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Cross v. Marshalls of Ma, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 29, 2019

ASMA CROSS, Plaintiff,
v.
MARSHALLS OF MA, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO. 24

          SUSAN VAN KEULEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................................... 1

         II. BACKGROUND ....................................................................................................................... 1

         A. Plaintiff and her employment by Marshalls ....................................................................... 1

         B. Marshalls' company policies .............................................................................................. 1

         C. Plaintiff's interactions with supervisor Giron .................................................................... 2

         D. The June 2015 Rodriguez statement .................................................................................. 3

         E. The August 2016 trash compactor incident ........................................................................ 4

         F. Marshalls' investigation ..................................................................................................... 5

         G. Plaintiff's termination ........................................................................................................ 6

         H. Plaintiff's discrimination claims ........................................................................................ 6

         III. LEGAL STANDARD ............................................................................................................... 7

         IV. DISCUSSION ........................................................................................................................... 8

         A. Discrimination Claims ........................................................................................................ 8

         1. Age discrimination claim .................................................................................................. 8

         2. Racial discrimination claim ............................................................................................... 9

         3. Religious discrimination claim ........................................................................................ 10

         a. Direct evidence of discrimination ..................................................................... 11

         i. Evidence of Ms. Rodriguez's alleged statement ............................................... 11

         ii. Hearsay .............................................................................................................. 11

         iii. Stray remarks ..................................................................................................... 12

         iv. Conclusion regarding direct evidence ............................................................... 13

         b. Circumstantial evidence .................................................................................... 13

         i. Employer's reason for suspension/termination ................................................. 14

         ii. Pretext ................................................................................................................ 15

         (1) No showing of pretext based on Plaintiff's allegations regarding Ms. Giron ... 16

         (2) No showing of pretext based on Plaintiff's allegations regarding Mr. Kalbfleisch..................................................................... 17

         B. Remedies .......................................................................................................................... 19

         V. EVIDENTIARY OBJECTIONS ............................................................................................. 19

         VI. CONCLUSION ....................................................................................................................... 19

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Asma Cross alleges that her former employer, Defendant Marshalls of MA, Inc. (“Marshalls”), discriminated against her on the basis of race, religion, and age, culminating in her termination on August 31, 2016. Dkt. 1 (Complaint) ¶¶ 13-14. Now before the Court is Marshalls' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 24. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. Dkt. 7, 8. The Court held a hearing on August 13, 2019. After considering the parties' submissions, arguments at the hearing, the case file, and relevant law, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary judgment for the reasons discussed below.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff and her employment by Marshalls

         Plaintiff is Muslim, African American, and over the age of 40 years old. Complaint ¶ 6; Dkt. 31 (Cross Decl.) ¶ 5. She was employed by Marshalls during two time periods: from 1999 to 2001, and from approximately November 14, 2011 to August 31, 2016. Complaint ¶ 2; Cross Decl. ¶ 3. This lawsuit concerns Plaintiff's second term of employment. See Complaint ¶¶ 5-13. During that time, Plaintiff was employed as an Assistant Manager at Marshalls stores in Mountain View and San Jose, California. Complaint at ¶ 2. Plaintiff received written performance reviews in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 stating that her work performance “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations, ” and she received a merit raise in 2015. Cross Decl. ¶ 4 and Exs. 1 and 2.

         B. Marshalls' company policies

         Marshalls, an off-price retailer, has corporate guidelines concerning the markdown of merchandise. Dkt. 24-4 (Giron Decl.) ¶¶ 2-3 and Ex. A (the “Markdown Policy”). Under the Markdown Policy, employees must record all marked-down merchandise in a Store Generated Markdown (“SGM”) report in the company's computer system. Id. ¶2. Merchandise may be marked down for several reasons: (1) the merchandise has not been sold in the store within a certain time period; (2) Marshall's home office determines that certain merchandise should be marked down; (3) the merchandise is damaged but saleable; or (4) merchandise is “mismated” (such as if one pair of a six-pack of socks is missing) but the rest can be sold. Id. The guidelines provide that certain categories must be marked down and not discarded, but if merchandise is deemed too damaged to be sold, it cannot simply be discarded. Id. ¶ 3. Instead, the merchandise must be marked out of stock, coded into Marshall's computer system before being disposed, and issued a red sticker signifying that the item had been marked out of stock. Id. The policy requires management to ensure the proper markdowns have been taken before sending damaged merchandise to salvage or discarding it. Id.

         Other Marshalls' company policies include an Associate Relations Behavior Policy (the “Negligence Policy”), which provides that negligence (including “failure to exercise due care with, or causing damage to Company, vendor, customer, or fellow Associates' property, either intentionally or through carelessness”) and other misconduct may be grounds for immediate termination of employment. Dkt. 24-7 (Welch Decl.) ¶ 4 and Ex. A. In addition, Marshalls' Honesty Policy states that the company's Loss Prevention department will investigate all cases of dishonesty, defined as “any deliberate act that results in the loss of ...


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