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Doe v. State

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 8, 2019

John Doe[1], Plaintiff,
State of Arizona, Defendant.


          G. Murray Snow, Chief United District Judge

         Pending before the Court is the State of Arizona's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 26). For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion in part and denies the motion in part.[2]


         From 2006 to 2016, Plaintiff John Doe worked as a corrections officer at Arizona Department of Corrections (“ADOC”) facilities in Arizona. Mr. Doe is a transgender male. He alleges that he was subjected to unabated harassment from his coworkers and supervisors that created a hostile work environment, caused him to fear for his physical safety, and ultimately forced him to resign in 2016. Defendant moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's hostile work environment and constructive discharge claims.

         The record, viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, shows the following: in 2006, when he began working at ADOC, Mr. Doe was transitioning from female to male. Initially, Mr. Doe worked at the South Unit in Florence, Arizona as a Correctional Officer II. After completing his initial training, Mr. Doe informed his supervisors that he was transitioning. He acknowledged that this period of time would be “awkward, ” but requested that his colleagues respect his status, refer to him by male pronouns, or simply refer to him as Officer Doe.

         Mr. Doe worked at the South Unit for about four years. Other correctional officers and his supervisors would sometimes call Mr. Doe a “she, ” a “he/she, ” an “it, ” a “d-” and a “b-.” His fellow officers would also complain that Mr. Doe should not be using the men's restroom. (Doc 34-3 at 6). Mr. Doe often asked his supervisors if they could instruct other members of his team to refrain from calling him by “she” and also refrain from using derogatory language towards him. At the same time, Mr. Doe also acknowledges that he did not report every incident of alleged harassment to his supervisors, and that some of the officers who made comments were reprimanded by their supervisor. When Mr. Doe would complain to his supervisors about his coworkers calling him “she, ” his supervisors did not take corrective action. (Doc. 34-2, Ex. 1 at 18). During one of these conversations, Lt. Randolph told Mr. Doe to “stay to himself” because the female correctional officers “feel uncomfortable with you.”[3] (Id. at 19).

         This harassment reached an initial climax in 2010, when Mr. Doe's tires were slashed in the parking lot of the prison. Mr. Doe informed Deputy Warden Moody and provided him with photos of the incident, but Deputy Warden Moody did not respond to his complaint. Mr. Doe then informed Warden Carson McWilliams, head of the Florence Complex, of the tire incident as well as other statements that made him fear for his safety. Warden McWilliams agreed that Officer Doe had reasons to fear for his safety and agreed to transfer him to the prison's administrative unit, also known as the “Complex.” (See Doc. 27, Ex. D). Although ADOC agreed to transfer Mr. Doe, it did not perform an official investigation into who slashed Mr. Doe's tires.

         At Complex, Mr. Doe's coworkers continued to make offensive comments. His supervisor, Sergeant Wall, repeatedly referred to Mr. Doe as “she, ” and told other officers that he used to be a female, against Mr. Doe's wishes. At one point, Sgt. Wall stated, “did you know that [Mr. Doe] used to be a female. . . [c]an you believe that s-?” (Doc. 34-3 at 16). Shortly thereafter, many of Mr. Doe's coworkers asked him unwelcome questions about his gender status. Mr. Doe complained to Sgt. Wall about these statements and questions, but Sgt. Wall did not take corrective action. Due to this situation, Mr. Doe requested another transfer.

         In October of 2011, Mr. Doe was transferred to the North Unit. (Doc. 27, Ex. E). Again, Mr. Doe's supervisors and coworkers continued to discuss his transgender status, against his wishes. During a staff briefing, Mr. Doe's supervisor, Lieutenant Clark suggested that the officers should hesitate before investigating a sexual assault of a transgender female in the prison. Years later during his time at North Unit, two other correctional officers told Mr. Doe that they had heard other officers discussing Mr. Doe's transgender status with some of the inmates. One of the officers who allegedly told inmates about Mr. Doe's status was his direct supervisor, Lieutenant Clark. Fearing for Mr. Doe's safety, one of these officers immediately filed an information report with ADOC documenting her concern. (Doc. 34, Ex. 5). Another officer informed Mr. Doe that his supervisor, Lieutenant Clark, had referred to him as a “he/she.” ADOC did not investigate the information report filed by the other officer.

         In response, Mr. Doe filed his first charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that his “employer has breached my confidentiality of my being a transgender individual which was resulted in jeopardizing my safety with the work environment.” (Doc 34, Ex. 3). Due to a lack of corrective action, Mr. Doe then requested an additional transfer.

         Mr. Doe was then transferred to the Papago Unit in Douglas, Arizona. Mr. Doe worked at Papago from July 2015 until he submitted his resignation letter in 2016. While at Papago, Mr. Doe's supervisor, Lieutenant Buldoc, made offensive comments. Specifically, he referred to a prominent transgender celebrity as a “nut job, ” stated that he would like her in his prison because she would be “one sorry b-.” Lieutenant Buldoc also made comments about Doritos Rainbow Chips, stating “what the hell this is about paying 15, 20 bucks for a stupid bag of Doritos, ” and “who in their right mind would pay for Doritos like that to support the queers.” (Doc. 34-5 at 1). Another supervisor, Sergeant Fredrickson, allegedly criticized Mr. Doe's performance on the job, and scrutinized his extended sick leave when he returned to the job. Mr. Doe did not file any complaints with ADOC regarding these incidents during his time in Douglas. Citing interference with his sick leave, Mr. Doe finally resigned from his position in April of 2016. (Doc. 27-3 at 27).


         I. Legal Standard

         The purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit will preclude the entry of summary judgment, and ...

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