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Monaghan v. El Dorado County Water Agency

July 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank C. Damrell, Jr. United States District Judge


This matter is before the court on defendant El Dorado County Water Agency's (the "Agency" or "defendant") motion to dismiss plaintiff Cathy A. Monaghan's ("Monaghan" or "plaintiff") first amended complaint ("FAC") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(b)(6). Plaintiff opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below,*fn1 defendant's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


Plaintiff Monaghan was employed by defendant Agency from May 23, 2003, when she was hired as an Administrative Services Officer. (FAC, filed June 2, 2010, ¶¶ 3, 22.) Her position was re-classified to Administrative Manager-Clerk in July 2007. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff's immediate supervisor was defendant William T. Hetland ("Hetland"), the General Manager of the Agency. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 24.)

Starting in April 2006, Hetland began making sexual advances toward plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 25.) She ultimately surrendered to his advances and became involved in a sexual relationship with Hetland that occurred during both working and non-working hours. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 25, 26.) Plaintiff alleges that from the time the sexual relationship began to the time that plaintiff was terminated, Hetland employed tactics including encouragement, manipulation, and intimidation in order to continue the relationship. (Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff also alleges that Hetland encouraged plaintiff's use and abuse of alcohol, which he often provided; plaintiff used and abused alcohol during regular working hours at the Agency with Hetland's knowledge and consent. (Id.)

In October 2007, plaintiff decided to end the sexual affair.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 28.) Hetland pressured plaintiff to continue the sexual relationship. (Id.) Plaintiff felt that she would suffer adverse employment consequences if she refused. (Id.) As a result, she continued the sexual relationship and did not report Hetland's conduct. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that the stress of the situation caused her use of alcohol to "spiral[] out of control." (Id.) When plaintiff complained to Hetland about the stress he was causing her, he would yell and belittle her. (Id. ¶ 29.) Afterwards, he would apologize and instruct her to "coast" on the job since she "had a great staff and had pulled the office into a well-functioning team." (Id.)

Subsequently, plaintiff had discussions with the Agency's counsel, Fred Schaefer ("Schaefer"), concerning Hetland's yelling and belittling her. (Id. ¶ 30.) She also informed Schaefer that Hetland "would share with her the marital and sexual issues he was having with his wife." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that because Schaefer supported Hetland's treatment of her without question, she did not inform Schaefer of her sexual relationship with Hetland for fear that raising the issue would result in retaliation. (Id.)

Plaintiff further alleges that Schaefer was aware of plaintiff's alcohol abuse. (Id. ¶ 31.) Specifically, on one occasion, plaintiff left the office after consuming several drinks during her lunch hour; she hit the curb. (Id.) After being notified by a staff member, Schaefer followed plaintiff to her home and talked to her inside her residence. (Id.) Plaintiff was not counseled, reprimanded, suspended, or otherwise disciplined by the Agency for this incident. (Id.)

Further, in June 2009, plaintiff was convicted of misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol. (Id. ¶ 32.) Hetland expressed concern that the abuse of alcohol and resulting DUI conviction was his fault and drove plaintiff to her DUI classes. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that during the first week of August 2009, Hetland pressured her to have another sexual encounter in Lake Tahoe to coincide with Agency meetings scheduled there later in the month. (Id. ¶ 33.) Plaintiff refused. (Id.)

On August 24, 2009, plaintiff was found asleep at her desk after drinking alcohol. (Id. ¶ 34.) Hetland took her home and called plaintiff's husband. (Id.) Hetland conceded that his behavior both caused and enabled plaintiff's alcohol abuse. (Id.)

On August 25, 2009, the Agency required plaintiff to attend an inpatient alcohol rehabilitation program costing $11,000.00 at her own expense. (Id. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff and the Agency entered into a written agreement (the "Agreement") that provided in part, "On the basis of this conduct, Employer has decided to terminate Employee's employment, but will suspend the termination of employment on the following terms." (Id. ¶ 36 n.1.) The Agreement also required that plaintiff enter an alcohol rehabilitation treatment program and notify the Agency within three days of initial assessment, admission, or beginning treatment. (Id.) The parties also agreed that "during and following any period of initial or continuing treatment, Employee agrees that she will, as a condition of continued employment by the Employer, comply with the treatment recommendations of her treatment practitioners." (Id. ¶ 67.) On August 27, 2009, Hetland signed an addendum letter to the Agreement (the "Addendum"). (Id. ¶ 37-38.) The Addendum provided, in part, "By your Agreement with the AGENCY you have agreed to follow the course of counseling and treatment recommended . . . . The Program is for 28 days, which is expected to be completed on September 27, 2009. We would like to meet with you at your convenience on either September 28 or 29, 2009 to receive your evaluation of the Program and its effectiveness to you." (Id. ¶ 37.) Plaintiff completed the program and performed all obligations under the Agreement. (Id. ¶¶ 36, 40.)

On September 29, 2009, plaintiff met with Hetland and was presented with a written "Termination of Employment" effective 5:00 p.m. on September 29, 2009. (Id. ¶ 40.) The letter was signed by Hetland, on behalf of the Agency. (Id.) Hetland and Schaefer advised plaintiff that she was required to sign various documents in connection with her termination, including a Severance and Release Agreement. (Id.) However, plaintiff refused to sign this agreement. (Id.)

Plaintiff contends that from October 2007 to the first week of August 2009, Hetland subjected her to sexual harassment. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff further contends that Hetland retaliated against her for resistance or refusal to engage in sexual conduct. (Id.) Finally, plaintiff contends that the Agency employed Hetland with knowledge of his unfitness for the position and in conscious disregard for plaintiff's rights in the workplace and both authorized and ratified Hetland's wrongful conduct. (Id. ¶ 43.)

Plaintiff filed a timely charge of discrimination against the Agency and Hetland with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing ("DFEH") and received right to sue notices in November and December 2009. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) On February 19, 2010, plaintiff filed a complaint in this court. Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint on June 2, 2010. In her FAC, plaintiff alleges claims against Hetland and the Agency for (1) sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.; (2) sexual harassment in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), California Gov't Code § 12900, et seq.; (3) failure to prevent sexual harassment in violation of FEHA; (4) retaliation in violation of Title VII; (5) retaliation in violation of FEHA; (6) breach of contract; and (7) negligence.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Under notice pleading in federal court, the complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations omitted). "This simplified notice pleading standard relies on liberal discovery rules and summary judgment motions to define disputed facts and issues and to dispose of unmeritorious claims." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002).

On a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The court is bound to give plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6 (1963). A plaintiff need not allege "'specific facts' beyond those necessary to state his claim and the grounds showing entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual ...

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