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Case Name Ambat v. City and County of San Francisco EE-CA-0310
Docket / Court 3:07-cv-03622 ( N.D. Cal. )
Additional Docket(s) 3:09-cv-02652  [ 09-2652 ]
3:08-cv-02406  [ 08-2406 ]
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Case Summary
These consolidated cases involved challenges to a gender-based staffing policy of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff reorganized inmate housing in mid-2006 in San Francisco so that all female inmates were placed in County Jail #8 in female-only housing units. From October 2006 ... read more >
These consolidated cases involved challenges to a gender-based staffing policy of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff reorganized inmate housing in mid-2006 in San Francisco so that all female inmates were placed in County Jail #8 in female-only housing units. From October 2006 forward, the Sheriff implemented a policy that only female deputies be assigned to staff these particular units.

The first of the consolidated cases, Ambat v. City and County of San Francisco, was filed in 2007. The second case, Walker, was filed in 2008. The third, Ortega, was filed in 2009. All involved sheriff's deputies who alleged that the Sheriff's staffing policy constituted employment discrimination in violation of Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. (Several of the plaintiffs also brought retaliation claims.) They were consolidated in 2009. After consolidation, on February 17, 2010, the Court granted summary judgment to the Sheriff on almost all of the plaintiffs' claims. 2010 WL 934006.

In her opinion, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston held that the policy was implemented to protect the interests that amount to the essences of the Sheriff's business and the Sheriff was entitled to deference in his policy judgment to implement department policy. Further, the policy was found to be reasonably necessary to ensure the normal operation of the jails and the alternatives to the policy were not feasible alternatives that furthered the overarching objectives of safety, security and privacy. The deputy was found to have exhausted administrative remedies for the retaliation claim and the denial of transfer requests by the deputy was not a form of retaliation. Finally, the fact that the deputy made certain statements was a legitimate, and non-retaliatory reason to terminate the deputy. These statements were made to the National Academy of Arbitrators and involved content that the sheriff was influenced by financial contributions and nepotism, and that the sheriff's general counsel had engaged in sex tourism.

Judge Illston also denied summary judgment on retaliation claims brought by three of the plaintiffs. These plaintiffs alleged that the defendant retaliated against them by reprimanding them for complaining that the policy constituted gender discrimination and for participating in this lawsuit.

The parties then agreed, three weeks before trial was scheduled to commence, to continue in order to enter into settlement negotiations on the remaining claims. A settlement conference was held with Chief Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James on June 8 and 10, 2010, and everyone agreed that the parties had settled the case. The agreement was read into the record, and Judge Illston entered an order dismissing the case with prejudice upon settlement.

On May 27, 2011, Judge Illston heard argument on competing motions filed by the parties: a motion for entry of judgment filed by plaintiffs and a motion to enforce the settlement agreement filed by the defendants. The parties disagreed over the terms of the aforementioned settlement. The court granted each motion in part and denied in part. The court granted plaintiff's request that it enter judgment, but only after the parties signed a written settlement agreement. The court then granted the defendant's request that the parties be ordered to execute a written settlement agreement. The parties continued to disagree over attorney's fees and other costs, and on July 5, 2012, the court awarded each party costs on the part of the case they had won: plaintiffs received $3,239.80 in costs, and defendants $48,330.72.

The settlement consisted of the City of San Francisco revising its previously published list and policy listing places for which an employee can complain regarding harassment, retaliation and whistleblowing. The City would also prepare and publish a new list and statement permitting complaints outside the chain of command for an employee to be distributed to each Sheriff's Department employee. Further, the City would work with the plaintiffs to determine which pieces of paper exist in their personally files related to this suit. There were further individualized claims settled with the plaintiffs relating to their retaliation claims.

The plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In an opinion from July 2, 2014, the Ninth Circuit held that the City was not entitled to summary judgment based on bona fide occupational defense, in light of the fact issue as to whether there was a reasoned decision making process that led to the sheriff's adoption of the policy. Second, the Ninth Circuit found that the county easily met its burden of demonstrating that there were job qualifications derived from four justifications of safety, security, privacy and rehabilitation that were reasonably necessary to operating the county jails. Further, the Ninth Circuit found that fact issues existed as to whether the policy of excluding male deputies because of their sex was a legitimate proxy for reasonably necessary job qualifications. Finally, the Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs could not establish prejudice from the district court's evidentiary rulings, the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorneys fees, and the county was entitled to summary judgment on terminated deputy's retaliation claims. The lower court's holdings were affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part and the appeal dismissed in part. 757 F.3d 1017 (9th Cir. 2014).

After continued settlement conferences, the case was dismissed on January 26, 2016 pursuant to the execution of the settlement agreement and its approval by the San Fransisco Board of Supervisors. The court retained jurisdiction with regard to the distribution of the settlement award as stipulated in the settlement agreement.

As of August 10, 2016, there are no further docket entries and the case appears to be closed.

Christina Bonanni - 07/13/2014
Virginia Weeks - 10/31/2016

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)
Sex discrimination
Pattern or Practice
Records Disclosure
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e
Defendant(s) City and County of San Francisco
Plaintiff Description Female sheriff's deputies
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filed 07/13/2007
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
N.D. Cal. 3:07−cv−03622
EE-CA-0310-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/01/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Cal.
Order Granting Defendants' Motion to Stay Pending Resolution of State Court Proceeding [ECF# 17] (2007 WL 3101323)
EE-CA-0310-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/22/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Stipulation for Order and Order Permitting Consolidation of Actions [ECF# 36]
EE-CA-0310-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/29/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 67] (2008 WL 5048560)
EE-CA-0310-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/24/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Notice of Related Case [ECF# 94]
EE-CA-0310-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Plaintiffs' Notice of Motion and Motion for Consolidation of Cases [ECF# 102] (2009 WL 3462212)
EE-CA-0310-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/03/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Third Amended & Consolidated Complaint for Damages and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 152] (2009 WL 5214592)
EE-CA-0310-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/30/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order (Granting In Part and Denying In Part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' Retaliation Claims) (2010 WL 934006)
EE-CA-0310-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/15/2010
Source: Westlaw
N.D. Cal.
Order of Dismissal Upon Settlement [ECF# 292]
EE-CA-0310-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Final Judgment on All Claims and Defenses [ECF# 295]
EE-CA-0310-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/17/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Granting Reconsideration of Summary Judgment Decision [ECF# 300]
EE-CA-0310-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/09/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Re: Parties' Bill of Costs
EE-CA-0310-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/05/2012
Source: Bloomberg Law
U.S. Court of Appeals
Ninth Circuit Opinion in Ambat v. City and County of San Francisco (757 F.3d 1017)
EE-CA-0310-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/02/2014
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Illston, Susan Yvonne (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0310-0003 | EE-CA-0310-0004 | EE-CA-0310-0005 | EE-CA-0310-0006 | EE-CA-0310-0007 | EE-CA-0310-0009 | EE-CA-0310-0011 | EE-CA-0310-0012 | EE-CA-0310-9000
James, Maria-Elena (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Murguia, Mary Helen (D. Ariz., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bromberg, Daniel Howard (California) show/hide docs
Henning, John J. (California) show/hide docs
Henning, John Francis III (California) show/hide docs
Howard, Keith Langham (California) show/hide docs
Johnson, Christina L. (California) show/hide docs
Kanter, Noah Wolfson (California) show/hide docs
Murray, Lawrence D (California) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0310-0001 | EE-CA-0310-0002 | EE-CA-0310-0005 | EE-CA-0310-0008 | EE-CA-0310-0012 | EE-CA-0310-9000
Strickland, Robert Close (California) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0310-0012 | EE-CA-0310-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Baumgartner, Margaret (California) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0310-0012 | EE-CA-0310-9000
Figg, Jill Joan (California) show/hide docs
Ofierski, Rafal (California) show/hide docs
EE-CA-0310-0005 | EE-CA-0310-9000
Reznikov, Boris (California) show/hide docs
Rolnick, Jonathan C. (California) show/hide docs

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