Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cooper v. State of Hawaii Department of Taxation

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

June 20, 2019

MARIO COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF HAWAII, Department of Taxation, and STATE OF HAWAII, Department of Human Resources Development, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S CROSS-MOTIONS FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JILL A. OTAKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 45) on all twenty of pro se Plaintiff's causes of action, and Plaintiff's Motions for Partial Summary Judgment on Counts 13, 14, and 18 (ECF Nos. 39, 41, 65). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and Plaintiff's Motions are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts[1]

         Pro se Plaintiff Mario Cooper was employed as a delinquent tax collector with the Hawaii Department of Taxation (“HDT”) when he began experiencing pain in both his elbows, which he attributes in part to the number of keystrokes he typed as a tax collector. ECF No. 36 ¶¶ 15-16. Plaintiff also alleges that the air vents in his office blew cold air on him which exacerbated his elbow pain. ECF No. 36 ¶ 21. Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim, and after a hearing, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Disability Compensation Division (“DLIR”) found that Plaintiff suffered a work-related injury on March 11, 2016, which caused Plaintiff's bilateral elbow tendonitis. ECF No. 46 ¶ 3; ECF No. 66 at 4 ¶ 3. Through the course of three decisions on the matter, DLIR awarded workers' compensation benefits, including what is known as “temporary total disability” to Plaintiff for his injury for various periods of time. ECF Nos. 46-6, 46-7, 46-8.

         Plaintiff continued to experience pain and discomfort in his elbows and on August 22, 2016, Plaintiff requested an ergonomic keyboard and chair. ECF No. 46-30 at 3; ECF No. 66 at 12 ¶ 19. Plaintiff claims that he also requested permission to telecommute to work. ECF No. 66 at 7 ¶ 32. HDT, however, contends that when Plaintiff asked for an ergonomic keyboard, HDT instructed him to make a formal request, and that his eventual formal request only sought a separate office space, which HDT denied. See ECF No. 46-1 ¶ 25; ECF No. 46-30. But both HDT and Plaintiff agree that HDT engaged in an interactive process to provide reasonable accommodations. ECF No. 46 ¶ 13; ECF No. 66 at 5 ¶ 13.

         Then from May 23, 2017 to June 30, 2017, Plaintiff did not show up to work. ECF No. 66 at 4 ¶ 7. Plaintiff provided HDT with several medical slips establishing that Plaintiff was under medical care at various times throughout this period. HDT received one of these medical slips on April 21, 2017, stating that Plaintiff would be able to return to work on May 23, 2017. ECF No. 46-10; ECF No. 46 ¶ 6; ECF No. 66 at 4 ¶ 6. But Plaintiff did not return to work on May 23, and HDT did not receive another medical slip until July 3, 2017, stating that Plaintiff would be able to return to work with no limitations on July 10, 2017. ECF No. 46-11; ECF No. 46 ¶ 10; ECF No. 66 at 4 ¶ 10. Although Plaintiff contends he attempted to call HDT to apprise his employer of his medical absence between the period of May 23 to June 30, Plaintiff conceded at the hearing that he was never able to do so despite his attempts. It is thus undisputed that from May 23, 2017 to June 30, 2017, Plaintiff did not show up to work and HDT was unaware of why he was absent.

         A collective bargaining agreement governs Plaintiffs employment with HDT. ECF No. 46 ¶ 2; ECF No. 66 at 4 ¶ 2. Under the collective bargaining agreement, when an employee does not show up to work for fifteen days after the conclusion of a leave period, HDT may consider that employee to have resigned from employment. ECF No. 46 ¶ 9; ECF No. 66 at 4 ¶ 9. After a pre-discharge hearing, HDT discharged Plaintiff from his employment on July 17, 2017, on the grounds that he did not show up to work and did not inform HDT of his absence from May 23 to June 30, 2017. ECF No. 46-19; ECF No. 46 ¶ 16; ECF No. 66 at 5 ¶ 16.

         Plaintiff challenged his discharge under the collective bargaining agreement's grievance and arbitration process. ECF No. 46 ¶ 17; ECF No. 66 at 5 ¶ 17. While the grievance process was still ongoing, Plaintiff brought this lawsuit seeking relief on numerous grounds.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff brought this action on July 24, 2018 and filed his operative First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) on November 2, 2018. The Complaint alleges the following causes of action:

• Counts 1 and 2: Unlawful termination in violation of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
• Counts 3 and 4: Failure to provide leave as a reasonable accommodation in violation of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
• Counts 5 and 6: Failure to provide ergonomic keyboard as a reasonable accommodation in violation of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
• Counts 7 and 8: Failure to provide flex time as a reasonable accommodation in violation of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
• Counts 9 and 10: Failure to provide telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
• Count 11: Termination against public policy under HRS § 76-46.
• Count 12: Race and sex discrimination under Title VII.
• Count 13: Aiding and abetting discrimination under HRS § 378- 2(a)(3).
• Count 14: Procedural due process violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
• Count 15: Substantive due process violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
• Count 16: Assumpsit claim for failing to pay wages and disability benefits.
• Count 17: Failure to pay wages under Fair Labor Standards Act.
• Count 18: Conversion claim for failing to pay wages and disability benefits.
• Count 19: Bad Faith tort claim for failure to properly investigate and pay workers' compensation benefits.
• Count 20: Tortious interference of contract claim for interfering with his employment at HDT and interfering with his workers' compensation benefits.

         Plaintiff filed Motions for Partial Summary Judgment on Counts 14 and 18 on November 26, 2018. ECF No. 39; ECF No. 41. Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on December 14, 2018. ECF No. 45. Plaintiff next filed a Counter Motion for Summary Judgment on Count 13, which also served as his Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 65. Thus, presently before the Court are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiffs Motions for Partial Summary Judgment on Counts 13, 14, and 18. ECF Nos. 39, 41, 45, 65. The parties timely filed oppositions and replies.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) mandates summary judgment “against a party who 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); see also Broussard v. Univ. of Cal. at Berkeley, 192 F.3d 1252, 1258 (9th Cir. 1999).

         “A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). “When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56[(a)], its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts [and] come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (“[A] party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” (citation and quotation marks omitted)).

         “An issue is ‘genuine' only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable fact finder could find for the nonmoving party, and a dispute is ‘material' only if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” In re Barboza, 545 F.3d 702, 707 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). When considering the evidence on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences on behalf of the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587; see also Posey v. Lake Pend Oreille Sch. Dist. No. 84, 546 F.3d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir. 2008) (stating that “the evidence of [the nonmovant] is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor” (citations omitted)).

         Further, because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court must construe his complaint liberally and “afford the petitioner the benefit of any doubt.” Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012). Pro se plaintiffs must still, however, “present some ‘significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint'” on a motion for Summary Judgment. Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1235 (9th Cir. 1984) (quoting Gen. Bus. Sys. v. N. Am. Philips Corp., 699 F.2d 965, 971 (9th Cir. 1983).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court addresses Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment first, and then ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.