United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
C. NYE CHIEF U.S DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Idahoan Foods, LLC's
(Idahoan) Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 24) and two
Motions to Strike (Dkts. 31, 32). After the parties fully
briefed all three motions, the Court held oral arguments and
took the matters under advisement.
reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS each Motion.
in this matter, Dorothy Astorga, was an employee of Defendant
Idahoan from 1987 until her employment was terminated on
April 5, 2018. Dkt. 1. Astorga worked on the midnight shift
in a variety of different positions, including as a sorter,
production operator, and sanitation technician.
initially worked as a sorter, where she used her hands to
pick weeds, rocks, and other debris from the potatoes before
they were processed. Astorga eventually became a production
operator, better known to Idahoan employees as a
“proctor operator.” As a proctor operator, she
operated a large machine known as a “proctor, ”
which carves, cooks, and seasons potatoes. Idahoan required
proctor operators to clean the proctors, apply additives to
preserve and color the product, and sharpen the knives in the
of her employment, Astorga received annual performance
reviews where her supervisors evaluated her work, often
providing commentary on how Astorga needed to improve. In the
final decade of her employment, at least six annual reviews
contained categories wherein Astorga fell below the
“meets expectations” threshold. Dkt. 24-6, 24-7,
24-8, 24-9, 24-10, and 24-11. The areas in which Astorga
underperformed were usually “Accountability, ”
“Initiative, ” “Communication, ” or
“Time Management.” Id. Astorga performed
well in her “Attendance, ” “Punctuality,
” “Product Quality, ” and
“Safety” areas of performance review.
addition to performance reviews, Idahoan employees gave
informal and formal discipline for certain behavior,
including: a failure to meet performance requirements,
harassment, violation of company policy, and insubordination.
Idahoan kept these written-warnings in the employee's
personnel file. Astorga's personnel file contained three
written-warnings. Dkt. 24-13.
first written-warning was in November 2011, for failing to
clean her proctor. Id. Astorga received additional
written-warnings for the same conduct in December 2016, and
September 2017. Id. Astorga's 2015 annual
performance review notes, again, her refusal to clean her
proctor, and further indicates Astorga's poor attitude
toward her co-workers and supervisors. Dkt. 24-14.
Astorga's September 2017 written- warning included
similar statements regarding Astorga's relationship with
co-workers and supervisors. Dkt. 24-13. All of Astorga's
written-warnings explained that her failure to finish her
work resulted in the next-shift having to complete it, and
that any further failure to clean her equipment could result
in her termination. Id.
also received verbal warnings from her supervisors. In 2015,
Astorga's then supervisor, Conrad Harris, personally
documented two occasions on which he had to verbally correct
Astorga's behavior. Dkt. 24-29.
August 2017, Astorga made an offensive remark to another
employee. Dkt. 24-15. This incident came a few days after
Astorga's new supervisor, David Young, discussed this
type of behavior with Astorga. Dkt. 24-15. Astorga's
September 2017 written warning for failing to clean her
proctor noted that incident. Dkt. 24-13. Astorga's
September 2017 third written warning placed her on probation
for six months. Id. Instead of terminating Astorga
in September 2017, Young claims he wanted to give her a
“final written warning with total understanding that
anything more will result in her termination.” Dkt.
Astorga was officially on probation in November 2017 Young
was notified that Astorga was continuing her behavior of
leaving work for the next shift to finish. In response, Young
demoted Astorga from proctor operator to sanitation
technician. Young wrote in an email that he believed a less
demanding position would allow Astorga to remain with Idahoan
for “some time to come.” Dkt. 24-18.
demotion officially occurred in December 2017. At that time,
Idahoan gave Astorga a form titled “Sanitation
Technician Position Description” outlining the
essential functions of sanitation technicians. Dkt. 24-19. On
the form was the question, “Are you able to perform
these tasks with or without reasonable accommodation?”
Id. In response, Astorga circled “Yes”
next to that question. Id. The form also provided a
blank space for Astorga to identify any accommodations she
would need to perform the job, if any. Id. Astorga
left the space blank and signed the form. Id.
Astorga verbally confirmed with Young that she was able to
perform the required tasks. Dkt. 24-5.
sanitation technician, Astorga's primary responsibility
was cleaning tanks that held the potatoes. Idahoan had hoses
throughout the facility to assist the sanitation technicians.
Each hose was 50 to 100 feet in length and were comparable to
a garden hose. The hoses were attached to a wheel on one end
to allow for easy dispensing and roll-up.
addition to routine cleaning assignments, sanitation
technicians were also responsible for spontaneous events
where potatoes would plug drains, causing flooding and a
subsequent mess. These plug-ups, or “upset
situations” as Young describes them, were “all
hands-on deck” situations. Dkt. 24-5. Sanitations
technicians, however, bore most of the responsibility. Since
these “upset situations” were always unexpected,
sanitation technicians needed to perform their routine tasks
timely, so they were ready for these events should they occur
Sanitation Technician, Astorga struggled with her time
management and regularly left work for the next shift to
finish. Astorga also recruited employees from the sorting
line to perform her assigned work. When upset situations
occurred, Astorga sometimes refused to help. Young verbally
coached Astorga regarding her behavior. Dkt. 24-5. In March
2018, Young held a meeting to instruct employees that each
should perform his or her own job and not tell others how to
do their jobs. At that time, Astorga challenged Young and
stated she should be able to pull sorters away from the
sorting line to help her. Young instructed her she could not.
that meeting, Young began a conversation about Astorga's
termination with Idahoan management. One such conversation
occurred between Young and another Idahoan supervisor, Kurt
Murdoch, on March 29, 2018.
time, David Meinhardt, a shift lead who reported to Young,
was Astorga's supervisor. According to Meinhardt, on or
about March 30, 2018, Astorga refused to help with an upset
situation in the “reg room.” Dkt. 24-20. On March
31, Astorga asked Meinhardt if she could work the sorting
line a couple days a week. Meinhart claims Astorga never
mentioned arthritis or wrist pain to Meinhardt when she made
the request. Astorga disputes this and claims to have told
Meinhardt specifically about the arthritis in her wrists at
this same time. Astorga further claims that she told Meinhart
that she did not mind if Idahoan said no to her request, and
that she would continue with the sanitation technician job
for the entire week if Idahoan preferred. Meinhardt said he
would pass on her request to Young, who was not present that
April 1, Meinhardt informed Young that Astorga refused to
help with the upset situation, and further, had requested to
work the sorting line. That same day, Young sent an email to
Idahoan management explaining his intent to terminate Astorga
based on her refusal to do her job and the “continual
nature of the problems surrounding her.” Dkt. 24-21.
Idahoan management agreed with Young's recommendation to
terminate Astorga. Dkt. 24-5. Idahoan discussed the best way
to terminate Astorga based on how poorly she had received
reprimands in the past.
April 1, 2018, Astorga claims that she specifically told
Young that the reason she was requesting the temporary moves
was because she was having wrist pain from moving the heavy
hoses as a sanitation technician, but if she was able to work
at a different work station one or two days that week, that
would help her wrists to recover. Astorga claims that she
told Young that it was okay if he said no, and that she would
continue doing the sanitation technician job if he preferred.
Astorga claims Young did not say one way or another whether
he would approve of Astorga working at a different work
station that week, but he sent her to a different work area
to make boxes and tie them up, which helped to give
Astorga's wrist a rest for that day. Astorga claims Young
sent her to a different area again to bag potatoes the next
day (April 2) to give her wrist a rest. That day, Astorga
claims she went to Young's office to thank him for
helping grant her alleged requested accommodation. Astorga
claims the next day, April 3, Young sent Astorga back to do
the sanitation technician job. Astorga asserts that at that
time, she thought that the company had agreed to her request,
and she was happy with the schedule.
April 5, 2018, just prior to Astorga's shift ending,
Young and Idahoan manager Danny Yates, met with Astorga and
informed her of their decision to terminate her employment.
Astorga claims that at that meeting she brought up her wrist
pain in protest of her firing. Astorga claims that at no time
did Idahoan discuss her alleged arthritis with her, nor what
she could and could not do to ascertain whether the company
could accommodate her. Idahoan claims Astorga never mentioned
her arthritis in her requests to work a different job a few
times a week. Meinhardt acknowledged that Astorga could
perform the job at the time of her termination.
filed this action claiming Idahoan terminated her because she
suffered from arthritis, and that her request to work the
sorting line was a request for a reasonable accommodation.
According to Astorga, she notified Meinhardt that she had
arthritis on March 31, 2018, the same time she requested to
work the sorting line. Astorga also claims that she notified
Young on April 3, 2018. Idahoan denies Astorga ever mentioned
she had arthritis or any similar condition when making her
requests to either of these individuals. Astorga also claims
Idahoan discriminated against her based on her age. Dkt. 1.
At the time of her termination Astorga was 63 years old. Dkt.
28-2. Astorga claims several team leads and co-workers asked
about her age and her retirement plans, and that Idahoan
ultimately terminated her-in part-because of her age. Dkt.
24-4, 28-2. Idahoan denies these claims as well. Astorga
claims that due to her termination, she has suffered lost
income and lost insurance and other benefits in the past, and
she will continue to make less than she made at Idahoan for
years to come. Additionally, Astorga claims her termination
has caused her severe anxiety, stress, and other pain and
discovery, Idahoan filed a motion seeking summary judgment on
all of Astorga's claims.
judgment is proper “if the movant shows that 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). The Court's role at summary judgment is not
“to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Zetwick v. Cty. of Yolo, 850 F.3d 436,
441 (9th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). In considering a
motion for summary judgment, the Court must “view the
facts in the non-moving party's favor.”
Id. To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the
respondent need only present evidence upon which “a
reasonable juror drawing all inferences in favor of the
respondent could return a verdict in [his or her]
favor.” Id. (citation omitted). Accordingly,
the Court must enter summary judgment if a party “fails
to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
The respondent cannot simply rely on an unsworn ...