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Pratt v. State

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 9, 2019

KEIRON B. PRATT, Plaintiff,



         Pratt initiated a state and federal law-based employment discrimination action on December 19, 2017, seeking monetary damages and equitable relief against his former employer, Defendant State of Hawai‘i, Department of Public Safety (“DPS” or “Department”). This Court dismissed Pratt's Complaint and First Amended Complaint in April and November 2018, respectively, each with leave to amend. Dkt. Nos. 16 and 33.

         On December 8, 2018, Pratt filed a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) limited to Title VII-based retaliation and sex discrimination claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Department's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is GRANTED as to Pratt's sex discrimination claims and GRANTED IN PART as to his retaliation claims. Further leave to amend is DENIED.


         Pratt worked as a Deputy Sheriff for the Department of Public Safety from April 2002 until 2017. See SAC ¶¶11-13. Initially hired as a “Deputy Sheriff I” (SAC ¶11), Pratt “was promoted to Deputy Sheriff II” in 2003 (SAC ¶12). As a Deputy Sheriff II, Pratt was “assigned to various sections including the Criminal Investigation Unit [(“CIU”)] of the Sheriff Division as an Investigator” (SAC ¶13). In 2008, Pratt “sought a transfer from warrants to [the] records department” (SAC ¶22); in 2009, he sought a transfer to Capitol Patrol (SAC ¶23); and in 2013, he sought a transfer again, this time to CIU (SAC ¶25).

         Pratt states that he has been “open about his homosexuality” since receiving a “homosexual discharge by the military under DD-214” in 1994. SAC ¶15. Although Pratt “did not talk about his homosexuality” in the workplace prior to 2004 (SAC ¶¶17), “[t]he DD-214 . . . was given to” DPS when Pratt was hired, and DPS “placed it in his personnel file with HR” (SAC ¶16). “In 2004, [Pratt] became openly gay at his workplace in the Warrants Division after he was informed by his partner deputy sheriff that everyone at the office, including his supervisors and fellow deputy sheriffs, knew he was gay.” SAC ¶18. From that time until 2007, Pratt claims to have been “repeatedly and frequently sexually harassed by fellow deputy sheriffs, who would call him by female-gender names and scorn and ridicule him and his lack of dating women, and humiliate him by displaying homophobic behavior toward him.” SAC ¶20.

         In 2008, Pratt filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Hawai‘i Civil Rights Commission (“HCRC”) regarding this harassment. SAC ¶21. Pratt filed suit in state court in 2012, Civil No. 12-1-1409-05 KKS (“2012 Lawsuit”). SAC ¶24.[1]

         On May 1, 2014, Pratt alleges that he “was again subjected to sex discrimination, [a] sexually hostile work environment, and retaliation by his fellow deputies” in the CIU, “who ridiculed him for his sexual orientation (gay) and stated that [he] was his partner's ‘10-3', a code used for deputies who are married and are seeing someone on the side.” SAC ¶26. As a result of these incidents, Pratt filed another administrative complaint, and after receiving a right-to-sue letter from the HCRC, Pratt sued DPS again in both state and federal courts. SAC ¶27 (citing Keiron Pratt v. State of Hawaii, et al.; Civil No. 15-1-1289-07 JHC (1st Cir. Ct., State of Hawai‘i); Keiron Pratt v. State of Hawaii, et al., Civil No. 15-00264 HG KSC (D. Haw. July 14, 2015) (“2015 Lawsuit”)) According to Pratt, the 2015 Lawsuit was “resolved in [his] favor pursuant to a settlement agreement (‘the April 2016 Settlement').” SAC ¶29.

         Pratt alleges that after the April 2016 Settlement, DPS subjected him yet again to a “further sexually hostile work environment, sex discrimination, and retaliation.” SAC ¶30. Pratt summarizes the facts underlying these alleged wrongdoings in paragraphs 30 through 48 of the SAC and asserts that these events resulted in another administrative complaint with the HCRC and EEOC on February 22, 2017 (“EEOC Charge”). SAC ¶31.

         The EEOC issued Pratt a right-to-sue letter on October 16, 2017. SAC ¶4. Pratt then initiated the instant lawsuit on December 19, 2017. Complaint ("Compl."), Dkt. No. 1.

         The Department responded by filing a Motion to Dismiss in Lieu of an Answer, arguing inter alia that several of Pratt's claims were barred by res judicata and failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 9. The Court granted the Motion to Dismiss without leave to amend with respect to all state-law claims previously adjudicated in the 2012 and 2015 Lawsuits. April 2018 Order, Dkt. No. 16. The Court also granted Pratt leave to amend his Title VII claims. Id.

         On May 8, 2018, in accordance with the Court's April 2018 Order, Pratt filed a First Amended Complaint. Dkt. No. 18. In the FAC, Pratt asserted three claims against DPS:

1) Retaliation under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000, et seq. (“Title VII”) (“Count I”; FAC ¶¶35-38);
2) Sexually Hostile Work Environment, in violation of Title VII, (“Count II”; FAC ¶¶39-42); and
3) Sex Discrimination, in violation of Title VII, (“Count III”; FAC ¶¶43-49).

         This time, the Department moved for judgment on the pleadings. First MJOP, August 3, 2018, Dkt. No. 24. The Court granted the First MJOP with respect to all three claims, but once again, granted Pratt leave to amend. November 8, 2018 Order, Dkt. No. 33.

         In the SAC, filed on December 8, 2018, Pratt reasserted Title VII retaliation and sex discrimination claims.[2] SAC, Dkt. No. 34. In support of both claims, Pratt alleged the following:

a. In April 2017, DPS converted Plaintiff's job title from Office Assistant to Parole Officer III at the Hawaii Paroling Authority.
b. On November 22, 2017, Ed Hyun, the chairman of the Hawaii Paroling Authority, issued a notice of unsatisfactory performance to Pratt, informing Pratt that his work performance did not meet established performance requirements.
c. In the ensuing three months, beginning in November 2017, Pratt's supervisor, Corey Reinke, subjected Pratt to onerous and unnecessary scrutiny, requiring him and his union steward to meet with Reinke every Friday for 30 to 40 minutes to review Pratt's work. These weekly meetings denied and/or interfered with Pratt's ability to perform his job as a Parole Officer.

See SAC ¶¶31-48.

In addition, in support of his sex discrimination claim, Pratt alleged that:
d. On December 29, 2016, DPS took Pratt's Sheriff's badge away from him, which prevented him from performing his regular duties as a Deputy Sheriff, and essentially left him with nothing to do.
e. On February 1, 2017, DPS demoted Pratt from Deputy Sheriff to Office Assistant III in the Hawaii Paroling Authority.

SAC ¶¶30(a), (b).[3]

         As a “direct and proximate result” of this collective wrongful conduct, Pratt alleges that he sustained damages. SAC ¶54. The SAC therefore requests “back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, special damages, and general damages, together with costs of suit, ” and “reasonable attorneys' fees, ” among other things. SAC ¶¶54, 60.

         Before the Court is the Department's January 17, 2019 MJOP. Dkt. No. 38. Following a hearing on the MJOP on March 8, 2019 (see EP, Dkt. No. 48), the Court ordered limited supplemental briefing to address the question of what documents submitted by the movant in its MJOP can properly be considered by the Court. Supplemental briefing was completed by both parties on March 15, 2019. Dkt. Nos. 49, 50. Thereafter, the Court took matters under advisement. This disposition follows.


         Motion for Judgment ...

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