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Northwest Administrators, Inc. v. Pasha Automotive Services

United States District Court, Western District of Washington, Seattle

April 29, 2015



A Robert S. Lasnik United States District Judge

This matter comes before the Court on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. Dkt. # 13 (Pl. MSJ); Dkt. # 19 (Def. MSJ). Having reviewed the memoranda and exhibits submitted by the parties, the Court finds as follows.[1]


The dispute in this case concerns a pension trust fund governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. The parties contend that the relevant, material facts are not in dispute.

Defendant Pasha Automotive Services (“defendant” or “Pasha”) employs members of a bargaining unit represented by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 36 (“Local 36" or the “Union”), and is a party to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) with the Union. Dkt. # 14 (Clawson Decl.) ¶¶ 10-12. Defendant is bound by the CBA, an Employer Union Pension Certification, and the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Agreement (“Trust Agreement”), id. ¶¶ 12-15; pursuant to those agreements, defendant has been required to report and make contributions to the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Fund (“Trust”) to provide retirement benefits for eligible participants since at least 2010, id.[2] Although the original CBA has expired, the parties are still operating under its terms and those of the Trust Agreement. Id.

Plaintiff is the authorized administrative agent and assignee of the Trust. Id. ¶ 2. The Trust Agreement grants plaintiff broad rights to audit defendant’s payroll records, stating the following in relevant part:

Each Employer shall promptly furnish to the Trustees or their authorized representatives on demand any and all records of his past or present Employees concerning the classification of such Employees, their names, Social Security numbers, amount of wages paid and hours worked or paid for, and any other payroll records and information that the Trustees may require in connection with the administration of the Trust Fund, and for no other purpose. The Trustees or their authorized representative may examine any books and records of each employer, which the Employer is required to furnish to the trustees on demand whenever such examination is deemed necessary or desirable by the Trustees in the proper administration of the Trust.

Dkt. # 14-1 (Trust Agreement) at 21 (emphasis added).

Defendant performs auto-processing services for numerous customers who import newly-manufactured vehicles into the United States for inland distributions to auto dealers for sale in the U.S. market. Dkt. # 20 (Gabara Decl.) ¶ 3. Auto-processing services include, but are not limited to, washing vehicles, installing accessories and/or parts, and repairing damage suffered during the ocean voyage. Id. According to defendant, the Union does not always have sufficient workers to allow defendant to meet fluctuating customer demand; as a result, defendant relies on temporary labor to supplement its Union workforce. Dkt. # 20 (Gabara Decl.) ¶ 5. Defendant contracts with Select Staffing, a third-party staffing agency, to provide temporary workers. On occasion, defendant chooses to hire Select Staffing workers into its own workforce. Dkt. # 20 (Gabara Decl.) ¶ 7.

In January 2014, plaintiff advised defendant that it was auditing defendant’s payments into the Trust and demanded that defendant produce various documents, including payroll and accounts payable records relating to the Select Staffing workers defendant used from July 1, 2011 through November 30, 2013. Dkt. # 22 (Bellaran Decl.) ¶ 4. Defendant produced all requested records except those concerning the temporary workers, withholding these on the grounds that they were not necessary or desirable for the administration of the trust. Id. ¶ 5. Defendant argues that plaintiff never provided a sufficient explanation for why the documents are necessary or desirable for trust administration prior to filing this action in March 2014. Dkt. # 21 (Manning Decl.) ¶¶ 6-8. Defendant emphasizes that, in correspondence the parties exchanged in April 2014 (in which defendant provided a sampling of Select Staffing invoices), plaintiff refused to clarify its position or respond to defendant’s objections that Select Staffing workers were not Pasha employees and thus did not fall under the CBA or the Trust Agreement. Id.

Plaintiff seeks to compel an audit of defendant’s records relating to the Select Staffing workers that it used, and also seeks to recover its attorney’s fees pursuant to the Trust Agreement. Dkt. # 13. Defendant seeks to have plaintiff’s audit request rejected, and also seeks attorney’s fees; in the alternative, defendant seeks a protective order limiting plaintiff’s direct access to the disputed records. Dkt. # 19.


A. Standard For Motion For Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if, viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the moving party shows that “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); Torres v. City of Madera, 648 F.3d 1119, 1123 (9th Cir. 2011). The moving party “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). When parties submit cross-motions for summary judgment, ...

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