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Brunelle v. Compucom Systems

February 8, 2008

RENEE HARRIS BRUNELLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMPUCOM SYSTEMS, INC.,*FN1 DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 17)

Presently before the Court is Compucom Systems, Inc.'s ("defendant") motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 17.) For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

During the period in question, defendant contracted with Pfizer, Inc. to provide information technology solutions at Pfizer's La Jolla campus. (Ruwe Decla. ¶ 2; Collins Decla. ¶ 2.) Lisa Collins became defendant's service delivery manager at the La Jolla location in June 2003. (Collins Depo., at 11.) Beginning in January 2004, Renee Harris Brunelle ("plaintiff"), an African-American female, began working under Collins's supervision as a part-time Junior Technician. (Brunelle Depo., at 14.) Plaintiff had responded to defendant's online advertisement and interviewed with Collins. (Brunelle Decla. ¶ 1; Collins Depo., at 20-21.) After the interview, Collins directed plaintiff to Manpower Professional ("Manpower"), a temporary staffing agency, to fill out Manpower's employment application and undergo a drug screen and background check. (Def. Notice of Lodgment, Exhibit 2; Collins Depo., at 20.) Throughout the period when plaintiff rendered services to defendant, she was paid by Manpower. (Brunelle Depo., at 72.)

In March 2004, Collins offered to change plaintiff's employment to a full-time position as Video Conference Technician. (Brunelle Decla. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff accepted the full-time position. (Id.; Brunelle Depo., at 68.) Collins emailed Manpower, "As of March 15th, [plaintiff] will be a full time contractor here at Pfizer. . . . Her rate of pay should change to $18.00/hour." (Collins Decla. ¶ 4.) In the same conversation, plaintiff alleges that Collins also offered a future employment position as Video Conference Technician to begin in January 2005, contingent on defendant's renewal of its contract with Pfizer. (Brunelle Decla. ¶ 4.) In the future position, plaintiff would receive payment directly from defendant, along with defendant's benefits package. (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff claims to have accepted this offer of future employment also. (Id. ¶ 5.) Defendant never memorialized this employment offer in writing. (Brunelle Depo., at 71.) The contract between defendant and Pfizer was renewed for 2005. (Opp., at 2.)

In August 2004, Ryan Ruwe, a Caucasian male, succeeded Collins as plaintiff's supervisor. (Ruwe Decla. ¶ 3.) Videoconference technicians under Ruwe's supervision kept their time, including a record of the time when they began work each day, using a computer-based system. (Ruwe Depo., at 39.) All employees at Pfizer's La Jolla facility gained entry to the building by swiping a Pfizer-issued security badge at an electronic card reader. (Id. at 41.) On occasion, when groups of employees entered the building, one employee would swipe the security badge and allow other employees to enter without swiping their badges. (Id. at 44; Soto Depo., at 60.) Also, security guards would occasionally admit employees without swiping their badges. (Ruwe Depo., at 44-45; Brunelle Decla. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff also claims to have gained entry to buildings on Pfizer's La Jolla campus without using her security badge when the security system was inoperative or her badge did not work. (Brunelle Decla. ¶ 16.) Gaining entry to the Pfizer facility without swiping one's individual badge violated Pfizer security protocols. (Ruwe Depo., at 43-44.)

Ruwe reviewed his employees' time records to ensure that they worked the expected number of hours and recorded the hours that they actually worked. (Ruwe Depo., at 37-38.) In August 2004, Ruwe reviewed plaintiff's time records and determined that he had not seen plaintiff at work during times when she claimed to be working. (Ruwe Decla. ¶ 10.) Specifically, Ruwe noted that plaintiff recorded her start time as 6:00 a.m. on August 16 and 18-20, 2004. (Ruwe Decla. ¶ 11 & Exhibit B.) However, according to Pfizer's building access logs, plaintiff first swiped her security badge later than 6:00 a.m. (Id. ¶ 11 & Exhibit A.) In particular, plaintiff first swiped her badge at 6:31 a.m. on August 18 and 6:50 a.m. on August 20. (Id., Exhibit A, at D-0002.) Ruwe then informed Manpower that defendant was ending plaintiff's placement. (Id. ¶ 12.) Manpower contacted plaintiff to direct her not to return to the Pfizer campus. (Brunelle Depo., at 52-53.) Plaintiff entered the Pfizer building for the last time on August 31, 2004. (Ruwe Decla., Exhibit B, at D-0008.)

B. Procedural Background

On November 29, 2006, plaintiff filed this action in San Diego County Superior Court for breach of contract and business torts arising from the termination of her employment. Plaintiff alleges that defendant agreed to employ plaintiff as a videoconference technician in 2005 if defendant secured an IT contract with Pfizer. (Compl., at 3-4.) Despite securing the contract, defendant allegedly failed to employ plaintiff on the agreed-upon terms. (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that defendant falsely told Manpower that plaintiff engaged in time theft when, in fact, plaintiff recorded her time as Collins had directed her. (Id. at 6-9.)

Defendant removed the action to this Court on December 21, 2006. (Notice of Removal.) On August 22, 2007, defendant moved for summary judgment on each of plaintiff's five causes of action: breach of an oral employment contract, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference, and negligence. (Doc. No. 17.) On October 12, 2007, plaintiff filed her opposition, requesting a continuance to allow further discovery. (Doc. No. 29.) After a hearing on plaintiff's request, the Court granted the continuance by written Order on November 2, 2007. (Doc. No. 34.)

Plaintiff filed her Court-ordered supplemental opposition on December 7, 2007. (Doc. No. 39.) The supplemental opposition voluntarily dismissed plaintiff's cause of action for fraud. (Id. at 3.) Defendant filed its reply on December 14, 2007. (Doc. No. 43.) The Court held oral argument on the motion on Tuesday, January 22, 2008, and the motion is now appropriate for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56(c) where the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). A dispute about a material fact is ...


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