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Ray Rhead v. Ryder Integrated Logistics

December 2, 2010

RAY RHEAD,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
RYDER INTEGRATED LOGISTICS, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION DOING BUSINESS IN CALIFORNIA; DOES 1 THROUGH 30, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Ray Rhead ("Plaintiff") seeks damages as a result of injuries he sustained during and after his employment with Defendant Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc. ("Defendant"). Plaintiff alleges he was subjected to work in a hostile and uncomfortable working environment stemming from an inter-office affair between two employees. He further claims to have been ultimately terminated by Defendant for complaining about the affair.

Plaintiff's Complaint was filed in Sacramento Superior Court in January 2009. (ECF No. 1.) Defendant removed the action to this Court, as complete diversity of citizenship exists between the parties, and the amount in controversy exceeds the statutorily required amount. Although no motion to dismiss was ever filed, Defendant has now moved for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 22) against Plaintiff, arguing that (1) Plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case for retaliation in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), (2) a claim for wrongful termination for public policy reasons cannot be sustained by a claim of a statutory violation, and (3) Plaintiff is not entitled to argue that an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing applies to his employment because such a covenant cannot alter terms of an at-will employment relationship. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion will be denied.*fn1

BACKGROUND*fn2

Defendant is a Delaware corporation with its primary place of business in Florida and a facility in Stockton, California, and provides transportation and shipping services out of this location.

On or about July 2004, Plaintiff was hired by Defendant as a temporary driver. By November 2005, Plaintiff worked for Defendant full-time.*fn3 During a discussion about his full-time employee status, Plaintiff and his supervisors, including Ms. Bradshaw, discussed the policy for requesting days off. Plaintiff was under the impression that time off requests would be honored as long as they were made two weeks in advance.

During the course of his employment, Plaintiff's supervisor, Stephanie Bradshaw, allegedly engaged in an inter-office affair with a married co-worker. Ms. Bradshaw was also married, and the two conducted the affair during work hours and on Defendant's premises. Plaintiff complained directly to Logistics Manager B.J. Kline, and made it "expressly clear that he found the inappropriate sexual behavior" between Ms. Bradshaw and the other co-worker highly offensive. Plaintiff also made his disapproving feelings well known within Defendant's Stockton facility. At some point in late 2006, Ms. Bradshaw was promoted and placed in charge of daily operations and driver scheduling.

Plaintiff requested a vacation day for June 20, 2007. When Plaintiff originally broached the request to Ms. Bradshaw, she stated that "it would be difficult for her to grant him his day off request and that he should re-submit the request two weeks prior to the date requested."

Plaintiff did so, but ultimately did not receive the day off. Upon learning this, Plaintiff informed Defendant, through Ms. Bradshaw, that he would not be showing up to work on June 20, 2007, despite his clear understanding that he had not been granted the day off. Two days later, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment.

Defendant's Employee Point System ("EPS") provides that prior to an employee being terminated for attendance issues, he or she must receive a verbal and written warning, and a suspension within the six months prior to termination. Plaintiff was neither written up nor suspended according to the terms in the EPS, which, according to Plaintiff, would have been the appropriate discipline in light of his failure to appear for work on the scheduled day. Despite these express provisions, Plaintiff believes that Defendant terminated him in retaliation for "openly opposing [Ms. Bradshaw's] sexually inappropriate behavior" in the workplace.

Defendant denies terminating Plaintiff's employment based on retaliation for his complaints and opinions about Ms. Bradshaw's affair, and insists the company had granted many of Plaintiff's other requests for days off long after he had complained about Ms. Bradshaw's affair. (See Def. Mot. at 10-11.) Defendant contends Ms. Bradshaw simply did not grant Plaintiff June 20th off because two other, more senior drivers already had requested the day, and six other drivers were already going to be out on June 20. (Id.) Ultimately, Defendant argues that Plaintiff was terminated solely because he failed to report to work despite explicit instructions from his manager to do so.

STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure*fn4 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).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine all the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Once the moving party meets the requirements of Rule 56 by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the burden shifts to the party resisting the motion, who "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). Genuine factual issues must exist that "can be resolved only by a finder of fact, because they may reasonably be resolved in ...


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