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Habib v. Matson Navigation Company, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 26, 2014

BOUALEM HABIB, Plaintiff,
v.
MATSON NAVIGATION COMPANY, INC., Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS

RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #30) and related Motion for Sanctions (Dkt. #37). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment and GRANTS IN PART its motion for sanctions.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

The instant lawsuit arises out of a series of events that occurred in August of 2011. Plaintiff, Boualem Habib, states that he was born in Algeria, is of Arab descent, and is a Muslim. Dkt. #1 at ¶ 2.1. On March 5, 2011, Plaintiff accepted employment with Defendant, Matson Navigations Company, Inc., to become the Chief Cook on the SS MAUI. Dkt. #1 at ¶ 2.3 and Dkt. #35-1 at 4. Defendant operates container vessels delivering goods across the globe, including between the West Coast of the United States and Hawaii. The MAUI is a container ship in Defendant's fleet.

Plaintiff's position as Chief Cook was considered to be a "rotary" position, meaning that the individual is assigned to the job for a certain amount of time, completing various rotations on and off the vessel. Dkt. #35-1 at 2-3. Plaintiff was hired to work for 22 months. Dkt. #1 at ¶ 2.3.

The parties agree that Plaintiff sailed aboard the MAUI from March 2011 through June 25, 2011, at which time he departed the vessel to take a "trip off" as vacation time, as allowed by the governing Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA").[2] Dkt. #1 at ¶ 2.3 and Dkt. #35-1 at 5. During "trips off, " rotary position crewmembers are not considered to be members of the ship's crew. Further, during that time, they are not Matson employees because they have signed off on their "shipping articles, " which are the specific contracts between the Captain and the crewmembers for their specific voyages. Dkt. #35-1.

On August 6, 2011, while the SS MAUI was at port in Seattle, and while Plaintiff was still on vacation, Plaintiff re-boarded the ship twice. Dkt. #1 at ¶ 2.4. First, Plaintiff boarded the ship at approximately 3:00 a.m. to pick up a shipmate whose father had suddenly passed away and take him to the airport. Later that day, Plaintiff boarded the ship a second time to retrieve fishing gear that he had left on the ship. Id. Plaintiff alleges that the only person he interacted with on the ship was his shipmate's replacement, and that was during the second time he boarded the ship. Id.

At the time of the events giving rise to the Complaint in this matter, the MAUI had berthed at Terminal 18 in Seattle. Dkt. #35-1 at 3. Terminal 18 is managed by SSA Marine. Id. American Corporate Security handles all security at Terminal 18. Id. Individuals gain access to the Terminal by possessing a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential ("TWIC card") or are otherwise cleared by security. Id. However, the TWIC card does not guarantee access to a particular vessel. To gain access to the MAUI, an individual is required to be on the vessel's current Crew List, or on its approved Visitor List, or have express permission from the vessel's master. Dkt. #35-1 at 4. Nobody disputes that Plaintiff had a valid TWIC card at that time, and that he gained access to the terminal using that card.

On the afternoon of August 6, 2011, Captain James Brady, who was serving as the MAUI's master, received a report that Plaintiff had boarded the ship without permission, and that he had an altercation with then-Chief Cook Tammy Bingisser. Dkt. #35-1 at 5. Captain Brady verbally informed Defendant's shoreside personnel of the report that same day. Id. The report described an altercation wherein Plaintiff had allegedly verbally assaulted Ms. Bingisser while aboard the ship, including yelling at her, kicking or shoving her stateroom door, and calling her a "fucking bitch." Id. Captain Brady submitted a written report documenting the same the next day. Included in that written report were acknowledgments of certain security failures that had resulted in Plaintiff's access to the ship, even though he was not a current crew member and not on the Visitor's list. Dkt, #35-1 at 6.

While Plaintiff vehemently denies the alleged interaction with Ms. Bingisser, he does not deny that:

1. He had signed off his contract of employment and his shipping articles on June 25, 2011, when he left for vacation;
2. He was not on the MAUI's Visitor List or Crew List when he boarded the ...

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