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Latourelle v. Barber

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 28, 2014

RUTH LatOURELLE, Plaintiff,
TERRY BARBER, et al., Defendants.


MORRISON C. ENGLAND, Jr., Chief District Judge.

Ruth Latourelle ("Plaintiff") has filed suit against Terry Barber ("Barber"), the County of Siskiyou ("County") and the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors ("Board" and collectively "Defendants") seeking damages for Defendants' alleged unlawful conduct during the course of Plaintiff's employment with the County. Plaintiff alleges five causes of action: (1) gender and age discrimination in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act; (2) retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) defamation; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (5) infringement upon her right to association in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion"), which alternatively requests summary adjudication as to certain issues. In addition, concurrently with her opposition, Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Amend her Second Amended Complaint to add two new claims. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's Motion is denied.[1]


In May 2000, Plaintiff began her employment with the Siskiyou County Planning Department as an Assistant Planner. Defs.' Stmt. of Undisp. Facts ("DUF") No. 1; ECF No. 45-2. As an Assistant Planner, Plaintiff's duties included taking applications for planning actions within the County and assessing and processing the applications. ECF No. 34 at 2.[2] From the commencement of her employment in 2000, until his termination in 2006, Wayne Virag ("Virag") was Plaintiff's direct supervisor. DUF No. 2-3. In August 2004, Virag was promoted from Assistant Planning Director to Planning Director. Id.

As Plaintiff's supervisor, Virag conducted the employee appraisal reports. DUF No. 4. Virag issued Plaintiff a number of Employment Appraisal Reports indicating various problems on her part, including Plaintiff's failure to understand the intricacies of the planning process, the fact that Plaintiff allegedly let her personal opinions interfere with her work, and that Plaintiff purportedly had problems remaining attentive and becoming disorganized. DUF No. 5-6. Virag also received a complaint about Plaintiff's interaction with a customer. DUF No. 9. On April 8, 2005, and July 18, 2005, Plaintiff received written reprimands from Virag. DUF No. 10-11.

On August 12, 2005, Plaintiff lodged a complaint with Ann Merkle, the Personnel Manager for Siskiyou County, alleging that she was being harassed by Virag. DUF No. 13. An investigation into the complaints was performed, and it was determined that she was not being harassed. DUF No. 17 & 19.

Plaintiff then filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission against Virag on May 24, 2006, alleging that Virag had failed to disclose certain real estate interests. DUF No. 21. On August, 6, 2006, Virag was terminated by the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors in response to Plaintiff's allegations. DUF Nos. 22-23.

Terry Barber was appointed as the Interim Director of Planning from June 23, 2006 through November 5, 2006. DUF No. 26; ECF No. 58-2 at 4. From November 5, 2006 until June 3, 2007, Barber was the Acting Director of Planning. DUF No. 27. On June 3, 2007, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors merged the Planning Department with the Public Health, Building and Environmental Health Departments, creating the new Siskiyou County Public Health and Community Development Department. DUF No. 30. Barber was the Director of this department until April 15, 2013. DUF No. 28.

Plaintiff alleges that after Virag was terminated and Barber took over, Barber harassed Plaintiff and was hostile, intimidating, defamatory, demeaning, and callous towards her. ECF No. 34 at 4. Plaintiff claims that on three occasions she was denied promotions by Barber in retaliation for her complaints against Virag. Id. at 4-5. She also contends that one of the positions for which she applied was given to Rowland Hickle, a younger male with less than two years of experience in planning. Id.

On October 6, 2008, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing ("DFEH") alleging that she was denied promotion to Associate Planner because of her age and sex. DUF No. 108-109. On September 30, 2009, Plaintiff received a right to sue letter from the DFEH. DUF No. 110.

Although they dispute the date, Plaintiff and Defendants agree that at some time during 2008, Plaintiff provided a draft zoning ordinance to the Chair of the Siskiyou Planning Commission and the County Assessor's Office. DUF No. 56-57; ECF No. 58-2 at 9. Plaintiff alleges that this occurred in December 2008, and contends that she was never advised that the document could not be shared. ECF No. 34 at 7; ECF No. 58-2 at 9. Defendant, on the other hand, asserts that this occurred sometime prior to April 2008, and that Plaintiff was issued a letter of reprimand for sharing the documents on April 3, 2008. ECF 45-4 at 5, 52.[3]

In late January 2009, Plaintiff visited the home of coworker Vurl Trytten uninvited. DUF No. 84. Plaintiff was asked to leave by Trytten's husband, and following this meeting Trytten sent Barber an email reporting the visit and stating that Plaintiff had created a hostile work environment. DUF No. 86; ECF No. 45-4 at 58. In response to the email by Trytten, Ann Merkle performed an investigation into the possible harassment of Trytten and the creation of a hostile work environment by Plaintiff. DUF No. 87. Merkle concluded that the visit to Trytten's home, standing alone, did not demonstrate the creation of a hostile work environment, but that there was a pattern of inappropriate comments and behaviors by Plaintiff that adversely affected her coworkers and violated County policy. DUF No. 90; ECF No. 45-7 at 54-55.

Barber issued Plaintiff a Notice of Disciplinary Action - Termination on February 11, 2009, listing as grounds for termination incompetence or inefficiency, insubordination, and discourteous treatment of the public or other employees. DUF No. 95; ECF 45-4 at 76. Following the issuance of this notice, a Skelly hearing was held before the Deputy Director of Human Services, who concluded that termination was appropriate. DUF No. 96-97. On March 5, 2009 an order was issued terminating Plaintiff's employment with the County.

On July 19, 2009 Plaintiff presented a governmental tort claim to the County of Siskiyou. DUF No. 111. Defendants claim that a Notice of Rejection of this tort claim was sent to Plaintiff on October 16, 2009. DUF No. 114. Plaintiff, however, contends that she never received the Notice of Rejection. ECF No. 58-2 at 15. Plaintiff then commenced this action on September 30, 2010. ECF No. 1. The operative pleading is Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (SAC), filed on May 14, 2012. ECF No. 34.


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. , 477 U.S. at 325.

Rule 56 also allows a court to grant summary judgment on part of a claim or defense, known as partial summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) ("A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought."); see also Allstate Ins. Co. v. Madan , 889 F.Supp. 374, 378-79 (C.D. Cal. 1995). The standard that applies to a motion for partial summary judgment is the same as that which applies to a motion for summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); State of Cal. ex rel. Cal. Dep't. of ...

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