United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
THELTON E. HENDERSON United States District Judge.
matter came before this Court on May 22, 2017 for a hearing
on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. After
carefully considered the parties' written and oral
arguments, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion for
summary judgment for the reasons set forth below.
Danielle Parker (“Plaintiff” or
“Parker”) was a nine-year employee at Defendant
Comcast (“Defendant” or “Comcast”)
when she was terminated on May 20, 2013. Ex. 3 to Def.'s
Mot. for Summ. J. (“Mot.”) (ECF No. 50-5). She
worked as a Sales Ops Consultant (formerly customer service
representative) at various Comcast stores in the San
Francisco Bay Area. Parker Dep. at 27:8-28:4 (Ex. A to Mot.
(ECF No. 50-2)). Christine Jackai-Holloman
(“Jackai”) was Parker's direct supervisor.
Parker and Jackai had a close working relationship and
friendship: Parker testified at her deposition that Jackai
was “like a mother” to her. Parker Dep. at
122:11-24 (ECF No. 50-2).
five months leading up to Parker's termination, Parker
struggled with personal issues and had trouble keeping up
with her work schedule. Jackai Dep. at 51:11-53:14 (Ex. B to
Mot. (ECF No. 50-3)). Parker had to take care of her sick
son, had ongoing problems with her boyfriend and with her
son's father, and had to have her car repossessed.
Id. at 55:16-56:1. Jackai testified she
“identified with [Parker] at the point of the struggles
of a single parent having to worry about childcare” and
“tried to work with her.” Id. at
59:3-60:15, 53:3-56:1. Parker told Jackai that she was under
a lot of stress, and Jackai noticed that Parker was indeed
“very upset all the time” at work during the
month of April 2013. Id. at 101:21, 136:7-137:20.
Jackai claimed that she often chose to be lenient and not
report Parker's absences. Id. at 62:14-63:21.
did not show up for work for four consecutive scheduled
workdays-April 30, May 2, May 3 and May 4, 2013. Ex. 3 to
Mot. (ECF No. 50-5). Under Comcast's attendance policy,
three or more consecutive days of no call/no show absences
constitute voluntary termination. Exs. 5, 6 to Mot. (ECF No.
50-5). As a long-time Comcast employee, Parker was aware of
the policy. Parker Dep. at 29:24-30:10 (ECF No. 50-2). Parker
claims that on April 30, 2013 she called Jackai to ask if she
could take the week off because she was being evicted and
needed to move out of her apartment. Id. at
30:20-34:20. According to Parker, Jackai responded
“Okay” but did not say anything else during the
call. Id. at 34:25-35:9. Jackai denies speaking to
Parker on April 30 or approving her absences. Jackai Dep. at
44:19-45:1 (ECF No. 50-3). To the contrary, Jackai noted in
the termination paperwork that she tried to contact Parker
during the days she was absent but could not reach her. Ex. 3
to Mot. (ECF No. 50-5). On May 6 or May 7, 2013, Jackai
submitted Parker's termination paperwork to Comcast Human
Resources lead Karen Pierce (“Pierce”). Pierce
Dep. at 101:4-25 (Ex. C to Mot. (ECF No. 50-4). The paperwork
indicated that Parker had accrued more than three no call/no
show days. Ex. 3 to Mot. (ECF No. 50-5). Jackai testified at
her deposition that the sole reason why she decided to
terminate Parker was because Parker violated Comcast's
attendance policy. Jackai Dep. at 83:7-11 (ECF No. 50-3).
late afternoon on May 6, 2013, the day she believed she was
supposed to return to work, Parker went to see her primary
care doctor, Dr. Hsu. Parker Dep. at 65:12-25 (ECF No. 50-2).
Parker informed Dr. Hsu about her “life
stressors” and told him that she had been off work for
the last four days because she was moving out. Ex. 16 to Mot.
at 1 (ECF No. 50-5); Hsu Dep. at 27:2-19 (Ex. D to Mot. (ECF
No. 50-4)). Dr. Hsu gave her a note excusing her from work
from May 6 to May 13, 2013, but noted that she could return
to work at full capacity the following week. Id. at
30:10-32:3; Ex. 7 to Mot. (50-5). Parker claims that after
her doctor's appointment on May 6, she went to
Comcast's Richmond store to give her doctor's note to
Jackai; because Jackai was not there, she left the note with
Sherice Elliott, who was an assistant store manager at
Comcast's Concord store and did not work in Richmond.
Parker Dep. at 50:2-53:12 (ECF No. 50-2). It is undisputed
that Parker never gave the note to Jackai. Jackai denies
having any knowledge of the note. Jackai Dep. at 96:25-98:18
(ECF No. 50-3).
8, 2013, Parker self-enrolled in Kaiser's Chemical
Dependency Recovery Program (“CDRP”) and was
instructed to attend daily treatment for marijuana abuse.
Parker Dep. at 101:5-12 (ECF No. 50-2); Ex. 18 to Mot. (ECF
No. 50-5). Parker admits she never told Jackai or anyone else
at Comcast that she had substance abuse issues or that she
needed time off of work to obtain treatment. Parker Dep. at
108:25-110:10, 102:20-103:5 (ECF No. 50-2). Parker testified
she told Jackai that she was arrested for a DUI once in April
20, 2013. Parker Dep. at 111:6-25 (ECF No. 50-2).
human resources lead Pierce finalized Parker's
termination paperwork on May 20, 2013. Ex. 3 to Mot. (ECF No.
50-5). Pierce admits that between May 7 and May 13, 2013 she
became aware of two separate doctor's notes pertaining to
Parker: one excusing her absence May 6-13 and another
excusing her absence May 8-29. Ex. G to McFadden Decl. (ECF
No. 61). Neither note stated a medical reason or excused
Plaintiff's earlier no call/no show absences from April
30 to May 4, 2013. On May 13, Pierce emailed Director of
Compliance Sarah Stofferahn to confirm that the doctors'
notes had no impact on Jackai's recommendation to
terminate Plaintiff for her previous unexcused absences.
Id. Stofferahn asked if Plaintiff had
“indicated that the 4/30, 5/2, 5/3 and 5/4 dates were
related to her medical reasons for being off on 5/6 and the
subsequent dates.” Id. Pierce responded that
she would “triple check with the manager.”
Id. Pierce testified at her deposition that she
believed she confirmed with Jackai that Plaintiff's April
30 to May 4, 2013 absences had nothing to do with a medical
reason but she could not specifically recall the
conversation. Pierce Dep. at 145:25-147:12 (ECF No. 50-4).
Pierce testified that she approved Parker's termination
because she had violated Comcast's attendance policy as
explained by Jackai. Id. at 149:12-15.
5, 2015, nearly two years after she was terminated, Parker
filed the present lawsuit against Comcast. The case was
removed to federal court on December 11, 2015. Notice of
Removal (ECF No. 2). Plaintiff raises a single wrongful
termination claim and seeks compensatory, general and special
damages, as well as punitive damages against Comcast.
Complaint (ECF No. 2). On April 17, 2017, Defendant filed the
present motion for summary judgment and, in the alternative,
motion for summary judgment on punitive damages. Mot. (ECF
No. 50). Plaintiff responded (ECF No. 60) and Defendant
timely replied (ECF No. 65).
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as
to material facts and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Material
facts are those that may 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. The Court may not weigh the evidence and must
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Id. at 255. The Court's inquiry
is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is
so onesided that one party must prevail as a matter of
law.” Id. at 251-52.
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). 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). However, on an issue for which its
opponents will have the burden of proof at trial, the moving
party can prevail merely by “pointing out . . . that
there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.
If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden
shifts to the opposing party, who must “set out
specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial” to
defeat the motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.
asserts a single cause of action-a California tort claim for
wrongful termination in violation of public policy. To
succeed, Plaintiff must show that she was terminated for a
reason that violates a fundamental public
policy.Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co.,
27 Cal.3d 167, 176 (1980). In her complaint and discovery
responses, Plaintiff asserts three potential bases for
wrongful termination: (1) she had a disability, which she
identifies as anxiety and severe stress; (2) she was
obtaining treatment for substance abuse, which Defendant
concedes qualifies as a disability; and (3) she had
complained about being shorted on her paychecks. Compl.