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Ambat v. City & County of San Francisco

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 2, 2014

MERCY AMBAT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, Defendant

For Zainabu Anderson, John Arita, Dennis Carter, Sharon Castillo, Joanna Crotty, Marla Denzer, Patti Flynn, Teresa Fox, Tori Jackson, Michael Jones, Richard Lee, Sandra Maclin-Gibson, Sukhwant Mann, Gloria Martin, Arturo Medrano, Kevin O'Shea, Anthony Peppers, Vincent Quock, Wendy Rodgers-Wells, Lana Slocum, Ernest Smith, Tonyette Smith-Al Ghani, Bonnie Westlin, Yvette Williams, Roland Zanie, Plaintiffs: Lawrence Dale Murray, LEAD ATTORNEY, Murray & Associates, San Francisco, CA; Noah Wolfson Kanter, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, Murray & Associates, San Francisco, CA; Robert Close Strickland, Murray and Associates, San Francisco, CA.

For Jon Gray, Plaintiff: Lawrence Dale Murray, LEAD ATTORNEY, Murray & Associates, San Francisco, CA; Noah Wolfson Kanter, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, Murray & Associates, San Francisco, CA; Daniel Howard Bromberg, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, LLP, Redwood Shores, CA; Robert Close Strickland, Murray and Associates, San Francisco, CA.

For Lisa Janssen, Mattie Spires-Morgan, Anjie Versher, Plaintiffs: Lawrence Dale Murray, LEAD ATTORNEY, Murray & Associates, San Francisco, CA; Noah Wolfson Kanter, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, Murray & Associates, San Francisco, CA; John Francis Henning, III, Attorney at Law, San Francisco, CA Robert Close Strickland, Murray and Associates, San Francisco, CA.

For Pamela Walker, Gwendolyn Harvey-Noto, Felisha Thomas, Jennifer Keeton, Olga Kincade, Emiko Theodoridis, Plaintiffs: Lawrence Dale Murray, LEAD ATTORNEY, Murray & Associates, San Francisco, CA; Robert Close Strickland, Murray and Associates, San Francisco, CA.

For Martha Ortega, Plaintiff: Lawrence Dale Murray, Murray & Associates, San Francisco, CA; Robert Close Strickland, Murray and Associates, San Francisco, CA.

For City and County of San Francisco, Defendant: Margaret W. Baumgartner, LEAD ATTORNEY, City Attorney's Office, City & County of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA; Rafal Ofierski, San Francisco City Attorney's Office, San Francisco, CA.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' RENEWED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

SUSAN ILLSTON, United States District Judge.

Now before the Court is plaintiffs' renewed motion for summary judgment, scheduled for hearing on December 5, 2014. Docket No. 379. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court determines that this matter is appropriate for resolution without oral argument and VACATES the hearing. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

These consolidated cases involve challenges by approximately thirty-five sheriff's deputies to a gender-based staffing policy of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department. In mid-2006, the Sheriff reorganized inmate housing in the San Francisco jails such that all female inmates were placed in County Jail #8 in female-only housing units, or " pods." Thereafter, in October 2006, the Sheriff implemented a policy requiring that only female deputies be assigned to staff these female pods. Plaintiffs in this case are both male and female sheriff's deputies who allege that the Sheriff's staffing policy (" the Policy") amounts to employment discrimination. In their Third Amended Complaint (" TAC"), plaintiffs assert nine causes of action, which included various gender discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (" FEHA").

In particular, plaintiffs assert that the Policy constitutes gender discrimination under state and federal law. First, plaintiffs allege that they have suffered injury as a result of a change in the shift-bid system. According to plaintiffs, when the Policy was implemented, the Sheriff's Department began making assignments for shifts and days off according to gender rather than seniority. TAC ¶ 39. Both the male and female plaintiffs allege that they have received less favorable assignments than they would have under the seniority-based system. The male plaintiffs further allege that they have lost overtime shifts in the female pods to female deputies with less seniority, that they have lost promotional opportunities as a result of a lack of opportunity to supervise female inmates, and that they are forced to " trade" to shifts in unfamiliar facilities when a female deputy in one of those facilities is needed to staff a shift in a female pod. Id. ¶ ¶ 37-41, 108.

Second, the female plaintiffs separately allege that they are placed at increased stress and risk of harm as a result of the Policy. According to plaintiffs, this is because female inmates are not segregated by security level, history of violence, or mental health status, because lights are not kept on 24 hours a day as they are in male housing units, and because the female pods are overcrowded and understaffed, with only one female deputy on duty at certain times. TAC ¶ 25-28, 31. The female plaintiffs further allege that they lack adequate training in the security procedures needed to deal with the female inmate population, and that the female pods lack infrastructure for security enforcement, such as leg and body chains to be used in transporting dangerous inmates. Id. ¶ ¶ 30, 32.

On February 17, 2010, this Court ruled on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, finding that defendant had adequately demonstrated that its gender-based policies were covered by the bona fide occupational qualification (" BFOQ") exception, and were thus not actionable discrimination. The Court also granted defendant's motion for summary judgment as to most of the retaliation claims. On August 25, 2010, the Court denied plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.

On, July 2, 2014, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the Court's grant of summary judgment on the retaliation claims, but reversed as to the Court's grant of summary judgment on the BFOQ issue. In so holding, the Court of Appeals noted that there were triable issues of fact regarding whether: (1) the Policy was the " product of a reasoned decision-making process, based on available information and experience" and was thus entitled to " some deference, " (2) the " Sheriff had a substantial basis for believing that all or nearly all male deputies were likely to engage in sexual misconduct with female inmates, [or whether] it is impossible or highly impractical to insure by individual testing that a male deputy does not pose such a threat, " (3) " privacy screens actually do compromise jail security, " and (4) " excluding male deputies is a ...


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