United States District Court, D. Idaho
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
LaRae Harris, Plaintiff: Richard A Hearn, RACINE OLSON NYE
BUDGE and BAILEY, Pocatello, ID; Lane V Erickson, Pocatello,
Treasure Canyon Calcium Co, an Idaho corporation, Defendant:
James R Moss, Jr, Payne & Fears LLP, Salt Lake City, UT;
Kristopher Dean Meek, Steven K Brown, Hopkins Roden Crockett
Hansen & Hoopes, Idaho Falls, ID; Scott S Thomas, Payne &
Fears LLP, Irvine, CA.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Winmill, Chief United States District Judge.
Court has before it Defendant Treasure Canyon Calcium
Company's Motion for Summary Judgment, or in the
Alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. 20), as well
as Plaintiff LaRae Harris's Motion to Amend/Correct
Complaint (Dkt. 19). The Court heard oral argument on both
motions on June 22, 2015, and thereafter requested
supplemental briefing, which was submitted on June 24, 2015.
Having reviewed all of the evidence, the Court now issues the
Canyon Calcium (" TCC" ) is a family-owned company
with approximately 25 employees. TCC mines calcium carbonate
from its quarry near Preston, Idaho, which it then prepares
in its mill and sells for use in livestock feed and
industrial applications. Def.'s Opening Br., at
8, Dkt. 20-1. TCC hired Plaintiff LaRae Harris on June 25,
2008 as a seasonal truck driver. Her job duties consisted of
hauling ore from the quarry to the mill. Def.'s
Opening Br., at 8, Dkt. 20-1. At the time she was hired,
Harris knew that, like other drivers, she would be laid off
at the end of the mining season in the fall, but could be
rehired in the spring if her services were needed.
Id. As a driver, Harris reported primarily to Reuel
Skinner, the Mine Manager, and Derek Steadman, the Assisting
the mining season ended in October of 2008, TCC began to lay
off the seasonal workers, as it did each year. Id.
at 9. TCC President N. Ross Smith knew Harris had had a
" difficult year" --her father had passed away, her
marriage had ended, and she had suffered an abscess rupture
in her abdomen and was unable to work for five weeks.
Id. Smith asked Steadman if there were any
office-related tasks that Harris could do over the winter
months so that she could remain employed at TCC. Id.
Steadman had been doing all of the office-related work up
until that point, but he responded that he could find some
work for Harris. From the Fall of 2008 through the Spring of
2009, Harris worked in the mill office doing data entry of
driver miles and fuel use, entering invoices in accounts
receivable, entering invoices in accounts payable and cutting
checks for vendors. She also purged older files that were no
longer needed and answered the telephone. For her work in the
office, Harris was compensated at the same $15.50 per hour
rate that she earned as a truck driver. As a full-time
employee rather than a seasonal truck driver, she worked at
least 30 hours a week and qualified for TCC's health and
dental insurance benefits after six months. Id.
expected that she would return to driving truck in the spring
of 2009. Harris Dep., 101:20-102:4, Dkt. 20-4.
However, according to Harris, during the fall of 2008 a
fellow driver named Russ Sorenson caused her to run off the
road, and then referred to her as " that damn woman
driver." Id. at 102:10-104:14. Harris reported
Sorenson's comments to Steadman sometime in the fall of
2008. Id. at 108:17-22. At that time, Sorenson was
not working at TCC because the mining season had ended.
Steadman Decl., ¶ 13-14.
spring of 2009, Smith asked Harris if she was excited to go
back to driving truck. Harris told him that she would rather
not drive truck if Sorenson returned to TCC. Harris
Dep., 108:23-109:9, Dkt. 20-4; Smith Decl.,
¶ 4, Dkt. 20-10. In order to avoid any future conflicts
between Harris and Sorenson, TCC arranged to keep Harris
primarily in the office, and taught her to test samples in
TCC's quality control lab. Harris Dep.,
111:6-112:11. Harris did not make any subsequent complaints
to TCC about Sorenson. Id. at 119:17-22; Smith
Decl., ¶ 4, Dkt. 20-10; Steadman Decl.,
¶ 14, Dkt. 20-13. In 2009, Harris worked exclusively in
the office and the lab--none of her 2028 hours were spent
driving truck. In 2010, Harris worked a total of 1,829.25
hours. Of those, approximately 104 hours were spent driving
truck and the remaining hours were spent in the office or
lab. Def.'s Statement of Facts, ¶ 5, Dkt.
summer and fall of 2010, TCC discovered through testing
potential expansion areas in the mine that its available
material was not suitable for TCC's use because it was
not sufficiently pure. Smith Decl., at ¶ 5,
Dkt. 20-10. According to Smith, this development "
jeopardized [TCC's] ability to serve [its] customers, and
threatened to force the Company to close." Id.
Because TCC no longer had access to sufficiently pure stone,
its inventory dropped sharply and significantly.
Def.'s Statement of Facts, ¶ 10, Dkt. 10-2.
For example, in October and September of 2009, TCC's
inventory consisted of 30,000 and 50,000 tons respectively.
Id. In contrast, in October and September of 2010,
TCC's inventory consisted of only 13,000 and 7,600 tons
respectively. Id. In December of 2010, TCC's
inventory was negative for the first time in recent history.
and Steadman elected to take a number of different steps in
order to keep TCC in business. First, TCC agreed to buy stone
from Lhoist North America, at a premium price, so that it
could meet its customer's demands. Id. Second,
TCC resolved to conduct an exploration program in an effort
to find usable stone in its own quarries. Id. Third,
TCC reduced its workforce so it would have more liquidity to
purchase the Lhoist stone. Fourth, TCC raised its prices.
Fifth and finally, TCC made modifications to the mill in
order to improve efficiency. Id. at ¶ 6.
external stone was costly. TCC ultimately payed $1.3 million
to Lhoist North America for stone: $537,737 in 2010, and
$816,885 in 2011. Def.'s Statement of Facts,
¶ 11, Dkt. 10-2.
reducing its workforce, TCC eventually eliminated
four positions out of approximately
twenty-five. Id. at ¶ 7. First, Reuel Skinner,
the Mine Manager, retired on December 31, 2010 and TCC chose
not to replace him. In January of 2011, TCC decided to
eliminate Harris's position, as further discussed below,
as well as Jeffrey Brandt's, an assistant truck mechanic,
because " their duties could be absorbed by existing
employees." Id. Finally, a truck-driving
position was eliminated. Smith Decl., ¶ 10,
Dkt. 20-10. Initially, TCC had a hard time determining which
of the truck drivers should be let go. TCC became concerned
that some of the drivers were being purposefully inefficient
because of the lack of work, so it decided to terminate the
driver who was recording inaccurate hours. On January 31,
2011, Smith sent a letter to each driver asking each of them
to sign a statement saying that he or she would be honest in
recording his or her hours. No further inaccuracies were
detected, and Steadman did not make a recommendation for the
layoff until April of 2011. In April, truck driver David
Hobbs committed a safety violation, and thereafter Steadman
recommended that Hobbs be let go. Smith approved that
months before her position was eliminated, in July of 2010,
Harris was involved in a work-related accident while driving
a TCC truck. She suffered a broken humerus, a cut on her hand
that required sixteen stitches, a broken rib, bruising to her
face and legs, a puncture wound to her leg, and, most
significantly, a torn rotator cuff. Pl.'s Statement
of Facts, at 2, Dkt. 22-1. The day after her accident,
Steadman filed a worker's compensation claim with the
Idaho State Insurance Fund on Harris's behalf and without
her knowledge. Def.'s Statement of Facts, at 6,
Dkt. 20-2. Harris was released to return to work on August 2,
2010, with certain restrictions. Id. at ¶ 7.
She needed to attend physical therapy sessions three times
per week, and she could not lift more than ten pounds.
Id. TCC adjusted Harris's hours and duties so
that she could continue to work within those restrictions.
Harris remained on light duty work at TCC until December 20,
2010, the date she underwent surgery on her shoulder.
Pl.'s Statement of Facts, at 2, Dkt. 22-1.
Harris was cleared to return to " one-arm office
work" on January 25, 2011. Id. It is undisputed
that as of January 25, 2011, Harris was capable of returning
to TCC to do the office and lab work that she
had previously been doing, but she was not capable of driving
truck as she had done in the past. Id.
January 26, 2011, Steadman called Harris. Steadman asked
Harris " how she was getting along, how her recovery was
going, . . . about [her] ability to drive truck [and] about
her ability to return to work at all." Steadman
Depo. at 76:14-76:17, Dkt. 22-3. Harris told Steadman
that she had been released the day before to return to light
office work, but that should would not be able to drive truck
for four to six months. Harris Decl. at ¶ 13,
Dkt. 22-8. The following day, Smith called Harris to inform
her that her employment was terminated, effective
immediately. Id. at ¶ 14. Harris received a
letter from Smith on January 28, 2011. Id. The
termination letter indicated that Harris's position was
being eliminated because of the economic difficulties that
TCC was facing. Smith Decl., ¶ 8, Dkt. 20-10.
2011 and 2012, TCC began to find usable product as a result
of the work of Dwayne Mickelson, a geologist TCC hired in
August of 2011. Smith sent a letter to Harris dated June 24,
2012, offering a return to her former position at a slightly
higher rate of pay. Smith Decl. at ¶ 13, Dkt.
20-10. Harris refused the offer and instead filed suit
judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to
any claim or defense, " there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). One of the
principal purposes of the summary judgment " is to
isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . .
." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) . It is "
not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead
the " principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient
claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going
to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public
and private resources." Id. at 327. "
[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between
the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion for summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91
L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). There must be a genuine dispute as to any
material fact--a fact " that may affect the
outcome of the case." Id. at 248.
evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility
findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the
non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie
v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On
the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt
unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence.
McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir.
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact.
Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir.
2001)(en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need
not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or
deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.
Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528,
532 (9th Cir. 2000).
shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence
sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor.
Devereaux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party
must go beyond the pleadings and show " by her [ ]
affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to
interrogatories, or admissions on file" that a genuine
material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.
the Court is " not required to comb through the record
to find some reason to deny a motion for summary
judgment." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch.
Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotation
omitted). Instead, the " party opposing summary judgment
must direct [the Court's] attention to specific triable
facts." Southern California Gas Co. v. City of Santa
Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003). Finally,
statements in a brief, unsupported by the record, cannot be
used to create a factual dispute. Barnes v. Independent
Auto. Dealers, 64 F.3d 1389, 1396 n.3 (9th Cir. 1995).
Motion for Summary Judgment, TCC argues that summary judgment
should be granted in its favor as to each of Harris's
claims: (1) disability discrimination under the Americans
with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ) and the Idaho Human
Rights Act (" IHRA" ); (2) wrongful termination in
violation of public policy; (3) breach of the covenant of
good faith and fair dealing; (4) gender discrimination under
Title VII and the IHRA; and (5) retaliation under Title VII
and the IHRA. Each claim will be discussed in
Discrimination based on disability
argues that Harris has failed to meet her prima
facie case as to her discrimination claim under the ADA
and the IHRA. TCC's argument is two-fold. It asserts that
Harris has not demonstrated that she suffered from a
disability, and that she has failed to show that her alleged
disability played a role in TCC's decision to terminate
her. Harris responds that her injuries, particularly to her
shoulder, constitute a " disability" because they
substantially limited her ability to work. She argues that
she was terminated because of her disability, as evidenced by
Steadman's deposition testimony where he " admitted
. . . that TCC terminated Harris because she could not drive
truck or operate a loader." Pl.'s Resp. Br.
at 9, Dkt. 22. As further discussed below, however, the Court