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Gaines v. At&T Mobility Services, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

December 10, 2019

DOLORES GAINES, an individual; RYAN BAGSBY, an individual; MARIO HALL, JR., an individua, BRANISHA NEWBERRY, an individual; and KENYATA MARTIN, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
AT&T MOBILITY SERVICES, LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company; EMMANUEL MANNY MORALES, an Individual; and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING AT&T'S MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND DENYING AT&T'S MOTION TO STRIKE [ECF NOS. 30, 31]

          Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel, United States District Judge.

         Before the Court are Defendant AT&T Mobility Services LLC's (“AT&T”) Motion to Strike the First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 30) and Motion to Compel Individual Arbitration as to Plaintiffs Branisha Newberry and Kenyata Martin (ECF No. 31). Defendant Emmanuel (Manny) Morales (“Morales”) joins both motions. ECF Nos. 32, 33.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are five former African-American AT&T employees who worked at the AT&T store in Mission Valley. Defendant Emmanuel (Manny) Morales acted as the store's manager. Plaintiffs bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, alleging that Morales discriminated against Plaintiffs based on their race, pushed out Plaintiffs based on his racist animus, and retaliated against Plaintiffs who complained about his behavior. Plaintiffs additionally allege that AT&T's senior management tolerated and encouraged Morales' behavior. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees and other costs associated with this lawsuit, and declaratory and injunctive relief.

         According to the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), Morales was hired in 2007 and was promoted from entry-level retail sales consultant to become an Assistant Store Manager (“ASM”). ECF No. 26 ¶ 27. Plaintiffs allege that Morales received this promotion due to his close personal friendship with Area Retail Sales Manager (“ASRM”) Jesus Barraza. Id.

         In 2010, two AT&T employees (not Plaintiffs) submitted complaints about Morales and Barraza. The complaints alleged that Morales specifically engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior and psychologically abused employees. Id. ¶¶ 30-36. The complaints also noted that Morales seemed “untouchable” due to his close personal relationships with individuals in upper management positions. Id. ¶¶ 30(d), 33(f). Plaintiffs allege that AT&T investigated Morales in 2010 (at least in part due to the aforementioned complaints), and Morales resigned in order to avoid a potential termination. Id. ¶ 35.

         In 2012, AT&T rehired Morales as a retail sales consultant (“RSC”) at one of AT&T's Las Vegas offices. Plaintiffs allege that AT&T rehired Morales at the behest of Barraza, who was then working as an ARSM at AT&T's Las Vegas branch. Id. ¶ 37. Barraza relocated to San Diego in August 2014 as a retail store manager (“RSM”) of the Plaza Bonita store. Id. ¶ 38. Barraza was then promoted to become the ARSM of the south San Diego region, and Morales was hired as the new RSM of the Plaza Bonita store to replace Barraza. Id. ¶ 39. Plaintiffs allege that AT&T promoted Morales at Barraza's behest. Id.

         a. Mission Valley Store

         The Mission Valley AT&T store is the flagship store in San Diego county and offered the most favorable promotion and commission opportunities for Plaintiffs. Id. ¶¶ 97, 104. Plaintiffs allege that Barraza, with the assistance of ARSM Joe Reichow, successfully lobbied for Morales to be appointed as the RSM of AT&T's Mission Valley store - the most prestigious and important AT&T retail store in San Diego County. Id. ¶ 40. Plaintiffs allege that Reichow, the ARSM of Central San Diego and Morales' supervisor, supported Morales' promotion since Morales had achieved positive sales results while managing the Plaza Bonita store. Id. ¶ 43.

         When Morales began working as RSM at the Mission Valley store in April 2015, there were seven African-American employees working as subordinate employees at the store. Id. ¶ 52. Plaintiffs allege that once Morales was appointed as RSM of the Mission Valley store, he began targeting the African-American employees by harassing them and making racist remarks towards them and to other employees about them. Id. ¶¶ 50-51. Plaintiffs allege that by August 30, 2016, when AT&T fired Morales for sexually harassing multiple female employees, all seven of the African-American employees had either been fired, resigned, or transferred from the store due to Morales' conduct. Id. ¶ 52.

         b. Plaintiffs

         Plaintiffs allege that Morales engaged in a pattern of unfair criticism and discipline, micro-management, assignment of less desirable tasks, and open hostility towards Plaintiffs, motivated by his racial animus.

         Plaintiff Dolores Gaines is a seventy-year-old African-American woman who worked at the AT&T Mission Valley store between 2008 and 2015. Id. ¶ 53. Gaines alleges that Morales was openly hostile towards her, lodged unfair attacks and criticisms of her performance, assigned her to less desirable duties, and indicated that he was trying to replace her with a younger, female Hispanic employee. Id. ¶¶ 55-56, 58-63. Gaines alleges that she reported her concerns to ARSM Reichow and her report was dismissed. Id. ¶ 57. Gaines left AT&T's employ in August 2015. Id. ¶ 66.

         Plaintiff Ryan Bagsby is a 42-year-old African-American male who worked for AT&T between 2014 and 2015 at the AT&T Mission Valley store. Bagsby alleges that Morales unfairly attacked Bagsby's performance in an effort to undermine Bagsby's success, misrepresented AT&T's paternity leave policy to Bagbsy's detriment and told Bagsby that he would need to find another job. Id. ¶¶ 68-75. Bagsby left AT&T's employ in October 2015. Id. ¶ 76.

         Plaintiff Branisha Newberry is a 26-year-old African-American woman. She began working at AT&T in 2013 and is currently working as an ASM for AT&T in San Diego County. Id. ¶ 87. Newberry worked at the Mission Valley Store and prior to Morales' arrival, Newberry had been told that she was considered to be a high performer and was a candidate to be promoted to a management position. Id. ¶ 88. Newberry alleges that Morales unfairly treated Newberry with respect to her attire choices and requests for accommodations for medical appointments. Id. ¶¶ 89-93. Specifically, Newberry alleges that Morales treated her and other African-American employees less favorably than he treated the young, primarily Hispanic, female employees who did not object to his sexual conduct and comments. Id. ¶ 96. Newberry transferred to another AT&T location, which was in effect a demotion, decreasing her earnings based on her commissions. Id. ¶ 97.

         Plaintiff Mario Hall is a 33-year-old African-American male who worked for AT&T between 2013 and 2015. He worked at the Mission Valley store starting in 2014. Id. ¶ 77. The FAC alleges that Hall was on a path towards advancement at AT&T and was selected to take part in a management-training program. Id. ¶¶ 78. However, Morales removed Hall from the program without explanation. Id. ¶¶ 79-80. Plaintiffs allege that Morales had previously announced his intention to get rid of both Hall and Newberry, who were seen as the two most promising newer employees at the Misison Valley store. Id. ¶ 81. Hall complained to ARSM Reichow that Morales had unfairly removed him from the management-training program, but Reichow “scoffed” at this complaint. Id. ¶ 82. Hall also petitioned Reichow to transfer to another location so that he could continue advancing in his career at AT&T, but Reichow declined Hall's request. Id. ¶ 83. Due to Hall's complaint to Reichow, Morales retaliated against Hall and terminated him. Id. ¶¶ 85-86.

         Plaintiff Kenyata Martin is a 42-year-old African-American male who began working for AT&T in 2006 and specifically began at the Mission Valley store in 2012. Id. ¶¶ 98-99. The FAC alleges that Morales targeted Martin unfairly by criticizing him for no legitimate reason, acting openly hostile towards Martin, and assigning him less desirable assignments. Id. ¶ 99. The FAC also alleges that Morales made derogatory remarks about Martin's skin color and when Martin complained about these remarks to Reichow, Reichow did not take any action to help Martin or to discipline Morales. Id. ¶¶ 100-104. In November 2015, Martin transferred to the Downtown San Diego location, which is a less favorable location. Id. ¶ 104.

         c. Morales' Termination

         In May and June of 2016, two female Hispanic employees reported Morales' sexual harassment - including inappropriate remarks and conduct - and racist remarks. Id. ¶¶ 105-106. In August 2016, AT&T initiated an investigation into Morales' sexual harassment of female employees and on August 30, 2016, AT&T terminated Morales' employment. Id. ΒΆ 107. Plaintiffs allege that AT&T has failed to acknowledge, remedy, or disapprove of Morales' ...


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