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Trizuto v. Bellevue Police Dep't

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

November 18, 2013

JAN M. TRIZUTO, Plaintiff,

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For Jan M Trizuto, also known as Jan M Auclair, Plaintiff: Brian Allen Boice, LEAD ATTORNEY, BOICE LAW FIRM, PLLC, TACOMA, WA.

For Bellevue Police Department, Daniel Young, in his official and individual capacities, and his marital community, John and Jane Does, 1-5, in their official and individual capcities, City of Bellevue, Defendants: Cheryl A Zakrzewski, LEAD ATTORNEY, BELLEVUE CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, BELLEVUE, WA; Andrew G Cooley, Mary Ann McConaughy, KEATING BUCKLIN & MCCORMACK, SEATTLE, WA.


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The Honorable Richard A. Jones, United States District Court Judge.


This matter comes before the court on a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment from Defendants. No one requested oral argument, and the court finds oral argument unnecessary. For the reasons stated herein, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 9) and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part their motion for summary judgment (Dkt. # 30).


Jan Trizuto began working as an officer in the Bellevue Police Department (" BPD" ) in November 2007. After basic training, she began a series of on-the-job-training exercises in which she rode along with a field training officer. In May 2008, BPD assigned Officer Brad Knudtsen as her field training officer. They worked eleven shifts together from late May until mid-June 2008. During that time, Officer Knudtsen made sexually explicit comments, revealed personal information, and otherwise made Officer Trizuto uncomfortable. Officer Trizuto did not report the comments to her superiors. She worked another shift with Officer Knudtsen in December 2008 in response to a snow emergency, and he again made unwelcome personal comments. She did not report him. She also did not report unwelcome text messages that Officer Knudtsen sent her in February and March 2009.

Lieutenant Daniel Young supervised Officer Trizuto from the completion of her field training in October 2008 until January 2009, and became her squad leader in January 2010. In 2009, her supervisor was Lieutenant Mark Tarantino. At least in part because of two on-the-job incidents in 2009 (one which resulted in a formal reprimand, and one which resulted in a 20-hour suspension), Lieutenant Tarantino placed her on a performance improvement plan as part of Officer Trizuto's 2009 annual review. When Lieutenant Young became her supervisor in January 2010, he became responsible for ensuring she met the terms of the performance improvement plan, although no one suggests he had any role in imposing it in the first place.

The evidence permits many inferences regarding Officer Trizuto's relationship with Lieutenant Young in the first half of 2010. Officer Trizuto characterizes Lieutenant Young as " sometimes overly harsh," but well-intentioned. Trizuto Decl. (Dkt. # 35) ¶ 8. She contends among other things that he was reasonable in administering her performance improvement plan. In any event, Officer Trizuto does not allege that Lieutenant Young did anything unlawful in the first half of 2010.

In April and May of 2010, Officer Trizuto revealed Officer Knudtsen's unwelcome comments in conversations with Corporal Sean Sehlin and Lieutenant Dan Mathieu. She first told Lieutenant Mathieu. Trizuto Decl. (Dkt. # 35) ¶ 9. Lieutenant Mathieu apparently recognized that BPD policy required him to report Officer Knudtsen's conduct to a superior. Officer Trizuto asked him not to report it. Id. In late May, she " vented" to Corporal Sehlin after having been " chewed out" by Lieutenant Young on three occasions for unspecified reasons. Id. ¶ 10. In the same conversation, she also revealed Officer Knudtsen's past conduct. Id. Corporal Sehlin, like

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Lieutenant Mathieu, recognized that BPD policy required him to report her allegations regarding Officer Knudtsen. Id. Again, Officer Trizuto requested that he not make a report. Id.

Both Lieutenant Mathieu and Corporal Sehlin reported Officer Trizuto's allegations up the chain of command. BPD began a formal investigation immediately, and removed Lieutenant Young from supervising Officer Trizuto's squad. Lieutenant Young's unchallenged account of his removal reveals that BPD initially notified him that Officer Trizuto had accused him of harassment. Young Decl. (Dkt. # 31) ¶ 11. He recalls that BPD also informed him that Officer Trizuto had " complaints of a sexual harassment nature" against another officer. Id. No one told him that the officer accused of sexual harassment was Officer Knudtsen, and he contends that he did not learn that fact until " much later." Id. ¶ ¶ 11-12. Lieutenant Young believes that BPD discovered early in its investigation that Officer Trizuto had not accused him of harassment, leading to his quick reinstatement as squad leader on July 2. Id. ¶ 13. Everyone appears to concede that Lieutenant Young's removal was either the result of a miscommunication or an excess of bureaucratic caution. There is no allegation that Lieutenant Young bore Officer Trizuto any ill will as a result of his brief removal from the squad.

A day after he returned as squad leader, Lieutenant Young reported that Officer Trizuto had successfully completed her performance improvement plan.

According to Officer Trizuto, her relationship with Lieutenant Young changed beginning in late August 2010. She contends that Lieutenant Young began " singling [her] out[,] complaining about even the smallest of perceived inadequacies, humiliating [her] in front of her co-workers, and threatening [her] with formal reprimands." Trizuto Decl. (Dkt. # 35) ¶ 15(g). She identified three specific incidents. In late August, he " yelled at and berated" her following her response to a shooting incident at a local store. Id. ¶ 18. In early September, he confronted Officer Trizuto and two other officers regarding their performance when they worked together on calls. Id. ¶ 19. About a week later, he confronted her at the station after she unilaterally decided to work on September 11 when Lieutenant Young had scheduled her to be off. Id. ¶ 25. The confrontation began in front of her follow officers, and continued inside Lieutenant Young's office. Id.

The day after this final confrontation, Officer Trizuto reported to a superior her belief that Lieutenant Young was retaliating against her because of her accusations against Officer Knudtsen. She believes that Lieutenant Young and Officer Knudtsen are friends. After Officer Trizuto made her retaliation complaint, BPD quickly removed Lieutenant Young from supervising her squad, and he has not supervised her since.

Lieutenant Carl Kleinknecht took over supervision of Officer Trizuto's squad after BPD removed Lieutenant Young. As part of Officer Trizuto's performance review for the second half of 2010, Lieutenant Young submitted a memo to Lieutenant Kleinknecht with his evaluation of Officer Trizuto from July 2010 until BPD transferred him away from her squad in mid-September. Young Decl. (Dkt. # 31), Ex. E. He reported several of incidents of misconduct, including her decision to work a shift for which she was not scheduled, her questionable decisions in the August shooting incident, and conduct during a response to a child custody dispute. Id. He also reported that she had received favorable feedback for her work on several occasions. Id. Lieutenant Kleinknecht nonetheless gave her a " meets standards" review. Id.,

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Ex. D. Lieutenant Kleinknecht generally evaluated her performance favorably.

Officer Trizuto also believes that others at the BPD have engaged in retaliatory conduct. She complains that BPD interviewed her three times regarding her allegations against Officer Knudtsen. Trizuto Decl. (Dkt. # 35) ¶ 15(g). She contends that BPD scheduled those interviews during her shifts, and that she was forced to take personal leave to attend the interviews. Id. BPD has submitted unchallenged evidence that it eventually restored that leave to her. She has no other specific allegation of misconduct connected with the interviews during the Knudtsen investigation. Officer Trizuto complains that BPD conducted its investigatory interview of her following her complaint against Lieutenant Young as an " ambush," again causing her distress. Id. ¶ 27.

BPD concluded the Knudtsen investigation in December 2010. It issued a written reprimand concluding that Officer Knudtsen had acted inappropriately, imposed a 60hour suspension without pay, and warned him that he would be fired if he engaged in additional misconduct.

BPD's investigation into Officer Trizuto's allegation of retaliation against Lieutenant Young resulted in no discipline. Lieutenant Young has not supervised Officer Trizuto since September 2010, but BPD has not assured her that Lieutenant Young will never supervise her. Officer Trizuto perceives that Lieutenant Young still carries a grudge, and she believes that he has complained to her fellow officers (including her superiors) regarding her performance on a number of occasions in 2012 and 2013.

Officer Trizuto sued Lieutenant Young and BPD. [1] She contends that both Defendants are liable for violating the anti-retaliation provisions of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (" WLAD" ) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. RCW 49.60.210; 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. She also invokes 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that both Defendants are liable for violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Finally, she claims that both are liable for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Defendants jointly filed a motion to dismiss several of her claims, then filed a motion for summary judgment against her remaining ...

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