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Sirois v. East West Partners, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

January 5, 2018




         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Individual Defendants and to Strike Immaterial, Impertinent and Scandalous Matters (Dkt. No. 17) filed August 30, 2017. Defendants' Motion is GRANTED to the extent it asserts that service of the summons and complaint on the individual defendants has not been properly effected. Plaintiff is therefore ordered to effect service on them in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or file proof that such service has already occurred, within thirty days of this Order. Defendants' Motion is DENIED in all other respects for the reasons that follow.


         Plaintiff Alexandra Sirois, a former Hawaii-based employee of Defendant East West Partners, Inc. (“EWP”), brings claims against EWP for hostile work environment and retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et. seq., and the Hawaii Employment Practices Act (“HEPA”), Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (“HRS”) § 378-2, et seq. Compl. ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 1. EWP, which builds, sells, and manages luxury real estate developments throughout the United States, is a for-profit corporation organized and existing under the laws of the state of Colorado with corporate headquarters in Avon, Colorado. Compl. ¶ 6. Also named as defendants are Harry H. Frampton III, EWP's CEO; Andrew Sutton, EWP's Managing Partner in Hawaii and Sirois' direct supervisor; and Nicole Greener, EWP's Director of Human Resources (collectively, “Individual Defendants”), each of whom Sirois accuses of aiding and abetting unlawful harassment and retaliation in violation of HEPA. Compl. ¶¶ 7-9. Sirois asserts an additional claim against EWP for unpaid overtime compensation, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. Compl. ¶ 3.

         Factual Background

         EWP hired Sirois as an Assistant Project Manager, with an initial annual base salary of $60, 000, in January 2014. Compl. ¶ 16. In less than three years, Sirois received three pay increases, bringing her base compensation to $92, 500, illustrative of her value to EWP. Compl. ¶¶ 20-21. As an Assistant Project Manager, Sirois performed a variety of office and clerical tasks, “including but not limited to providing general support to Sutton; answering incoming phone calls; processing paperwork relating to home sales and change orders; preparing marketing materials and general correspondence; coordinating change orders with contractors; and planning and attending marketing events.” Compl. ¶ 64.

         Sirois reported directly to Defendant Sutton, and at all times material, Sirois and Sutton were EWP's only full-time employees in Hawaii.[1] Compl. ¶¶ 22-23. Sirois summarizes Sutton's alleged harassment and mistreatment of her-based on sex and sexual orientation-as follows:

a) requiring that [Sirois] organize and attend marketing events so that Sutton could “pimp out” his own wife, Kelsey Sutton (“Mrs. Sutton”), and her scantily clad friends, providing Mrs. Sutton with a forum to drink excessively, dance inappropriately, kiss, grope, and have sex with a wealthy, married EWP customer, Brett Dedeaux (“Dedeaux”);
b) taunting [Sirois] by making offensive comments about other women in [her] workplace, including [Sirois'] own mother;
c) requiring that [Sirois] participate in a scheme to refrain from disclosing to Dedeaux's wife, Jean Dedeaux (“Mrs. Dedeaux”) and Dedeaux's parents any information relating to Mrs. Sutton's and Dedeaux's illicit affair;[2]
d) taunting [Sirois] by putting a woman on speaker phone and deliberately speaking to her in a rude and condescending manner as a way of asserting his male dominance;
e) deliberately picking on Plaintiff, taunting and ridiculing her, and attempting to manufacture arguments with her as a way of asserting his male dominance;
f) mocking [Sirois] by asking her to give him and Mrs. Sutton private tennis lessons during her non-working hours even though [Sirois] and Sutton never socialized outside of work;
g) asking [Sirois] to hire “hot” female dancers for a marketing event;[3]
h) telling [Sirois] that her work attire was not feminine enough;
i) requiring that [Sirois] coordinate marketing events and schedules with Mrs. Sutton so that she could continue her illicit affair with Dedeaux;[4] and
j) following [Sirois] around with his phone and taking videos of her even after she repeatedly pleaded that he stop.[5]

Compl. ¶¶ 25(a)-(j). Thus, “[b]y his demeanor, words, and actions, Sutton made clear . . . that he had no respect for women in a professional work environment.” Compl. ¶ 26. Sirois also contends that “Sutton regularly directed hostility towards [her] because she was an openly gay female.” Compl. ¶ 27.

         Although she complained to Greener about the hostile environment Sutton had created, Sirois states that Greener consistently failed to investigate her concerns and did not take any remedial action to address Sirois' complaints. Compl. ¶¶ 28-30, 43-44, 51-52. As such, Sirois “asked to speak directly with EWP CEO, Frampton.” Compl. ¶¶ 54-55. According to Sirois, however, Frampton too gave no credence to her complaints. Instead, he “abruptly terminated [her] employment, stating that it was clear to him that [Sirois] could no longer work together with Sutton, ” but he also offered her a few weeks of severance pay for being a “nice lady.” Compl. ¶¶ 56-57. Sirois later received a termination letter from EWP dated September 28, 2016, [6] which states that the decision to terminate Sirois' employment was based on her “uncorroborated allegations” that demonstrated a “lack of respect and trust for Mr. Sutton.” Sirois refers to this letter as “direct evidence of unlawful retaliation.” Compl. ¶¶ 58-60.

         Procedural History

         On August 3, 2017, after exhausting her administrative remedies with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) (Compl. ¶ 62), Sirois initiated the instant action. The Complaint asserts five counts against EWP-Retaliation in violation of both Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000, et seq. (Count I), and HEPA, HRS § 378-2(2) (Count II); Hostile Work Environment, in violation of both Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000, et seq. (Count III), and HEPA, HRS § 378-2(1)(A) (Count IV); and for overtime compensation under the FLSA (Count VI). Only Count V is alleged against the Individual Defendants. That Count charges all three Individual Defendants with Aiding and Abetting EWP and each other “in discriminating against [Sirois] in the terms and conditions of her employment in violation of HRS § 378-2(a)(3) by subjecting [Sirois] to a sexually hostile work environment as well as harassment based on her sex and/or sexual orientation.” Compl. ¶ 99. Count V also asserts that Frampton and Greener only aided and abetted EWP and each other in retaliating against Sirois. Compl. ¶ 100.

         On August 30, 2017, the Individual Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss. MTD, Dkt. No. 17.[7] In the MTD, the Individual Defendants attack Sirois' Complaint on four grounds. First, they argue that Count V of the Complaint fails to state a valid claim for aiding and abetting under HRS § 378-2(a)(3), primarily because of conclusory allegations of unlawful intent. Mem. in Supp. of MTD at 6-8, Dkt. No. 17-1. Second, the Individual Defendants ask the Court to strike paragraphs 25(a), 25(c), 25(i), 32-40, 46, and 57 from the Complaint due to their “immaterial, impertinent and scandalous” nature. Mem. in Supp. at 2, 8-11. Third, the Individual Defendants argue that Greener is not subject to personal jurisdiction in this Court because she lacks sufficient minimum contacts with Hawaii. Mem. in Supp. at 12-13. And fourth, the Individual Defendants allege they were not properly served. Mem. in Supp. at 13-14.

         Sirois filed her opposition to the MTD (Dkt. No. 44) on October 19, 2017, and Defendants filed a Consolidated Reply Memorandum in Support of the MTD (Dkt. No. 45) on October 26, 2017. Following a hearing on November 9, 2017, the Court took matters under advisement. The instant disposition follows.

         STANDARD ...

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