Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Coats v. Sears Roebuck Co.

November 10, 2008

TERRY MICHAEL COATS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SEARS ROEBUCK CO., AND DOES 1 THROUGH 50, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank C. Damrell, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on a motion for summary judgment brought by defendant Sears Roebuck & Co. ("defendant" or "Sears") pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff Terry Michael Coats ("plaintiff" or "Coats") opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below,*fn1 defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND*fn2

This case arises out of plaintiff's employment with and subsequent termination by defendant Sears. On May 10, 1994, plaintiff filled out an application for employment with Sears (the "application"). (UF ¶ 10.) The application asked, "Within the past seven years, have you been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or violence?" (UF ¶ 11.) There are clear "yes" and "no" boxes for the applicant to check. (UF ¶ 12.) Under the check the box section, the application further asked, "If yes, explain." (UF ¶ 13.) Plaintiff marked "No" and wrote "288a" in the explanation section. (UF ¶ 14.) Plaintiff was hired on May 25, 1994. (UF ¶ 15.)

In 1992, plaintiff had been arrested and charged with Penal Code § 288(a), lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14. (UF ¶ 1.) Plaintiff spent approximately two years in jail after his arrest. (UF ¶ 9.) Subsequently, in 1994, he pled guilty to a felony under Penal Code § 288(a) in a plea bargain that released him from jail for time served. (UF ¶ 9.)

In January 2007, Pamela Heising ("Heising"), plaintiff's manager, received a complaint about plaintiff from another employee. (UF ¶ 24.) While investigating the complaint, Heising contacted Sears' Human Resources center for assistance. (UF ¶ 25.) Heising had several conversations with Roberta Proper ("Proper"), Human Resources Consultant, regarding the situation.

(UF ¶ 26.) Heising informed Proper that she had learned during her investigation that plaintiff was a convicted sex offender. (UF ¶ 27.) Proper consulted with Sears' Manager of Human Resource Compliance, Brian Eby ("Eby"), informing him that plaintiff had admitted to Heising that he was a convicted sex offender. (UF ¶ 30.) Eby reviewed plaintiff's employment application and determined that plaintiff had been deceptive and misrepresented the truth when he failed to disclose his felony conviction on his application by marking "No" on the conviction question and writing "288a" in the explanation section. (UF ¶ 32.) As such, Eby instructed proper to advise Heising to terminate plaintiff's employment. (UF ¶ 32.)

Sears' employment computer system, PeopleSoft, requires a termination code be assigned to all terminations. (UF ¶ 33.) "Integrity" is Sears' code for a termination due to deception and misrepresentation. (UF ¶ 35.) Eby instructed Proper that plaintiff's termination was to be coded "Integrity" based upon his statements relating to his conviction on the application. (UF ¶ 36.) On January 24, 2007, Heising informed plaintiff that his employment was being terminate for lying on his application. (UF ¶ 38.)

Plaintiff asserts that he was not convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or violence, and thus, he did not lie on his application. (DF ¶¶ 12, 14; 20-21.) Plaintiff also asserts that he listed 288(a) in the explanation section in order to be honest with Sears about his conviction. (DF ¶ 13.) Finally, plaintiff asserts that he explained to Jim Borghmeier, the person who hired him, the charge and circumstances surrounding his conviction.

(DF ¶ 15.) As such, plaintiff contends that defendant had no cause to terminate him.

1. Employment Status

The application, which plaintiff filled out and signed, provides that "employment and compensation can be terminated with or without cause, and with or without notice, at any time, at the option of either the Company" or the applicant. (UF ¶ 42.) The application further provides that "[n]o unit manager or representative of Sears, Roebuck and Co. other than an officer of the company has any authority to enter into any agreement for employment for any specified period of time, or to make an agreement contrary to the foregoing." (UF ¶ 43.) Plaintiff understood that the terms written on the application would apply to his employment with Sears. (UF ¶ 41.)

During his employment with Sears, plaintiff received a copy of the Employee Handbook. (UF ¶ 45.) The Employee Handbook provides Employment at the Company is considered indefinite and terminable at the will of either the Company or its Associates, with or without notice, and with or without cause at any time. No Company representative, other than the Senior Vice President of Human Resources, has authority to enter into any agreement for employment for any specified period of time, or to make arrangement to the contrary. (UF ¶ 45.) Plaintiff never had a conversation with the Senior Vice President of Human Resources about his employment. (UF ¶ 47.) No Sears' Manager ever told plaintiff that he could not be fired from Sears. (UF ¶ 51.) Plaintiff does not identify any Sears' employee who told him that he was going to be hired for a certain period of time. (UF ¶ 48.) Plaintiff never saw anything in writing that promised him his employment was going to last a specific period of time. (UF ¶ 52.)

Rather, plaintiff asserts that defendant's supervisory employees conducted meetings once a week, during which it was implied that plaintiff and other sales associates would only be terminated if they (a) were late for work; (b) failed to meet sales quotas; (c) failed to meet established guidelines for Sears Credit Card applications; and (d) failed to meet established guidelines for extended warranty sales. (DF ¶ 16.) Plaintiff asserts that he always met and exceeded these expectations. (DF ¶ 3.)

2. The Litigation

On April 19, 2007, plaintiff filed an action in the Superior Court of California for the County of Sacramento, alleging (1) breach of implied contract; (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (3) defamation; (4) wrongful termination in violation of public policy; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (6) negligent infliction of emotional distress. (Ex. A to Notice of Removal, filed June ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.