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Grossman v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 21, 2015



PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, District Judge.

Defendant's motion for summary judgment came on for hearing before this court on March 18, 2015. Plaintiff Steven Grossman ("plaintiff") appeared through his counsel, Stephen Jaffe. Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. ("defendant" or "UPS") appeared through its counsel, Lara Hutner. Having read the papers filed in conjunction with the motion and carefully considered the arguments and the relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS defendant's motion as follows.


This is an employment case based on an alleged wrongful termination. Plaintiff Steven Grossman was employed by defendant UPS from 1978 until 2013. Plaintiff first worked as an administrative assistant, which involved loading and sorting packages, from 1978 until 1984. Plaintiff then worked as a supervisor and office manager, supervising 200 clerical employees, from 1984 until 1991. Plaintiff then worked in the Technology Support Group, working on software and hardware, between 1991 and 2001. Plaintiff then worked as an industrial engineer, working with engineering supervisors to implement new technology designed to improve package efficiency, from 2001 until 2013. In 2009, while in the industrial engineering position, plaintiff was promoted to a position managing the entire West Coast region. See generally Complaint, ¶¶ 14-16.

In mid-February 2013, plaintiff was informed that he would be transferred to the position of Hayward Business Manager, an operational position that involves "the interpretation of and compliance with the Teamsters agreement of union drivers, managing on-road supervisors, part-time center supervisors, and ensuring compliance with the service and safety procedures for union drivers." Complaint, ¶¶ 17-19.

Plaintiff was concerned that he lacked experience in operational activities and would be unable to perform well in the position. Complaint, ¶ 21. Plaintiff was also concerned that the transfer was designed to force him to retire from UPS earlier than he had planned. Id. Plaintiff voiced these concerns to a human resources manager and two other managers upon learning of the transfer. See Complaint, ¶ 21; Dkt. 40 at 5-6.

At the time of the transfer, plaintiff was close to turning 55 years old. Plaintiff alleges that UPS has a pattern and practice of forcing employees to retire when they reach age 55, to prevent them from earning higher pensions that vest at age 65. Complaint, ¶¶ 13, 20.

Four days after the transfer, plaintiff requested retirement paperwork. After four weeks at the new position, plaintiff utilized eight weeks of vacation time, and then retired. Plaintiff's last day of work was March 6, 2013. Complaint, ¶ 21. By retiring at age 55, plaintiff received pension benefits equaling 58% of his salary. Id., ¶ 22. If he had retired at age 65, he would have received a higher percentage of his salary (though the complaint does not specify how much higher). Id.

On May 16, 2013, plaintiff filed suit against UPS, asserting three causes of action: (1) wrongful termination due to age in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA02ee), (2) wrongful termination in violation of public policy (also based on age discrimination), and (3) breach of implied contract. The case was removed from state court on June 19, 2013. UPS now moves for summary judgment on all three causes of action.


A. Legal Standard

A party may move for summary judgment on a "claim or defense" or "part of... a claim or defense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

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). Material facts are those that might 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.

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, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may carry its initial burden of production by submitting admissible "evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's case, " or by showing, "after suitable discovery, " that the "nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element of its claim or defense to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial." Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Cos., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1105-06 (9th ...

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