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Villar v. Transdev Services, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

December 20, 2019




         Pending before the Court is Defendant Transdev Services, Inc.'s, motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication. Plaintiff Alicia Del Villar opposes.

         The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d.1). For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the motion for summary judgment [Doc. 16].

         I. Background [1]

         In this lawsuit, Plaintiff Alicia Del Villar is suing her former employer, Defendant Transdev Services, Inc. (“Transdev”), for retaliation and wrongful termination. At the time of her termination, Del Villar was a bus driver and union shop steward. In June 2016, Transdev terminated her for allegedly failing to “immediately” report that her bus bumped a pedestrian, who darted in front of the bus just as it began to leave the bus stop. There is no dispute that Del Villar reported the incident within 1 minute of bumping the pedestrian.

         Notwithstanding Transdev's absurd interpretation of “immediately, ” it now seeks summary-judgment for two reasons. First, it argues Del Villar's causes of action are preempted by federal law to the extent they require interpretation of the term “immediately” in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between Transdev and Del Villar's union. Second, Transdev contends Del Villar cannot establish that its “legitimate” reason for terminating was pretext for her Union activity. (P&A [Doc. 16-1] 1:5-6.) Because Del Villar's causes of action do not require the interpretation of the CBA, they are not preempted. Additionally, because there exists a disputed issue of fact regarding pretext, summary judgment is not appropriate.

         A. Del Villar's union activity.

         Del Villar was employed as a bus driver for Transdev from approximately May 2004 until June 24, 2016, when she was terminated. (Pl's Tab 1 (“Del Villar Decl.”) [Doc. 23-2] ¶¶ 3, 4; Lewis Decl. [Doc. 17-2] ¶¶ 3, 4; Def's Ex. B [Doc. 17-2].) As a bus driver for Transdev, Del Villar was a member of Teamsters Local 683 (the “Union”), which had a CBA with Transdev. (Lewis Decl. ¶ 4; Def's Ex. 29 [Doc. 17-2].)

         During her employment with Transdev, Del Villar was active in the Union. In 2013, she was elected as a Shop Steward and was on the run-cut committee. (Del Villar Decl. ¶¶ 5, 6; Lewis Decl. ¶¶ 4, 6.) As a run-cut committee member, Del Villar helped review Transdev's proposed changes to bus routes in order to ensure compliance with, among other things, mandated driver meal-time and rest breaks. (Del Villar Decl. ¶ 6.)

         In approximately November 2015, Transdev proposed new bus routes. Del Villar believed the proposed routes for the South Bay failed to comply with California law and the CBA regarding driver meal and rest breaks, and in early 2016 she notified management. (Del Villar Decl. ¶¶ 6, 7, 9.) Although management fixed the problem for the Chula Vista routes, the revised proposed bus routes for South Bay continued to have the same problems. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9.) Del Villar, therefore, again advised management about the problems. (Id.)

         B. Relevant Provisions of the CBA, and Transdev's Safety Policies and Procedures Manual.

         Article 10 of the CBA between the Union and Transdev covers “Discipline and Discharge.” (Def's Ex. 29 at 149.) Relevant to this motion is subsection 10.3, “Serious Infraction (Examples)”, which provides “examples of violations of Company policies and rules that are considered Serious Infractions and shall be just cause for immediate discharge….” (Id. at 150.) Among the examples is the “[f]ailure to report a hazardous situation, accident or injury immediately to the dispatcher or supervisor.” (Id. at 151.) Similarly, Transdev's 2015 Safety Policies and Procedures manual states, “[e]mployees that do not report an accident immediately will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.” (Def's Ex. 28 [Doc. 17-2] at 131.)

         C. The June 16, 2016 Incident.

         On June 16, 2016, Del Villar was picking up passengers at a bus stop near 54th Street and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego. (Del Villar Decl. ¶ 10.) As she closed the bus's doors and was in the initial moments of pulling away from the curb, a pedestrian jaywalking from across the street to catch the bus stepped in front of the driver's side of the bus. (Id.) Del Villar slammed on the breaks as the pedestrian continued to cross in front of the bus. (Id.) Del Villar then opened the doors, allowing the pedestrian to board the bus. (Id.) As the person boarded the bus, Del Villar scolded her for being reckless. (Id.) According to Del Villar, the passenger responded by denying that the bus struck her. (Id.[2])

         Del Villar's bus is equipped with a number of cameras, one of which appears to be positioned high above Del Villar's seat. (Lewis Decl. ¶ 6.) From that angle, a bike rack mounted on the front of the bus appears to bump the pedestrian. (Lewis Decl. Ex. A.) Del Villar contends she did not believe the bus struck the pedestrian. (Del Villar Decl. ¶ 12.)

         As Del Villar began to again pull-away from the curb, she noticed the passenger rubbing her shoulder. (Del Villar Decl. ¶ 11.) Worried that either the bus struck the passenger or that the passenger was going to make a false claim, Del Villar stopped the bus and reported the incident to dispatch. (Id.) Approximately one minute elapsed from the time the passenger appeared in front of the bus and Del Villar notified dispatch. (Def's Ex. 23 [Doc. 17-1 at 083.)

         D. Del ...

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