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Warren Lucas v. Department of Corrections and Rehabiliation

November 13, 2012

WARREN LUCAS, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILIATION, ETC. DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



(Super. Ct. No. 09CV5883)

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

Luca v. Dept. of Corrections

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

In this employment discrimination case, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the department) because plaintiff Warren Lucas filed a defective separate statement in response to the department's motion for summary judgment/summary adjudication. We conclude the trial court abused its discretion in ruling against Lucas on this basis; however, we conclude the trial court reached the correct result because no reasonable jury could find on the evidence presented that Lucas was subjected to a hostile work environment based on his race. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Lucas, who is African-American, is employed as an electrician in plant operations at Mule Creek State Prison. In August 2007, Lucas left work because of a back injury. He returned two weeks later with a doctor's note that limited the work he could do. Because no light duty assignment was made available to him, Lucas remained off work until October, when his doctor released him to full duty.

Between August 2007 and August 2008, there were six incidents in which Lucas's supervisors yelled at him. Further detail regarding these incidents will be set forth in the discussion section below.

In August 2008, Lucas filed two complaints with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. In February 2009, he commenced the present action by filing a complaint against the department for racial and age discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Lucas claimed discrimination based on the denial of a light duty assignment and harassment based on the incidents when his superiors yelled at him.

The department moved for summary judgment or summary adjudication. In its notice of motion, the department asserted that if summary judgment could not be granted, it was "mov[ing] in the alternative, for summary adjudication and request[ing] that the Court order that the following causes of action and claims have no merit and are eliminated from this case." The department then set forth 17 paragraphs.

In the first paragraph, the department asserted it was "entitled to summary judgment because the undisputed evidence established that Plaintiff did not suffer any unlawful employment practices under Government Code section 12940." Thus, paragraph one was not a request for summary adjudication of a particular cause of action, but instead a reiteration of the department's request for summary judgment.

The second and third paragraphs asserted, respectively, that Lucas's cause of action for racial harassment failed as a matter of law because he could not make a prima facie showing of severe or pervasive harassment or that the department's actions were based on his race.

The fourth and fifth paragraphs asserted, respectively, that Lucas's cause of action for age harassment failed as a matter of law because he could not make a prima facie showing of severe or pervasive harassment or that the department's actions were based on his age.

The sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth paragraphs asserted, respectively, that Lucas's cause of action for racial discrimination failed as a matter of law because he could not make a prima facie showing that he suffered any adverse employment action or that the department acted with any discriminatory motive, because the department had legitimate business reasons for its actions, and because he was unable to present evidence of pretext.

The 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th paragraphs asserted, respectively, that Lucas's cause of action for age discrimination failed as a matter of law because he could not make a prima facie showing that he suffered any adverse employment action or that the department acted with any discriminatory motive, because the department had legitimate business reasons for its actions, and because he was unable to present evidence of pretext.

The 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th paragraphs asserted, respectively, that Lucas's cause of action for retaliation failed as a matter of law because he could not make a prima facie showing that he suffered any adverse employment action or of a causal link between any alleged adverse employment action and any protected activity, because the department had legitimate business reasons for its actions, and because he was unable to present evidence of pretext.

The department's separate statement of undisputed facts was structured based on the 17 paragraphs set forth in the notice of motion, with the department identifying each paragraph as an issue. Thus, "ISSUE 1" was the assertion that the department was entitled to summary judgment because the undisputed evidence established that Lucas did not suffer any unlawful employment practices under ...


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