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Benson v. California Correctional Peace Officers Association

February 23, 2010



The parties have consented to proceed before the undersigned for all purposes. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pending before this court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. The court has determined that the matter shall be submitted upon the record and briefs on file and accordingly, the date for hearing of this matter shall be vacated. Local Rule 230. Upon review of the motions and the documents in support and opposition, and good cause appearing therefor, THE COURT FINDS AND ORDERS AS FOLLOWS:


On April 28, 2008, plaintiff filed a complaint against the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (the "CCPOA") and individual defendants Debbie Rollins, Jeff Nicolaysen, and Mary Burton alleging violations of Title I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4200e et seq.; and the Equal Pay Act ("EPA"), 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). (Doc. No. 1.) On November 17, 2008, defendants filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 15.) On December 19, 2008, this court issued an order partially granting the motion to dismiss.*fn1 (Doc. No. 25.) The court found plaintiff failed to state a claim as to any of the individual defendants, and failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as to her Title V ADA claim and Title VII Civil Rights Act claim. (Id.)

On January 20, 2009, plaintiff filed an amended complaint against the CCPOA alleging a violation of Title I of the ADA and a violation of the EPA. (Doc. No. 26.) Plaintiff claims the CCPOA violated the ADA by failing to accommodate her return to work. Plaintiff also claims the CCPOA violated the EPA by failing to pay her and a male employee equally for similar work. Plaintiff seeks reimbursement of salary, wage increases, cost of living increases, reinstatement of her retirement funds, as well as full medical supervision for the mental stress she sustained by the CCPOA. Finally, plaintiff seeks $4,000,000.00 in damages for pain and suffering.

On February 13, 2009, the CCPOA filed an answer to the amended complaint. (Doc. No. 28.) On December 21, 2009, the CCPOA filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 54.) On January 20, 2010, plaintiff was given an extension by which to file her opposition. (Doc. No. 60.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on February 11, 2010. (Doc. No. 62.)


The CCPOA is a labor union representing various employees of the State of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff began her employ with the CCPOA on September 28, 1998 as a full-time permanent receptionist.

(Id. ¶ 4; Benson Dep. at 44.) Plaintiff's pay scale, the General Secretary scale, was tiered, providing for step increases per year of employment. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 4.)

In October 1999, plaintiff changed positions from receptionist to a secretary for the CCPOA Executive Counsel. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 5.) In this new position, plaintiff's pay increased by one step on the General Secretary pay scale. (Id.)

In January 2003, plaintiff, while still employed as a secretary to the Executive Counsel, applied for an Editorial Assistant position with the CCPOA Peacekeeper Magazine. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶¶ 6-7.) Plaintiff was offered and accepted that position mid-January 2003; she began work in April 2003. (Id. ¶ 6.) Because her duties were similar to those of her previous position, the Editorial Assistant position was considered a lateral transfer rather than a promotion and she continued to be paid pursuant to the General Secretary scale. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 8.)

As an Editorial Assistant, plaintiff was supervised by Patty Sewall, Editor of the CCPOA Peacekeeper Magazine. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 7.) In January 2004, plaintiff took a leave of absence from work claiming that she was having difficulties working with Ms. Sewall. (Id.; Benson Dep. at 107-09.)

Plaintiff returned to work in February 2004, where she was assigned to Debbie Rollins, the Meeting Coordinator for the CCPOA who oversaw the Membership Department. (Id. ¶ 8.) Ms. Rollins was the person to whom Ms. Sewall reported. (Id.)

Under new supervision, plaintiff continued to have duties as an Editorial Assistant, but she was also given additional activities within the Membership Department. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff continued to be paid under the General Secretary pay scale. (Id.)

While in the Membership Department, plaintiff worked with Ralph Guerriero, a male employee who was employed by the CCPOA as a Membership Records Clerk in the Membership Department. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 20; Benson Dep. at 226.) Mr. Guerriero was hired by the CCPOA in April 1997 and spent his entire employment in the Membership Department as a Membership Records Clerk. (Id. ¶ 26.) Mr. Guerriero was paid according to the Membership Records Clerk pay scale, which was similar to the General Secretary pay scale in that it involved a multi-tiered system of pay. (Id. ¶ 21.)

In February 2004, Mr. Guerriero was being paid at a higher rate than the rate used to pay plaintiff and he continued to be paid more than plaintiff until her employment with the CCPOA terminated. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 21.)

Plaintiff assisted Mr. Guerriero with his duties. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 22; Benson Dep. at 120-22.) Although plaintiff did perform some of the duties that Mr. Guerriero performed, she continued to perform at least some of the duties of an Editorial Assistant. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 22.) Mr. Guerriero also performed the following duties that plaintiff did not perform:

a) Mr. Guerriero ran a variety of reports regarding membership information;

b) Mr. Guerriero interfaced with the CCPOA Information Technology Department on the types of membership reports that were needed and their formatting;

c) Mr. Guerriero worked with the State of California to keep membership records accurate;

d) Mr. Guerriero regularly reported on membership trends to the Chief of Logistics;

e) Mr. Guerriero oversaw certain portions of the Victims March on the Capital event;

f) Mr. Guerriero ran the merchandise booth at the annual CCPOA conventions. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶¶ 23-24.) Mr. Guerriero also trained plaintiff when she began work in the Membership Department. (Benson Dep. at 98.)

Over time, personality conflicts also arose between plaintiff and Ms. Rollins, which the latter attributed to plaintiff's work performance and work habits, including maintaining time sheets, tardiness and absenteeism. (Nicolaysen Decl. ¶ 9; Benson Dep. at 106-08, 130-31, 143.)

In February 2006, plaintiff did not return to work, claiming that she was unable to continue working due to stress she was experiencing as a result of her relationship with Ms. Rollins. (Nicolaysen Decl. ΒΆ 10.) Plaintiff returned to work once on March 6, 2006 and worked for four ...

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