United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
J. Pechman United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motions for
Summary Judgment and Motions to Strike. (Dkt. Nos. 32, 35.)
Having considered the Parties' briefing and all related
papers, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motions to Strike;
DENIES Defendant Sellen Construction Company's Motion for
Summary Judgment; and GRANTS Defendants Kate Harkess and Ken
Knudsen's Motion for Summary Judgment.
Eric Kitazi brings this employment discrimination action
against Sellen Construction Company, Inc.
(“Sellen”), its Director of Human Resources Kate
Harkess (“Harkess”), and its Superintendent of
Cement Masons Ken Knudsen (“Knudsen”)
(collectively, “Defendants”) on the basis of race
and national origin. (Dkt. Nos. 1, 17.)
a Kenyan national, worked at Sellen from 2008-2010 and from
January-November 2014. (Dkt. No. 17 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges
that he was discriminated against by co-workers and
supervisors who subjected him to harassment and demeaning
remarks on the job. (Id. at 5-8.)
alleges that in September 2014, shortly after the Ebola
outbreak in West Africa, an unknown worker yelled
“Ebola!” inciting laughter from other workers on
the jobsite. (Dkt. No. 37 at 4-5.) On another occasion,
Plaintiff alleges a worker stated he was “keeping the
rapists out, ” which Plaintiff perceived as a racial
stereotype. (Id. at 5.) On another occasion, a
worker called Plaintiff “monkey butter, ” which
he perceived as a racial slur. (Id.) Plaintiff
alleges that he was repeatedly stared at, followed, regarded
with suspicion, threatened and yelled at by other workers.
(Id. at 6, 10-13.) Plaintiff alleges that his
foreman treated white workers with more respect, encouraged
other workers to follow and harass him, and refused to
communicate with him about details of the job. (Id.
at 9, 11-12.) Plaintiff alleges that other workers noticed
his disparate treatment and told him, “I see how they
treat you different.” (Id. at 4). Plaintiff
alleges he complained to supervisors and foremen about being
followed and physically threatened on the jobsite, and on one
occasion he complained formally to Defendant Harkess.
(Id. at 6, 10, 12-13.) Plaintiff alleges he reported
instances of being followed and stared at to Defendant
Knudsen on November 19, 2014 and to another supervisor and
foreman on November 24, 2014. (Id. at 12-13.)
Plaintiff alleges he was terminated the following day, on
November 25, 2014. (Id. at 13.)
amended complaint asserts a variety of causes of action under
state and federal law relating to the alleged employment
discrimination. (See Dkt. No. 17.) Plaintiff
voluntarily has abandoned several of those claims, and only
his only remaining claims are for employment discrimination
in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 1981
(“Section 1981”), and the Washington Law Against
Discrimination; retaliation; and hostile working environment.
(See Dkt. No. 37 at 2.)
argue that Plaintiff's complaints to management alluded
only vaguely to racial tension and differential treatment,
and that Plaintiff did not provide any details that could be
investigated. (Dkt. No. 32 at 18.) Defendants allege that
Plaintiff was laid off due to a reduction in work for cement
masons between November-December 2014. (Id. at 19;
Dkt. No. 41 at 7.)
Sellen (Dkt. No. 32) and Defendants Harkess and Knudsen (Dkt.
No. 35) now move for summary judgment as to each of
Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff opposes Defendant
Sellen's Motion, but has not substantively opposed
Defendants Harkess and Knudsen's Motion. (See
Dkt. No. 37.)
Legal Standards A. Summary Judgment
judgment is proper where “the movant shows that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
In assessing whether a party has met its burden, the
underlying evidence must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
Ninth Circuit and Washington courts impose a high standard
for granting summary judgment in employment discrimination
cases. The Ninth Circuit has stated that “very little
evidence” is required to survive summary judgment
because “the ultimate question is one that can only be
resolved through a searching inquiry-one that is most
appropriately conducted by the factfinder, upon a full
record.” Schnidrig v. Columbia Mach., Inc., 80
F.3d 1406, 1410 (9th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). Washington courts have stated that summary
judgment “should rarely be granted in employment
discrimination cases.” See, e.g., Sangster
v. Albertson's, Inc., 99 Wn.App. 156, 160 (2000)