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Raymond Guthrey v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

June 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge




ORDER (Non-Expert deadline: 9/15/2012)


Plaintiff Raymond Guthrey ("Plaintiff") brings this employment discrimination action against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and Michael Pate, Jr. ("Pate") (CDCR and Pate are collectively referred to as the "Defendants"). (Doc. 2.)

On June 8, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel responses to Plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production of documents ("Plaintiff's Motion to Compel"). (Doc. 46.) Pursuant to Local Rule 251, the parties filed a Joint Discovery Statement discussing their positions with respect to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel on June 8, 2012. (Doc. 47.) On June 22, 2012, the Court heard oral argument on Plaintiff's Motion. (Doc. 50.) Counsel Shannon Seibert appeared in person for Plaintiff. Counsel Michael Gowe appeared in person for Defendants. (Doc. 50.) Having considered the arguments presented in the Joint Statement, arguments presented at the June 22, 2012 hearing, as well as the Court's file, the Court issues the following Order.


Plaintiff is a 56-year-old Caucasian male who subscribes to the Ananda Marga faith, which is based on the Hindu religion. (Pl.'s Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), ¶ 9, Doc. 23.) Followers of Ananda Marga believe in allowing the hair on their heads, faces and bodies to grow naturally. Id. In observance of his faith, Plaintiff maintains a full beard and long hair. Id.

From 1984 until retirement in 2008, Plaintiff worked as a Correctional Counselor at the Sierra Conservation Center, a CDCR facility. (SAC, ¶ 10.) During that time, Plaintiff instituted a counseling program at the Sierra Conservation Center in which Ananda monks and nuns provided spiritual instruction to prisoners. The monks invited by Plaintiff wore turbans upon their heads as they taught principles of yoga and meditation to the prisoners in workshops. Id.

During his employment with Defendant CDCR, Plaintiff was subjected to offensive remarks by Defendant Pate. (SAC, ¶ 11.) For example, Plaintiff alleges Pate regularly called Plaintiff "Ragjeesh," and other slurs often directed towards persons of the Muslim faith or Middle Eastern/South Asian ancestry. Id.

In early 2010, Plaintiff applied to participate in CDCR's Retired Annuitant Program as a Correctional Counselor on a contract basis. (SAC, ¶ 12.) On April 29, 2010, Pate contacted Plaintiff and stated that CDCR's personnel office had instructed him to extend an offer of employment to Plaintiff. Id. During the April 29, 2010 conversation, Pate and Plaintiff discussed CDCR's grooming standards . (SAC, ¶ 14.) Plaintiff was offered employment with CDCR's Sierra Conservation Center for a period of six months, renewable upon expiration of the contract. Id. Plaintiff accepted the offer of employment and agreed to begin working for CDCR on May 3, 2010. Id.

On May 3, 2010, Plaintiff arrived at the Sierra Conservation Center to begin his position as a Retired Annuitant with CDCR. Plaintiff was scheduled to attend a week-long training session. As Plaintiff was entering the training session classroom, Pate "began gesturing wildly and jabbing his finger toward the door behind [Plaintiff] while staring directly at [Plaintiff]." Pate grabbed Plaintiff by the arm and forced him into the hallway. Pate physically blocked Plaintiff from entering the classroom and told Plaintiff that "this" was not going to work, telling Plaintiff to leave the grounds immediately. (SAC, ¶¶ 16, 17.)

Plaintiff alleges that Pate's actions were motived by his dislike of Plaintiff's religion, as well as his perception of Plaintiff's race and ancestry. (SAC, ¶ 22.) Plaintiff further alleges that there exists a culture of discrimination against non-Christians at CDCR's Sierra Conservation Center, and that Plaintiff was discriminated against because of his nonconformance with the majority belief system.

Plaintiff's SAC presents eight causes of action: (1) violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment Right to free exercise of religion (alleged against both Defendants); (2) violation of Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process (alleged against both Defendants); (3) violation of Plaintiff Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection (alleged against both Defendants); (4) religious discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (against Defendant Pate); (5) race discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (against Defendant Pate); (6) religious discrimination pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., (against both Defendants); (7) race discrimination pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., (against both Defendants); and (8) intentional infliction of emotional distress (against Defendant Pate).


The parties dispute the discoverability and extent of Defendants' production with respect to several categories of information. The first category consists of seven interrogatories and two requests for production of documents concerning Pate's religious beliefs (hereinafter referred to as "Plaintiff's Religious Discovery.") The second category consists of four interrogatories and four requests for production seeking information about complaints for religious or racial discrimination filed against CDCR and other employees in the last 10 years (hereinafter referred to as "Prior Discrimination Discovery").

As to Plaintiff's remaining discovery requests, the parties have failed to properly posture these issues in their Joint Statement, such that the Court could rule on these matters. Accordingly, discussed in greater detail below, the Court will afford the parties the opportunity to address these matters in a subsequent joint statement, and reserve judgment on those discovery requests until that time.


A. Legal Standard

Rule 26(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that any non-privileged material "that is relevant to any party's claim or defense" is within the scope of discovery. The court may allow discovery of any material "relevant to the subject matter involved in the action," not just the claims or defenses of each party, if there is good cause to do so. Fed. R. Evid. 401 defines "relevant evidence" as "evidence having any tendency to make existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 402 provides that all relevant evidence is admissible except as otherwise provided by the U.S. Constitution, Act of Congress, or applicable rule of Federal Rules of Evidence.

Relevance requires only that the evidence have "any" tendency to prove or disprove "any" consequential fact. This test incorporates two separate components: (1) Logical relevance, meaning the evidence must have some tendency, however slight, to make any fact more or less probable; and (2) Legal Relevance, meaning the evidence must relate to a fact "of consequence" to the case, i.e., will the "fact" that the evidence is offered to establish help in determining some issue in the case? See, Jones & Rosen, Federal Civil Trials and Evidence (2011) Evidence, para. 8:111, p. 8B-2. If the inference to be drawn from the evidence is the result of speculation or conjecture, the underlying evidence is not relevant. See Engstrand v. Pioneer Hi-Bred Int'l , 946 F.Supp. 1390, 1396 (S.D. Iowa 1996), aff'd 112 F.3d 513 (8 th Cir. 1997). "[T]he standard of relevancy is not so liberal as to allow a party to . . . explore matter which does not presently appear germane on the theory that it might conceivably become so." Food Lion v. United Food & Comm'l Workers Union, 103 F.3d 1007 , 1012-1013 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (internal quotes omitted).

A responding party that objects to interrogatories or requests for production of documents is required to state objections with specificity. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4), 34(b)(2)(B). If the party requesting discovery is dissatisfied with any of the responses, the party may move to compel further responses by informing the court "which discovery requests are the subject of [the] motion to compel, and, for each disputed response, inform the [c]court why the information sought is relevant and why [the opposing party's] objections are not justified." Ellis v. Cambra , No. 02-cv-5646 AWI (SMS), 2008 WL 860523, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 27, 2008); Brooks v. Alameida , No. 03-cv-2343 JAM (EFB), 2009 WL 331358 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 10, 2009).

The court must limit discovery if the burden of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii). "In each instance [of discovery], the determination whether ... information is discoverable because it is relevant to the claims or defenses depends on the circumstances of the pending action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 Advisory Committee's note (2000 Amendment).

B. Plaintiff's Legal Claims

Relevant information is ultimately defined by Plaintiff's claims. The Court sets out the proof requirements for each of Plaintiff's claims. In setting out these causes of action, the Court does not opine on the merits of any claim.

1. First Cause of Action - First Amendment Violations

Plaintiff's first cause of action is a First Amendment violation of Plaintiff's right to free exercise of religion. "The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which has been made applicable to the States by incorporation into the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ....' " Employment Div., Oregon Dep't of Human Resources v. Smith , 494 U.S. 872, 876-77, 110 S.Ct. 1595, 108 L.Ed.2d 876 (1990) (citing U.S. Const. amend. 1) (internal citation omitted). To establish a violation, plaintiff must demonstrate "a substantial burden on the observation of a central religious belief or practice...." Hernandez v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue , 490 U.S. 680, 699, 109 S.Ct. 2136 , 104 L.Ed.2d 766 (1989). Any challenge under the free exercise clause requires plaintiff to demonstrate that the regulation impacts a central religious belief or practice, one that is "mandated by his faith." Freeman v. Arparo , 125 F.3d 732, 736 (9th Cir. 1997).

2. Second Cause of Action - Fourteenth Amendment Violation (Due Process)

Plaintiff's second cause of action is for a violation of Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from depriving "any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. Amend. XIV, § 1. The Due Process Clause protects individuals from state action that either "shocks the conscience," Rochin v. California , 342 U.S. 165, 72 S.Ct. 205, 96 L.Ed. 183 (1952) or interferes with rights "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." Palko v. Connecticut , 302 U.S. 319, 58 S.Ct. 149, 82 L.Ed. 288 (1937). In order to state a cause of action for deprivation of Due Process, Plaintiff must prove the existence of a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. Wolff v. McDonnell , 418 U.S. 539, 556, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974). The interest must be "the type of atypical, significant deprivation [that] might conceivably create a liberty interest." Id. at 486; see also Ramirez v. Galaza , 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003)

3. Third Cause of Action - Fourteenth Amendment Violation (Equal Protection)

Plaintiff's third cause of action is for a violation of Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to Equal Protection. The Equal Protection Clause provides that "[n]o State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. The central purpose of the Equal Protection Clause "is the prevention of official conduct discriminating on the basis of race." Washington v. Davis , 426 U.S. 229, 239, 96 S.Ct. 2040, 2047, 48 L.Ed.2d 597 (1976). Therefore, "whenever the government treats any person unequally because of his or her race, that person has suffered an injury that falls squarely within the language and spirit of the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection." Adarand Constructors v. Pena , 515 U.S. 200, 230, 115 S.Ct. 2097, 2114, 132 L.Ed.2d 158 (1995). A plaintiff asserting a denial of equal protection must allege facts establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. See United States v. Estrada-Plata , 57 F.3d 757, 760 (9th Cir.1995). To establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must allege facts showing that the defendants acted with the intent to discriminate against him based on his membership in a protected class, see Lee v. City of Los Angeles , 250 F.3d 668, 686 (9th Cir. 2001), or that he was treated differently from persons similarly situated, see Cleburne , 473 U.S. at 439.

4. Fourth Cause of Action - Religious Discrimination Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Plaintiff's fourth cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is predicated on a deprivation of Plaintiff's right to free exercise of religion, due process and equal protection of the law. In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a complaint must allege that (l) the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law and that (2) the conduct deprived a person of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor , 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams , 474 U.S. 327 (1986). Section 1983 is the appropriate avenue to remedy an alleged wrong only if both of these elements are present. Haygood v. Younger , 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 478 U.S. 1020 (1986).

5. Fifth Cause of Action - Race Discrimination Under 42 U.S.C. § 1981

Plaintiff's fifth cause of action is one for race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Federal law prohibits certain types of discrimination in employment. 42 U.S.C. § 1981. It further provides a claim to those who are exposed to discrimination in employment. In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1981, a plaintiff must show intentional or purposeful discrimination based on race in the workplace. General Building Contractors Ass'n v. Pennsylvania , 458 U.S. 375, 387-91, 102 S.Ct. 3141, 73 L.Ed.2d 835 (1982).

6. Sixth Cause of Action - Religious Discrimination Under Title VII

Plaintiff's sixth cause of action is for religious discrimination pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer "to discharge any individual ... because of such individual's ... religion[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). "The term 'religion' includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee's ... religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j); Peterson v. Hewlett-Packard Co. 358 F.3d 599, 602 -603 (9 th Cir. 2004).

A claim for religious discrimination under Title VII can be asserted under several different theories, including disparate treatment and failure to accommodate. Peterson v. Hewlett-Packard Co. 358 F.3d 599, 603 (9 th Cir. 2004). Under disparate treatment, plaintiff has the burden of establishing a prima facie case by showing that (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was qualified for his position; (3) he experienced an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated individuals outside his protected class were treated more favorably, or other circumstances surrounding the adverse employment action give rise to an inference of discrimination. Id.; Lyons v. England , 307 F.3d 1092, 1112-14 (9th Cir. 2002).

To establish religious discrimination on the basis of a failure-to-accommodate theory, Plaintiff must first set forth a prima facie case that (1) he had a bona fide religious belief, the practice of which conflicts with an employment duty; (2) he informed his employer of the belief and conflict; and (3) the employer discharged, threatened, or otherwise subjected him to an adverse employment action because of his inability to fulfill the job requirement . Peterson v. Hewlett-Packard Co. 358 F.3d 599, 603 (9 th Cir. 2004); Heller v. EBB Auto. Co. , 8 F.3d 1433, 1438 (9th Cir.1993). If Plaintiff makes out a prima facie failure-to-accommodate case, the burden then shifts to the defendant to show that it "initiated good faith efforts to accommodate ...

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