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Le Roux v. Central Oregon Truck Co., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

June 28, 2018

MICHAEL LE ROUX, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTRAL OREGON TRUCK COMPANY, INC., an Oregon Corporation, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOLIE A. RUSSO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Defendant Central Oregon Truck Company, Inc., (“COTC”) moves for summary judgment on plaintiff Michael Le Roux's claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff began working for COTC in January 2015 as a commercial truck driver. Compl. ¶ 6 (doc. 1). Throughout his first year at COTC plaintiff did not receive a single citation. Le Roux Decl. ¶ 8 (doc. 26). In January 2016, plaintiff was assigned trailer 413Q which was approximately 10 years old. Le Roux Decl. ¶ 14 (doc. 26). Throughout the three months driving trailer 413Q plaintiff received six citations. Compl. ¶ 10 (doc. 1). Plaintiff repeatedly reported problems with trailer 413Q to his supervisors in the daily Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (“DVIRs”) and in emails. Le Roux Decl. ¶¶ 15-29. (doc. 26).

         On April 7, 2016, plaintiff was ticketed for being overweight on the axles. Le Roux Decl. ¶ 34. (doc. 26). Plaintiff reported on his April 7, 2016, DVIR that the “truck, trailer, and load were difficult to weigh due to changing air pressures on [the] tag axles.” Id. After dropping off the load, plaintiff wrote an email in which he informed his employers he was “not hauling any more loads with this truck or trailer until the issues [were] corrected.” Le Roux Decl. Ex. 12, at 2 (doc. 26-12). The COTC dispatcher, Ms. Cantrell, responded with a message indicating plaintiff would not be permitted to return with an empty truck and instructed him to pick up a load in Clarkston, Washington. Le Roux Decl. Ex. 13, at 1 (doc. 26-13). On the morning of April 8, 2016, plaintiff spoke with his supervisor, who assured plaintiff he would find a lighter load for him so he would not be overweight on the axles. Le Roux Decl. ¶ 37. (doc. 26).

         Ms. Cantrell dispatched the details for the lighter load to plaintiff. Le Roux Decl. Ex. 14 (doc. 26-14). In the dispatch Ms. Cantrell listed the pick-up time as 3:30 PM. Le Roux Decl. Ex. 14, at 1 (doc. 26-14). The correct pick-up time was 3:00 PM. Plaintiff arrived at Bennett Lumber around 3:03 or 3:04 PM, nearly 30 minutes before he was instructed to be there. Bennett Decl. Ex. 9, at 12 (doc. 27-9). Upon his arrival, plaintiff found that all of the Bennett Lumber employees had gone home and the lumber yard was locked and deserted. Bennett Decl. Ex. 9, at 12 (doc. 27-9). When he contacted his employer he was informed he should spend the night in Clarkston, Washington, rent a car on Saturday morning and drive 350 miles to return home and then drive 350 miles back to Clarkston by Monday morning to pick up the load at Bennett Lumber. Le Roux Decl. ¶ 41 (doc. 26). It is unclear whether COTC would have reimbursed plaintiff for the costs of the hotel room and rental car. At this point plaintiff concluded his employer was “trying to frustrate [him] to the point that [he] would quit.” Le Roux Decl. ¶ 41 (doc. 26). Plaintiff sent in his resignation and informed his supervisors he would return the truck that evening. Le Roux Decl. ¶ 42 (doc. 26). COTC employees called plaintiff and left voicemails threatening him with jail if he did not stop the truck and turn it around. Le Roux Decl. ¶ 43 (doc. 26); Bennett Decl. Ex. 5, at 7-8 (doc. 27-5).

         Throughout his employment, plaintiff repeatedly requested that his employer repair trailer 413Q. Two days after plaintiff resigned, COTC began significant efforts to repair the trailer. Bennett Decl. Ex 6, at 15 (doc. 27-6). Within seven weeks of plaintiff's resignation, COTC had spent almost four thousand dollars on repairs to trailer 413Q. See Bennett Decl. Ex. 6 (doc. 27-6). Shortly thereafter, the trailer was placed in storage and no longer used. Bennett Decl. Ex. 13, at 26 (doc. 27-13).

         On April 4, 2017, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant asserting claims of retaliation for reporting safety concerns under the Surface Transportation Assistant Act (“STAA”); retaliation for refusing to operate a commercial vehicle that violates a safety standard under the STAA; and whistleblower retaliation under Oregon law. Compl. (doc. 1).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, affidavits, and admissions on file, if any, show “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive law on an issue determines the materiality of a fact. T.W. Elec. Servs., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). Whether the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party determines the authenticity of the dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If the moving party shows the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify facts which show a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

         Special rules of construction apply when evaluating a summary judgment motion: (1) all reasonable doubts as to the existence of genuine issues of material fact should be resolved against the moving party; and (2) all inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. T.W. Elec., 809 F.2d at 630-31.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant argues summary judgment is proper as to plaintiff's claims for relief, and that partial summary judgment is proper on each of plaintiff's claims for lost wages and benefits.

         I. Retaliation for Reporting a Violation of a Safety Regulation

         Plaintiff alleges he was retaliated against for reporting safety concerns under the STAA. 49 U.S.C. § 31105(a)(1)(A). The STAA prohibits an employer from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an ...


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