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Taylor Patterson v. Domino's Pizza

June 27, 2012

TAYLOR PATTERSON, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
DOMINO'S PIZZA, LLC ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



Barbara A. Lane, Judge Superior Court County of Ventura (Super. Ct. No. 56-2009-00347668- CU-OE-SIM)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbert, P.J.

Opinion following rehearing

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATON

(Ventura County)

OPINION FOLLOWING REHEARING

Here, for purposes of a summary judgment motion, a franchisor's actions speak louder than words in the franchise agreement.

Plaintiff Taylor Patterson was an employee of defendant Sui Juris, LLC, dba Domino's Pizza (Sui Juris). Patterson alleges she was sexually harassed and assaulted at her job. She filed an action pursuant to Government Code section 12940 (FEHA [Fair Employment and Housing Act]) against Sui Juris and Domino's Pizza, LLC, Domino's Pizza, Inc., and Domino's Pizza Franchising, LLC (collectively Domino's).

Patterson appeals the summary judgment granted in favor of Domino's. We reverse.

FACTS

Patterson was a teenage employee of Sui Juris, a Domino's pizza franchisee. Renee Miranda was the assistant manager of that restaurant. Patterson claimed Miranda sexually harassed and assaulted her at work.

Patterson filed an action against Miranda, Sui Juris, and the franchisor Domino's, alleging causes of action for sexual harassment in violation of FEHA, failure to prevent discrimination, retaliation for exercise of rights, infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery and constructive wrongful termination. She claimed Sui Juris and Domino's were Miranda's employers and were vicariously liable for his actions under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

Domino's answered the complaint and filed a cross-complaint against Miranda seeking "indemnity" and "apportionment of fault." Sui Juris filed for bankruptcy relief.

Daniel Poff, the Sui Juris owner, testified at his deposition that Claudia Lee, a Domino's "area leader," told him to fire Miranda. He said he had to comply with the instructions of the Domino's area leaders because "[i]f you didn't, you were out of business very quickly." He said Lee also told him to fire another employee because of his performance in handling bags. Poff had no choice; he had to follow Lee's instructions and fire that employee. His operation was monitored by the Domino's inspectors, and their decisions determined whether he could maintain his franchise.

Domino's filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that: 1) Sui Juris was an independent contractor pursuant to the terms of a written franchise agreement, and 2) there was no principal-agency relationship between Sui Juris and Domino's. The notice of motion indicated that summary judgment on all causes of action was based on the ground that "DOMINO'S was not PATTERSON'S employer ...


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