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IBARRA v. SUNSET SCAVENGER COMPANY

May 20, 2003

JUAN IBARRA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUNSET SCAVENGER COMPANY AND NORCAL WASTE SYSTEMS, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Illston, United States District Judge

JUDGMENT

Summary judgment against plaintiff and in favor of defendants has been entered. Accordingly, judgment is hereby entered in favor of defendants Sunset Scavenger Company and Norcal Waste Systems, Inc. and against plaintiff Juan Ibarra.

IT IS SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR CONTINUANCE; AND GRANTING MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF DECLARATION
On May 16, 2003 the Court heard argument on various motions in this case. Having carefully considered the arguments of counsel and the papers submitted, the Court hereby DENIES plaintiffs motion for a continuance and extension of the discovery cut-off; GRANTS defendants' motion for summary judgment; GRANTS defendants' request for judicial notice; declines to rule on defendants' objections to plaintiff s evidence in support of plaintiff s opposition to defendants' summary judgment motion; GRANTS defendants' application for injunctive relief; and GRANTS defendants' application for fees.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Juan Ibarra ("Ibarra") was employed as a shop foreman and mechanic by defendant Sunset Scavenger Co. ("Sunset") between approximately July 1979 and August 2000. First Am. Compl. ¶ 8. According to Ibarra, Sunset is a subsidiary of defendant Norcal Waste Systems ("Norcal"). Id. at ¶ 2. Ibarra's employment at Sunset was governed by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement between Sunset and his union, the Sanitary Truck Drivers and Helpers Union, Local No. 350.

Between April and July, 1999, Ibarra was arrested three times for alcohol-related driving incidents On June 22, 1999, after the second alcohol-related arrest involving an injury-producing accident in a company-owned truck, Ibarra was suspended for six months. According to Sunset, Ibarra rear-ended another car while driving the truck without permission and under the influence of alcohol. He then signed a Return to Work Agreement, as provided for in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the Return to Work Agreement, Ibarra was to enter a chemical dependency treatment program and submit to an alcohol and/or controlled substance test before returning to work after six months. Ibarra's suspension was extended in December 1999 because Sunset claims that it learned that the Department of Motor Vehicles had suspended his driver's license after the third alcohol-related driving arrest in July, 1999. On August 25, 2000, Ibarra still did not have a driver's license, and he was terminated pursuant to the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement which provided for termination of employees who were unable to regain their licenses within six months. First Am. Compl. at ¶ 17.

Ibarra filed suit in this Court alleging employment discrimination on the basis of his race, national origin, medical handicap, mental condition, and his disability, alcoholism. Ibarra asserted causes of action for: (1) violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; (2) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII); (3) violation of California Government Code §§ 12940 et seq. (FEHA); (4) wrongful termination in violation of public policy; (5) breach of contract; and (6) fraud. In January 2002 this Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss Ibarra's fifth and sixth causes of action, and to dismiss in part Ibarra's third and fourth cause of action on the grounds that alcoholism is not a medical condition under FEHA.

Plaintiffs amended complaint continued to plead causes of action for breach of contract and fraud despite the Court's January 2002 dismissal of those causes of action. In April 2002, this Court granted a second motion to dismiss those causes of action as preempted under the Labor Management Relations Act. The Court struck plaintiff's cause of action for medical condition discrimination under FEHA and a cause of action for violation of public policy which was predicated on the FEHA violation from plaintiff's complaint.

The causes of action which remain in plaintiffs complaint and are the subject of this motion for summary judgment are as follows: (1) the first cause of action alleging unlawful suspension and terminator in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, related to plaintiff s disability, alcoholism; (2) the second cause of action alleging discrimination based on national origin and disability under 42 U.S.C. § 2000; (3) the third cause of action alleging discrimination based on disability and race in violation of FEHA; and (4) the fourth cause of action alleging wrongful termination on the basis that terminating plaintiff because of his disability and race violates public policy. These causes of action are the subject of defendants' present motion for summary judgment.

LEGAL STANDARD

1. Summary judgment

Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party, however, has no burden to negate or disprove matters on which the non-moving party will have the burden of proof at trial. The moving party need only point out to the Court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. See id. at 325.

The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to "designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). To carry this burden, the non-moving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence . . . will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in its favor. Id. at 255. "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge when ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Id.

2. Discrimination under the ADA, Title VII and FEHA

The burden-shifting method of proof set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 802-05 (1973), governs plaintiff's claims of race discrimination. That process requires the plaintiff first to establish a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation. See Wallis v. J.R. Simplot, 26 F.3d 885, 889-91 (9th Cir. 1994). Once a plaintiff has put forth a prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the defendant to offer a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its adverse employment action. Once the defendant articulates such a reason, the plaintiff must then offer evidence to show that the defendant's proffered reason is a pretext for discrimination or retaliation for protected activity. See Wallis, 26 F.3d at 891; Warren v. City of Carlsbad, 58 F.3d 439, 442 (9th Cir. 1995).

California relies on decisions interpreting federal nondiscrimination statutes to interpret the FEHA. See Bradley v. Harcourt, Brace and Co., 104 F.3d 267, 272 (9th Cir. 1996). Thus courts' analyses of federal ...


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