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Mendez v. University Health Services Boise State University

Supreme Court of Idaho

January 17, 2018

RAUL MENDEZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
UNIVERSITY HEALTH SERVICES BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY, MARIEL DOYLE, Defendants-Respondents.

         2018 Opinion No. 7

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Timothy Hansen, District Judge.

         The district court's judgment is affirmed.

          Raul Mendez, Meridian, appellant pro se.

          Cantrill, Skinner, Lewis, Casey & Sorensen, LLP, Boise, for respondent.

         SUBMITTED ON THE BRIEFS

          BRODY, JUSTICE.

         This case addresses an employee's claims arising after his employer terminated his employment. The employee brought claims under provisions of the Idaho Human Rights Act, claiming that the employer unlawfully discriminated against him based on race. He also alleged breach of employment contract and the implied covenant of good faith. Finally, he sought to disqualify the trial judge for cause based upon perceived bias. The district court denied the employee's disqualification motion and granted summary judgment for the employer on all four of the employee's claims. We affirm the judgment entered in favor of the employer.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Raul Mendez was hired by University Health Services Boise State University ("University Health") as a customer service representative on or about August 24, 2011. Mariel Doyle worked at University Health as a team lead and was one of Mendez's supervisors. She also participated in Mendez's interview and hiring process. Mendez remained in his position with University Health until November 15, 2011, when he was notified that his employment was being terminated. Mendez was given the option to resign in lieu of being terminated, and he chose to resign on November 18, 2011.

         Mendez filed a four-count complaint against University Health, Mariel Doyle, and Libby Greaney. He amended his complaint, removing Libby Greaney and adding the State of Idaho as a defendant. Mendez later requested to dismiss the State of Idaho, which the district court granted. Mendez proceeded against University Health and Mariel Doyle ("Respondents"), alleging (1) unlawful discrimination in violation of Idaho Code section 67-5909, (2) retaliation in violation of Idaho Code section 67-5911, (3) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and (4) breach of implied and/or express employment contract.

         Mendez's claims centered on conduct that he alleged constituted discrimination against him because he is Hispanic. He claimed that Respondents failed to provide him adequate training and supervision, which non-Hispanic employees received. Mendez also claimed that non-Hispanic employees made the same mistakes he made, but only he received formal discipline. Additionally, he claimed his reporting the alleged discrimination led to his eventual discharge less than three months after he started as a customer service representative.

         Respondents filed a motion for summary judgment on all four counts in the amended complaint. Along with the supporting memorandum, the Respondents included affidavits of several University Health employees-including Respondent Mariel Doyle. Before the district court's scheduled hearing on the summary judgment motion, Mendez filed a motion to disqualify the trial judge without cause, followed a week later by a motion to disqualify with cause. Following a hearing, the district court dismissed the motion to disqualify without cause as untimely, and denied the motion to disqualify with cause. The court then held a hearing on Respondents' summary judgment motion, and granted summary judgment for Respondents on all four counts of Mendez's amended complaint. Mendez timely appealed.

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         This Court reviews a summary judgment motion under the same standards the district court used. Mackay v. Four Rivers Packing Co., 145 Idaho 408, 410, 179 P.3d 1064, 1066 (2008). Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, 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." I.R.C.P. 56(c) (2015). All disputed facts must be liberally construed in favor of the nonmoving party, and all reasonable inferences from the record must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. Mackay, 145 Idaho at 410, 179 P.3d at 1066. "Summary judgment is appropriate where the nonmoving party bearing the burden of proof fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case." Id. This Court reviews questions of law de novo. Castorena v. Gen. Elec., 149 Idaho 609, 613, 238 P.3d 209, 213 (2010) (citation omitted).

         This Court considers appeals from a district court's discretionary determination based on three factors: "(1) whether the trial court correctly perceived the issue as discretionary; (2) whether the trial court acted within the bounds of that discretion and consistent with the applicable legal standards; and (3) whether the trial court reached its determination through an exercise of reason." State v. Pratt, 128 Idaho 207, 211, 912 P.2d 94, 98 (1996).

         Mendez appeared pro se throughout the majority of the district court's proceedings below and continues to on appeal. "Pro se litigants are not entitled to special consideration or leniency because they represent themselves." Bettwieser v. N.Y. Irrigation Dist., 154 Idaho 317, 322, 297 P.3d 1134, 1139 (2013). Pro se litigants must conform to the same standards and rules as litigants represented by attorneys, and this Court will address the issues accordingly. Michalk v. Michalk, 148 Idaho 224, 229, 220 P.3d 580, 585 (2009); Suitts v. Nix, 141 Idaho 706, 709, 117 P.3d 120, 123 (2005).

         III. ...


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