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Valero v. San Francisco State University

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 2, 2014

CHRISTINA P. VALERO, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THELTON E. HENDERSON, District Judge.

This matter came before the Court on March 24, 2014, on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Having considered the arguments of the parties and the papers submitted, the Court now GRANTS Defendant's motion for the reasons set forth below.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Christina Valero ("Valero") is an Asian woman, born in 1954, who suffers from a spinal disability and claustrophobia. Valero has been employed by Defendant San Francisco State University ("SFSU") since January 14, 1995. Until March 27, 2012, Valero's duties at SFSU involved assisting employees with disabilities to seek reasonable accommodations. While in this role, she alleges that she applied for promotions in 2001, 2006, 2008, and 2009, which were all denied. On March 27, 2012, Valero was reassigned from her reasonable accommodations position to a position assisting disabled students with accessible technology.

Valero contends that the denials of promotion and the reassignment constitute discrimination and retaliation based on her sex, race, age, and disability. She brings the following causes of action against SFSU: (1) retaliation under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), Cal. Gov't Code § 12900 et seq.; (2) age discrimination under FEHA; (3) sex discrimination under FEHA; (4) race discrimination under FEHA; (5) violation of public policy; (6) disability discrimination under FEHA; (7) age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634; (8) sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; (9) race discrimination under Title VII; (10) disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; (11) retaliation under the ADA; and (12) failure to prevent discrimination under FEHA.

SFSU seeks summary judgment on Valero's second, third, fourth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and twelfth causes of action (the "sex, race, and age discrimination claims"), arguing that she failed to make out a prima facie case as she did not present any evidence that she suffered an adverse employment action, or was in any way treated differently because of her protected characteristics. On Valero's sixth and tenth causes of action (the "disability discrimination claims"), SFSU seeks summary judgment on the ground that Valero has failed to make out a prima facie case as she has not demonstrated that she suffered an adverse employment action. SFSU seeks summary judgment on Valero's first and eleventh causes of action (the "retaliation claims"), contending that she again failed to make out a prima facie case, particularly that she engaged in any protected conduct. Finally, SFSU also seeks summary judgment on Valero's fifth cause of action for violation of public policy because SFSU is immune from common law tort claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is "genuine" if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. At the summary judgment stage, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Nolan v. Heald Coll., 551 F.3d 1148, 1154 (9th Cir. 2009).

A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 985 (9th Cir. 2007). However, on an issue for which its opponent will have the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely by "pointing out to the district court... that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The non-moving party must then "identify with reasonable particularity the evidence that precludes summary judgment." Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996). It is not the duty of the district court "to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Id. "[A] mere scintilla of evidence will not be sufficient to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment; rather, the nonmoving party must introduce some significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint." Summers v. Teichert & Son, Inc., 127 F.3d 1150, 1152 (9th Cir. 1997) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). If the non-moving party fails to make such a showing on an essential element for which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323.

DISCUSSION

As an initial matter, Valero concedes that SFSU is entitled to summary judgment on her fifth cause of action for violation of public policy. The Court therefore grants summary judgment to SFSU on the fifth cause of action and focuses on Valero's remaining claims.

I. Sex, Race, and Age Discrimination Claims

To prevail on any claim of discrimination based on disparate treatment under Title VII, a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case that gives rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination. To do so, a plaintiff must show that: (1) she belongs to a protected class; (2) she performed her job satisfactorily; (3) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) her employer treated her differently than a similarly situated employee who does not belong to the same protected class. Cornwell v. Electra Cent. Credit Union, 439 F.3d 1018, 1028 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing McDonnell Douglas v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973)).

If a plaintiff succeeds in establishing a prima facie case of the above four factors, the burden then shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its conduct. If the defendant provides such a reason, the burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to show that the employer's reason is pretext. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802-804; Vasquez v. County of Los Angeles, 349 F.3d 634, 640 (9th Cir. 2003). This burden-shifting framework is also applicable to claims of ...


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