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Melissa Lind Scott v. Winco Foods

March 7, 2011


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


Plaintiff Melissa Lind Scott ("Plaintiff") seeks damages in connection with the decision of Defendant WinCo Foods, Inc. ("Defendant") to terminate her employment. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant subjected her to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation after she informed Defendant that she was pregnant and intended to take maternity leave.

Defendant has moved for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14),*fn1 arguing that Plaintiff was not terminated because she was pregnant, but because she lied to her supervisors in violation of the company's honesty policy. For the reasons set below, Defendant's Motion is denied.*fn2


At all times relevant to this litigation, Defendant operated a grocery store in Antelope, California where Plaintiff was hired as a part-time all-purpose clerk in 2001. (Pl.'s Dep. 18:6-17, 51:12.) Initially, Plaintiff worked primarily as a cashier on the evening shift. (Id. 46:17-25, 50:19-21, 64:18-21.) She was subsequently reassigned to work primarily as a stock clerk. (Id. 54:19-21.) On October 7, 2004, Defendant granted Plaintiff full-time status based on her length of service and positive job performance reviews. (Goldman Decl. Ex. F-2 at D00096.)

Plaintiff worked primarily as a stock clerk for approximately five years. (Pl.'s Dep. 47:18-19.) During that time, Plaintiff had a consistent day schedule that allowed her to take care of her two young children. (Id. 64:18-21, 180:10-25.)

In December 2007, Plaintiff notified Defendant that she was pregnant. (Id. 153:5-14.) In late 2007 or early 2008, Plaintiff notified Defendant that she would be taking three months maternity leave pursuant to the California Family Rights Act ("CFRA"). (Id. 175:17-176:18.) In response to Plaintiff giving notice of her intention to take maternity leave, a manager at Defendant's Antelope Store alluded to the fact that most people did not return from maternity leave. (Id. 153:20-154:11.) Plaintiff also claims that, after she notified Defendant of her pregnancy, she was treated differently by many of her co-workers who had previously been much more congenial. (Id. 178:8-12.)

On or around March 2008, Defendant reassigned Plaintiff to cashier duty. (Id. 160:4-64:5.) As a cashier, Plaintiff was required to stand in one place for prolonged periods of time which her pregnancy made difficult. (Compl. ¶ 17.) Defendant also altered Plaintiff's work schedule whereby she was required to work some evenings, sometimes as late as 11:00 p.m. (Pl.'s Dep. 183:18-24.) Such a schedule was physically taxing on Plaintiff, and made it increasingly difficult to care for her young children. (Id. 201:12-202:24.) Defendant told Plaintiff the reason for the change in work assignment and schedule was that she had become "stale in her job" and needed to put a "little more spring in [her] step." (Id. 162:19-20, 163:19-20.) Plaintiff admits that she had slowed as a result of the pregnancy, but contends that she was still a competent, even above average, employee during her pregnancy. (Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 26-32.)

Plaintiff inquired about an open position in customer service that would be less demanding during her pregnancy, but she was not awarded the position. (Pl.'s Dep. 158:15-159:17.) Although Plaintiff's work assignment and schedule changed, Defendant did not alter her title or salary. (See Compl.)

On May 5, 2008, Plaintiff made a mistake while operating a cash register. (See Pl.'s Dep. 77:16-82.) Defendant's cash registers can be switched between two different sides, allowing cashiers to ring up two customers at essentially the same time. (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 45.) At approximately 11:00 a.m., Plaintiff began ringing up a customer on the "A" side of the register. (Pl.'s Dep. 77:16-25.) In the middle of the transaction, Plaintiff switched to the "B" side to add cash to the register. (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 50.) After adding the cash, Plaintiff forgot to switch back to the "A" side and continued ringing up the customer. (Id.) As a result, the customer's items were split on both sides of the register. (Id.) Not realizing the mistake, Plaintiff only charged the customer for the items on the "B" side. (Id.) The customer left without paying for the items on the "A" side of the register. (Id. ¶ 52.)

After helping several other people in line, Plaintiff noticed several items on the "A" side of the register. (Id. ¶¶ 57-58.) At that point, she began voiding items from the register. (Id. ¶ 59.) As a result of the voids, the register required a manager override. (See Id. ¶ 60.) After Plaintiff called him over, the floor manager noticed the voided items and asked what had happened. (Id.)

Plaintiff contends that she told the manager that she must have split an order, and that she wasn't sure exactly what had happened. (Id. ¶ 65.) The floor manager contends that Plaintiff stated the items were scanned in again on the other side of the register and had been paid for. (Id. ¶ 65) Defendant subsequently terminated Plaintiff. (Pl.'s Dep. 65:14-21.) The sole grounds for termination put forward by Defendant was dishonesty in connection with Plaintiff's alleged statement that the items had been paid for. (Id.) Defendant contends that if Plaintiff had been truthful about her mistake, the incident would have been treated as a walk-out and Plaintiff likely would have received a warning. (Stinger Decl. ¶ 7.)


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure*fn3 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 ...

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