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Rodriguez v. Southern California Edison Co.

United States District Court, Central District of California

November 6, 2014

Felipe Rodriguez, Jr.
v.
Southern California Edison Company, et al.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

HONORABLE GARY ALLEN FEESS, JUDGE

Pending before the Court is Defendant Southern California Edison Company’s (“SCE” or “Defendant”) Motion for Summary Judgment, or in the Alternative, Partial Summary Judgment, filed on September 22, 2014. (Docket No. 23.) Plaintiff Felipe Rodriguez, Jr. opposed on October 13 and filed an amended opposition on October 22. (Docket Nos. 39, 45.) Defendant replied on October 27.[1] (Docket No.53.) The Court finds the matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; Local Rule 7-15. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the evidence presented in support of and in opposition to the motion. The facts set forth below are undisputed unless otherwise noted.[2]

A. Plaintiff’s Employment with SCE/SONGS

Plaintiff initially began his employment with SCE as a Meter Reader on October 15, 2007. Statement of Undisputed Facts (“SUF”) 1. In 2008, Plaintiff applied for the position of Officer of Emergency Services, commonly referred to as a firefighter, with the San Onofre Fire Department (“SOFD”). SUF 2. At the time Plaintiff applied for the firefighter position, Daniel J. Ensminger was the Manager of Fire Protection Services and Fire Chief of the SOFD. SUF 3. Ensminger was also the hiring manager for SOFD and participated in the selection of Plaintiff for the firefighter position. SUF 4-5. Plaintiff began working as a firefighter at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (“SONGS”) on or around November 10, 2008. SUF 6. At all relevant times, the SOFD was responsible for fire and emergency services at SONGS. SUF 7.

B. Plaintiff’s First Termination and Subsequent Reinstatement

Shortly after Plaintiff was hired in November 2008, Defendant claims Ensminger received complaints from various captains about Plaintiff’s conduct during training and other performance related issues. SUF 62. Plaintiff was terminated on or around July 20, 2009 for unprofessional conduct. SUF 63.

Plaintiff disputes these purported facts, stating that he performed his job well with commendations from his former supervisor. Pl. Resp. to SUF 62-63. He claims he was terminated after complaining that he was subjected to racially-charged remarks because he is Hispanic, including being called a “beaner, ” “cabana boy, ” and “wetback” and was singled out to receive old firefighting gear. Id. Defendant maintains that Plaintiff made no complaints to SCE, formal or informal, regarding any alleged harassment and/or discrimination based on his race before his termination on July 20, 2009. SUF 65.

Following his termination, Plaintiff initiated a grievance pursuant to a Collective Bargaining Agreement. SUF 64. On November 24, 2010, Plaintiff sued SONGS and Ensminger for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. SUF 64; Pl. Resp. to SUF 62-63. That case was ultimately settled with an agreement to reinstate Plaintiff to the firefighter position at SONGS and other consideration. Id. The merits of Plaintiff’s allegations were not adjudicated and there were no admissions by either party as to the merits of the grievance or the civil lawsuit. SUF 66.[3] The action was dismissed with prejudice and Plaintiff was reinstated on or around January 10, 2011. SUF 67; Los Angeles Super. Ct. Docket, Case No. BC441970.

In or around February 2011, Plaintiff requested time off for baby bonding. SUF 70. On March 2, 2011, Sedgwick CMS, the third party disability and leave administrator for SCE, approved Plaintiff’s claim for paid family leave benefits beginning February 9, 2011. Pl. Resp. to SUF 70-71; Ex. T. The parties dispute whether Ensminger objected to or tried to deny Plaintiff the time off. SUF 70; Pl. Resp. to SUF 70. In any event, Plaintiff received a “Memo-To-File – Excessive Absenteeism” on February 27, 2012 for “excessive use of unprotected time off (sick time)[.]” SUF 70-71, 73, Ex. 15. The parties dispute whether Plaintiff qualified for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act or California Family Rights Act, apparently due to whether the time between Plaintiff’s termination and subsequent reinstatement is included in calculating Plaintiff’s accumulated time off. SUF 72-73; Pl. Resp. to SUF 72-73.

On or around January 9, 2012, Captain Robert MacKenzie signed a “Memorandum for File” regarding Plaintiff’s failure to use appropriate personal protective equipment in responding to an incident. SUF 69. Although the memorandum was a “non-disciplinary administrative action, ” it was cited as part of the reason for Plaintiff’s termination in a letter signed by Steve Crowell from Labor Relations. Pl. Resp. to SUF 69.

C. SOFD Policies, Procedures, and Operating Guidelines

The SOFD maintains policies, procedures, and operating guidelines, which are designed to protect the public and for worker’s safety as well as to ensure compliance with controlling law governing the operation of fire departments. SUF 8. During the time that Plaintiff worked at SONGS, one such policy required all firefighters to maintain a valid Ambulance Driver Certificate, which is required by the DMV for private entities that operate ambulances. SUF 10-11.[4]

In particular, SOFD Standard Operating Guideline SOG-SAF-0002, Rev. 2 states:

As the state of California vehicle law requires all operators of motor vehicles to have a valid operator’s license, no Fire Department member shall operate any vehicle without all appropriate and valid licenses or certifications. The San Onofre Fire Department requires the following licenses/certifications maintained current at all times:
• California DMV Class B drivers license, with appropriate endorsement(s)
• California DMV Ambulance driver certificate.
• California DMV Medical Examiners ...

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