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Russell v. Paradigm Packaging West

February 11, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: VIRGINIA A. Phillips United States District Judge

[Motion filed on January 16, 2009]


Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment came before the Court for hearing on February 9, 2009. After reviewing and considering all papers filed in support of, and in opposition to, the Motion, as well as the arguments advanced by counsel at the hearing, the Court GRANTS the Motion.


Plaintiff Lester Russell filed a Complaint in California Superior Court, County of San Bernardino, on December 28, 2007, naming Paradigm Packaging West as the Defendant. (See Not. of Removal.) Plaintiff asserts a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. (Id.) Defendant removed the action on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, to the United States District Court on February 7, 2008. (Id.)

On January 16, 2009, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, a Statement of Uncontroverted Facts ("SUF"), the Declaration of Yvonne Arvanitis ("Arvanitis Declaration"), the Declaration of Sandra Jimenez ("Jimenez Declaration"), the Declaration of Ken Spirko ("Spirko Declaration"), and the Declaration of Mario Tapia ("Tapia Declaration"), noticed for a hearing on February 9, 2009. On January 22, 2009, Plaintiff filed Opposition, a Statement of Genuine Issues ("SGI"), and the Declaration of Sheri L. Leonard ("Leonard Declaration").

On January 30, 2009, Defendant filed a Reply, an itemized response to Plaintiff's SGI, a statement of additional uncontroverted facts, the supplemental Declaration of Yvonne Arvanitis ("Supp'l Arvanitis Declaration"), the supplemental Declaration of Mario Tapia ("Supp'l Tapia Declaration"), and the Declaration of Jim Dyer ("Dyer Declaration").


The following material facts are supported adequately by admissible evidence and are uncontroverted. They are "admitted to exist without controversy" for the purposes of this Motion. See Local Rule 56-3.

Paradigm Packaging West, LLC ("Defendant"), is a business that manufactures rigid plastic containers and enclosures for the healthcare, nutritional, pharmaceutical, and food industries. (SUF ¶ 1.) Defendant operates facilities in California, including one in Upland, California. (SUF ¶ 2.)

The Upland facility operates in winter and summer modes. (SUF ¶ 9.) The winter mode lasts from October through June, and the summer mode from June through October. (SUF ¶¶ 10, 11.) The winter mode requires day, swing, and graveyard shifts; the summer mode requires graveyard and swing shifts. (SUF ¶¶ 12, 13.)

Plaintiff began working as a molder for Defendant in its Upland facility on January 15, 2007. (SUF ¶¶ 7, 8.) At first, Plaintiff worked the day shift of the winter mode, but then started working the swing shift. (SUF ¶¶ 15-16.)

In May 2007, Plaintiff met with other employees of the Upland facility to discuss scheduling shifts for the upcoming summer mode. (SUF ¶ 17.) After that meeting, Plaintiff spoke to Defendant's Vice President, Steve Konsecki ("Konsecki"), and requested a modification of his work schedule because of his child care responsibilities. (SUF ¶ 18.) Konsecki accommodated Plaintiff's request. (SUF ¶ 19.) Plaintiff was assigned to the swing shift during the summer mode and worked with foreman Mario Tapia ("Tapia"). (SUF ¶ 20.)

On August 14, 2007, Plaintiff was working with Tapia; after a few hours, Tapia passed by Plaintiff upon returning from a break, and Plaintiff thought Tapia smelled like marijuana. (SUF ¶¶ 23, 26.) After speaking with his supervisor and manager, Plaintiff, along with two other employees that Plaintiff had asked be present, approached Tapia, informed him of Plaintiff's suspicions and that Vasquez and Rodriguez "thought it was a good idea for him to take the rest of the night off or to go to the clinic [to be drug-tested]." (SUF ¶¶ 27, 28, 31-34.)

Tapia responded negatively, used a racial epithet in referring to Plaintiff, and said Plaintiff would no longer be working on Tapia's shift. (SGI ¶ 6.) Even before this confrontation, Tapia found it difficult to work with Plaintiff because Plaintiff often acted like he was the foreman, even though that was Tapia's job. (SGI ¶ 81.)

After the discussion, the human resources manager and the production supervisor arrived at the facility. (SUF ¶¶ 37-41.) Plaintiff explained what happened and said he was concerned for Tapia's safety. (SUF ¶ 42.) The human resources manager told Plaintiff, "Okay Lester, you can go home .... Apparently you and Mario don't get along." (Id.)

Plaintiff was reassigned to the graveyard shift beginning the week of August 19, 2007 because of the August 14 incident with Tapia. (SUF ΒΆ 48.) This new schedule conflicted with Plaintiff's child care responsibilities; Konsecki revised the schedule to ...

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