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Stewart v. The Boeing Co.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 23, 2013

William Stewart, Plaintiff,
v.
The Boeing Company and Does 1-50, Defendants.

ORDER RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, OR ALTERNATIVELY, PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [43]

RONALD S.W. LEW, Senior District Judge.

Currently before the Court is Defendant The Boeing Company's ("Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment, or Alternatively, Partial Summary Judgment [43]. The Court, having reviewed all papers submitted pertaining to this Motion, NOW FINDS AND RULES AS FOLLOWS: The Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff William Stewart ("Plaintiff") was employed with Defendant beginning in 1985. Miller Decl. ¶ 5. At the time of his absence and termination, Plaintiff was assigned to the assembly of the C-17 military transport aircraft at Defendant's facility in Long Beach, California. Def.'s Statement of Uncontroverted Facts and Conclusions of Law ("SUF") # 1. He was a member of the United Aerospace Workers (UAW) Union, Local 148 ("Union"), and his employment was subject to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). SUF # 2.

Defendant has a set of written procedures that govern how to apply for and receive approval of requested Medical Leaves of Absence ("MLOA"). Id. at ## 6, 7. In addition, Defendant employees who are union members are subject to a written CBA that also contains procedures and requirements for taking MLOA. Id . Plaintiff has testified that he was very familiar with these procedures, having availed himself of them numerous times in the past. Id. at # 6.

During his employment with Defendant, Plaintiff suffered from physical and psychological issues for which he took several medical leaves of absence. Compl. ¶ 6, SUF #6. On or about January 2010, Plaintiff went out on a MLOA, which was initially approved through February 12, 2010. SUF # 10; Compl. ¶¶ 7-8. He later, upon request, submitted updated medical information to further extend his MLOA until March 31, 2010. SUF # 10.

On March 12, 2010 and March 18, 2010, Defendant and Defendant's Leave Administrator, Aetna, sent Plaintiff letters to his home address informing him that his approved medical leave would be expiring at the end of March 2010. Id. at # 11. The letters requested that he provide additional or supplemental documentation from his health care providers in order to extend his leave beyond March 31, 2010. Id . Plaintiff brought the medical form to his doctor to fill out and had it faxed to Defendant and Aetna on or about March 25, 2010, but the faxed medical form was incomplete. Id. at ## 11, 12.

On March 29, 2010, Defendant and Aetna sent another letter to Plaintiff's residence, informing him that 1) his prior medical submission on March 25, 2010 was incomplete, and 2) a completed form needed to be returned no later than April 8, 2010. Id. at # 13. Neither Defendant nor Aetna received the requested information. Id. at # 14.

On April 14, 2010, Nancy Miller ("Ms. Miller"), who was the assigned "leave of absence" person in Defendant's human resources ("HR") department, contacted Donnell Harding ("Ms. Harding"), who was the appointed MLOA union representative for Plaintiff. Id. at # 15. Ms. Miller informed Ms. Harding that Plaintiff's MLOA expired and that Defendant tried to contact and communicate with him without success. Id . In addition, Ms. Miller sent a letter addressed to Plaintiff at his home, dated April 20, 2010, notifying him that he was "AWOL" and that he needed to contact Defendant's Leave of Absence office no later than April 27, 2010 to review his current employment status.[1] Id. at # 16.

Further, on April 28, 2010, Ms. Harding spoke with Plaintiff and told him that it was important that he contact Ms. Miller that day. Id. at # 18. Plaintiff allegedly said, "No!" and subsequently became difficult to communicate with and Ms. Harding ended the conversation. Id . On May 3, 2010, Ms. Miller sent a letter to Plaintiff informing him of his termination from Defendant, based on "failing to adhere to [company] policies and procedures governing attendance and leaves of absence."[2] Id. at # 21. The letter indicated that Plaintiff's termination was effective April 1, 2010, in accordance with Defendant's policies that termination of employment would be retroactive to the leave expiration date. Miller Decl., Ex. A. On May 28, 2010, Plaintiff called into Defendant's "Total Access" department where his termination and final paycheck were discussed. SUF # 23. Plaintiff indicates that this was the first time he was fully aware that he had been terminated by Defendant. Id.

In September 2010, Plaintiff applied for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits, claiming that he had been disabled and was unable to work in any capacity since going on MLOA in January 2010. Id. at # 28. On March 17, 2012, after a hearing before an administrative law judge, the Social Security Administration issued a written decision determining that Plaintiff had been "disabled" since January 7, 2010. Id. at # 32. As a result, Plaintiff has been receiving $1, 900 a month in SSDI benefits. Id.

On February 2011, Plaintiff returned to Defendant's facilities and claimed that he was "cleared" by his doctors to return to work. Id. at #35. Plaintiff was reminded that he had been terminated as of April 1, 2010, and was told to leave, which he did. Id.

Almost two years after his termination from Defendant, on January 2012, Plaintiff filed charges with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing ("DFEH") against Defendant based on alleged disability and age discrimination and retaliation. Id. at # 40. That same day, Plaintiff received his right-to-sue letter, and the DFEH closed the matter. Id.

On May 4, 2012, Plaintiff filed the instant Action against Defendant under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), alleging (1) unlawful discrimination based on disability, (2) failure to accommodate, (3) unlawful termination in violation of public policy, and (4) unlawful retaliation [1]. Plaintiff claims that because of Defendant's unlawful conduct, he has suffered "extreme and severe mental anguish, humiliation, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, nervousness, tension, anxiety and depression." Compl. ¶ 24. The Action was removed to this Court on June 28, 2012 [1].

On May 15, 2013, Felahy Law Group, which represented Plaintiff, filed a Motion to Withdraw as Attorney [26], ...


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