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Plott v. Advanced Comfort Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Utah, Northern Division

April 2, 2019

SHAMINA PLOTT and JACOB PLOTT, Plaintiffs,
v.
ADVANCED COMFORT TECHNOLOGIES, INC., d/b/a INTELLIBED, and COLIN M. HOUSE, Defendants.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM DECISION

          TENA CAMPBELL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Shamina Plott, an employee of the mattress company Advanced Comfort Technologies, Inc. (ACTI), alleges that she was the target of sexual harassment by the company's CEO, Colin House, and that the company discriminated and retaliated against her when she reported his behavior. She brings a claim of discrimination against ACTI under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and pendent state law claims against ACTI and Mr. House. Her husband, Jacob Plott, alleges state law claims of his own.

         ACTI and Mr. House (collectively, Defendants) have moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss all of the Plotts' state law claims. They argue that Ms. Plott's claims are preempted by the Utah Antidiscrimination Act, and that Mr. Plott's claims are deficiently pled. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants in part and denies in part the Defendants' motion.

         FACTS[1]

         In February of 2017, ACTI hired Ms. Plott as a sleep wellness consultant in its retail store, Intellibed, at the City Creek Mall in Salt Lake City. Soon after she started, Mr. House, ACTI's CEO, began giving Ms. Plott unwanted attention she termed “sexing”-“looking her up and down for a very long time.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 29, ECF No. 15.)

         In May of 2017, Mr. House began pressuring Ms. Plott for sex in exchange for promotional opportunities. His pursuit soon became physical. On May 4, while Ms. Plott was working at ACTI's corporate headquarters, Mr. House “physically gripped and pulled [her] towards him, caressed, groped her, and wouldn't let [her] go.” (Id. ¶ 31.) On May 9, as the two drove back to the retail store after a lunch, Mr. House asked Ms. Plott personal questions, commented on her physical appearance, and touched her leg. According to the Amended Complaint,

[w]hen she pulled away, House pursued her pulling her in and kissing her; starring [sic] at her; touching her hair; caressing her; making comments such as “Wow… you're just so beautiful…I was attracted to you from day one…you're so incredible…you can't tell anyone about this…do you think others will be suspicious since we've been gone so long?... No. one can find out…” House continued making comments about Plott's physical appearance, her body, and how amazing he felt towards her. After making these comments, House then put his ha[n]d between her breasts and pulled down her shirt.

(Id. ¶ 33.)

         Two days later, when Ms. Plott confronted Mr. House about his behavior, he locked her in his office, where he again kissed and groped her. Mr. House groped Ms. Plott on two later occasions; on one of those occasions, he exposed himself to her.

         On May 26, 2017, Ms. Plott complained about Mr. House's sexual harassment to Brad McLaws, the president of ACTI, and Robert Rasmussen, one of the company's owners. After, she alleges she experienced a hostile work environment and retaliation, which included being

denied consideration for promotion; denied her voiced desire and applications for any corporate promotion; and further retaliated against with multiple threats of her being insubordinate for raising questions and expressing concerns; reductions in pay and other compensation; being held to different standards; being subjected to increased workloads; being subjected to intimidation and threats against her job and employment.

(Id. ¶ 53.)

         On June 15, 2017, Ms. Plott and her husband met with Mr. McLaws and Mr. Rasmussen to discuss her complaint against Mr. House. Mr. Rasmussen acknowledged that Mr. House's conduct “fell below ACTI's standards and expectations.” (Id. ¶ 55.) Mr. Rasmussen and Mr. McLaws promised Ms. Plott that she would not face retaliation for complaining to them or for participating in an investigation. But two days later, Mr. Rasmussen and Mr. McLaws asked Ms. Plott to sign a “release of claims” that would have ended her employment.

         Ms. Plott and Mr. Plott met with Mr. McLaws and Mr. Rasmussen again on June 23, 2017. At the meeting, Mr. McLaws and Mr. Rasmussen made a number of promises and agreements regarding confidentiality, promotional opportunities, and her working relationship with Mr. House. The agreements were memorialized the next day in an email. According to Ms. Plott, none of the agreements were honored, and she faced further discrimination and harassment in the months that followed.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Ms. Plott and her husband filed their original complaint in this case on May 7, 2018, and the operative Amended Complaint on July 10, 2018. In addition to her Title VII claim, Ms. Plott brings a number of pendant state law claims against ACTI and Mr. House individually. She alleges claims of civil assault, civil battery, false imprisonment, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against both Defendants, and a breach of contract claim against ACTI.

         Mr. House joins in his wife's claims of negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He separately alleges claims of alienation of ...


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