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Quednau v. State

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 20, 2013

Dana Quednau, Plaintiff,
State of Arizona dba Arizona Department of Economic Security; Nina Ferrer in her capacity as Professional Standards Management and in her personal capacity; Sally Reyes in her capacity as Regional Program Manager and in her personal capacity, Defendants.


G. MURRAY SNOW, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendant State of Arizona's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff Dana Quednau's claims. (Doc. 31.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the Motion.


Plaintiff Dana Quednau claims that her former employer, Defendant State of Arizona, retaliated against her after she filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. In November 2010, Quednau was hired by the Arizona Department of Economic Security (the "DES") in the Coolidge office of the Agency's Division of Benefit and Medical Eligibility (the "DBME") as a Program Services Evaluator I. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶ 1; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶ 1.) As a new employee, Quednau began her tenure on probation and spent much of her first five months on the job in training. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶¶ 2-3; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶¶ 2-3.)

In April 2011, Quednau learned that co-worker Antoinette Mercado had made comments regarding Quednau's drinking and had implied that Quednau was an alcoholic. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶ 5; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶ 5.) Quednau submitted a report accusing Mercado of slander, hazing, harassment, and workplace bullying. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶ 6; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶ 6.) Quednau's report further alleged that Mercado drove recklessly and used sexual slurs in the workplace. (Doc. 37, Ex. 3.)

On April 25, 2011, Nina Ferrer, Professional Standards Manager for the Central Region, went to the Coolidge office to investigate Quednau's report. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶ 7; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶ 7.) Ferrer asked Quednau to meet with Mercado to try to resolve the situation, but the Parties dispute whether Quednau refused to do so or stated that she did not want to do so. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶ 9; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶ 9.) On April 26, 2011, Ferrer and Sally Reyes, Regional Program Manager, met with Quednau and Mercado. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶¶ 10-12; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶¶ 10-12.)

In response to Quednau's alleged unprofessional behavior during the April 26 meeting, Ferrer prepared and submitted a recommendation to DES-DBME Human Resources ("HR") for Quednau's dismissal. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶ 13; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶ 13.) HR received this recommendation and supporting documents on April 27, 2011. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶ 14; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶ 14.) On May 11, 2011, HR forwarded Ferrer's recommendation to Assistant Director Leona Hodges, the employee responsible for making determinations regarding the termination, promotion, and suspension of DES-DBME employees. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶¶ 15-16; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶¶ 15-16.)

Quednau contacted her EEO liaison after the April 26 meeting and contacted EEO Administrator Morris Greenridge on May 4. (Doc. 36, ¶¶ PSOF 23, 24, 26, 27.) Greenridge informed Human Resources Manager Kathy Montaño of Quednau's complaints and Montaño told Greenridge that she would direct Mercado to cease using sexual slurs and review the DES sexual harassment policy. (Doc. 36, ¶¶ PSOF 29-30.)

Quednau received a noticeable workload increase during the time that she was writing her April 2011 report and soliciting witness statements for that report. (Doc. 36, PSOF ¶¶ 5-6, 11, 32, 38.) In response to the increased workload, Quednau filed a charge with the EEOC on May 12, 2011, alleging a sexually hostile work environment and retaliation for reporting that conduct. (Doc. 36, PSOF ¶ 39.)

After receiving Ferrer's recommendation for Quednau's termination on May 11, Assistant Director Hodges reviewed the documentation and discussed the matter with Human Resources Manager Kathy Montaño and Regional Manager Sally Reyes. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶¶ 15, 18, 19; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶¶ 15, 18, 19.)

The State asserts that Hodges decided to terminate Quednau because her behavior was unprofessional and undermined efforts to improve relations in the Coolidge office. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶ 19.) Quednau was terminated on May 25, 2011. (Doc. 31, DSOF ¶ 22; Doc. 36, PSOF ¶ 22.)

Quednau filed the present suit against the State, Ferrer in her official capacity, and Reyes in her official capacity. (Doc. 1.) Quednau claimed that Ferrer and Reyes had violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 36-40.) The Parties stipulated to the dismissal of Quednau's claims against Ferrer and Reyes. (Doc. 19.)

Remaining are Quednau's retaliation claims against the State under both Section 704(a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a), and analogous provisions of the Arizona Civil Rights Act (the "ACRA"), A.R.S. § 41-1464(A). (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 1, 31-35, 41-45.) Quednau alleges that the State retaliated against her by increasing her workload and terminating her because she filed an ...

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