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Cuevas v. SkyWest Airlines

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 14, 2014

JUAN CUEVAS, Plaintiff,
v.
SKYWEST AIRLINES, Defendant

Page 957

For Juan Cuevas, Plaintiff: Rufus L. Cole, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rufus L. Cole & Associates, San Francisco, CA.

For Skywest Airlines, Defendant: Gregory M. Saylin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Salt Lake City, UT; Patricia Task Stambelos, LEAD ATTORNEY, SkyWest Airlines, Inc., Oak Park, CA.

OPINION

Page 958

ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT

CHARLES R. BREYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

In this wrongful termination suit, Defendant SkyWest Airlines moves the Court for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication of Plaintiff's claims. See generally Mot. (dkt. 73). Because no reasonable jury could find that Defendant terminated Plaintiff in retaliation for making safety complaints, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion as to

Page 959

Plaintiff's retaliatory termination claims (second and third causes of action). Because Plaintiff was an at-will employee and had no employment contract, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion as to Plaintiff's breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and breach of contract of continued employment claims (fourth and fifth causes of action). Because the record is devoid of evidence showing that Defendant was negligent in hiring or supervising the employees who terminated Plaintiff, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion as to Plaintiff's negligent supervision claim (sixth cause of action). Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment in whole.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Juan Cuevas (" Cuevas" ) worked as a ramp agent for Defendant SkyWest Airlines (" SkyWest" ) at San Francisco International Airport (" SFO" ) from November 7, 2006 until December 27, 2011. Compl. (dkt. 1) ¶ 7; Cuevas Decl. (dkt. 96) ¶ 2. As a ramp agent, Cuevas was responsible for " loading and unloading baggage, pushing and parking aircraft, loading and unloading commodities for consumption by passengers, and servicing aircraft." Cuevas Decl. ¶ 3. Juan De La Cruz (" De La Cruz" ) became SkyWest's Hub Director at SFO in November 2010. Id. ¶ 9; De La Cruz Decl. ¶ 1. As Hub Director, Juan De La Cruz was in charge of SkyWest's SFO customer service and ramp operations. Cuevas Decl. ¶ 9. Cuevas, a ramp agent, and his direct supervisors, the ramp/shift managers, reported upstream to De La Cruz. De La Cruz claimed to have had an " open door policy" when he began at SFO, encouraging employees to come directly to him with work-related concerns. Cuevas Decl. ¶ 9. After the events described below, on December 27, 2011, De La Cruz terminated Cuevas for insubordination. Id. ¶ 21; Compl. ¶ 14.

A. The Traffic Admonishment

The story leading to Cuevas's termination begins on July 26, 2010. During his shift that day, Cuevas received a $50.00 citation for failing to stop at a stop sign while driving a baggage cart, also known as a " tug." Cuevas Decl. ¶ 5. Cuevas failed to stop because the tug he was driving had faulty brakes. Id. Cuevas had noticed during a pre-shift inspection that the tug's brakes were " somewhat weak," but did not believe the tug was unsafe at the time. Id. ¶ 4. After receiving the citation, Cuevas " red tagged" the tug, indicating it was unsafe and in need of repair, and placed the tug out of service. Id. ¶ 5.

Cuevas took the citation to his then-supervisor, Tony Booker (" Booker" ), and explained the incident and the faulty brakes. Id. ¶ 6. Booker told Cuevas that he would " take care of" the citation if, after a SkyWest mechanic inspected the tug, it proved that the brakes were defective. Id. Cuevas prepared an incident report at Booker's request, id., though the parties have been unable to locate the report since.[1] SkyWest Ground Equipment Maintenance inspected the tug and found that the brakes were faulty; Booker again told Cuevas that he would " take care of" the citation, and that Cuevas had no further responsibilities with respect ...


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