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Coughlin v. California Dep't of Corrections and Rehabilitation

April 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge


On February 4, 2010, Defendant California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") filed a motion for summary judgment or in the alternative for summary adjudication on Plaintiff Bobbi Coughlin's five claims: (1) sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, §§ 701 et seq., 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"); (2) sexual harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, California Government Code §§ 12940 et seq. ("FEHA"); (3) retaliatory harassment under Title VII; (4) retaliatory harassment under FEHA; and (5) failure to prevent harassment under FEHA. For the following reasons, CDCR's summary judgment motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.*fn2

I. Background

A. October 10, 2006 -- October 13, 2007

Bobbi Coughlin ("Coughlin") began working for CDCR as a "Cook II" at the Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp ("Pine Grove") on October 10, 2006. (Statement of Undisputed Facts ("SUF") ¶ 1.) Karen Wheeler ("Wheeler") was Coughlin's official supervisor from October 10, 2006 to October 13, 2007, at which time Wheeler transferred to a different CDCR facility. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 4; Coughlin Dep. 29:11-14.) Defendant Tom Maugeri ("Maugeri") worked as a cook at Pine Grove from "before October 2006" until December 4, 2007, when he was placed on "Administrative Time Off." (Id. ¶¶ 5, 60.)

"Between October 2006 and October 2007, Maugeri and Coughlin were friends." (Id. ¶ 11.) Maugeri commented on Coughlin's hair and eyes three or four times between October 2006 and October 13, 2007. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) Coughlin offers testimony that at one point during this time period she noticed Maugeri "leering" at her while she took off her sweatshirt. (Coughlin Dep. 76:23-77:5.) Coughlin testified that on another occasion, Maugeri commented on her tan skin as she removed her sweatshirt, making her "uncomfortable." (Id. 77:10-78:9.)

Some time before Coughlin's son's wedding on September 29, 2007, "Coughlin described a pedicure she received in anticipation of her son's wedding.... Maugeri told Couglin he... was aroused by the conversation, asked Coughlin to touch his hands, and told Coughlin she was his sexual fantasy." (SUF ¶ 19.) Coughlin testified that when Maugeri asked her to feel his hands, she touched them with her two index fingers and stated "You are out of control, that's just bizarre. And you just ruined for me a great moment, you know, and being excited about my son's wedding and taking all the girls and all the moms, you know." (Coughlin Dep. 81:19-23.) Coughlin testified that Maugeri responded "Well, I have a foot fetish, and, you know, I am turned on." (Id. 81:24-25.) Coughlin testified "that was the end of the conversation, I just left the room." (Id. 82:22-23.) "Coughlin was not offended by Maugeri's actions between October 2006 and October 13, 2007." (SUF ¶ 21.)

B. October 13, 2007 -- October 23, 2007

Wheeler transferred to another facility on or about October 13, 2007. (SUF ¶ 4; Coughlin Dep. 66:1-3.) "Between October 14, 2007 and October 23, 2007, Coughlin and Maugeri worked together on [four] occasions, for approximately [two and a half] hours each time." (SUF ¶ 25.) The parties dispute whether Pine Grove Assistant Superintendent Harry Linden ("Linden") "was responsible for supervising the kitchen staff" at Pine Grove during this time period, or whether "the actual supervision and decisions were being made by Maugeri." (Id. ¶ 26.) Linden testified that as Assistant Superintendent, he was "directly in charge of the kitchen...[; he] supervise[d] the kitchen." (Linden Dep. 15:10-12.) Coughlin testified that "we all knew that [Maugeri] was going to get [the Supervisor position.]... [H]e had been acting in that capacity already." (Coughlin Dep. 39:12-15.) Wheeler testified that before she was hired, Maugeri "was the cook there who did everything." (Wheeler Dep. 14:16-17.) Wheeler testified that "[b]efore [Wheeler] was hired,... [Maugeri] kind of ran the whole show." (Wheeler Dep. 14:18-21.) Coughlin testified that "when [Wheeler] left[, Maugeri] became the acting supervisor and he said he had to go through the formal interview, which he laughed about and said it was a joke.... Because he knew he already had the job." (Coughlin Dep. 67:1-6.) Coughlin testified that during the week of Wheeler's last day, Maugeri stated "I am the acting supervisor." (Id. 67:10-17.) Coughlin testified that Maugeri told her prior to Wheeler leaving that "he was finally going to get to be the supervisor, not just in doing the work, but get the job." (Id. 66:11-13.)

Coughlin testified that during the time period of October 14 to October 23, 2007, Maugeri "got bold. And I don't know how to tell you that in words other than that he just felt like he was on top of the world, I think." (Coughlin Dep. 86:1-3.) Coughlin testified that Maugeri "made comments like, I thought about you over the weekend.

And I think he meant it in a sexual way." (Id. 87:16-18.) She further testified that on one occasion "he told me a story about some gal he had made out with and he had her panties in his locker. And I am like, [t]hat's out of control. He told me the story twice, and I don't know why he told it to me." (Id. 87:7-12.) Additionally, "Between October 14, 2007 and October 23, 2007, Maugeri told Coughlin that he tried to have oral sex with his wife." (SUF ¶ 33.)

Coughlin testified that her reaction to Maugeri during this time period was "to play it off, or tell him, You are out of control or, you know, You know I am married. Or I would just leave the area that he was in." (Coughlin Dep. 88:4-8.)

"Maugeri told Coughlin that he had watched pornography on the [Pine Grove] computer." (SUF ¶ 34.) "Sometime prior to October 23, 2007," Maugeri showed Coughlin a pornographic image on his computer and stated that the woman in the image was his sister-in-law and that she was a "porn-star." (SUF ¶ 26.) Coughlin testified that Maugeri convinced Coughlin to look at the image by stating his wife "looks just like her sister. Oh, her sister has a website. You want to look at it?" (Coughlin Dep. 113:7-14.)

"On October 23, 2007, Maugeri exposed his genitals to Coughlin in the [Pine Grove] kitchen office." (SUF ¶ 37.) Coughlin testified "that on October 23, 2007, Maugeri asked Coughlin if she wanted to touch his exposed penis." (Id. ¶ 38; Coughlin Dep. 150:9-17.) Coughlin testified that Maugeri then stated "I will jack off for you." (Coughlin Dep. 166:13-14; SUF ¶ 39.) "He said it a couple times." (Coughlin Dep. 166:17.) Coughlin testified that she responded "No thanks, I'm not interested" and she left the office. (Id. 166:24-167:3.)

Coughlin testified Maugeri also asked her on October 23, "Can I kiss you?" (Id. 94:24-25.) Coughlin responded "No, I'm married, you are married... my husband wouldn't appreciate it, your wife wouldn't appreciate it. That's not ok." (Id. 95:16-18.) She testified that he "kept persisting," and asked "in a perfect world would you?" (Id. 95:21-22.) Coughlin "sarcastic[ally]" responded, "Maybe in a perfect world, Tom." (Id. 96:2-3.)

Coughlin testified Maugeri acted "inappropriately" with the male wards. She testified that "[the wards] would sit on [Maugeri's] lap and rub his head, and they would... say like, I did your mama last night." (Coughlin Dep. 101:13-15.) Coughlin testified Maugeri said to the male wards "You are my girl. Is my girl going to come back and see me later?" (Id. 107:17-18.) Coughlin told Maugeri and the wards, "Guys, this is really not ok. And... the response [she] always got is, This is jailhouse love, this is how we do it here." (Id. 101:18-21.) Coughlin testified that this behavior was "constant" and "to be conservative, [occurred] once a week." (Id. 102:1-2.)

Coughlin testified that between October 13 and October 24, 2007, she and Maugeri met with Linden and Pine Grove Superintendent Mike Roots ("Roots") and were asked whether they wanted Linden and Roots to hire another person or whether they wanted the overtime. (Id. 138:13-14.) Coughlin testified that as she and Maugeri walked away from that meeting, Maugeri stated "[Roots] is going to hire someone else with big [tits] like yours." (Id. 138:18-139:10.) Coughlin testified that Maugeri and Roots "were buddies." (Id. 140:11-13.)

C. October 24, 2007 -- November 8, 2007

"Maugeri was officially promoted to the Supervising Cook position at [Pine Grove] on October 24, 2007." (SUF ¶ 31.) Coughlin testified that "on or about October 30, 2007" Maugeri stated to her, "I'm so glad I showed you my genitals. I really will jack off for you" and "asked if Coughlin would kiss him." (Coughlin Dep. 90:13-15, 91:1-3; SUF ¶ 42.) Coughlin testified that she responded "No thanks dude." (Id. 91:17.) At that point Coughlin felt she was "in the presence of a predator." (Id. 92:10-11.)

Coughlin testified "that on or about November 6, 2007 Maugeri was 'abrupt' with her in discussing a graduation ceremony." (Coughlin Dep. 219:20-220:9; SUF ¶ 43.) "Coughlin reports no other misconduct by Maugeri... between October 24 and November 6, 2007." (SUF ¶ 44.) "Coughlin has not spoken with Maugeri since November 7, 2007." (SUF ¶ 45.)

D. November 8, 2007 -- June 2008

"On or about November 8, 2007, Coughlin reported Maugeri's alleged misconduct to the [Pine Grove] Superintendent Mike Roots and to [Pine Grove] Assistant Superintendent Harry Linden." (SUF ¶ 46.)

"CDCR has a policy against sexual harassment." (Id. ¶ 88.) "CDCR's policy against sexual harassment is available to all CDCR employees, including Coughlin." (Id. ¶ 89.) "Coughlin was provided a copy of the CDCR policy when she first started working at CDCR." (Id. ¶ 90.) "Coughlin acknowledged receipt of CDCR's policy against sexual harassment." (Id. ¶ 91.) "Coughlin attended training that reviewed CDCR's policy against sexual harassment." (Id. ¶ 92.)

"On or about November 9, 2007, Roots took the following action[s]:

* Altered the kitchen schedule to ensure that Coughlin did not work at the same time as Maugeri;

* Reported Coughlin's complaint to his supervisor, the Division of Juvenile Justice Administrator Steve Krause;

* Relieved Maugeri of all supervisory duties;

* Contacted the Amador County Sheriff's Department to report Maugeri's alleged misconduct;

* Advised Coughlin to immediately report any contact with Maugeri;

* Advised Maugeri that retaliation was prohibited;

* Advised Maugeri to not have any contact with Coughlin, and if contact were to occur, to immediately report the contact;

* Advised Coughlin of the Employee Assistance Program."

(SUF ¶ 48 (citations omitted).)

"On or about November 9, [2007], Linden took the following action[s]:

* Reported Coughlin's complaint to the CDCR's Office ...

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