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EVANS v. SAN DIEGO TRANSIT CORPORATION

United States District Court, S.D. California


November 23, 2005.

ELLIS EVANS, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN DIEGO TRANSIT CORPORATION, Defendant.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: IRMA GONZALEZ, District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DISMISSING CASE WITH PREJUDICE
Presently before the Court is San Diego Transit Corporation's ("defendant") motion for summary judgement. For the following reasons, the Court grants defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

  A. Factual Background

  Plaintiff was employed by SDTC as a part-time bus driver, subject to the collective bargaining agreement between SDTC and the San Diego Bus Driver's Union ("the union"). (SAC at ¶ 1.) In addition to providing bus service within the City of San Diego, SDTC also operated the Chula Vista Transit ("CVT") bus fleet for the City of Chula Vista. (Id. at ¶ 1.) In January 2002, SDTC met with union members to discuss an arrangement in which part-time SDTC drivers would provide service to understaffed CVT routes for a limited time. (Id. at ¶ 2.) Despite negotiations, apparently no agreement was reached. (Id.)

  On February 6, 2002, SDTC recruited plaintiff to cover shifts for CVT. (Compl. Ex. A at 12.)*fn1 The SDTC informed plaintiff that he would not receive the experience-based wage progression available under the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") governing City of San Diego bus routes. (SAC, at ¶¶ 5-8.) The pay was to be $8.85 per hour, commensurate with SDTC starting pay rates. (Compl. Ex. A at 8.)

  Plaintiff worked for CVT from approximately February 16, 2002 to May 23, 2002. (Compl. Ex. A at 11-18.) At some point thereafter, plaintiff expressed concern that his CVT wage violated the CBA. (See Compl. Ex. A at 10.) On June 26, 2002, in accordance with the terms of the CBA, the union filed a formal written grievance on behalf of plaintiff with the manager of human resources at SDTC. (Id.) SDTC denied plaintiff's grievance in a letter dated August 13, 2002. (Id. at 8.)

  B. Procedural Background

  On August 23, 2002, plaintiff filed a complaint with the small claims division of the San Diego Superior Court, alleging that SDTC violated the terms of the CBA when it refused to pay plaintiff SDTC-level wages for work performed on the CVT routes. (Compl. Ex. A at 1.) SDTC subsequently removed the case to the District Court, initiating civil case number 02-1851-L (JFS). On August 1, 2003, the court dismissed the case for want of prosecution. (See 02-CV-1851 Doc. No. 5.)

  On February 6, 2004, plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a new complaint, initiating civil case number 04-0241-IEG (RBB). Plaintiff again alleged that SDTC violated the CBA when it refused to pay plaintiff the higher SDTC wage for his routes with the CVT. (Compl. at ¶¶ 1-5.) Plaintiff's complaint also contained allegations that SDTC discriminated against part-time workers in violation of the CBA and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Id. at ¶¶ 1-5.) On March 1, 2004, SDTC filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's new complaint.

  On April 20, 2004, the Court granted SDTC's motion to dismiss on the grounds that plaintiff's claims were time-barred, that plaintiff failed to exhaust his internal remedies as required by the CBA, and that plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to state a discrimination claim. The Court, however, granted plaintiff leave to amend, and on June 1, 2004, plaintiff filed a first-amended complaint ("FAC").

  On June 14, 2004, SDTC filed a motion to dismiss the FAC, arguing that plaintiff's wage discrepancy claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and that plaintiff failed to remedy the deficiencies in his initial complaint with regard to his racial discrimination claim. On July 8, plaintiff filed an untimely opposition, which the Court accepted. SDTC filed its reply on July 19, 2004. On July 30, 2004, the Court dismissed with prejudice plaintiff's claims relating to the collective bargaining agreement. The Court also dismissed plaintiff's section 1981 claim, but granted plaintiff leave to amend.

  On August 25, 2004, plaintiff filed a second amended complaint. Thereafter, on September 9, 2004, SDTC filed the instant motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. SDTC argues that plaintiff's discrimination claim is merely a restatement of his collective bargaining claims, which the Court previously dismissed with prejudice in its July 30, 2004 order. On October 13, 2004, plaintiff filed an untimely opposition, which the Court accepted. SDTC declined to file a reply. On October 21, 2004, the Court denied defendant's motion to dismiss.

  On October 13, 2005, defendant filed the present motion for summary judgment. On November 4, 2005, plaintiff filed opposition. On November 7, 2005, defendant replied.

  DISCUSSION

  Defendant argues that plaintiff has not established a prima facie case of racial discrimination because the undisputed facts show no differentiation in pay between part-time SDTC drivers driving CVT routes. Defendant further argues that its contractual obligations to the City of Chula Vista was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its conduct. Plaintiff counters that defendant discriminated against him by paying un-protected class members driving Community Based Driver*fn2 routes more than protected class members driving CVT routes when these routes were the "same." (Opp. at 2.)

  A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

  "Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper when the pleadings and discovery, read in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Armstrong v. Burlington Northern R.R. Co., 139 F.3d 1277, 1278 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting 20th Century Ins. Co. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 965 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1992)); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" when "the evidence presented is such that a jury applying [the appropriate] evidentiary standard could reasonably find for either the plaintiff or the defendant." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

  Once the moving party meets the requirement of Rule 56, the burden shifts to the party resisting the motion, who "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. It is not enough for the party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment to "rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings." Id. Genuine factual issues must exist that "can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Id. at 250. To make such a showing, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings to designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The requirement that a nonmoving party go beyond the pleadings is meant to further one of Rule 56's principal purposes, namely "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses." Id. at 323-24.

  B. Plaintiff's Prima Facie Case

  Section 1981 provides in relevant part: "All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts . . . and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens." 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a). The term "make and enforce contracts" includes the making, performance, modification and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms and conditions of the contractual relationship. 42 U.S.C. § 1981(b).

  To evaluate section 1981 claims, the Ninth Circuit applies an analysis similar to that used in Title VII cases. See Doe v. Kamehameha Schools/Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, 416 F.3d 1025, 1038 (9th Cir. 2005). As the Kamehameha Court did, the Court will apply the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis that governs Title VII cases to evaluate defendant's summary judgment motion. 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis, plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of race discrimination by preponderance of the evidence. If plaintiff is able to make a prima facie case, the burden shifts to defendant to provide legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its actions. Finally, if the defendant provides legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons, plaintiff must demonstrate that defendant's reasons are a pretext for discrimination. Id. at 802-805.

  To establish a prima facie case in a wage disparity case, a plaintiff must show by preponderance of the evidence that he was a member of a protected class and that he was paid less than other similarly situated, non-protected class employees. Amro v. Boeing Co., 232 F.3d 790, 798 (10th Cir. 2000); see also Forsberg v. Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Co., 840 F.2d 1409, 1414 (9th Cir. 1988) (holding that in a Title VII case, plaintiff must make a prima facie case showing unequal pay for equal work).

  In the present case, there are two potential groups of "similarly situated" employees against which the Court might compare the plaintiff. The first group consists of drivers on SDTC lines and part-time SDTC drivers who also drive CVT lines. The second group consists only of part-time SDTC drivers who drive CVT lines.*fn3 The Court finds that the drivers driving SDTC lines are not similarly situated to part-time SDTC drivers who also drive CVT lines. While all the members of these two groups drive buses, they do so for operationally distinct bus lines in different cities. SDTC drivers have routes in San Diego itself whereas CVT drivers drive routes in the City of Chula Vista. (Declaration of Steve St. Pierre, Exhibit B.) Two different contracts, one with the city of Chula Vista, the other not, govern the professional rights and responsibilities of the two groups of bus drivers. (Id.) Moreover, SDTC drivers have a collective bargaining agreement that presumably addresses their professional rights and responsibilities whereas part-time SDTC drivers volunteering for CVT lines have no so such agreement. (SAC at ¶ 2.) For these reasons, the Court finds that only part-time SDTC drivers driving CVT routes are similarly situated to plaintiff. Plaintiff has not met his McDonnell-Douglas burden of showing discrimination between him and other part-time SDTC drivers driving CVT routes. It appears undisputed that defendant did not pay plaintiff any less than other part-time SDTC drivers driving CVT routes. Defendant has submitted a sworn statement from its human resources manager and payroll material indicating that defendant paid all thirty part-time bus drivers $8.85 an hour for driving CVT routes. (Declaration of Steve St. Pierre, Exhibit B; Exhibit E; Exhibit F.) Plaintiff offers very little to dispute this fact either in his complaint or opposition. Plaintiff does not dispute the veracity or relevance of defendant's payroll material. Rather, plaintiff offers only that "Russell Robinson"*fn4 told him in January of 2004 that "he was paid more for doing CVT routes." (Opp. at 3.) Since plaintiff will bear the burden at trial of showing initial discrimination, the reference in the pleadings to a statement by Russell Robinson is insufficient to show an genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. 477 U.S. at 323.

  No reasonable person examining the submitted payroll evidence and papers before the Court could conclude that defendant paid plaintiff differently than other similarly situated employees. Consequently, the Court finds it appropriate to grant summary judgment.

  CONCLUSION

  For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS defendant's motion for summary judgment. The Clerk of the Court SHALL enter judgment for defendant and against plaintiff. The Court DISMISSES plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.

  IT IS SO ORDERED.

20051123

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