Henao v. Hilton Resorts Corporation
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS re 13 - Signed by JUDGE DERRICK K. WATSON on 2/13/2018. "For the foregoing reasons, Henao's claims in this matter are barred by res judicata, and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED. Dkt. No. 13 . The Clerk's Office is directed to close the case." (emt, )CERTIFICATE OF SERVICEParticipants registered to receive electronic notifications received this document electronically at the e-mail address listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). Participants not registered to receive electronic notifications were served by first class mail on the date of this docket entry
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAI‘I
CIVIL NO. 17-00476 DKW-RLP
DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO
CORPORATIONS dba HILTON
GRAND VACATIONS CLUB,
Hilton Grand Vacations Company, LLC (“Hilton”) seeks dismissal of
Plaintiff Jose Henao’s employment discrimination and retaliation action on the basis
of res judicata, or claim preclusion, in light of the Court’s recent grant of summary
judgment in favor of Hilton in a separate action filed by Henao. In both cases,
Henao alleges that Hilton unlawfully terminated or suspended his employment in
July 2016 because he complained about age discrimination against “older sales
agents.” He contends, however, that he was not required to include his present
claims for violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”),
U.S.C. § 621 et seq., in his earlier case because he had not yet received a Notice of
Right To Sue from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and
because his ADEA claims are distinct from his previous cause of action under the
Hawaii Whistleblower Protection Act (“HWPA”), Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-62.
Henao is incorrect. Because the requirements of claim preclusion are met, and
Henao offers no compelling reason for failing to bring his present ADEA claims in
his prior case, the Court GRANTS Hilton’s Motion to Dismiss.
Henao was hired as sales agent for Hilton in 2012, and two of his civil actions
arising from his employment there have been assigned to this Court. The Court
first outlines the procedural background and factual allegations in the prior case,
Civil No. 16-00646 (“First Case”), and the instant case, Civil No. 17-00746
(“Second Case”), in light of Hilton’s request to dismiss the Second Case based upon
the claim preclusive effect of summary judgment granted to Hilton in the First
On November 13, 2017, the present matter was reassigned to this Court pursuant to Local Rule
40.2. Dkt. No. 11 (11/13/17 Order Reassigning Case). Henao has filed other administrative and
civil actions against Hilton in connection with his employment, including: (1) Henao v. Hilton
Grand Vacations Company, LLC (“HGVC”), Department of Labor & Industrial Relations, State of
Hawaii, Wage Standards Division Docket No. 011838; (2) Henao v. HGVC, Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission, EEOC No. 486-2016-00344; (3) Henao v. HGVC, Department of
Commerce & Consumer Affairs, Regulated Industries Complaint Office, State of Hawaii, Case
No. REC 2017-14-L; (4) Henao v. HGVC, District Court of the First District (Honolulu Div.),
Civil No. 1SC16-1-1531, filed August 9, 2016; (5) Henao v. HGVC, District Court of the First
District (Honolulu Div.), Civil No. 1SC16-l-2429, filed December 6, 2016; and (6) Henao v.
HGVC, District Court of the First District (Honolulu Div.), Civil No. lSCl7-1-205, filed February
7, 2017. See Decl. of Andrew Pepper ¶¶ 3–4, Dkt. No. 18-3 in Civ. No. 16-00646.
Henao’s First Case Against Hilton
On November 2, 2016, Henao filed a Complaint in state court alleging a
single count of retaliation in violation of the HWPA based upon his “reports of
violations of age discrimination laws and other laws.” Compl. ¶ 12, Dkt. No. 1-1 in
Civ. No. 16-00646. The Complaint in the First Case alleges that after he
complained on April 8, 2016 “to management about unlawful age discrimination
because the Director of Sales had been terminating older sales agents and replacing
them with younger sales agents,” Compl. ¶ 8, and “also complained about
management taking sales commission from sales agents to which management was
not entitled,” Compl. ¶ 9, he “was terminated on July 4, 2016” in retaliation “for
complaining about the aforesaid violations of law.” Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10.
Hilton removed the case to federal court on December 6, 2016. Notice of
Removal, Dkt. No. 1 in Civ. No. 16-00646. According to Hilton, Henao was not
terminated on July 4, 2016 or on any other date, remains employed as a sales agent,
and is presently listed on Hilton’s employee ledger as being out on personal leave
status. Decl. of Julia Montenegro ¶ 4; Dkt. No. 18-1 in Civ. No. 16-00646.
By early 2016, Henao complained that Hilton Sales Supervisor, Joshua
Kannel, “was discriminating based upon age by firing the older sales agents.” Decl.
of Jose Henao ¶ 3; Dkt. No. 21-1 in Civ. No. 16-00646. He also complained to both
Kannel and Julia Montenegro, a senior Hilton human resources manager, that
Hilton’s minimum wage recovery draw program “resulted in illegal deductions from
[Henao’s] pay in violation of law[.]” Henao Decl. ¶ 2. Henao claims that on July
4, 2016, because of his outspoken complaints, he was told by Kannel and Supervisor
Bryan Economou to “‘pick up [his] personals and go home’. [He] was terminated.”
Henao Decl. ¶ 4. Henao “asked for clarification and was told ‘the termination is
final’.” Henao Decl. ¶ 5.
Hilton denies that Henao was “terminated” at any time on July 4, 2016 or
thereafter. Instead, according to Hilton’s Montenegro, “[o]n July 4, 2016, Mr.
Henao was advised that he had not met written and objective [sales] performance
criteria for his job position and . . . that [Hilton] HR would be contacting him shortly
to discuss next steps. Montenegro Decl. ¶ 6.a. On July 6 and July 8, 2016, Hilton
received notes from Henao’s doctor, and placed him on leave for medical reasons,
retroactively from July 1 until July 26, 2016. Montenegro Decl. ¶ 6. Hilton HR
“decided not to take any action with regard to Mr. Henao’s past poor job
performance and to continue [his] employment upon his return from [Family
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)] leave.” Montenegro Decl. ¶ 6.e. At his request,
Hilton HR met with Henao on July 19, 2016 to discuss his employment status.
Montenegro describes the meeting, in part, as follows—
During that meeting, Mr. Henao stated that he no longer wanted
to work for [Hilton] and asked that he be terminated so that he
could collect unemployment insurance for the remainder of 2016
(at which time he already was planning to retire). [Hilton] HR
declined to terminate Mr. Henao’s employment as requested,
informed Mr. Henao that he was on FMLA leave, and showed
him his tentative work schedule for his return to work upon the
expiration of his FMLA leave. Mr. Henao repeatedly stated that
he either deemed himself terminated or wished to be terminated.
With equal frequency, [Hilton] HR told Mr. Henao that he was
not terminated and that [Hilton] would not be terminating his
employment as requested just so he could fraudulently collect
unemployment insurance payments.
Montenegro Decl. ¶ 6.g. Henao did not refute Montenegro’s account of the
meeting in opposition to Hilton’s motion for summary judgment.
On July 29, 2016, Henao forwarded to Hilton HR a note from his doctor,
dated July 26, 2016, indicating that Henao had, in fact, been released back to work
and that he had no illness or disability limiting his ability to work. Montenegro
Decl. ¶ 6.k., Ex. B. (7/26/16 Physician Note), Dkt. No. 18-5 in Civ. No. 16-00646.
Although Henao was scheduled to work, he did not come to work or call in for the
three-day period of August 3, 4, and 5, 2016. Montenegro Decl. ¶ 6.n.
Montenegro states that Henao “became terminable after his third ‘no call/no show,’
[however], [Hilton] HR elected to defer any termination decision and, instead, wrote
Mr. Henao a letter in an attempt to engage with [him].” Montenegro Decl. ¶ 6.o.
Because no decision had been made regarding his employment status, Hilton
offered to extend Henao’s FMLA leave if he qualified or to provide him with
non-FMLA leave, as both described in an August 9 letter and as referenced in a prior
August 5 communication from Hilton HR—
If you need further FMLA leave, you may remain eligible for
such leave and we will be happy to work with you to set up
further time off work. Similarly, if you would like to take an
non-FMLA leave for up to a month, we will be happy to grant
such a request. The key is communication, we cannot figure out
how to accommodate your needs if you do not communicate
with us and simply fail to show up for work. As we informed
you on August 5, 2016 you are free to return to work, free to
extend your FMLA leave, or free to take another form of leave.
The choice is yours and we will work with you to effectuate your
Montenegro Decl. ¶ 6.p., Ex. C (8/9/16 Letter). Henao did not dispute that he
received Montenegro’s August 9 letter and that he never contacted Hilton HR to
discuss his job status, as requested. See generally Henao Decl.; see also Ex. D,
Henao’s Response to First Request for Admissions ¶¶ 33–35, Dkt. No. 18-7 in Civ.
No. 16-00646. According to Montenegro, no action has been taken against Henao,
and he remains on Hilton’s employee ledger on personal leave status. Montenegro
Decl. ¶ 6.s.
On August 10, 2016, Henao filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC
alleging age discrimination and retaliation by Hilton in violation of the ADEA.
Henao Decl. ¶ 8, Ex. 3 (EEOC Charge), Dkt. No. 21-4 in Civ. No. 16-00646.
Henao’s Charge states that Hilton “did not provide a reason for my termination on
July 4, 2016.” Ex. 3 at 1 (EEOC Charge).
On June 6, 2017, Hilton moved for summary judgment, asserting that,
because he is still employed by Hilton, Henao suffered no adverse employment
action, an essential element of his HWPA claim. The Court held a hearing on
Hilton’s motion on September 15, 2017, and, on October 6, 2017, issued its Order
granting summary judgment (“10/6/17 Order”2) and entered judgment in favor of
Hilton. Dkt. Nos. 26 and 27 in Civ. No. 16-00646. On November 3, 2017, Henao
filed a motion for reconsideration, asking the Court to “modify” its ruling to allow
him to amend his complaint so that the case may proceed anew under a previously
undisclosed theory of employer liability, and asserting for the first time that
“Plaintiff understood the adverse employment action was a termination, however,
now it has been found by the Court that the fact is that the adverse employment
action was actually a suspension.” Dkt. No. 28-1 at 3, in Civ. No. 16-00646.
Because Henao’s assertions were false, and the motion for reconsideration otherwise
lacked merit, the Court denied it on November 6, 2017, stating: “On summary
judgment, neither Henao nor Hilton addressed whether Henao had ever been
‘suspended’ by Hilton. . . . Nowhere in . . . the Court’s summary judgment order
did the Court address suspension or any concept remotely resembling a suspension.”
Dkt. No. 29 at 2–3, in Civ. No. 16-00646.
On November 6, 2017, Henao filed a notice of appeal in the First Case. Dkt.
No. 30 in Civ. No. 16-00646. That appeal remains pending.
The 10/6/17 Order is also available at 2017 WL 4479253 (D. Haw. Oct. 6, 2017).
Henao’s Second Case Against Hilton
On September 27, 2017, Henao filed his Complaint against Hilton in the
Second Case based upon the same conduct alleged in the First Case. Dkt. No. 1 in
Civ. No. 17-00476. On October 20, 2017—after the Court granted Hilton summary
judgment in the First Case—Henao file a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”),
adding an additional allegation that “Hilton takes the position that Plaintiff was
suspended on July 4, 2016 and not terminated.” FAC ¶ 15, Dkt. No. 6 in Civ. No.
17-00476. According to Henao, if “not for [his] age, and in retaliation for
complaining about the discrimination, [he] would not have been terminated from
employment with Defendant Hilton.” FAC ¶ 17. The FAC includes two counts
for violation of the ADEA: (1) age discrimination (Count I); and (2) retaliation
based upon the “actions of [Hilton’s] agents and employees in terminating Plaintiff
or otherwise discriminating against him because he opposed [discrimination],”
(Count II). FAC ¶¶ 20, 25.
Hilton moves to dismiss the Second Case as barred by the doctrine of claim
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes the Court to dismiss a
complaint that fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Rule
12(b)(6) is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a), which requires “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2). The Court may dismiss a complaint either because it lacks a cognizable
legal theory or because it lacks sufficient factual allegations to support a cognizable
legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).
Pursuant to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” 555 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007)).
“A district court may consider the affirmative defenses of claim or issue
preclusion on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.” Fairbank v. Underwood, 986 F.
Supp. 2d 1222, 1231 n.5 (D. Or. 2013); Thompson v. Cty. of Franklin, 15 F.3d 245,
253 (2d Cir. 2004) (noting that res judicata challenges may be considered in a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6)); Scott v.
Kuhlmann, 746 F.2d 1377, 1378 (9th Cir. 1984) (res judicata properly raised in
motion to dismiss when there are no disputed issues of fact); Day v. Moscow, 955
F.2d 807, 811 (2d Cir. 1992) (res judicata may be sustained on a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion when relevant facts are shown by court records); see also Rainwater v.
Banales, 2008 WL 5233138, at *9 n.6 (C.D. Cal. 2008) (leave to amend may be
denied as futile when the claims would be barred by res judicata or collateral
A court may consider certain documents attached to a complaint, as well as
documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice,
without converting a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss into a motion for summary
judgment. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908–09 (9th Cir. 2003). The
Court takes judicial notice of the pleadings, court orders, and other public records
attached to the parties’ briefs. See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Lee v. City of Los Angeles,
250 F.3d 668, 688–89 (9th Cir. 2001).
Because there is an identity of claims in the two actions, and because Henao
concedes there was a final judgment on the merits in the first action and identity or
privity between the parties in the two actions, the elements of claim preclusion are
satisfied. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Hilton’s Motion to Dismiss.
Legal Standards Governing Claim Preclusion
When addressing the preclusive effect of a federal court judgment, federal
courts apply federal res judicata rules. See Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 891
(2008) (“The preclusive effect of a federal-court judgment is determined by federal
For res judicata, or claim preclusion, to apply, there must be:
(1) identity of claims; (2) a final judgment on the merits; and
(3) the same parties, or privity between the parties. Cell
Therapeutics, Inc. v. Lash Grp. Inc., 586 F.3d 1204, 1212 (9th
Cir. 2010) (amended).
A court is to apply four criteria to decide whether there is an
identity of claims: “(1) whether rights or interests established in
the prior judgment would be destroyed or impaired by
prosecution of the second action; (2) whether substantially the
same evidence is presented in the two actions; (3) whether the
two suits involve infringement of the same right; and (4) whether
the two suits arise out of the same transactional nucleus of facts.”
United States v. Liquidators of European Fed. Credit Bank, 630
F.3d 1139, 1150 (9th Cir. 2011). The fourth criterion is the
most important. Id. at 1151.
Harris v. Cty. of Orange, 682 F.3d 1126, 1132 (9th Cir. 2012). As to the fourth and
most important factor of the “identity of claims” test—whether the separate actions
arise from the “same transactional nucleus of facts”—the Ninth Circuit has
in most res judicata cases, the inquiry about the ‘same
transactional nucleus of facts’ is the same inquiry as whether the
claim could have been brought in the previous action. If the
harm arose at the same time, then there was no reason why the
plaintiff could not have brought the claim in the first action.
The plaintiff simply could have added a claim to the complaint.
If the harm arose from different facts at a different time,
however, then the plaintiff could not have brought the claim in
the first action. Either way, the inquiry into the ‘same
transactional nucleus of facts’ is essentially the same as whether
the claim could have been brought in the first action. In that
context, it makes sense, when asking whether the claims involve
the ‘same transactional nucleus of facts,’ to ask as a proxy
whether the claims could have been brought in the original
Liquidators of European Fed. Credit Bank, 630 F.3d at 1151; Tahoe-Sierra Pres.
Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Reg’l Planning Agency, 322 F.3d 1064, 1077–78 (9th Cir.
2003) (res judicata “bars relitigation of all grounds of recovery that were asserted, or
could have been asserted, in a previous action. . . . It is immaterial whether the
claims asserted subsequent to the judgment were actually pursued in the action that
led to the judgment; rather, the relevant inquiry is whether they could have been
Of particular relevance here, the Ninth Circuit recently “confirm[ed] that for
purposes of federal common law, claim preclusion does not apply to claims that
accrue after the filing of the operative complaint.” Howard v. City of Coos Bay,
871 F.3d 1032, 1040 (9th Cir. 2017) (agreeing “that a bright-line rule which asks
only whether a claim could have been brought at the time the operative complaint in
the prior suit was filed is appropriate”).
“The party asserting a claim preclusion argument ‘must carry the burden of
establishing all necessary elements.’” Garity v. APWU Nat’l Labor Org., 828 F.3d
848, 855 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 907 (2008))
(additional citations omitted). For the reasons that follow, Hilton has met that
This Action Is Barred By Claim Preclusion
Here, there is no dispute that the Court’s 10/6/17 Order in favor of Hilton was
a final judgment on the merits, or that the parties to each suit are identical. The
application of the claim preclusion doctrine, then, hinges on an analysis of whether
there is an identity of claims between Henao’s two complaints. Because Henao’s
suits arise out of “the same transactional nucleus of facts,” he cannot avoid the bar of
res judicata simply by “pleading a new legal theory,” McClain v. Apodaca, 793 F.2d
1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 1986), or by relying on his pending EEOC Charge. Each
attempt to do so is discussed below.
Identity of Claims: the First Case and Second Case Involve the
Henao makes two arguments in an effort to escape the preclusive effect of the
Court’s 10/6/17 Order: (1) the claims are not the same because the Second Case “is
based upon age discrimination” under the ADEA, a theory that was not asserted in
the First Case; and (2) his ADEA claims did not come into being until he received
the “June 30, 2017 Notice of Right to Sue issued by the [EEOC],” after the
complaint in the First Case was filed. Mem. in Opp’n at 5, Dkt. No. 17 in Civ. No.
17-00476. Both contentions fail as a matter of law.
The central criterion in determining whether the prior litigation involved the
same claim is “whether the two suits arise out of the same transactional nucleus of
facts.” See Frank v. United Airlines, 216 F.3d 845, 850 (9th Cir. 2000). Here, it is
clear they do. Henao’s HWPA retaliation claim from the First Case, as well as
Henao’s ADEA discrimination and retaliation claims from the Second Case arise out
of the same “transactional nucleus of facts.” This is so because, in both actions,
Henao alleges that he was subjected to retaliation for complaining about age
discrimination. In both actions, he claims that sales supervisor Joshua Kannel was
the principal Hilton actor responsible for the retaliation. And in both actions, the
retaliation took the form of a July 4, 2016 instruction to pick up his personal items
and go home. Compare First Case Compl. ¶¶ 7–10 with Second Case FAC ¶¶ 4–
17. To be clear, the gravamen of each case derives from the exact same conduct on
the exact same dates by the exact same actors. That the FAC specifically references
age discrimination under the ADEA, while the First Case does not, does not change
the complaints’ overlap for claim preclusion purposes. 3
Although Henao attempts to distinguish his state HWPA claim from his
federal ADEA claims, the “identity of claims” element “does not mean that an
In fact, the Ninth Circuit has rejected this precise argument. In Owens v. Kaiser Found. Health
Plan, Inc., plaintiffs brought multiple actions in federal and state court alleging racial
discrimination and hostile work environment under Title VII, and discrimination and harassment
under state law. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal based on res judicata,
explaining as follows—
Both causes of action are predicated on racial discrimination and allege the same
circumstances regarding Appellants’ terminations. Although the current action
also alleges retaliation and hostile work environment, these are “all grounds for
recovery which could have been asserted, whether they were or not, in a prior suit
between the same parties . . . on the same cause of action.” Gregory v. Widnall,
153 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 1998) (holding that res judicata bars consideration of
a hostile work environment claim that could have been raised in a prior action
between the same parties) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). As the
district court correctly noted, the additional allegations of discrimination are
“related to the same set of facts as the allegations in plaintiffs’ 1995 complaint for
wrongful discharge, and . . . the two cases could have conveniently been tried
together.” See Feminist Women’s Health Ctr. v. Codispoti, 63 F.3d 863, 868 (9th
Cir. 1995) (holding that res judicata bars subsequent action when the plaintiff “had
to produce substantially the same evidence in both suits to sustain its case”).
Owens v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 714 (9th Cir. 2001).
imaginative attorney may avoid preclusion by attaching a different legal label to an
issue that has, or could have, been litigated.” Tahoe-Sierra, 322 F.3d at 1077–78;
See also Costantini v. Trans World Airlines, 681 F.2d 1199, 1201 n.2 (9th Cir. 1982)
(“[a]ppellant has apparently confused res judicata with the related but distinct
doctrine of collateral estoppel, which does apply only when ‘an issue is actually and
necessarily determined’”) (citation omitted). Whether labeled HWPA or ADEA,
the claims in the Second Case are undoubtedly “the same general claims adjudicated
in” the First Case, and arise out of the same transactional nucleus of facts.
Domingo v. Donohue, 2014 WL 605485, at *6 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 14, 2014). Whether
Henao could have brought his age discrimination claim in his First Case is a separate
issue, to which the Court turns next.
Henao maintains that he could not have brought his ADEA claims until after
he received the June 30, 2017 right-to-sue letter from the EEOC. The question for
the Court’s claim preclusion analysis is whether a claim “could have been brought at
the time the operative complaint in the prior suit was filed.” Howard, 871 F.3d at
1040. That is so because “unlike issue preclusion, claim preclusion focuses on
what could have been litigated in the prior suit, not what was actually litigated.” In
re JPMorgan Chase Derivative Litig., 263 F. Supp. 3d 920, 939 (E.D. Cal. 2017).
Henao’s argument that he could not have brought his ADEA claim in the First
Case because he had yet to receive a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC is deficient
for several reasons. First, the ADEA does not mirror the exhaustion requirements
of Title VII. Rather, under the ADEA, “[n]o civil action may be commenced by an
individual  until 60 days after a charge alleging unlawful discrimination has been
filed with the [EEOC].” 29 U.S.C. § 626(d). “The statute requires the aggrieved
individual to file a charge before filing a lawsuit; it does not condition the
individual’s right to sue upon the agency taking any action.” Fed. Exp. Corp. v.
Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389, 403–04 (2008). 4 Under governing law, then, Henao was
permitted to file his civil action within 60 days after filing his Charge on August 10,
2016, and in fact, was not required to wait until receipt of the letter on June 30, 2017.
That 60-day period ran on October 9, 2016, which was before Henao filed the First
Case, and nearly a year before the Court heard the motion for summary judgment on
September 15, 2017. Instead, Henao waited until September 27, 2017 to include
his ADEA claim when he filed the Second Case,5 and has offered no reasoned
explanation for doing so.6
The Supreme Court’s opinion includes “a cautionary preface, [noting] that the EEOC
enforcement mechanisms and statutory waiting periods for ADEA claims differ in some respects
from those pertaining to other statutes the EEOC enforces, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities
Act of 1990, 104 Stat. 327, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.” Fed. Exp. Corp. v.
Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389, 393 (2008).
In Howard, the Ninth Circuit held that “claim preclusion does not apply to claims that accrue after
the filing of the operative complaint.” Howard, 871 F.3d at 1040. Applying the claim-accrual
rule, the court determined that the employment claims in Howard I and Howard II were not
identical for purposes of claim preclusion analysis—
The remaining three factors relevant to the identity of the claims, also weigh
in favor of Hilton. There is no doubt that the same evidence has and would be
presented in the two actions, as they are based on the same conduct by the same
actors, as described above. Harris, 682 F.3d at 1132. The “rights and interests”
factor also favors Hilton, which has an obvious interest in avoiding successive
litigation over claims arising from the same set of facts, while the public has an
Howard could not have brought retaliation claims in Howard I based on the City’s
refusal to consider her for the Finance Director position in 2011. Howard filed her
initial complaint in Howard I on September 14, 2009, and she filed a second
amended complaint on October 26, 2010. She had not yet applied for the Finance
Director position at the time of her first or second amended complaints, let alone
received the July 6, 2011 rejection letter.
Thus, Howard’s retaliation claims in this suit arose from events that occurred after
she filed her complaint in Howard I, and they are not barred by claim preclusion.
Howard, 871 F.3d 1032 at1040. Howard illustrates why Henao’s ADEA claims alleged in the
Second Case did not arise from events that occurred after he filed his complaint in the First Case.
The ADEA claims are based on the same events as those on which the HWPA claims from the
First Case were based, not on subsequent events, as in Howard.
Henao’s counsel at no point informed the Court of the receipt of the June 30, 2017 right-to-sue
letter during the pendency of the First Case, nor did Henao ever seek to amend his complaint in the
First Case prior to the entry of judgment. Counsel had multiple opportunities to apprise the Court
of Henao’s pending EEOC Charge, the potential need to amend the complaint to add ADEA
claims, and to request a stay of the proceedings and thereby preserve additional claims. That is,
there were options available to Henao to avoid preclusion and preserve his ADEA claims.
Counsel, however, chose not to pursue any of those available options or to take any measures
whatsoever to avoid preclusion. Instead, counsel opted to attempt a second bite at the apple.
Under well-settled res judicata principles, this is not permitted. See Clifton v. Warnaco, Inc., 53
F.3d 1280, 1995 WL 295863, at *6 n.15 (5th Cir. 1995) (per curiam) (affirming dismissal of
claims as barred by res judicata, rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that the claims could not have
been brought in the original lawsuit because a right-to-sue letter had not been issued until one
month before summary judgment was granted, because, among other reasons, the plaintiff “failed
to notify the court of his receipt of a right to sue letter, and instead waited for a ruling on the
pending summary judgment motions” then after receiving an adverse judgment, “he sought to play
another card . . . one of the tactics that res judicata is designed to discourage”).
equally strong interest in “avoiding inconsistent results and preserving judicial
economy.” Clements v. Airport Auth., 69 F.3d 321, 330 (9th Cir. 1995). Finally,
the “infringement of the same rights” factor additionally favors Hilton. Although
Ninth Circuit precedents do not offer a great deal of clarification as to how this
element should be analyzed, courts generally perform a basic matching exercise.
See, e.g., Sidhu v. Flecto Co., 279 F.3d 896, 900 (9th Cir. 2002) (explaining that
“rights asserted in the two actions [we]re different” because they involved
infringement of different provisions of a contract). The rights allegedly infringed
in the First Case and the Second Case are alike—Henao seeks recovery for
infringement of his employment rights—to be free from wrongful termination
and/or suspension on the basis of his complaints about age discrimination. Cf.
Garity v. APWU Nat’l Labor Org., 828 F.3d 848, 855–56 (9th Cir. 2016) (finding
the “the claims here do not match[, because] [o]ne complaint sounds in contract, the
other in federal anti-discrimination laws and tort”).
In sum, all four of the factors point toward an identity of claims. The
persuasive opinions reviewed above, and res judicata principles generally, compel
the conclusion that Henao’s claims in the two cases are the same and that Henao
could have brought all of these claims in the First Case. Consequently, Hilton has
satisfied the identity of claims element of res judicata.
The Court’s Summary Judgment Ruling in the First Case
Constitutes a Final Decision on the Merits
Henao acknowledges that the Court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of
Hilton in the First Case is a final judgment on the merits. See Mem. in Opp’n at 4,
Dkt. No. 17 in Civ. No. 17-00476; see also Hells Canyon Pres. Council v. U.S.
Forest Serv., 403 F.3d 683, 686–90 (9th Cir. 2005). Further, a district court’s
judgment is a final judgment for purposes of claim preclusion, even if an appeal is
pending on that judgment. See Sosa v. DIRECTV, Inc., 437 F.3d 923, 928 (9th Cir.
2006) (“[I]n federal courts, a district court judgment is ‘final’ for purposes of res
judicata. This is so even during the pendency of an appeal.”) (citation and
quotation marks omitted). Therefore, Hilton has satisfied the second requirement.
The First Case and Second Case Involve the Identical Parties
Henao sued his employer, Hilton, in both the First and Second Cases, which
he concedes, satisfies the final res judicata element. See Mem. in Opp’n at 4–5,
Dkt. No. 17 in Civ. No. 17-00476.
All Three Requirements of Claim Preclusion Are Satisfied
Hilton has met its burden to establish (1) an identity of claims in the two
actions; (2) a final judgment on the merits in the First Case; and (3) identity between
the parties in the two actions. Res judicata therefore bars Henao’s claims here. To
permit Henao to continue to litigate his ADEA claims “would be to permit an absurd
waste of judicial resources and to remove any sense of finality from federal court
judgments.” Mahmood v. Research in Motion Ltd., 905 F. Supp. 2d 498, 506
(S.D.N.Y. 2012), aff’d, 515 F. App’x 891 (Fed. Cir. 2013). In short, “[i]f res
judicata is to have any meaning, it must mean that this action should be dismissed.”
Mahmood, 905 F. Supp. 2d at 506–07.
For the foregoing reasons, Henao’s claims in this matter are barred by res
judicata, and Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED. Dkt. No. 13. The
Clerk’s Office is directed to close the case.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: February 13, 2018 at Honolulu, Hawai‘i.
Henao v. Hilton Grand Vacations Company, LLC, CV NO. 17-00476 DKW-RLP; ORDER
GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS
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