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Rodriguez v. Target Corporation

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 19, 2013

Katy Rodriguez, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
Target Corporation, Defendant.

ORDER

JENNIFER G. ZIPPS, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Target Corporation ("Target") on September 20, 2013. (Doc. 78.) Plaintiff Katy Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") filed a response to the Motion on October 21, 2013. (Doc. 88.) Target filed a reply on November 8, 2013. (Doc. 113.) On November 14, 2013, the Court permitted Target to file a controverting statement of facts ("DCSOF") in response to Rodriguez's separate statement of facts "(PSSOF"). (Docs. 116, 117.) Target seeks summary judgment on Rodriguez's claims of age discrimination and retaliation. For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant the Motion.[1]

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Eisenberg v. Insurance Co. of North America, 815 F.2d 1285, 1289 (9th Cir. 1987).

Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings and supporting documents "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Material facts are those "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A genuine issue exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."

Id.

A party moving for summary judgment initially must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The moving party merely needs to point out to the Court the absence of evidence supporting its opponent's claim; it does not need to disprove its opponent's claim. Id .; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

If a moving party has made this showing, the nonmoving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). See also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256; Brinson v. Linda Rose Joint Venture, 53 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmoving party may not "replace conclusory allegations of the complaint or answer with conclusory allegations of an affidavit." Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY/ISSUES BEFORE THE COURT

Given the voluminous filings submitted by Rodriguez in this matter, the Court must clarify the pending issues before summarizing the relevant undisputed and disputed facts of this case. On November 27, 2012, Rodriguez filed a Complaint in this Court alleging claims against Target for age discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 621, et seq. ("ADEA"), on behalf of herself and members of a prospective class. (Doc. 1.) According to the Complaint, Rodriguez began her employment with Target in 1985 and worked for Target for over twenty-five years until she was constructively discharged in 2011. Rodriguez alleges that she was constructively discharged through unwarranted discipline and negative performance evaluations, as well as suggestions that she should retire and threats that termination would cause her to lose her retirement benefits. Rodriguez further alleges that her treatment was part of a pattern or practice of age discrimination by Target as it attempted to rebrand itself with a more youthful image and force out older employees.

On September 20, 2013, the Court issued an Order resolving several early motions filed in this case. (Doc. 77.) The Court granted Target leave to file an early motion for summary judgment directed at Rodriguez's individual discrimination and retaliation claims under the ADEA. Specifically, the Court held that, prior to addressing Rodriguez's Motion for Conditional Class Certification, it would consider Target's motion for summary judgment on two narrow bases: (1) Rodriguez cannot prove that she suffered an adverse employment action, and (2) Rodriguez cannot prove that she engaged in protected activity. (Doc. 77, pg. 7.) In so holding, the Court rejected Rodriguez's claim that the merits of her individual claims should not be considered until after the Court ruled on her pending Motion to Conditionally Certify the Class. The Court noted that Rodriguez had not identified - and this Court had not discovered - a single case in which a plaintiff who may not have suffered an adverse employment action may avoid early dismissal of a meritless claim by invoking a collective action claim.

Following the Court's September 20, 2013 Order, Target filed the pending Motion for Summary Judgment, presenting the two issues contemplated by the Court's Order. First, Target contends that Rodriguez's age discrimination and retaliation claims fail as a matter of law because she did not suffer an adverse employment action. Second, Target argues that Rodriguez's retaliation claim fails as a matter of law because she did not engage in a protected activity. Target's Motion relies almost exclusively on Rodriguez's deposition testimony regarding her employment and alleged constructive discharge. The Motion is supported by a 7-page, 48-paragraph statement of facts ("DSOF") and 3 exhibits, eighty pages in length. (Doc. 79.)

In response to Target's Motion for Summary Judgment, Rodriguez filed an opposition that opens with an exhaustive review of what Rodriguez refers to as a "historic backdrop of the pattern or practice of age discrimination at Target." Rodriguez's response to the Motion is accompanied by a 14-page response to Target's statement of facts ("PSOF"). (Doc. 90.) The PSOF does not comply with LRCiv 56.1, which provides that "a party opposing a motion for summary judgment shall file a statement that sets forth, for each paragraph of the moving party's statement, a separately numbered paragraph indicating whether the party disputes that statement and a reference to the specific, admissible portion of the record supporting that party's position." LRCiv 56.1. Instead, the PSOF repeatedly includes a single paragraph which is meant to respond to several combined paragraphs of the DSOF. ( See, e.g., Doc. 90, pgs. 8-9, responding to DSOF 22-29.) Rodriguez also filed a 14-page, 43-paragraph separate statement of facts ("PSSOF") that includes over 1, 000 pages of un-tabbed exhibits.[2] (Doc. 89.) These exhibits include other complaints filed against Target, orders from other courts regarding other age discrimination class action suits against Target, dozens of depositions and affidavits from other Target employees at numerous other Target stores, EEOC charges filed against Target by other employees, and internal Target HR planning documents with no apparent bearing on Rodriguez's employment. Rodriguez's filings include repeated references to alleged discrimination against other Target employees at other Target stores nationwide. In short, Rodriguez's response to Target's Motion for Summary Judgment appears to be accompanied by any and all evidence in the possession of Rodriguez's counsel that could conceivably support any sort of discrimination claim by any employee against any Target store in the United States, ever.

Rodriguez's response suggests that this outpouring of irrelevant documentation is justified because "constructive discharge and retaliation claims must be considered in light of the totality of the circumstances." (Doc. 88, pg. 1.) In support of this claim, Rodriguez cites to: (1) an unpublished Ninth Circuit case construing Montana state employment law, Johannsen v. Nike, Inc., 336 Fed.Appx. 600, 601 (9th Cir. 2009); (2) a Section 1981 retaliation case from the United States District Court, District of Nevada, in which the adverse action element is undisputed, Reece v. Republic Services, Inc., 2011 WL 868386 (D. Nev. 2011); and (3) a constructive discharge case from the United States District Court, District of Kansas, which in no way discusses allegations of other discriminatory acts by the employer against other employees. Harris v. First Nat. Bank of Hutchinson, Kan., 680 F.Supp. 1489 (D. Kan. 1987). None of these cases are relevant to the issues ...


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