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Novo v. City of Sacramento

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 20, 2015

SARAH R. NOVO, Plaintiff,


MORRISON C. ENGLAND, Jr., Chief District Judge.

Through this lawsuit, Plaintiff Sarah R. Novo ("Plaintiff") alleges that the City of Sacramento and Angelique Ashby (collectively "Defendants") violated Plaintiff's rights under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and the California Family Rights Acts ("CFRA") and committed fraud. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 31), which seeks summary judgment on all four of plaintiff's FMLA and CFRA claims.[1] For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is DENIED.[2]


Plaintiff first started working for the City of Sacramento ("the City") in 2002. On November 23, 2010, Plaintiff began working as Executive Assistant to Councilmember Angelique Ashby. In October 2011, Plaintiff and her family moved into a house in Granite Bay, California. Two months later, Plaintiff and her family began experiencing flu-like symptoms. Plaintiff first reported this information to Ashby on December 14, 2011. On February 2, 2012, Plaintiff discovered significant mold growth in the house. Days later, an inspector recommended that Plaintiff and her family move after concluding that mold permeated the walls and floors of the house; they did so the following week.

On March 19, 2012, Ashby informed Plaintiff that Plaintiff "was no longer needed to be employed within [Ashby's] counsel office...." Pl.'s Decl. at ¶ 6, ECF No. 48-4. However, Ashby allegedly stated that she "had a Plan B' for [Plaintiff's] continued employment with the City, " and intimated she would seek to place Plaintiff in another City position. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 9. No one requested that Plaintiff return her City employee identification badge, cellular phone, or parking card, and Plaintiff did not receive a separation check or any information regarding continuing health insurance.

Ashby never followed up with a "Plan B." On March 27, 2012, Plaintiff- apparently believing that she was still an employee of the City-delivered a written request to the City for FMLA[4] leave from March 20 to May 7. On March 30, Plaintiff received her final paycheck, which paid her for employment through March 19. On April 1, Plaintiff received an email that contained two letters. The first was a termination letter, backdated to March 19, that explained Plaintiff's employment with the City concluded on March 19. The second letter explained that the City was denying Plaintiff's FMLA leave request because Plaintiff's employment with the City concluded on March 19; that letter also requested that Plaintiff return her City employee identification badge, cellular phone, and parking card.


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when "the movant shows that 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.

Rule 56 also allows a court to grant summary judgment on part of a claim or defense, known as partial summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) ("A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought."); see also Allstate Ins. Co. v. Madan, 889 F.Supp. 374, 378-79 (C.D. Cal. 1995). The standard that applies to a motion for partial summary judgment is the same as that which applies to a motion for summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); State of Cal. ex rel. Cal. Dep't of Toxic Substances Control v. Campbell, 138 F.3d 772, 780 (9th Cir. 1998) (applying summary judgment standard to motion for summary adjudication).

In a summary judgment motion, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying the portions in the record "which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968).

In attempting to establish the existence or non-existence of a genuine factual dispute, the party must support its assertion by

citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits[, ] or declarations... or other materials; or showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 251-52 (1986); Owens v. Local No. 169, Assoc. of W. Pulp and Paper Workers, 971 F.2d 347, 355 (9th Cir. 1987). The opposing party must also demonstrate that the dispute about a material fact "is genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In other words, the judge needs to answer the preliminary question before the evidence is left to the jury of "not whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it, upon whom the onus of proof is imposed." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251 (quoting Improvement Co. v. Munson, 81 U.S. 442, 448 (1871)). As the Supreme Court explained, "[w]hen the moving party has carried its burden under Rule [56(a)], its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Therefore, "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Id. 87.

In resolving a summary judgment motion, the evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. ...

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