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Uribe v. All State Cleaning

United States District Court, Central District of California

November 4, 2014



DEAN D. PREGERSON United States District Judge

Presently before the court is Defendant All State Cleaning (“All State”)’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Having considered the submissions of the parties and heard oral argument, the court grants the motion and adopts the following order.

I. Background[1]

Plaintiffs Angel and Gustavo Uribe are former janitorial employees of Defendant Classen Enterprises, Inc. (“Classen”). (Defendant’s Statement of Evidence (“SOE”) Ex. 2 at 100:11-14; Ex. 7 at 10:6-8.) Classen was a franchisee of ServiceMaster Acceptance Company (“ServiceMaster”), from which Classen obtained equipment and customer lists. (SOE Ex. B ¶ 8; Ex. C ¶ 6.)

In September 2010, Plaintiff Gustavo Uribe (“Mr. Uribe”) complained to Classen manager Cecilia Cortez (“Cortez”) that he was having an adverse reaction to chlorine cleaning products used at a job site. (SOE Ex. B ¶ 12.) Cortez instructed Mr. Uribe to use Classen’s proprietary, non-chlorine product, and informed the client that Classen employees would not use bleach products. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Later that year, Classen received reports that Mr. Uribe was arriving at job sites too early in the day, and began cleaning during the client’s business hours. (Id. ¶ 14.) Mr. Uribe received a warning, but continued to arrive early, and was then suspended. (Id.) Following reports that Mr. Uribe continued to visit job sites while suspended, Classen terminated his employment on September 15, 2010. (Id. ¶ 16.)

At the time of his termination, Mr. Uribe told manager Craig Classen that he intended to sue Classen “for discrimination, for hours, for mileage, for the mistreatment . . . .” (SOE Ex. 2 at 173.) Mr. Uribe could not recall mentioning the Americans with Disabilities Act, his issue with chlorine, or any allegations of racial bias during the termination meeting. (Id.) Mr. Uribe did testify that he told Craig Classen he intended to sue “because of my injury, the abuse, and all of that.” (Id.)

On September 19, 2010, Plaintiff Angel Uribe (“Ms. Uribe”) was reprimanded for allowing Mr. Uribe to accompany her to job sites after he had been terminated. (SOE Ex. C ¶ 10.) At the time of the reprimand, Ms. Uribe alleged that two other Classen employees had sexually harassed her. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) That same day, one of the two alleged harassers denied Ms. Uribe’s allegations and received a warning. (Id. ¶ 12.) The other alleged harasser, Defendant Munguia, admitted one of the allegations, and was terminated. (Id.) Ms. Uribe did not return calls regarding Classen’s disciplinary actions, and never returned to work. (SOE Ex. B ¶ 20.)

Soon after, on October 8, 2010, Plaintiffs filed suit in Ventura County Superior Court (the “Ventura action”), alleging wage claims against Classen. (SOE Ex. 13.) Plaintiffs later named Classen managers Craig Classen and Celia Cortez (“Cortez”) as defendants, as well as Classen owners Ron and Claudia Classen. (SOE Ex. 14; Ex. 15.) Craig Classen and Cortez did not have any ownership interest in Classen. (SOE Ex. B ¶ 2; Ex. C ¶ 2.) The Ventura action did not include claims for discrimination or sexual harassment. (SOE Ex. 13.) In November 2011, Classen’s counsel moved to be relieved as counsel, indicating that Classen would soon be filing for bankruptcy. (SOE Ex. 16.) Ultimately, Ron and Claudia Classen filed for bankruptcy, but Classen itself did not. (Dec. of H.R. Martinez Exs. 12-14.) Classen’s counsel was relieved on November 28, 2011. (SOE Ex. 17.) Since that time, there has been no activity in the Ventura action, which remains pending. (Id.)

In early 2012, Blain Bibb (“Bibb”), a ServiceMaster franchisee from elsewhere in California, approached Craig Classen to discuss a partnership in a new ServiceMaster franchise in Ventura. (SOE Ex. A ¶¶ 3-4; Ex. B ¶ 4; Ex. 24 at 95:15-97:8.) In April 2012, Bibb, Classen, and Cortez formed a limited partnership named All State Cleaning (“All State”). (SOE Ex. A ¶¶ 5-7; Ex. B ¶¶ 5-6; Ex. C ¶¶ 3-4; Ex. 19.) Soon after, on April 13, 2012, ServiceMaster repossessed Classen’s equipment and customer lists and sold them to Defendant All State. (SOE Ex. A ¶ 10; Ex. B ¶ 8.) That same day, Classen terminated all of its employees. (SOE Ex. A ¶ 13; Ex. B ¶ 9.) All State, who was in need of janitors in the Ventura area, requested applications from Classen’s former employees and hired approximately 90% of them. (Id.; Dec. of H.R. Martinez Ex. 5 at 154:9-155:21)

Immediately thereafter, All State began advertising its services to former Classes customers. (SOE Ex. A ¶¶ 11-12; Ex. B ¶ 10; Ex. C ¶ 6.) All State advertised itself as a new company composed of the same cleaners and supervisors, and using the same ServiceMaster systems, as Classen. (Dec. of H.R. Martinez Ex. 1.) All State required each new customer to sign a new contract, though the terms of those contracts were identical to those between the customers and Classen. (Id.; Dec. of H.R. Martinez Ex. 3 at 177.) All State successfully obtained new contracts for 90% of the customers on the Service Master customer lists that had been repossessed from Classen. (Id.)

Three days later, on August 16, 2012, All State became fully operational, and serviced Classen’s previous customers at the same locations without interruption. (Id.; Dec. of H.R. Martinez Ex. 3 at 187:4-13; Ex. 4 at 49:16-20.)

On September 27, 2012, Plaintiffs filed suit in this court against All State, Classen, and Carlos Munguia. Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) alleges nine causes of action against All State. Based upon a successor liability theory, Plaintiffs’ claims include employment discrimination and harassment in violation of both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.) and ...

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