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Caldwell v. The Boeing Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 8, 2018



          JAMES L. ROBART, United States District Judge


         Before the court is Defendant The Boeing Company's (“Boeing”) motion to dismiss portions of Plaintiff Brett Caldwell's second amended complaint. (2d MTD (Dkt. # 25); see also SAC (Dkt. # 24).) The court has reviewed the motion, all submissions filed in support of and opposition to the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and // the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1] the court grants in part and denies in part the motion.


         Mr. Caldwell is a thirty-four-year-old, African-American man, who was employed by Boeing as an Automated Fiber Placement (“AFP”) Operator. (SAC ¶¶ 2, 13; see also Id. ¶ 21.) Mr. Caldwell began working for Boeing on January 11, 2013. (Id. ¶ 14.) During the time he worked for Boeing, Mr. Caldwell was the only African-American who worked in the building to which he was assigned in Everett, Washington. (Id.)

         On June 5, 2013, a Caucasian Boeing security officer stopped Mr. Caldwell as he was leaving the front gate. (Id. ¶ 15.) The Officer approached Mr. Caldwell “in a semi-crouched position with his hand on his weapon.” (Id.) After the officer reviewed Mr. Caldwell's registration, the officer said that he saw Mr. Caldwell's car parked in the same spot every day. (Id.) Mr. Caldwell alleges that the officer “assumed because of [Mr. Caldwell's] race that [Mr. Caldwell] was hiding the car on Boeing property.” (Id.)

         On January 15, 2016, Mr. Caldwell was attending a meeting in Building 88 in Everett, Washington. (Id. ¶ 16.) After the meeting, Mr. Caldwell asked a manager to direct him to the nearest water fountain. (Id.) The manager directed Mr. Caldwell to a water cooler “in the next set of offices across the hall.” (Id.) When Mr. Caldwell attempted to use the water cooler, an older white woman yelled, “What are you doing?” (Id.) She informed Mr. Caldwell that he could not drink from the water cooler because he was not part of the 787 program. (Id.) Mr. Caldwell alleges that “[t]he real reason . . . [the woman] did not want [him] drinking from th[at] particular water fountain is that the water fountain was the one she used and . . . [Mr. Caldwell] is African American.” (Id.) When Mr. Caldwell objected “that all Boeing employees drink from the water fountains, ” the woman threatened to “write [him] up the next time he attempt[ed] to drink water from that cooler.” (Id.)

         On January 20, 2016, Ron Anderson, who is a gym recreation administrator at Boeing, accused Mr. Caldwell “of trying to steal a basketball because he is a large African American male.” (Id. ¶ 17.) Mr. Caldwell took his own basketballs to the facility. (Id.) When Mr. Anderson, who is Caucasian, saw Mr. Caldwell sitting at the top of the stairs with two basketballs, Mr. Anderson confronted Mr. Caldwell and accused Mr. Caldwell of theft. (Id.) Mr. Caldwell showed his basketballs to Mr. Anderson to confirm that the basketballs were not Boeing's property. (Id.) Mr. Anderson then told Mr. Caldwell that he was not allowed to bring his own basketballs to the court. (Id.) Mr. Caldwell alleges that this statement was false and that Mr. Anderson made it to discourage Mr. Caldwell “from using the Boeing basketball [c]ourt because of his race.” (Id.) A few weeks later a sign appeared in the gym stating, “no personal basketballs allowed.” (Id.) Mr. Caldwell alleges that the sign shows that “Boeing ratified Mr. Anderson's discriminatory conduct.” (Id.)

         On February 13, 2016, Mr. Anderson observed Mr. Caldwell playing basketball at the gym and dunking the basketball. (Id. ¶ 18.) Mr. Caldwell never saw any of the Caucasian players dunk the ball, and Mr. Caldwell believes they lacked the ability to do so. (Id.) The next day, Mr. Anderson posted a sign stating, “no dunking.” Mr. Caldwell alleges that, because he was the only person at the gym who could dunk, “the signs were clearly directed at [him] due to the fact that he is African American.” (Id.)

         In March 2016, while he was playing basketball, Mr. Caldwell inadvertently cursed. (Id. ¶ 19.) Mr. Caldwell alleges that over the years he had heard Caucasian players curse without repercussion while playing at the Boeing gym. (Id.) Nevertheless, Mr. Anderson “immediately approached [Mr. Caldwell] and told him to stop swearing.” (Id.) Mr. Caldwell alleges that he apologized and resumed playing. (Id.) Mr. Anderson continued looking at Mr. Caldwell with his arms folded. (Id.) Mr. Caldwell responded by stating: “I apologized. What more do you want?” (Id.) Mr. Anderson replied, “I don't like your attitude, ” and he asked Mr. Caldwell to turn over his badge. (Id.) After Mr. Caldwell refused, Mr. Anderson told Mr. Caldwell to leave the gym. (Id.) When Mr. Caldwell started to leave, Mr. Anderson allegedly blocked the door, screamed at Mr. Caldwell demanding his badge, and threatened to call the police. (Id.) Mr. Caldwell alleges that “Mr. Anderson's tantrum was racially motivated.” (Id.) When the Boeing police arrived, Mr. Caldwell alleges that they wrote down only Mr. Anderson's version of events and told Mr. Caldwell to follow Mr. Anderson's instructions when he demands to see Mr. Caldwell's identification. (Id.) The police escorted Mr. Caldwell to his locker and told him that he could no longer play basketball that day. (Id.) Mr. Caldwell alleges that he emailed his manager, Dean Bogardus, about the incident, but Mr. Bogardus took no action. (Id.)

         In December 2016, while Mr. Caldwell was working, a white male co-worker started to mock Mr. Caldwell “by walking with his shoulders rolled and his arms dangling like an ape.” (Id. ¶ 20.) Mr. Caldwell alleges that his co-worker was “mock[ing] [his] race by walking like an ape.” (Id.) When Mr. Caldwell had completed his task, the co-worker stated loudly enough for everyone in the area to hear, “This is why I can't stand you Blacks.” (Id.) The co-worker then falsely told others that Mr. Caldwell had offered to meet him in the parking lot to fight. (Id.) Mr. Caldwell complained about the incident to Mr. Bogardus. (Id.) In response, Mr. Caldwell alleges that Mr. Bogardus (1) accused Mr. Caldwell of being in the wrong, (2) did not want to hear Mr. Caldwell's side of events because Mr. Caldwell is African-American, (3) “did nothing” to address the conduct of the co-worker, and (4) threatened to fire Mr. Caldwell. (Id.)

         Mr. Caldwell also alleges that he told Mr. Bogardus that Tom Hammond, the AFP Operator Team Lead, was harassing him; but instead of addressing the problem, Mr. Bogardus “joined in on the racial intimidation.” (Id. ¶ 21.) Mr. Bogardus told Mr. Caldwell that he needed to get along with Mr. Hammond to make Mr. Bogardus's job easier. (Id.) Mr. Hammond allegedly told Mr. Caldwell that Mr. Caldwell scared him and that is just the way that Mr. Hammond was raised. (Id.)

         In addition, Mr. Caldwell alleges that Manager Ron Jarvis would address Mr. Caldwell uniquely “by imitating a stereotypical African American manner of speech” and by calling Mr. Caldwell “slick” and “homeboy” or by saying “yo, yo, yo, yo, yo.” (Id. ¶ 22.) Mr. Caldwell reported Mr. Jarvis's behavior to Manager Adita Weatherbee, but Mr. Caldwell alleges that Boeing did not nothing to stop Mr. Jarvis's behavior. (Id.)

         Finally, Mr. Caldwell alleges that Boeing terminated his employment on February 10, 2017. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 23.) Boeing stated that it terminated Mr. Caldwell for improper use of a computer. (See Id. ¶ 23.) Mr. Caldwell, however, alleges that his computer use “was clearly permitted pursuant to the terms of [his] employment.” (Id.) He also alleges that many of his white coworkers used the computer for just as much time as he did, but Boeing did not terminate his white co-workers for the same conduct. (Id.)

         On August 17, 2017, Mr. Caldwell filed an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Id. ¶ 25.) On August 23, 2017, the EEOC issued a “Right to Sue” notice to Mr. Caldwell. (Id. ¶ 25, Ex. 1.) Mr. Caldwell filed suit on November 11, 2017. (See Compl. (Dkt. # 1).)

         On January 12, 2018, Boeing move to dismiss Mr. Caldwell's original complaint. (1st MTD (Dkt. # 19).) Mr. Caldwell did not file a response to Boeing's motion (see generally Dkt.); instead, on February 9, 2018, Mr. Caldwell filed a first amended complaint, and then on February 13, 2018, he filed a second amended complaint (see FAC (Dkt. # 22); see also SAC). On March 26, 2018, the court denied Boeing's first motion to dismiss as moot because Mr. Caldwell's second amended complaint superseded his original complaint and rendered his original complaint without legal effect. (3/26/18 Order (Dkt. # 28).)

         In his second amended complaint, Mr. Caldwell asserts claims for (1) racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, et seq. (SAC ¶¶ 26-28); (2) hostile work environment based on race or retaliation for engagement in protected activity in violation of the same federal statute (id. ¶¶ 29-32); and (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress based on Washington common law (id. ΒΆΒΆ 33-36). On February 27, 2018, Boeing filed the present motion to dismiss claims two and three of ...

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