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Dorsch v. State of Idaho Department of Fish and Game

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 8, 2019

DANIELLE DORSCH, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill, U.S. District Court Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it a motion for partial summary judgment filed by the State of Idaho. The Court held oral argument on the motion on December 17, 2018, and took the motion under advisement. For the following reasons, the Court will grant the motion in part, holding that several of the claims are time-barred, but deny the motion to the extent it seeks dismissal of the claim that the Did-Not-Achieve performance evaluation was retaliatory in violation of the Idaho Human Rights Act.

         LITIGATION BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff Danielle Dorsch claims that during her employment with the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG), she was consistently denied promotion and transfer opportunities because of her gender, was subjected to a hostile work environment, and was ultimately fired in retaliation for complaining about this to IDFG management. Dorsch was originally hired by the IDFG in 2008, working as a Fish Culturist at the IDFG's Sawtooth Fish Hatchery, near Stanley, Idaho. Over the next eight years, she often applied for promotions and transfers. She alleges that most of her applications were rejected because of her gender and in retaliation for complaining about that discrimination. She also alleges that during her eight years with the agency, she was subjected to a hostile work environment, leading to her resignation in 2016.

         She has filed this lawsuit against the IDFG alleging violations of Title VII and the Idaho Human Rights Act. The IDFG has responded with a motion for partial summary judgment, seeking to dismiss some claims either for failing to have any support in the record or for failing to comply with the time limits imposed by statutes of limitations. The IDFG's motion is a partial motion because it does not address several claims in the complaint. The Court will consider each of IDFG's arguments below.

         ANALYSIS

         Nine Claims for denial of transfer/promotion from 2010 to 2015

         Dorsch claims that the IDFG's rejection of her nine applications for promotion and transfer between March 2010 and July 2015 were based on her gender and hence discriminatory in violation of Title VII and the IHRA. Dorsch has made other claims for discrimination based on more recent rejections, but the nine rejection claims between 2010 and 2015 are the only claims challenged by the IDFG at this time as time-barred under the statute of limitations.

         Title VII prohibits a lawsuit unless the plaintiff previously filed the charges with the EEOC within 300 days after the occurrence of the allegedly discriminatory act. National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 109 (2002)(citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)). The IHRA prohibits a lawsuit unless the plaintiff previously filed a complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC) with one year of the alleged unlawful discrimination. See Idaho Code § 67-5907(1).

         It is undisputed that for the nine rejections challenged in this motion, all occurred more than a year before Dorsch filed her complaint with the IHRC and more than 300 days before she filed her charge with the EEOC. Dorsch responds that even if she cannot seek an independent recovery for these claims, she can nevertheless admit them into evidence in support of timely claims. But that evidentiary issue is not before the Court at this time, and the Court expresses no opinion on it. The Court is holding here that the nine rejections from March 2010 to July 2015 are time-barred under both Title VII and the IHRA. The Court will therefore grant this portion of the IDFG's motion for partial summary judgment.

         Comment by Christopher Jeszke

         Dorsch complains that her manager at the Magic Valley Hatchery, Christopher Jeszke, made disparaging comments based on her gender in violation of Title VII and the IHRA. The comments were made in 2013, and it is undisputed that they were made more than a year before Dorsch filed her claim with the IHRC and more than 300 days before she filed her charge with the EEOC. Dorsch responds that the comments are evidence of a hostile work environment. But that evidentiary issue in not before the Court at this time, and the Court expresses no opinion on it. The Court is holding here that the 2013 comments by Jeszke cannot constitute an independent discriminatory ...


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