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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Sierra Pacific Industries

September 7, 2010


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


The instant litigation arises from a public enforcement action filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC" or "Plaintiff") against Sierra Pacific Industries ("Defendant"). Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Adjudication pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) seeking to dismiss as legally insufficient Defendant's Fifth and Ninth Affirmative Defenses. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion will be granted.


Defendant hired Ahmed Elshenawy ("Plaintiff-Intervenor"), an Egyptian male, on July 28, 2000 to work at its Red Bluff, California Millwork Division. Plaintiff-Intervenor's employment was terminated by Defendant on April 9, 2004 for allegedly violating Defendant's "no tolerance" sexual harassment policy. (Bond Decl. ¶¶ 2-6)

Plaintiff-Intervenor contends that, beginning on September 11, 2001 and at least until the termination of his employment, Defendant engaged in employment practices proscribed by §§ 703(a)(1) and 704(a) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(2)(a)(I) and 2000e(3)(a). (Intervenor Compl. ¶ 10) Plaintiff-Intervenor alleges that Defendant subjected him to harassment which included daily epithets regarding his national origin. (Id.) Plaintiff-Intervenor goes on to contend that he was discharged because of his complaints about that ongoing workplace harassment. (Id.)

Following his termination, Plaintiff-Intervenor filed a complaint with the EEOC against Defendant which alleged discrimination, harassment, and retaliation because of his national origin. (Intervenor Compl. ¶ 7) On April 6, 2006, after having reviewed all of the evidence obtained during investigation, the EEOC concluded that Plaintiff-Intervenor was subject to harassment, suspension, and discharge due to his national origin. (Id. ¶ 8)

The EEOC subsequently commenced this litigation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, believing that Defendant's actions were committed "intentionally" and "with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of the Charging party." (Id. ¶¶ 9, 10) Plaintiff-Intervenor filed a Motion to Intervene on December 1, 2008, which this Court granted on December 8, 2009. (ECF No. 19)

In its Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint filed on July 28, 2008, Defendant argues that all causes of action are barred by the applicable statute of limitations as well as California's "at-will" employment provisions codified in California Labor Code § 2922. (Answer, 2:27-28; 3:14-16) Plaintiff filed the present Motion on August 4, 2010 seeking dismissal, by way of summary adjudication, of those affirmative defenses pled on Defendant's behalf. In its Motion, Plaintiff contends that the defenses are legally insufficient.*fn1 Plaintiff contends that neither state nor federal statutes of limitations restrict the time within which the EEOC may bring suit. (Pl.'s P. & A., 3:17-18; 4:16-18) Additionally, Plaintiff takes issue with Defendant's affirmative defense invoking California's "at will" labor provisions. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant may not raise an "at will" defense to a Title VII discriminatory termination. (Pl.'s P. & A., 5:15-17)


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

Rule 56 also allows a court to grant summary adjudication on part of a claim or defense. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ("A party seeking to recover upon a claim...may...move...for a summary judgment in the party's favor upon all or any part thereof."); see also Allstate Ins. Co. v. Madan, 889 F. Supp. 374, 378-79 (C.D. Cal. 1995); France Stone Co., Inc. v. Charter Township of Monroe, 790 F. Supp. 707, 710 (E.D. Mich. 1992).

The standard that applies to a motion for summary adjudication is the same as that which applies to a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a), 56(c); Mora v. ChemTronics, 16 F. Supp. 2d. 1192, 1200 (S.D. Cal. 1998).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any," ...

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