United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Northern Division
ORDER AND OPINION
CHARLES B. KORNMANN United States District Judge.
Laura Kaiser, filed an amended complaint with the Court on
December 17, 2015, which alleges reprisal and sexual
discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, reprisal and sexual discrimination in violation
of The South Dakota Human Relations Act, and tortious
interference. Defendant, Mark Black, has made a motion to
dismiss Kaiser's claim of tortious interference because
it does not qualify for supplemental jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1367. The Court is fully advised on the matter.
August 13, 2003, Kaiser was hired as a Special Agent and was
assigned to the Drug Task Force in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
The Drug Task Force is supervised and managed by the South
Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation ("DCI").
Kaiser was responsible for preparing and executing search
warrants, drug investigations, interrogating suspects,
interviewing witnesses, and testifying in court. For eight
years, Kaiser received positive performance reviews and was
promoted to Special Agent III in January 2011. In her 2011
mid-year evaluation, Kaiser was praised for her exceptional
work product, ability to work amicably with others,
relentless work, and above-average case activity. In July
2011, Kaiser was appointed to serve as the acting supervisor
for the Northeast DCI agents while her supervisor was on
August 2011, Brown County Deputy Ross Erickson was assigned
to the Drug Task Force in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Kaiser
alleges that Erickson immediately established a custom of
making sexually explicit comments to her. Plaintiff alleges
she wanted to make a harassment complaint but feared she
would be adversely affected because she had a negative
experience when she made a harassment complaint in 2005.
October 17, 2011, Kaiser asked fellow coworker, Jessica Page,
for advice. Page advised Kaiser to not file a complaint
because it would only cause problems. Later that day, Kaiser
informed Mark Black about Erickson's conduct. Black
offered to speak with Erickson, but Kaiser declined.
following day, Kaiser approached Erickson about the sexually
inappropriate comments and questions. Erickson allegedly
apologized and said he would not make such comments in the
future. A few days later, Erickson informed Kaiser that Black
had told the entire office about the issue. Kaiser apologized
and said it was not her intent to have the office know about
the incident. Later that day, Kaiser approached Black and
asked why he shared her conversation with the rest of the
coworkers. Black attempted to shift the blame on Kaiser, and
began ignoring her at work.
afternoon, Kaiser alleges that Black secretly assembled a
meeting with Erickson, Deputy Damian Bahr, and DCI Agent Dave
Lunzman in a park. Plaintiff alleges that Black conspired
with Erickson, Bahr, and Lunzman to formulate a set of
talking points in an effort to have her removed from the
department or be fired. Kaiser claims the group agreed they
would all tell supervisor, Jason Even, that Kaiser was not to
be trusted, was unpleasant to work with, and had mental
October 21, 2011, Even interviewed Black, Erickson, Bahr, and
Lunzman regarding Kaiser's complaint. Plaintiff alleges
that Black, Erickson, Bahr, and Lunzman all followed their
plan to disparage her. Afterward, Even met with Kaiser and
accused her of fabricating her allegations and threatened the
issue could result in her termination. Kaiser denied such
allegations and told Even that Erickson had acknowledged and
apologized for his behavior. Even was still skeptical of
Kaiser and informed her that he was not satisfied with her
work product and performance.
November 4, 2011, Kaiser was put on a thirty-day work
improvement plan ("WIP") because she failed to
maintain satisfactory relationships with her coworkers and
supervisors, was a disruptive influence in the office,
produced unsatisfactory work products, and failed to provide
leadership. Kaiser was given nine tasks to complete the WIP.
One of her tasks was to rebuild positive relationships with
coworkers, supervisors, and managers. When Kaiser attempted
to rebuild her relationship with Black, he responded,
"We are done. Don't ever approach me again." On
December 8, 2011, Assistant Director Dan Satterlee informed
Kaiser she met the WIP's requirements with one exception:
she had failed to rebuild positive relationships with her
coworkers, supervisors, and managers. Kaiser was demoted to
Special Agent II and was reassigned to the Medicaid Fraud
Control Unit in Pierre, South Dakota, effective January 3,
filed a grievance regarding her demotion, transfer, and
treatment on December 12, 2011. On December 27, 2011, Kaiser
reported sexual harassment and retaliation to then Brown
County State's Attorney, Kim Dorsett. The next day,
Kaiser filed a formal grievance with the Director of the
South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Bryan
Gortmaker. Kaiser also contacted South Dakota Attorney
General Marty Jackley on December 28, 2011, to alert him to
the facts and request that he stay the order of transfer.
began her employment in Pierre, South Dakota, on January 3,
2012. Kaiser's grievance was denied on January 9, 2012.
In response, Kaiser contacted the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in January 2012 to
file a "charge of discrimination." Kaiser believes
DCI began providing negative references about her to
potential employers in retaliation. Plaintiff officially
filed a grievance with Attorney General Jackley which was
denied on February 23, 2012.
April 16, 2012, Kaiser was informed she would not be allowed
to live in the Pierre dormitory after September 1, 2012. In
addition, Kaiser would not be receiving her per diem,
compensation for travel time, and an ability to use a state
vehicle to commute beginning on June 1, 2012. On May 8, 2012,
Kaiser alleges she was constructively discharged. She
e-mailed DCI that she had no choice but to resign and that
her last day would be May 18, 2012. Kaiser received a letter
accepting her offer of resignation and suspending her from
pay until her resignation date.
alleges DCI has since prevented her from obtaining numerous
positions of employment, including with the Department of
Social Services, Department of Corrections, Department of
Labor and Relations, and private employers, by providing
negative references and ...