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De Jong v. Great Wolf Resorts Inc.

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

September 9, 2019

JEREMY DE JONG, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the Court on the Defendant Great Wolf Resorts, Inc.'s (“Great Wolf”) Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint. Dkt. 25. 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 created, perpetuated, and failed to address, a hostile work environment, based on his sex/gender, and retaliated against him by terminating his employment all in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, RCW § 49.60, et seq., (“WLAD”). Dkt. 22. The only claim in the original Complaint, termination in violation of public policy, was dismissed on July 1, 2019, without prejudice, in part, for failure to allege facts to show that the public-policy linked conduct caused his dismissal. Dkt. 21. The Plaintiff, with leave of court, filed the Amended Complaint. Dkt. 22. Great Wolf (who asserts that the Plaintiff improperly names it as the Defendant, and not Plaintiff's real employer, Great Lakes Services, LLC), now moves to dismiss the case, arguing that the Plaintiff fails to allege that the harassment occurred because of his sex/gender or that there was a causal connection between the Plaintiff's discharge and his purported protected activity. Dkt. 23. For the reasons provided below, the motion (Dkt. 23) should be denied.


         A. FACTS

         The following facts are from the Plaintiff's First Amended 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. 22, at 9. 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 8-9.

         The First Amended 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. 22, at 10. He did so by text message to Human Resources Manager Tawni Houk and included pictures, which appear in the First Amended Complaint. Id., at 10-11. The picture is of a wall with writing on it and portions of the drywall and insulation torn way. Id., at 11. 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 First Amended Complaint maintains that she then asked the Plaintiff to “schedule someone to remove the wall.” Id. The Plaintiff asserts that he reported Milani's conduct a second time, this time to the General Manager, Nadine Miracle. Id.

         The First Amended 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. 22, at 12. 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 First Amended Complaint alleges that when he was not disciplined as a result of Milani's claim, Milani began a rumor that he was having an affair with another married co-worker, Herbert. Dkt. 22, at 11. He maintains that Miracle went to Houk and inquired as to whether they should contact the police to investigate because “in Pennsylvania where [Miracle] was from, adultery is illegal.” Id. at 12. 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. Id., at 13. He asserts that other of Milani's friends at work also harassed him by making unwelcome sex-based comments. Id., at 13. 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 14. 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. 22, at 15.

         The First Amended 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. 22, at 15-16.

         In early June 2018, Plaintiff and a few other employees headed to Seattle to participate in a work-related program. Dkt. 22, at 15. The Plaintiff alleges that he left with Ms. Herbert, but that after they left, they received a call from General Manager Miracle that they were to wait on the side of the road for her. Id., at 16. 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 cars together.” Id., at 17.

         Both Ms. Herbert and the Plaintiff filed complaints with human resources regarding this episode. Dkt. 1-1, at 17. Plaintiff maintains that their “complaints detailed how their boss, GM Miracle, believed the sexual harassment perpetrated by Ms. Milani.” Id. On June 28, 2018, the Plaintiff asserts that he asked Human Resources Manager Houk about the status of his complaint. Id. He maintains that Houk 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., at 18.

         The First Amended Complaint alleges that on July 24, 2018, a meeting was held between the Plaintiff, General Manager Miracle, and Assistant General Manager, Nick Licastro. Dkt. 22, at 18. The Plaintiff maintains that he politely disagreed with them on an issue. Id. He asserts that they went ...

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