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Muldrew v. County of Fresno

August 10, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge



Plaintiff Ivana Muldrew ("Plaintiff") is proceeding with this civil rights action against Defendants the County of Fresno and Kenneth Taniguichi ("Defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 28 U.S.C. § 1331.*fn1 Plaintiff also asserts state law claims.

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims on May 20, 2010. (Doc. 22). Plaintiff filed opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment on June 14, 2010. (Doc. 29). Defendants filed a reply to Plaintiff's opposition on June 21, 2010. (Doc. 43). Defendants also filed evidentiary objections to Plaintiff's deposition on July 8, 2010. (Doc. 43).


Plaintiff commenced employment as a defense investigator with the Fresno County Public Defender's Office ("PDO")in 2001. (PUMF 1). According to Plaintiff, subsequent to hiring her, then-Public Defender Charles Dreiling told Plaintiff that he would have preferred to hire a "black male", but that he hired "the next best thing" in Plaintiff.*fn2 (PUMF 1). Sometime in 2001, Plaintiff was assigned to the PDO's Dependency Unit, which was stationed in a building separate from main PDO office. (Opposition, Ex. 1 at 163-64). The PDO gave Plaintiff parking privileges at the dependancy building and a remote control device to access the secured underground parking structure. (PUMF 32).

Mail Run Assignment

In 2004, responsibility for the inter-office mail run between the dependancy unit and the PDO's headquarters was transferred to Plaintiff. (PUMF 33). Plaintiff's parking privileges facilitated her mail run.*fn3 The only other PDO employee in the dependancy office with parking privileges in 2004 was an attorney. (MSJ, Ex. D at 379).*fn4 Plaintiff objected to the newly-imposed mail run task because Plaintiff believed it constituted "working out of class." (PUMF 33). In response to Plaintiff's complaints about the mail run, then-Public Defender George Cajiga told Plaintiff he could assign her to any job he determined appropriate. (Id.). Plaintiff believed transfer of the mail run responsibility to her was racially motivated. (PUMF 34). Plaintiff also alleges that on one occasion, an African American office assistant named Mike Jones was called from another area of the office to move boxes. (PUMF 15). Plaintiff avers that mail run assignment and box-moving incident both evince a pattern at the PDO of assigning African American employees to menial tasks.

The "Martinez-Baly" Complaint

In the first half of 2007, Plaintiff heard rumors that Margarita Martinez, an attorney with the PDO, was requesting that Plaintiff not be assigned to her cases.*fn5 (PUMF 17). In November of 2007, an unidentified co-worker told Plaintiff that she overheard PDO attorney Scott Baly tell another unidentified attorney that Plaintiff was incompetent. (PUMF 19). Plaintiff reported Baly's statement to Diaz, Delmare, and Pete Jones, all of whom were supervising attorneys at the PDO. (PUMF 20).*fn6 Plaintiff states that to her knowledge, no investigation was made into Baly's alleged comment. (PUMF 24).

During her annual evaluation in January 2008, Plaintiff learned from Robert Delmare ("Delmare"), a PDO attorney, that Martinez had lodged a complaint against Plaintiff for failing to contact a witness. (PUMF 23). Delmare told Plaintiff she was being informally reprimanded and that he was "only doing it to 'pacify Martinez.'" (Id.).*fn7 Despite Martinez's complaint, Plaintiff received a satisfactory annual evaluation. (Id.).

In February 2008, Plaintiff filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing ("DFEH"), alleging discrimination on the basis of race, color, and retaliation. Plaintiff's EEOC/DFEH complaints stated that she had been forced to work out of class with respect to the mail run; that she had been looked over for training, high profile assignments, and supervisory positions; that the PDO had not addressed the alleged statement by Baly about Plaintiff's competence; and that Martinez had lodged the complaint against Plaintiff for failing to contact a witness in order to harass her on the basis of race. (PUMF at 25, 26). Plaintiff further alleged that the hiring, retention, and promotion practices of the PDO were discriminatory. (PUMF 26).

Alderete Complaint

In or about April 2007, Alderete became Plaintiff's supervisor. (PUMF 35). In June 2008, Plaintiff took medical leave "for a few weeks." (PUMF 37). When Plaintiff returned to work, she discovered that Alderete had assigned Plaintiff 6 to 16 more assignments than other investigators were averaging at the time. (PUMF 39). Plaintiff was alarmed at the amount of work and the short schedule in which to complete it. (PUMF at 41). Plaintiff states that her ability to perform her assignments was hampered at the time because her car was in the shop. (PUMF 40).

Plaintiff communicated her concerns about her workload to Alderete, and Alderete accused Plaintiff of being unable to manage her time. Alderete told Plaintiff she would meet with her every day and go over her work. According to Plaintiff, Alderete became angry and slammed her hand down on the desk while yelling at Plaintiff. (PUMF 42). After meeting with Alderete, Plaintiff met with Elizabeth Diaz ("Diaz"), an attorney at the PDO, and Kenneth Taniguchi ("Taniguchi"), the Public Defender, to express her concerns. (PUMF 42).

Plaintiff told Diaz and Taniguchi that she believed Alderete had given her excess assignments in order to set her up to fail, and that she felt Alderete was being discriminatory. (PUMF 43). At some point during the meeting with Diaz and Taniguchi, Plaintiff referenced Alderete's involvement in the termination of Stanley Peterson, an African American investigator.*fn8 Plaintiff also expressed her belief that Alderete's negative attitude was due in part to the fact that Alderete wanted Plaintiff's parking space. (Muldrew Dec. at 5). Diaz and Taniguchi offered to remove Plaintiff from Alderete's supervision, but Plaintiff did not want to be moved out of the Dependancy unit, which was associated with her degree in social work.*fn9 (PUMF 46).

On July 18, Plaintiff reduced her complaints about Alderete to a written memorandum. (Mudlrew Dec. at 6). During a union meeting, Plaintiff told co-workers they could sign her written complaint against Alderete. (Id.). Plaintiff's co-workers Vinnie Lee, Darren Hise, and Leticia Castellanos singed Plaintiff's complaint. (DUMF ). Plaintiff subsequently submitted the July 18 complaint to Deborah Harper ("Harper"), a Senior Personnel Analyst at the PDO. (Harper Dec. at 1-2). The July 18 complaint submitted by Plaintiff contained no mention of race, color, or ethnicity. (Id. at 2).

On or about July 24, 2008, Plaintiff submitted a formal complaint pursuant to Fresno County's Discrimination Complaint Procedure. (Id. at 2). Plaintiff checked the boxes for "race" and "color" on the county complaint cover sheet and attached the July 18 letter to the cover sheet. (Id.; MSJ Ex. C). In response to Plaintiff's complaint, the PDO requested that Personnel conduct an investigation. (Harper Dec. at 2). Harper and another Personnel Analyst, Charlotte Tilkes ("Tilkes"), were assigned to conduct the investigation. (Id.). Harper and Tilkes performed their investigation of Plaintiff's discrimination complaint in compliance with Fresno County's policies and procedures. (Id.).

Harper and Tilkes interviewed co-Plaintiff Darren Hise ("Hise") in connection with their investigation of Plaintiff's discrimination complaint. (Id.). Hise attempted to corroborate some of Plaintiff's claims. (MSJ, Ex. O). Approximately a week after Hise's interview with Tilkes and Harper, Diaz, Hise's supervisor, asked to meet with Hise and questioned him about Alderete's problems with Plaintiff. (Hise Dec. at 4). Hise felt uncomfortable because he felt Diaz was trying to learn what Plaintiff had told Tilkes and Harper, and on the following day, August 21, Hise contacted Tilkes and Harper to discuss his meeting with Diaz. (Id.). During Hise's meeting with Tikles and Harper, they became defensive and asked Plaintiff if he was accusing them of divulging the substance of their prior interview of Plaintiff. (Id.). Later that day, Hise was placed on administrative leave. (Id. at 5).

After conducting their investigation, Hise and Tilkes concluded that Plaintiff has not been subjected to discrimination. (Harper Dec. at 3). Hise and Tilke's finding was published in a written report on August 25, 2008. (MSJ, Ex. O). Plaintiff went on medical leave from September 8, 2008 to October 13, 2009. (DUMF 32). By the time Plaintiff ...

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