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De Jong v. Great Wolf Resorts, Inc.

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

July 1, 2019

JEREMY DE JONG, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the Court on the Defendant Great Wolf Resorts, Inc.'s (“Great Wolf”) Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Dkt. 9. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the file herein.

         In this diversity case, the Plaintiff claims that Great Wolf terminated his employment in violation of public policy under Washington law. Dkt. 1-1. Great Wolf (who asserts that the Plaintiff improperly names it as the Defendant, and not Plaintiff's employer, Great Lakes Services, LLC), moves to dismiss the case, arguing that the Plaintiff fails to allege a clear mandate of public policy, or a causal connection to his public-policy linked conduct, or employer misconduct, as is necessary under Washington law. Dkt. 9. For the reasons provided below, the motion (Dkt. 9) should be granted without prejudice and Plaintiff should be given leave to amend his Complaint, if he wishes.


         A. FACTS

         The following facts are from the Plaintiff's Complaint and are presumed true for the purposes of this motion.

         The Plaintiff was hired to work at Great Wolf, a hotel and inside water park, on October 25, 2017, as the Director of Engineering. Dkt. 1-1, at 8. Prior to the events that give rise to this action, he alleges that he met or exceeded performance goals and received only positive performance reviews. Id., at 7-8.

         The Complaint asserts that on January 23, 2018, the Plaintiff reported to Great Wolf management that a co-worker, Marilyn Milani, the Director of Rooms, “wrote various graffiti on an interior wall and then destroyed it.” Dkt. 1-1, at 9. He did so by text message to Human Resources Manager Tawni Houk and included pictures, which appear in the Complaint. Id., at 9-10. The picture is of a wall with writing on it and portions of the drywall torn way. Id., at 10. There are wall supports and insulation visible. Id. The next day, Milani emailed the Plaintiff, “stating that she had begun destructively tearing the wall down in housekeeping via her pack ritual but did not plan on encountering insulation and metal.” Id. The Complaint maintains that she then asked the Plaintiff to “schedule someone to remove the wall.” Id. The Plaintiff asserts that he felt “her actions posed the potential for safety risks, ” and reported Milani's conduct a second time, this time to the General Manager, Nadine Miracle. Id.

         The Complaint alleges that in retaliation for the Plaintiff's reports, on January 26, 2018, Milani reported to human resources that the Plaintiff “objectified women.” Dkt. 1-1, at 11. He asserts that when he pointed out that the timing of her complaint was suspicious, Miracle and Houk stated that due to the nature of Milani's claims, they would not treat the report as retaliatory. Id.

         The Complaint alleges that when he was not disciplined as a result of Milani's report, Milani began a rumor that he was having an affair with a co-worker, Herbert. Dkt. 1-1, at 11. The Plaintiff asserts that he did not have the affair. Id. Milani is alleged to have then “ran an unauthorized audit through the workplace computer system on Plaintiff [and Herbert]” and gave his personal contact information to Herbert's husband. Id. The Plaintiff asserts that Milani continued to defame and harass him on social media and through her friends at work. Id., at 11-12. Plaintiff states that Milani was increasingly hostile to him, would not communicate with him, and made it very difficult to do his job due to the interrelated nature of their duties. Id., at 12. The Plaintiff reported Milani's behavior, but he asserts that General Manager Miracle indicated that she disagreed that any such behavior was occurring. Id. In March of 2018, Milani was discharged. Dkt. 1-1, at 14.

         The Complaint alleges that the Plaintiff's performance evaluation for April 2018 indicated that he “consistently meets” goals and work expectations and that his overall performance was “strong contributor.” Dkt. 1-1, at 14.

         In early June 2018, Plaintiff and a few other employees headed to Seattle to participate in a work-related program. Dkt. 1-1, at 15. The Plaintiff alleges that he left with Ms. Herbert, but that after they left, they received a text message from General Manager Miracle that they were to wait on the side of the road for her. Id. Plaintiff asserts that Miracle forced him to ride with her. Id. When asked why, the Plaintiff maintains that Miracle told him, “boys and girls should not ride alone in cares together.” Id., at 16.

         Both Ms. Herbert and the Plaintiff filed complaints with the human resources regarding this episode. Dkt. 1-1, at 16. On June 28, 2018, the Plaintiff asserts that he asked Human Resources Manager Houk about the status of his complaint. Id. He maintains that she told him that Bryan Robinson of Corporate Human Resources told her to “put a stop to any further complaints” and that if they wanted to complain “they know where the door is.” Id. He asserts that he was not promoted in July 2018, despite having been given the impression that he was the top candidate. Id.

         The Complaint alleges that on July 28, 2018, a meeting was held between the Plaintiff, General Manager Miracle, and Assistant General Manager, Nick Licastro. Dkt. 1-1, at 16-17. The Plaintiff maintains that he politely disagreed with them on an issue. Id., at 17. He asserts that they went to human resources and said that, “he would regret being mean” to them. Id.

         On August 14, 2018, the Complaint asserts that the Plaintiff met with Miracle and Licastro. Dkt. 1-1, at 17. They are alleged to have told him that other employees are talking about his affair with Ms. Herbert and that they believed that he was having an affair with Ms. Herbert. Id. He maintains that he was told that while it was not against company policy, it reflected poorly on he and Ms. Herbert because they were both married. Id. The Plaintiff repeatedly denied the affair. Id., at 18. The Plaintiff alleges that they told him they had reports of the Plaintiff and Ms. Herbert talking in the hall, and that he should avoid her in the future. Id. The Plaintiff felt it would impede his ability to do his job if he were to avoid Ms. Herbert in the future. Id. He asserts that he felt singled out and harassed because other co-workers rode in cars together and had closed-door meetings. Id.

         The Complaint asserts that on August 15, 2018, he filed a second complaint with human resources concerning the previous day's meeting, claiming that he was being subjected to a “hostile work environment, ” slander, and liable. Id., at 19. He alleges that a few days later, Ms. Herbert was told by a co-worker that General Manager Miracle and Assistant General Manager Licastro told the co-worker to report it any time she saw Ms. Herbert and the Plaintiff talking. Id.

         On August 23, 2018, the Plaintiff met with human resources. Dkt. 1-1, at 20. He asserts that they told him that the conversation with Miracle and Licastro was intended to be informative, not punitive. Id. The Plaintiff maintains that they asked if he was happy at Great Wolf and he asserts that he told them he was not and was looking for other employment. Id. The Plaintiff told them he hired a lawyer. Id. He alleges that they got defensive. Id. On ...

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