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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Big Five Corp.

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

May 22, 2018

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
BIG FIVE CORP., Defendant. ROBERT SANDERS, Intervenor-Plaintiff,

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND TO COMPEL PRODUCTION OF RECORDS

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff-Intervenor's Emotional Distress Claims and to Compel Production of 2012 Medical Admission Records. Dkt. #41. Defendant, Big 5 Corp. (“Big 5”), argues that Plaintiff-Intervenor, Robert Sanders, has alleged more than garden variety emotional distress, but has refused to produce any requested medical records. As a result, Big 5 asserts that the emotional distress request for damages must be dismissed. Id. In addition, Big 5 argues that it is entitled to Mr. Sanders's records from an involuntary mental health hospitalization in 2012 to support its after-acquired evidence defense. Id. Mr. Sanders opposes the motion, arguing that the records sought are irrelevant, his medical conditions are not at issue in this matter, and his mental health records are not discoverable. Dkt. #44. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendant's motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         This discrimination lawsuit was initially brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Dkt. #1. Robert Sanders later intervened as an additional Plaintiff. Dkt. #10. The instant motion concerns Mr. Sanders only.

         Mr. Sanders alleges as follows:

15. Defendant operates numerous retail stores throughout the state of Washington, including a store in Oak Harbor, Washington.
16. Plaintiff-Intervenor Sanders is of African-American descent, was employed by Defendant, and primarily assigned to Defendant's Oak Harbor retail store.
17. From approximately May 2014, Defendant engaged in unlawful employment practices at its store in Oak Harbor, in violation of Sections 703(a) and 704(a) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § §2000e-2(a) and 2000e-3(a). Defendant subjected Plaintiff-Intervenor Sanders to a hostile work environment based on his race. Defendant further engaged in unlawful employment practices by retaliating against Plaintiff-Intervenor Sanders for opposing the hostile work environment.
18. The practices complained of in the paragraph next above include, but are not limited to, Defendant's Store Manager subjecting Mr. Sanders to frequent, offensive, and unwelcome race-based conduct. The Store Manager referred to Plaintiff-Intervenor as “boy, ” and “Shadow”; introduced Plaintiff-Intervenor as “Shadow, ” rather than by his name, to co-workers and customers on his first day of work; and while patting her knee, whistled to Plaintiff-Intervenor, calling “Here, Shadow” while a co-worker watched and laughed. Co-workers and lower level managers also called Plaintiff-Intervenor racially charged names including “King Kong, ” “boy” and “spook, ” commented on his dark skin color and white teeth, and said he had “the face of a janitor”' because he was African-American. Another worker told him that nationalities not originating in America should go back where they came from and criticized Black people that act Black.
19. During his employment, Defendant's assistant managers held up box cutters to Plaintiff-Intervenor in a threatening manner, threatened to kill Plaintiff-Intervenor for calling in sick and reinforced the threat by saying “we will hang you” and “seriously lynch you.” Defendant's assistant managers asked Plaintiff-Intervenor if he was ready to commit suicide, and offered assistance. A Management Trainee told Plaintiff-Intervenor that his “kind” wasn't allowed in the stock room of the store and told him he would die at Big 5 and end up in a river, dead.
20. Plaintiff-Intervenor attempted to rebuff the managers' and his coworkers' offensive, threatening and unwelcome comments, and complained about the harassing conduct to the Defendant's District Supervisor. The Defendant failed to take prompt or appropriate corrective action to prevent or remedy the hostile work environment caused by the supervisors' and co-workers' offensive, threatening and unwelcome conduct.
21. In retaliation for Plaintiff-Intervenor's complaints about the racially hostile work environment, Defendant, through the actions of the Defendant's District Supervisor, Store Manager and Assistant Managers, denied Plaintiff-Intervenor his work breaks, assigned Plaintiff-Intervenor more difficult and less desirable work, and continued to refer to him as “shadow, ” “spook, ” “King Kong” and “boy” when addressing him directly and in front of other employees. Defendant also disciplined Plaintiff-Intervenor unjustly.
22. The effect of Defendant's practices complained of above has been to deprive Plaintiff-Intervenor of equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely ...

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