United States District Court, E.D. California
case is before the court on plaintiff Amalraj
Gnanasigamani's suit against former employer SGS Testcom,
Inc., for retaliation and racial discrimination. Defendant
moves for summary judgment. At hearing on defendant's
motion, Richard Gray and Britney Torres appeared for
defendant and Vicki Cody appeared for plaintiff. ECF No. 42.
As explained below, the court GRANTS defendant's motion
for summary judgment.
filed the original complaint against SGS Testcom on June 24,
2015 and the operative First Amended Complaint on June 10,
2016. ECF Nos. 1, 19. The operative first amended complaint
presents four claims: (1) retaliatory termination in
violation of California Labor Code section 1102.5; (2)
retaliatory termination in violation of California's
False Claims Act, California Government Code section 12650,
et seq.; (3) wrongful termination in violation of
public policy; and (4) unlawful racial discrimination in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. See generally
ECF No. 19. On December 30, 2016, defendant moved for summary
judgment on plaintiff's claims. Mot., ECF No.
Plaintiff opposed. Opp'n, ECF No. 28. Defendant replied.
Reply, ECF No. 30.
Testcom (SGS) is a national company with an office in Rancho
Cordova, California. Christopher Marlow Decl. (Marlow Decl.)
¶ 2, ECF No. 27-6. The Rancho Cordova office is
responsible for providing information technology (IT) and
help desk support to the California Bureau of Automotive
Repair's (BAR) smog check program. Id. The
program implements an initiative through which BAR records
vehicle smog checks conducted in California. Id.
¶ 5. Smog check facilities throughout the state obtain
certificates from the BAR, complete the checks, and report
them back to the BAR. Id.
Plaintiff's Employment and Smog Program
began working at the Rancho Cordova office in 2005 as a
contractor, became an ETL developer in 2007, and then a database
administrator in 2009 until he was terminated in 2014. UMF
No. 2. As a database administrator, plaintiff was responsible
for maintaining the IT system used to assess the smog check
certificates, as well as continually monitoring and updating
the IT system. Marlow Decl. ¶ 5. While a database
administrator, plaintiff's supervisor was IT Operations
Manager Christopher Marlow. UMF No. 3. Marlow's
supervisor was Program Manager Michael Earl. UMF No. 4.
2014, SGS began implementing a new software program to
provide assistance to the BAR smog program. UMF No. 6. The
new software system, referred to as “CalVis, ”
allowed new smog check stations to be added to the SGS IT
system database on a continual basis. Marlow Decl.
¶¶ 11, 12.
contends from May to August 2014 plaintiff engaged in a
series of actions warranting termination. On May 29, Michael
Earl gave plaintiff a written warning for failing to address
IT configuration errors over a weekend while plaintiff was an
on-call database administrator. Pl.'s Dep. at
105:7-106:4. Plaintiff argues he could not address the
configuration errors because he was addressing a parallel IT
issue that same weekend. ECF No. 30-1 at 3. Plaintiff cites
to no portion of the record establishing this disputed fact.
In any event, plaintiff does not dispute he received the
warning from Earl, and the court treats this fact as
undisputed. See Huynh v. J.P. Morgan Chase &
Co., No. 06-0001, 2008 WL 2789532, at *15 (D. Ariz. July
17, 2008) (construing defendant's material fact as
undisputed when plaintiff did not cite to record in support
of a dispute).
more than two months later, on August 7, Chris Marlow asked
plaintiff to restore SGS data that had been corrupted.
Pl.'s Depo. at 134:10-139:1. Marlow requested plaintiff
find the corrupted data as soon as possible to avoid further
corruption. Id. Plaintiff attempted to find the
corrupted data, but he did so during a non-maintenance
window, a time period when SGS handles a high volume of
smog-reporting activity sent in from facilities throughout
California. Id.; Marlow Decl. ¶ 8. Defendant
contends plaintiff's conduct in this respect violated
company policy and placed a “significant burden on the
[CalVis] system, ” which led to an outage for five to
ten minutes during peak hours. Marlow Decl. ¶ 14.
Defendant points to evidence suggesting this outage hurt
their reputation with the BAR. Id.
August 12, plaintiff made IT configuration adjustments, and
he did so again during a non-maintenance window. Pl.'s
Dep. at 144:22-159:7. Defendant contends plaintiff's
conduct caused another system outage, which lasted thirty
minutes during peak hours. Marlow Decl. ¶ 15.
the August 7 system crash, plaintiff disputes the scope of
his contribution to the system outage. He points to his own
deposition testimony suggesting any changes to the system
could be, and often were, done at various times throughout
the day with minimal impact. Pl.'s Dep. at 134:10-24.
Plaintiff also points to evidence suggesting the outage
occurred because the CalVis developer added two million rows
of data to the system without notifying the plaintiff. PUMF
No. 6; Pl's. Dep. at 147:14-18. Nothing in the record
shows plaintiff received a warning for this conduct.
the August 12 system crash, plaintiff also disputes the scope
of his contribution to the outage. He points again to his own
deposition testimony suggesting the outage occurred after
Michael Earl added thousands of smog check stations to the
CalVis system without advance warning, which strained the
efficiency of the program. Pl.'s Dep. at 139:1-25. And
again, nothing in the record shows plaintiff received a
warning for this conduct.
August 12, 2014, after the system crash on that date,
defendant terminated plaintiff's employment. Marlow Decl.
¶ 16. In a video conference with plaintiff, as plaintiff
explains, Marlow told him BAR had concluded plaintiff did not
know how to “manage [his] own application, ”
which prompted his termination. Pl.'s Dep. at 132:21-25,
159:20-23; see also Marlow Decl. ¶ 17. Michael
Earl participated in and concurred with the termination
decision. UMF No. 10.
Plaintiff's Evidence of Discrimination
contends he was terminated under racially discriminatory
circumstances. To support his contention, plaintiff first
points to his own deposition testimony explaining SGS's
three-warning then termination policy. Specifically, SGS had
a practice of giving three warnings and terminating
employment after seeing no improvement. Pl.'s Dep. at
221:14-18. Plaintiff was terminated after one warning.
Id. On the other hand, plaintiff says a Caucasian
co-worker continued to work at SGS despite three warnings.
Id. at 221:1-223:4.
also points to plaintiff's deposition testimony, noting
plaintiff's concession that SGS's termination policy
included flexible disciplinary measures that are
discretionary with management, and thereby not as rigid as
plaintiff otherwise contends. Id. at 267:10-268:23.
Defendant also notes plaintiff conceded he had no first-hand
knowledge of the warnings his Caucasian co-worker purportedly
received. Id. at 221:8-225:17.
will grant summary judgment “if . . . 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). The “threshold inquiry” is whether
“there are any genuine factual issues that properly can
be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may
reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
moving party bears the initial burden of showing the district
court “that there is an absence of evidence to support
the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The burden then
shifts to the nonmoving party, which “must establish
that there is a genuine issue of material fact . . . .”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 585 (1986). In carrying their burdens, both
parties must “cit[e] to particular parts of materials
in the record . . .; or show  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); see
also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (“[the nonmoving
party] must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”).
Moreover, “the requirement is that there be no genuine
issue of material fact . . . . Only disputes over facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court draws all
inferences and views all evidence in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at
587-88; Whitman v. Mineta, 541 F.3d 929, 931 (9th
Cir. 2008). “Where the record taken as a whole could
not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving
party, there is no ‘genuine issue for
trial.'” Ma ...