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Earnest v. San Joaquin County

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 29, 2018

LILLIE EARNEST, an individual, Plaintiff,
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Lillie Earnest brings this action against Defendants San Joaquin General Hospital (“SJGH”), San Joaquin County (“County”), Ann Mooney and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 (“SEIU”), and Defendants Jackie Bagatta, Roberta Schramek, Lynn McClain, Marshay McKnight, Conrad Uy, Doug Peterson, Rolando Cabrerea, Vandana Goswani, Adam Arroyo, and Doe Defendants (the “Individual Defendants”) (collectively, “Defendants”) alleging the following causes of action: (1) civil conspiracy, (2) denial of appeal rights/due process, (3) wrongful termination, (4) breach of a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”), (5) age discrimination, (6) failure to prevent discrimination and harassment in violation of Government Code § 12920 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., (7) interference of business contractual relation, (8) disability discrimination, (9) institutional racism, and (10) intentional infliction of emotional distress. These allegations stem from Plaintiff's termination from SJGH, where she was a nursing assistant. In a Memorandum and Order dated March 30, 2017 (“Order”), this Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 9, 17, and 19), dismissing all ten of Plaintiff's claims, some with leave to amend and some without. Order, ECF No. 35. Plaintiff now moves the Court to reconsider its Order dismissing many of those claims. ECF Nos. 38, 43. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, as described below.[1]


         Plaintiff is a 62-year old African-American woman who worked as a nursing assistant at SJGH. On July 12, 2009, SJGH commenced an investigation into a workplace complaint filed against Plaintiff, who alleges that the investigation was mishandled in various ways. On April 17, 2013, Plaintiff was terminated from her nursing assistant position. At the time, Plaintiff claims she suffered from “a well-documented, bad back and neck, ” had undergone two previous knee surgeries, and had at some point been given a “Lifetime Medical” settlement from a Worker's Compensation claim. According to Plaintiff, Defendants conspired to terminate her. Specifically, she alleges that she was terminated without receiving any offer of services from the local Employee Assistance Program, any job training, or any “Progressive Discipline Techniques.” She also alleges that she was forced to work out of class, that accommodations were not made for her age, that she was discriminated against because of her age, disability, and race, and that she was denied due process in the course of her termination. Plaintiff further alleges that the County and the SEIU entered into an MOU that failed to provide adequate safeguards to part-time employees, who are disproportionately African-American.

         In May 2013, Plaintiff received notice of a serious discipline hearing informing her of the reasons for her termination. Plaintiff claims the discovery packet she received was incomplete. At the hearing, Defendant Mooney, an SEIU union representative, represented Plaintiff, but Plaintiff claims she was denied the right to have a representative “of her choice.” Ultimately, Plaintiff claims the investigation leading to her termination was not impartial and that the Individual Defendants stereotyped her based on her age, disability, and race, and made statements during the investigation to get her fired.

         On March 30, 2017, this Court dismissed all ten of Plaintiff's causes of action (“COAs”), for a variety of reasons and with various conditions, some with leave to amend, and some without.

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration. ECF Nos. 38, 43.[3] Specifically, Plaintiff makes four requests. The first two requests are intertwined and essentially ask that the Court reconsider its dismissal of the First, Third, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth COAs, based on Plaintiff's newly discovered evidence. The third request asks the Court to find that an exception to the Public Employee Relations Board (“PERB”) exhaustion requirement applies, such that Plaintiff's Third, Fourth, and Seventh COAs survive as plead against Mooney and the SEIU. Finally, Plaintiff asks the Court to grant her leave to amend her complaint to add a COA for conspiracy to interfere with Plaintiff's civil rights.


         A court should not revisit its own decisions unless extraordinary circumstances show that its prior decision was wrong. Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 816 (1988). This principle is generally embodied in the law of the case doctrine. That doctrine counsels against reopening questions once resolved in ongoing litigation. Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Indians v. Hodel, 882 F.2d 364, 369 (9th Cir. 1989) (citing 18 Charles Aland Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 4478). Nonetheless, a court order resolving fewer than all claims among all of the parties is "subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Where reconsideration of a non-final order is sought, the court has "inherent jurisdiction to modify, alter or revoke it." United States v. Martin, 226 F.3d 1042, 1048-49 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 1002 (2001). The major grounds that justify reconsideration involve an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Pyramid, 882 F.2d at 369.

         The Local Rules for the Eastern District indicate that a motion for reconsideration of a court's order may also be made upon facts or evidence which, although they may have been known, were not presented to the court upon the prior motion. E.D. Cal. Local Rule 230(k). The moving party is required to explain to the Court's satisfaction the reason these facts or other evidence were not submitted to the court at the time of the prior motion. Id.


         A. Plaintiff's First and Second Requests

         Plaintiff first requests reconsideration of the Court's dismissal of COAs 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. The basis for this motion is Plaintiff's discovery of a Right to Sue letter (ECF No. 43-2) dated February 22, 2016. Previously, Plaintiff had stated that she received a “letter of determination, ” which the Court presumed to be a right to sue letter, from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on February 18, 2016. Order, ECF No. 35, 6:22-24. Plaintiff's Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth COAs, brought under Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA, are all subject to a 90-day statute of limitations. Plaintiff filed her initial complaint on May 19, 2016, 91 days after February 18, 2016. Accordingly, this Court dismissed those COAs brought under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) with prejudice as untimely.

         Although Plaintiff requests that the Court reconsider eight of the ten COAs it dismissed, the basis for such request, the newly discovered Right to Sue letter, is relevant only to those COAs that the Court dismissed for failing to file within 90 days: The Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth COAs. In other words, the new evidence ...

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