, 2008, Sandres' worker's compensation claim was resolved by a compromise and release. Sandres then made numerous attempts to contact Defendant's human resources department to advise then that his worker's compensation claim had been resolved and that he was eager to return to work. Sandres advised several people at Defendant's facility of his desire to return to work. Between August 18, 2008 and October 2, 2008, Sandres called Defendant's human resources department several times, leaving voicemail messages, and he sent correspondence by facsimile, all in efforts to return to work. Defendant's Human Resources Manager, Salvador Carlton, would not take Sandres' calls, did not return his calls, and did not respond to his correspondence.

11. On or about October 28, 2008, Defendant's Warden, J.E. Sugrue, sent Sandres a letter falsely claiming that Mr. Carlton had called Sandres twice on October 2, and that because Sandres did not call back Defendant had terminated Sandres' employment for alleged job abandonment as of October 5, 2008. In fact, Defendant, including but not limited to its Warden, J.E. Sugrue and Human Resources Manager Salvador Carlton, were all aware that Sandres had been contacting Defendant repeatedly for nearly two months trying to return to work. Moreover, Defendant's claim that Mr. Carlton had called and left messages for Sandres was false as well. Defendant's termination of Sandres for job abandonment was false and pretextual. Plaintiff is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that Defendant, and Warden Segrue in particular, has a pattern and practice of terminating, for false and pretextual reasons, employees who have sought a protected leave of absence or an accommodation for a disability. Moreover, Defendant, and Warden Segrue in particular, has a pattern and practice of ignoring communications from employees on medical leaves of absence and then terminating them for the false and pretextual reasons of job abandonment. After learning of his termination, Sandres contacted Defendant to initiate an internal grievance procedure pursuant to Defendant's written policies, but Warden Segrue ignored this request and refused to allow the grievance procedure to take place. Warden Sugrue was aware of the retaliation taken by Sandres' supervisor against Sandres for taking medical leaves of absence due to disability, and approved, authorized and ratified this unlawful conduct, even rewarding the supervisor. Warden Sugrue made the decision and/or authorized the decision to discriminate against Sandres, to refuse to provide Sandres a reasonable accommodation, and to terminate him for false, pretextual reasons, as he has done with other employees who have had a disability or requested an accommodation. Warden Sugrue also adopted and approved of this unlawful conduct by refusing to allow Sandres to pursue Defendant's internal grievance procedure.

12. According to Defendant's website, Wardens, including Warden Segrue, have substantial discretion and responsibility in the operations of their facilities. Wardens, including Warden Segrue, have a great deal of "operational oversight and accountability" over "financial, administrative, regulatory, legal, [and] managerial functions" at their facilities. The Wardens, including Warden Segrue, are responsible for addressing the "needs of the human resources, maintenance, inmate programs, health services, security, education, food service and quality assurance departments." The Wardens, including Warden Segrue, are also responsible for "develop[ing] and manag[ing] facility budgets and ensuring contractual compliance."

13. Also according to Defendant's website, the Wardens, including Warden Segrue, are highly visible fixtures in the community, and they work collaboratively with area law enforcement, local officials, nonprofit organizations, schools and others. The Wardens, including Warden Segrue, are responsible for the management of the facility and they direct and administer the activities of the entire facility. In the case of Warden Segrue at the California City facility, that included the management of hundreds of employees and approximately 2,300 inmates. Warden Segrue was given the discretion to disregard federal regulations in allowing an excessive number of inmates. He was given the discretion to decide whether and how to respond to employee complaints and issues with inmates. Warden Segrue had discretion to decide whether and how to apply company policies on reasonable accommodations, requests for medical leaves of absence, when to terminate employees who have requested accommodations or leaves of absence, whether to reward supervisors known to have engaged in unlawful conduct, and whether or how to respond to employee complaints and requests to participate in the company's internal grievance procedure. Warden Segrue was given complete discretion in how or if to apply such policies that directly affected company and facility policies.

14. After his termination, Plaintiff contacted by mail Richard Seiter, who was Defendant's Executive Vice-President and Chief Corrections Officer, and a member of Defendant's executive management team and an officer of Defendant, in order to complain about what had taken place and to ask to take advantage of Defendant's grievance procedure. Mr. Seiter ignored Plaintiff's request. Also after his termination, Plaintiff called and left a voicemail message for Brian Collins, who was Defendant's Vice-President of Operations and also an officer of Defendant, asking for a meeting to discuss his allegations. Mr. Collins also never responded to Plaintiff's call.

15. As set forth above, Warden Segrue was a managing agent for Defendant and engaged in the unlawful conduct alleged herein. In addition, Warden Segrue's conduct was subsequently ratified by Mr. Seiter and Mr. Collins when they refused to take any action in response to Plaintiff's complaints, and refused to allow Plaintiff to participate in Defendant's grievance procedure. Mr. Seiter and Mr. Collins are officers of Defendant and exercised substantial discretion and were in policy-making positions with Defendant, at Defendant's corporate headquarters; and regularly made decisions that directly affect company policies. Moreover, they both had and exercised their discretion to ignore and take no action in response to Plaintiff's complaints, and to ratify the decision to refuse to accommodate Plaintiff and to retaliate against him and to wrongfully terminate him for false and pretexual reasons. They were aware of the unlawful conduct by Warden Segrue and his managers and supervisors such as terminating employees who have sought reasonable accommodations and/or medical leaves of absence as it was an ongoing practice, and the subject of complaints by Plaintiff and other employees in the past. No action was taken by them or any other upper management, officers or directors of Defendant to stop such unlawful practices. Thus, Mr. Seiter and Mr. Collins authorized or ratified such conduct or acted with a reckless or conscious disregard knowing that such conduct would continue.

16. On or about November 15, 2008, Sandres sent Defendant a letter requesting to inspect and/or copy his personnel file, including payroll records. Defendant ignored this request and has never provided Plaintiff with his records.

17. On July 16, 2009, Sandres timely filed a Complaint of Discrimination with the DFEH against Defendant Corrections Corporation of America, and received his "right-to-sue" letter from the DFEH on July 16, 2009. On December 21, 2009, Sandres filed an Amended Complaint of Discrimination with the DFEH against Defendant CCA of Tennessee LLC and received a right to sue letter.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ("FEHA")

(Against all Defendants)

18. Plaintiff re-alleges and incorporates herein by reference paragraphs 1 through 17, inclusive, of this Complaint as though fully set forth herein.

19. At all relevant times herein, Defendants were and are employers within the meaning of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), and as such, were barred from discriminating against employees on the basis of, inter alia, disability as set forth in Government Code Sections 12940 et seq. Further, Government Code section 12940(k) requires an employer to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent harassment and discrimination from occurring.

20. At all relevant times herein, Plaintiff was an employee covered by Government Code sections 12940 et seq. Plaintiff also had disabilities covered by the FEHA.

21. By their conduct, Defendants harassed, discriminated and retaliated against Plaintiff on the basis of his disabilities and/or perceived disabilities, and failed to provide Plaintiff with a reasonable accommodation and/or to engage in the interactive process.

22. Defendant subjected Sandres to adverse employment actions due to his disabilities, by harassing him for taking medical leaves of absence, refusing to allow him to return to work and by terminating his employment.

23. As a proximate result of the wrongful conduct of Defendants, Plaintiff has sustained substantial losses in earnings and other employment benefits in an amount according to proof at the time of trial.

24. As a further proximate result of the wrongful conduct of Defendants, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress and mental anguish, all to his damage in an amount according to proof at the time of trial.

25. In doing the acts herein alleged, Defendants acted with oppression, fraud, malice, and in the conscious disregard of the rights of Plaintiff. As set forth above, Warden Sugrue, a managing agent of Defendant, authorized, ratified, and engaged in the unlawful acts of Defendant. Plaintiff is therefore entitled to punitive damages in an amount according to proof at the time of trial. Plaintiff is entitled to costs and reasonable attorney's fees pursuant to Government Code Section 12965(b).

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

FAILURE TO PROVIDE REASONABLE ACCOMODATION (FEHA)

(Against all Defendants)

26. Plaintiff re-alleges and incorporates herein by reference paragraphs 1 through 25, inclusive, of this Complaint as though fully set forth herein.

27. At all relevant times herein, Defendants were and are employers within the meaning of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), and as such, were barred from discriminating against employees on the basis of, inter alia, disability as set forth in Government Code Sections 12940 et seq. Further, Government Code section 12940(k) requires an employer to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent harassment and discrimination from occurring.

28. At all relevant times herein, Plaintiff was an employee covered by Government Code sections 12940 et seq. Plaintiff also had disabilities covered by the FEHA.

29. By their conduct, Defendants failed to provide Plaintiff with a reasonable accommodation and/or to engage in the interactive process. Defendant subjected Sandres to adverse employment actions due to his disabilities.

30. Pursuant to the FEHA, Defendants were required to provide reasonable accommodation for the known disability of an employee, and to engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process to accomplish that goal as set forth in Government Code Sections 12940 (m) and (n).

31. As a proximate result of the wrongful conduct of Defendants, Plaintiff has sustained substantial losses in earnings and other employment benefits in an amount according to proof at the time of trial.

32. As a further proximate result of the wrongful conduct of Defendants, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress and mental anguish, all to his damage in an amount according to proof at the time of trial.

33. In doing the acts herein alleged, Defendants acted with oppression, fraud, malice, and in the conscious disregard of the rights of Plaintiff. As set forth above, Warden Sugrue, a managing agent of Defendant, authorized, ratified, and engaged in the unlawful acts of Defendant. Plaintiff is therefore entitled to punitive damages in an amount according to proof at the time of trial. Plaintiff is entitled to costs and reasonable attorney's fees pursuant to Government Code Section 12965(b).

THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION RETALIATION (FEHA)

(Against all Defendants)

34. Plaintiff re-alleges and incorporates herein by reference paragraphs 1 through 33, inclusive, of this Complaint as though fully set forth herein.

35. At all relevant times herein, Defendants were and are employers within the meaning of the FEHA, and as such, were barred from retaliating against employees on the basis of disability and/or perceived disability, or for having taken medical leaves of absence for a disability.

36. At all relevant times herein, Plaintiff was an employee covered by Government Code sections 12940 et seq.

37. Defendants engaged in unlawful employment practices in violation of the FEHA, Government Code sections 12940 and 12940(h) by retaliating against Plaintiff.

38. Based on the above-alleged conduct, Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff for taking protected medical leaves of absence and seeking reasonable accommodation, by refusing to reinstate and instead terminating Plaintiff's employment. In addition, Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff by harassing him for taking protected medical leaves of absence.

39. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants' conduct, Plaintiff has suffered special damages in the form of lost earnings, benefits and/or out-of-pocket expenses in an amount according to proof at trial. As a further direct and proximate result of Defendants' conduct, Plaintiff will suffer additional special damages in the form of lost future earnings, benefits and/or other prospective damages in an amount according to proof at trial.

40. As a further proximate result of the wrongful conduct of Defendants, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer humiliation, lack of self-confidence, embarrassment, emotional distress and mental anguish, all to his damage in an amount according to proof at the time of trial.

41. In doing the acts herein alleged, Defendants acted with oppression, fraud, malice, and in the conscious disregard of the rights of Plaintiff. Warden Sugrue, a managing agent of Defendant, authorized, ratified, and engaged in the unlawful acts of Defendant. Plaintiff is therefore entitled to punitive damages in an amount according to proof at the time of trial. Plaintiff is entitled to costs and reasonable attorney's fees pursuant to Government Code Section 12965(b).

FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION WRONGFUL TERMINATION IN VIOLATION OF PUBLIC POLICY

(Against all Defendants)

42. Plaintiff re-alleges and incorporates herein by reference paragraphs 1 through 41, inclusive, of this Complaint as though fully set forth herein.

43. Defendants discriminated against Plaintiff on grounds that violate California public policies prohibiting discrimination against employees with disabilities and that require a reasonable accommodation, and who take protected leaves of absence, as mandated by the FEHA, Government Code section 12940, et seq.

44. As a proximate result of the wrongful conduct of Defendants, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to sustain substantial losses in earnings and other employment benefits in an amount according to proof at the time of trial.

45. As a further proximate result of the wrongful conduct of Defendants, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer humiliation, lack of self-confidence, embarrassment, emotional distress and mental anguish, all to his damage in an amount according to proof at the time of trial.

46. In doing the acts herein alleged, Defendants acted with oppression, fraud, malice, and in the conscious disregard of the rights of Plaintiff, and Plaintiff is therefore entitled to punitive damages in an amount according to proof at the time of trial.

FIFTH CAUSE OF ACTION FAILURE TO PERMIT INSPECTION OR COPYING OF EMPLOYMENT RECORDS

(Against all Defendants)

47. Plaintiff re-alleges and incorporates herein by reference paragraphs 1 through 16, inclusive, of this Complaint as though fully set forth herein.

48. California Labor Code sections 226(b) and (c) require an employer to permit a current or former employee to inspect or copy certain employment records upon reasonable request, as soon as practicable, but in no event later than 21 days after the request. California Labor Code section 226(f) provides that an employee aggrieved by a violation of section 226(c) is entitled to recover a $750 penalty from the employer. In addition, Labor Code sections 1198.5 and 1776 require an employer to allow an employee to inspect various personnel records.

49. On November 15, 2008, Plaintiff requested that Defendants allow him to inspect or copy his personnel and payroll records. Defendants refused to permit Plaintiff to inspect or copy his employment records upon his reasonable request to do so. Therefore, Defendants are liable to Plaintiff in the amount set forth in California Labor Code section 226(f), plus attorney's fees and costs pursuant to Labor Code section 226(g).

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs respectfully pray for judgment against Defendants, and each of them, according to proof, as follows:

a. For general and special damages, including lost wages, in a sum in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limit of this Court, according to proof at trial;

b. For interest at the maximum legal rate;

c. For reasonable attorney's fees pursuant to statute, including but not limited to Government Code Section 12965(b) and Labor Code Section 226(g);

d. For costs of suit incurred herein;

e. For statutory penalties;

f. For exemplary and punitive damages; and

g. For such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

Dated: December 22, 2009

Barry M. Appell Attorney for Plaintiff Terry Sandres

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL Plaintiffs hereby request a jury trial on the claims so triable.

Dated: December 22, 2009

Barry M. Appell Attorney for Plaintiff Terry Sandres

20091222

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