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Olson v. Uehara

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

December 2, 2014

W. GARY OLSON, Plaintiff,
EDWINA S. UEHARA, et al., Defendants.


RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, District Judge.


This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. #147. Defendants seek summary dismissal of all remaining claims in this case. Plaintiff argues that there are material questions of fact on all claims, and therefore summary judgment is not appropriate. Dkt. # 155. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion summary judgment and DISMISSES this case.


In ruling on the parties' prior cross-motions for partial summary judgment, this Court set forth the facts relevant to this case and incorporates them by reference herein. Dkt. #133.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). In ruling on summary judgment, a court does not weigh evidence to determine the truth of the matter, but "only determine[s] whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Crane v. Conoco, Inc., 41 F.3d 547, 549 (9th Cir. 1994) ( citing Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d 744, 747 (9th Cir. 1992)). Material facts are those which might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

The Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d at 747, rev'd on other grounds, 512 U.S. 79 (1994). However, the nonmoving party must make a "sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof" to survive summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Further, "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.

B. Prior Ruling on Plaintiff's Employment Status

This Court has previously determined that Plaintiff was not a faculty member at the time of his termination from employment, but was instead considered to be a Professional Staff employee. Dkt. #133 at 7-8. This is significant because Professional Staff employees are employed "at-will" and are not subject to the same policies and procedures as faculty members. Indeed, the Court has already determined that the Faculty Code did not apply to him at that time. Id. The Court has further determined that, at the time of his employment separation, Plaintiff had no legitimate interest in continued employment. Id. at 8-10. However, the Court also determined that Plaintiff had been appointed as Lecturer, a faculty position, during the 2010-2011 academic year, which ended in June 2011. Id. at 8. The Court's prior rulings continue to inform the Court with respect to the remaining claims in this matter, as further discussed below.

C. Retaliation Under WLAD

Plaintiff first brings a claim under Washington's Law Against Discrimination ("WLAD"), alleging that he suffered retaliation for refusing to implement University policies he believed were discriminatory. Dkt. #22 at ¶ ¶ 98-104. Specifically, he testified that he believed University policies that "satisfactory progress and satisfying a loan was defined by completing ten credits, being registered for ten credits" made it more difficult for the economically poorer students to maintain their financial aid status. Dkt. #149, Ex. E at 45:6-11 and 46:2-9. Thus, he utilized what he claims to be a University-wide practice of awarding nondegree credits to those students, in an effort to lessen the discriminatory effect of the general minimum credit requirement and related policies. Dkt. #155 at 16.

RCW 49.60.210(1) provides:

It is an unfair practice for any employer... to discharge, expel or otherwise discriminate against any person because he or she has opposed any practices forbidden by this chapter, or because he or she has filed a charge, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under this chapter.

Id. To maintain a retaliation claim under the WLAD, chapter 49.60 RCW, a plaintiff must establish that (1) he participated in a statutorily protected activity, (2) an adverse employment action was taken against him, and (3) his activity and employer's adverse action were causally connected. Hollenback v. Shriners Hosps. For Children, 149 Wn.App. 810, 821, 206 P.3d 337 (2009). Plaintiff need not show that retaliation was the only or "but for" cause of the adverse employment action, but he or she must establish that it was at least a substantial factor. Allison v. Housing Auth. of City of Seattle, ...

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