United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
EDMUND F. BRENNAN, District Judge.
This matter was before the court on April 9, 2014, for hearing on defendants Engineers and Scientists of California, Local 20-International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (the "Union") and The Permanente Medical Group, Inc.'s ("TPMG") motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 57, 64. Attorney Jonathan Siegel appeared on behalf of the Union and attorney David Anderson appeared on behalf of TPMG; plaintiff appeared pro se. The court has carefully considered the parties' pleadings and oral arguments and concludes that, for the reasons explained below, the motions for summary judgment must be granted.
This action proceeds on plaintiff's first amended complaint, filed on July 19, 2012. ECF No. 23. The amended complaint asserts a hybrid Section 301(a) claim (i.e., section 301 of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a)) alleging that his employer, TPMG, violated a collective bargaining agreement when it terminated his employment, and that the Union violated its duty to plaintiff of fair representation in handling his grievance over the matter. Plaintiff also asserts common law tort claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation against the Union. Id. at 6-9.
I. Background and Order to Show Cause
On January 17, 2014, the Union filed a motion for summary judgment and noticed the motion for hearing on February 26, 2014. ECF No. 57. On January 21, 2014, TPMG filed its motion for summary judgment, which was also noticed for hearing on February 26, 2014. ECF No. 64. Plaintiff failed to timely oppose the motions. Therefore, on February 20, 2014, plaintiff was ordered to show cause, in writing, by no later than March 12, 2014, why sanctions should not be imposed for his failure to file an opposition or statement of non-opposition. ECF No. 71. The February 20, 2014 order also continued the hearing on defendants' motions for summary judgment to April 9, 2014, and directed plaintiff to file an opposition or statement of non-opposition to the motions by March 26, 2014. Id.
On March 7, 2014, plaintiff filed a response to the February 20 order to show cause. ECF No. 72. In his response, plaintiff explains that his failure to timely oppose the motions for summary judgment was due his inexperience and lack of understanding of the procedural process. On March 25, 2014, plaintiff filed oppositions to both motions as required by the February 20 order. ECF Nos. 73, 74. Given plaintiff's pro se status and compliance with the February 20 order, the order to show cause is discharged and no sanctions are imposed.
II. Relevant Facts
In October 2006, plaintiff was hired by TPMG to work as an optometrist. Declaration of David Anderson ("Anderson Decl."), Ex. K ("Magallanez Dep.") 16:2-4. During his employment with TPMG, plaintiff was a member of the Union. Magallanez Dep. 18:9-11. Plaintiff's employment relationship with TPMG was governed by a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") between Kaiser and the Union. Declaration of Lori Landsman ("Landsman Decl.") ¶ 2. The CBA contains a mandatory labor dispute resolution process for any dispute arising from the CBA, which includes arbitration. Id. at Ex. A, 26-27. The CBA also provides that TPMG employees can be terminated for just cause. Id. at Ex. A, 9.
In December 2010, senior staff assistant for Kaiser Permanente Central Valley Area ("CVA") Compliance Department, Lenda Fagundes, informed plaintiff's manager, Lori Landsman, that a system activity report detected that plaintiff had accessed his son's electronic medical records. Landsman Decl. ¶ 7. There appeared to be no business need for accessing these medical records. Id. A follow-up investigation revealed that plaintiff had looked at the electronic medical records of his wife and two sons at least 30 times throughout 2010. The records included appointment details, charts, medications prescribed, laboratory tests and results, as well as medical progress notes. Id.
Plaintiff met with Lori Landsman on December 9, 17, and 27, 2010, to discuss plaintiff's access of his family's medical records. Id. ¶ 8. Also present at some or all of these meetings were: CVA Human Resources Consultant Chanelle Ponce, CVA Ophthalmology & Optometry Service Unite Manager Vicki Her, CVA Service Unit Director Grace Yee, CVA Senior Human Resources Consultant Geoffrey Gambel, Union shop steward Alisha Trong, and Union Representative Michael Aiden. Id. Ms. Trong and/or Mr. Aiden were present at all of the meetings, representing and advocating on behalf of plaintiff. Id.
During these meetings, plaintiff recalled signing confidentiality agreements when he started his employment with TPMG and during his subsequent annual reviews. Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff admitted to accessing his wife and two sons' medical records on at least 30 occasions. Id. He also confirmed that he was not assigned to provide medical care for his family members, and acknowledged that he was aware of the formal procedure for Kaiser Permanente members to request copies of their medical records through Kaiser Permanente medical-legal secretaries. Id. Plaintiff, however, could not explain why he did not utilize the formal procedure for acquiring his family members' medical records. Id. Lori Landsman subsequently decided to terminate plaintiff's employment. Id. ¶ 10.
Michael Aidan, the Union's Senior Union Representative/Assistant Executive Director represented plaintiff during his grievance process. Declaration of Michael Aidan ¶¶ 3-31. The Union pursued plaintiff's grievance through the first two steps, but ultimately withdrew the grievance without proceeding to arbitration. Id. ¶¶ 12-23. Plaintiff subsequently initiated this hybrid § 301 action, alleging that TPMG breached the CBA by terminating his employment and that the Union breached its duty of fair representation by not taking his grievance to arbitration.
III. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate when 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(a). Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in favor of the nonmovant. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986); Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, ...