United States District Court, W.D. Washington
C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant's motion for
partial summary judgment (Dkt. No. 33). Having thoroughly
considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record,
the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS
the motion for the reasons explained herein.
2001, Plaintiff Jon Flowers (“Flowers”), started
working for Defendant, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
(“Fred Hutch”) in its Human Resources Department.
(Dkt. No. 1-1 at 3.) Sometime in July 2012, Flowers'
supervisor, Han Nachtrieb (“Nachtrieb”) announced
that the Department would soon be posting an opening for a
newly created Employment Manager position. (Dkt. No. 39 at
1-2.) A few weeks later when Flowers told Nachtrieb that he
wanted to apply for the position, Nachtrieb told him that
another employee, John Bartley (“Bartley”), had
already applied, interviewed, and been hired. (Id.)
Bartley is Caucasian, while Flowers is African American.
(Dkt. No. 1-1 at 3-4.)
to Flowers, Nachtrieb had earlier told a Recruiting
Supervisor, Narreda Cooper (“Cooper”), that he
would not be posting the Employment Manager position. (Dkt.
No. 40 at 1.) Nachtrieb told Cooper that he had decided to
hire Bartley and to keep that information to herself.
(Id. at 1-2.) When Flowers approached Cooper to
inquire about the open position, Cooper merely told him that
no one had applied. (Id. at 2.) On August 1, 2012,
Bartley's job as the Employment Manager took effect.
(Dkt. No. 34 at 15.) In January 2013, after Cooper was
terminated by Fred Hutch, she told Flowers about
Nachtrieb's decision to hire Bartley without posting the
position or interviewing other applicants. (Dkt. No. 40 at
September 26, 2013, Flowers filed a grievance with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) (Dkt.
No. 34 at 5.) In his grievance, Flowers asserted that Fred
Hutch “has engaged in a pattern and practice of
promoting less qualified Anglo employees for management
positions within the Human Resources Department while denying
me promotional opportunity to a management position within
the department.” (Id.) After conducting an
internal investigation of the discrimination claim, Fred
Hutch terminated Flowers. (Id.) Flowers subsequently
filed a second claim with the EEOC asserting Fred Hutch had
retaliated against him for filing his first complaint. (Dkt.
No. 34 at 7.)
obtaining a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, Flowers
brought this lawsuit charging Fred Hutch with disparate
treatment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). (Dkt. No. 1-1 at
5-6.) Fred Hutch now moves for summary judgment on
Flowers' disparate treatment claim, arguing that it is
time-barred. (Dkt. No. 33 at 1.) Fred Hutch asserts that
Title VII required Flowers to bring his discrimination claim
within 300 days of filing his grievance with the EEOC.
(Id.) Flowers argues that his discrimination claim
is timely under the doctrines of equitable estoppel and
equitable tolling. (Dkt. No. 38 at 1.)
Summary Judgment Standard
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In making that determination, the Court
must view the facts and justifiable inferences to be drawn
therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986). Once a summary judgment motion is properly made and
supported, the opposing party “must come forward with
‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)
(emphasis in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).
Title VII Statute of Limitations
bring a Title VII discrimination claim, a plaintiff must
first file a charge with a state EEOC agency within 300 days
of experiencing an unlawful employment practice. See
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); see also Nat'l R.R.
Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 113 (2002)
(“Each discrete discriminatory act starts a new clock
for filing charges alleging that act. The charge, therefore,
must be filed within the . . . 300-day time period after the
discrete discriminatory act occurred.”) Where a Title
VII discrimination claim is based on discrete acts that
occurred outside of the 300-day filing window, the claim is
time-barred. See Morgan, 536 U.S. at 109;
Siddiqui v. AG Commc'n Sys. Corp., 233 Fed.Appx.
610, 612 (9th Cir. 2007). The 300-day filing clock commences
when a plaintiff becomes aware of the adverse employment
action that supports his or her discrimination claim. See
Lukovsky v. City & Cty. of San Francisco,
535 F.3d 1044, 1051 (9th Cir. 2008) (“claim accrued
when the plaintiffs received notice they would not be hired .
. . .”).
complaint, Flowers alleges a single discriminatory act to
support his Title VII discrimination claim. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at
5.) Flowers states that “[he] applied for a promotion
to the Employment Manager position but was not promoted.
Instead, a white, Caucasian employee was promoted to the
position.” (Id.) It is undisputed that the
discrete act supporting Flowers' discrimination claim is
Fred Hutch's decision to promote Bartley rather than him.
The undisputed evidence further demonstrates that Bartley
officially began working as the Employment Manager in early
August 2012, and Flowers was aware that Bartley had gotten
the job. (Dkt. Nos. 34 at 15, 39 at 2.) Therefore, the
300-day clock began to run once Flowers knew Bartley had been
hired in August 2012. Flowers did not file his EEOC claim
regarding this allegedly discriminatory hiring decision until
September 2013-well beyond the 300-day window required by
Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). Based
on this evidence, Fred Hutch has met its initial burden on
summary judgment to demonstrate that Flowers' Title VII
discrimination claim is time-barred.
response, Flowers asks the Court to apply the doctrines of
equitable estoppel or equitable tolling to prevent his
discrimination claim from being time-barred. (Dkt. No. 38 at
1.) Flowers asserts that these equitable doctrines are
appropriate because Nachtrieb intentionally misled him about
the circumstances surrounding Bartley's promotion, and he
could not reasonably ...