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Roberts v. United Food & Commercial Workers Local 648

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 20, 2019




         Defendant United Food & Commercial Workers Local 648's (“defendant”) motion for summary judgment came on for hearing before this court on November 13, 2019. Pro se plaintiff Darryl Roberts (“plaintiff”) appeared. Defendants appeared through their counsel, Caroline Cohen. Having read the papers filed by the parties and carefully considered their argument, proffered evidence, and relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS defendant's motion for summary judgment for the reasons stated below.


         On June 12, 2019, plaintiff filed a form employment discrimination complaint against defendant alleging claims under Title 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”). Dkt. 1 (Compl.) ¶ 3. On September 26, 2019, defendant filed this motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 18. In it, defendant argues that the court lacks “jurisdiction” to consider plaintiff's complaint, id. at 6, and, in any event, defendant has shown a legitimate nondiscriminatory business reason for plaintiff's termination, id. at 7-9.[1]

         A. The Operative Allegations

         In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant discriminated against him in violation of Title VII by the following:

• Terminating his employment, id. ¶ 3-4; and
• Interfering with his “right as a good-standing member to run for a higher officer within [his] local union.” id.

         Plaintiff specifies his “race or color, ” id. ¶ 5(a), and checks the “other as specified below” box, id. ¶ 5(e), as the actionable basis for defendant's discrimination. Aside from statements made in various attachments to plaintiff's complaint (detailed as necessary below), the complaint fails to provide any other specific allegations supporting its claims.

         B. Circumstances Surrounding Plaintiff's Termination

         This action arises out of a contested election for a local union's management positions. Defendant is a local union with a single office in San Francisco. Dkt. 18-1 (Larson Declaration) ¶ 3. At the time of plaintiff's termination (July 2016), defendant had 11 employees. Id.

         Prior to plaintiff's termination, defendant employed plaintiff as a union business representative. Dkt. 1 ¶ 6.[2] As of 2013, plaintiff was employed under a collective bargaining agreement between defendant (as the employer) and the Federation of Agents and International Representatives (“FAIR”) as the union. Dkt. 18-1 ¶ 4.

         Sometime in July 2016, defendant held an election for internal management positions. Id. ¶ 6. Prior to the election, Larson held the position as president of defendant. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff announced his candidacy in opposition to Larson and other incumbent candidates. Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff was initially declared winner of the election. Id., Ex. 9. Because plaintiff violated election rules, defendant's election committee ordered a rerun of the election. Id. ¶ 7; Id. Ex. 9. The reelection occurred on or around November 4, 2016. Id., Ex. 9. Larson was declared winner of the reelection and defendant's international body (“International UFCW”) upheld that reelection's results. Id. ¶ 8. On July 30, 2016, and apparently prior to the reelection, Larson terminated plaintiff. Id. ¶ 8.

         The parties dispute the reasons for such termination. In his declaration, Larson states that he did so because of “[plaintiff's] gross disloyalty.” Id. ¶ 8. Larson further testifies that “the sole reason [he] terminated Plaintiff was because he chose to run against me in the union election.” Id. Larson further reiterates the following:

“I terminated plaintiff solely because he chose to run against me which was grossly disloyal. He campaigned against me, which included making statements which were critical of my leadership and of the things that I had accomplished as President during my first term in office. Business representatives hold responsibilities to carry out multiple key functions of the union and are seen as the face of the union to the membership. I determined that plaintiff's continued employment as a business representative was untenable as his gross disloyalty posed a significant block to the effective administration of the union.” Id. ¶ 18.

         Several documents attached to plaintiff's complaint support Larson's explanation. Dkt. 1 at 10 (attaching letter from defendant's attorney stating that plaintiff was terminated “because of gross disloyalty to the elected leadership”; Dkt. 1 at 7-9 (attaching letters from unidentified third-parties to International UFCW criticizing that body for a “propensity to protect its Incumbent Presidents instead of protecting the democratic process.”).

         In a separate pleading titled “Opposition to Defendant's Answer, ” plaintiff summarily asserts the existence of a “plethora” of evidence compiled against defendants for a “laundry list of unethical, racist, discriminatory, human rights, and civil rights violations that resulted in Plaintiff's termination on July 29, 2019 for ‘Gross Disloyalty to the Elected Leadership.'” Dkt. 5 at 3. Despite plaintiff's conclusory assertion, such filing includes no specific allegation or evidence in support of that assertion.[3]

         Similarly, in his belated opposition to this motion, [4] plaintiff also summarily asserts that Larson's declaration acknowledges that defendant applied “non-compete provisions of old Jim Crow Laws . . . which specifically prohibited African Americans from competing for any and all positions typically held by White Men” and that such actions “would justify termination for ‘gross disloyalty.'” Id. at 3. Plaintiff offers no further explanation or evidence in support of such assertion. Aside from some conclusory references to institutional racism in society, the remainder of this filing is otherwise materially identical to plaintiff's opposition to defendant's answer.

         C. ...

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