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Goold v. Hilton Worldwide, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 8, 2014

JOHN GOOLD, Plaintiffs,
HILTON WORLDWIDE, INC., et al., Defendants.


JENNIFER L. THURSTON, Magistrate Judge.

In this litigation, Plaintiff claims he was fired after complaining about sexual harassment suffered by a former employee. In the instant motion, Plaintiff seeks to compel Defendants to produce information related to complaints made to or about four individuals (Doc. 30 at 7-8) and to detail any adverse employment actions suffered by the complainants, seemingly, as a result of making the complaint. Defendants oppose the motion and argue the interrogatories are is overbroad in terms of time and subject matter and that the requested information is relevant. (Doc. 31, 8-14) For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion to compel responses to Interrogatories No. 9 and 10 is


I. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff was employed as the "VP Finance" at Defendants' Doubletree Hotel in Bakersfield, California. (Doc. 1 at 2) In October 2010, Plaintiff alleges that an employee, Medrano, reported to him that the Human Resources Director had been sexually harassing her. Id . Plaintiff reported this information to his supervisor and reported it to Murray, who was the hotel's manager. Id . Plaintiff began taking his breaks with Medrano to ensure that no sexual harassment occurred during these intervals. Id.

In January 2011, Plaintiff reported the sexual harassment of Medrano to Thornell. (Doc. 1 at 2) In February 2011, Medrano was suspended, apparently related to her taking breaks. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff reported to Sommer-the Vice President for Human Resources-his concerns that Medrano's suspension may be in retaliation for her complaint of sexual harassment. Id. at 3. Sommer became angry with Plaintiff for failing to tell him about the sexual harassment earlier, though Plaintiff explained that he had reported it to Murray. Id . Medrano's suspension lasted two days and she was given "a final warning notice about break times." Id.

On April 19, 2012, Plaintiff met with Murray and Pimentel who informed him that Medrano was being terminated for violating the 10-minute break policy. (Doc. 1 at 3) Plaintiff disputed this was true because he took his own breaks with Medrano and knew she had not violated company policy. Id.

The next day, Plaintiff sent Murray an e-mail asking whether his own job was in jeopardy. (Doc. 1 at 3) Murray denied that it was. Id . On April 25, 2012, Plaintiff discussed Medrano's firing with Pimintel. Id . Plaintiff reported that Medrano was an important part of the accounting team and he wanted her rehired. Id . Pimintel told Plaintiff that he was under "direct orders from Corporate Offices to investigate Medrano and that he was not to tell anyone of his secret investigation." Id . Pimintel reported that he had video surveillance of Medrano's breaks and they exceed 10 minutes. Id . Plaintiff explained that some of these "breaks" were actually working meetings where, while smoking outside, managers and supervisors would discuss company business and he was unaware that company policy prohibited this conduct. Id. at 3-4. Pimintel admitted that the video surveillance only showed Medrano exiting the building and re-entering it and did not show what occurred during her time outside the building. Id. at 4. Plaintiff iterated his concern that Medrano had grounds for a lawsuit over her claims of sexual harassment and that if she filed litigation, he would back up her claim. Id . On April 26, 2012, Plaintiff reiterated these concerns to Murray. Id . He told Murray that he wanted to fight for Medrano's return because he believed her firing was wrongful. Id.

Plaintiff was out sick on April 30 and May 1, 2012 but upon his return on May 2, 2012, he was required to attend a meeting with Murray, Thornell and Pimintel. (Doc. 1 at 4.) At this meeting, Plaintiff was terminated. Id . Plaintiff learned later that the grounds for his firing was approving time records for employees who claimed to take only 10-minute breaks but who exceeded this time. Id. at 5.

Throughout the nearly 14 years Plaintiff was employed by Defendants, he had never received a "bad job performance appraisal, " received merit pay raises every year and was named "manager of the year" more than once. (Doc. 1 at 4-5) Thus, Plaintiff alleges his firing was in retaliation for his complaints about the sexual harassment of Medrano and claims that statements made related to his firing defamed him. Id. at 5-7.

In their answer, Defendants admit that Plaintiff reported complaints of sexual harassment of Medrano to Murray and Thornell. (Doc. 9 at 2) Defendants admit also that Medrano was suspended and, ultimately, fired for violating the company's rest break policy. Id. at 3-4. Defendants agree that Pimentel admitted to Plaintiff that the video surveillance of Medrano exiting and re-entering the building for breaks did not observe the area where Plaintiff reported that the outside meetings occurred. Id. at 3-4. Finally, Defendants admit that Plaintiff met with Murray, Thornell and Pimentel on May 2, 2012 and that he was fired on that date. Id. at 4.

In their Fourteenth Affirmative Defense, Defendants assert that even if retaliation was a motivating reason for Plaintiff's firing, they would have taken the same action because they had "legitimate, non-retaliatory business reasons" for doing so. (Doc. 9 at 9-10.) In addition, in their Eleventh and Fifteenth Affirmative Defenses, Defendants claim they acted reasonably to correct and prevent retaliatory conduct and in the Twentieth Affirmative Defense, Defendants allege they did not act wilfully.

Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to compel substantive responses to interrogatories which seek information about others who have made employment complaints and who suffered retaliation in response. (Doc. 30)

II. Scope of Discovery

The scope and limitations of discovery are set forth by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Evidence. Rule 26(b) provides:

Unless otherwise limited by court order, parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged manner that is relevant to any party's claim or defense - including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things... For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the accident. Relevant information need not be ...

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