United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for
summary judgment (Dkt. No. 48) and motion to strike evidence
(Dkt. No. 57 at 12-13). Having thoroughly considered the
parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court
finds oral argument unnecessary, and, for the reasons
explained herein, GRANTS in part and DENIES in part
Bailey (“Bailey”) filed this suit against
Defendants, her former employers, alleging wrongful
discharge, failure to pay overtime wages as required by state
and federal law, willful withholding of wages, defamation,
and emotional distress claims. (Dkt. No. 1 at 10-12.) Upon
Defendants' prior motion, the Court dismissed
Bailey's emotional distress claims. (Dkt. No. 10; Dkt.
No. 16 at 11-15.) Defendant Grace Borsari
(“Borsari”) subsequently counterclaimed for
breach of contract. (Dkt. No. 23.) Bailey has voluntarily
dismissed her defamation claim. (Dkt. No. 53 at 3.)
Defendants now seek summary judgment on all remaining claims.
(Dkt. No. 48.)
Advanced Industries, Inc. (“Altair”) and Alpha
Technologies, Inc. (“Alpha”) are privately held
companies owned and headed by Borsari and Defendant Fredrick
Kaiser (“Kaiser”) respectively. (Dkt. No. 50 at
1-2.) Telecomponents & Supply, Ltd. (“TCS”)
is a purchasing agent for Altair, and is wholly owned by
Kaiser. (Dkt. No. 50 at 1.) Bailey worked for Defendants
Altair and Alpha for more than 25 years before her employment
was terminated in August 2015. (Dkt. No. 54 at 2.) Bailey was
a senior international buyer, whose duties included
“negotiating the purchase price of components,
sub-assemblies, and finished products with the contract
manufacturers in Asia (mostly China).” (Id. at
primary responsibility as a purchaser was to negotiate the
price of parts from contract manufacturers. (Id. at
6.) She would then relay the negotiated price to TCS and TCS
would purchase the parts at that price. (Id. at 3.)
The prices that TCS was willing to pay for goods were set by
TCS, and Bailey had no discretion or authority over what TCS
was willing to pay. (Id. at 4.) Once TCS purchased
the parts, they were sold to Altair at a markup.
was aware of the higher prices that Altair would pay for the
same goods she had negotiated to buy for less. (Id.)
Kaiser told Bailey that the markup between the negotiated
price that TCS paid and the price Altair paid should not
exceed 20-25% because there would be adverse tax consequences
that could get the company in trouble with the IRS.
(Id. at 5.) As one of the only people with access to
both price lists, Bailey reviewed the lists to make sure the
markups did not exceed the designated percentages.
January 2015, Bailey discovered that some of the markups
recorded on the TCS price list were 50-60% higher than the
price she had negotiated. (Id.) Bailey reported the
discrepancy to Borsari who in-turn notified Kaiser.
(Id.) Borsari insisted Bailey delete any email
correspondence about the high markup and ensure other
recipients did also. (Id.) In a later in- person
meeting, Kaiser and Borsari reminded Bailey not to disclose
the markup concerns, and told Bailey that it was
“unfortunate” she knew the information.
(Id.) In that meeting, Kaiser and Borsari told
Bailey she would be transferred from Altair to Alpha.
(Id. at 10.) She moved offices and received a raise,
but, her job duties did not change. (Id.)
did not understand the move because she had been doing the
same work for Altair for years, and found it odd she was
moved immediately after reporting the high markups.
(Id.) In July 2015, TCS released a new price list
which again showed markups of 50-60%. (Id.) Bailey
again reported the markups, but this time Kaiser insisted
that Bailey travel with him to the Bahamas to meet with Peter
Turnquest, a TCS employee, to fix the price list.
(Id.) Kaiser also asked Bailey to bring her husband.
(Id. at 12.) Bailey found both requests odd because
she had met Turnquest before and thought the issue could be
sorted out over the phone. (Id. at 11-12.)
Bahamas, during a brief meeting, Kaiser instructed Bailey and
Turnquest to review the price list. (Dkt. No. 54 at 12.)
Turnquest instead had an associate work with Bailey on the
price list. (Id.) This was the only meeting Bailey
attended in the Bahamas, and she was otherwise free to do
what she pleased. (Id.) Days after returning, Kaiser
received an email from Turnquest alleging Bailey and her
husband had solicited drugs at their hotel while making
“outlandish” claims about Turnquest and TCS.
(Dkt. No. 50 at 16.) Days later, Kaiser fired Bailey.
(Id.) Bailey was not given an opportunity to explain
herself. (Dt. No. 54 at 14.) Kaiser claims he terminated
Bailey's employment because of the content of the email,
and Turnquest's insistence that he no longer wanted to
work with Bailey. (Dkt. No. 50 at 16.) Bailey denies
Turnquest's allegations and believes they were fabricated
to allow Kaiser to fire her. (Dkt. No. 54 at 14-15.)
from Bailey's termination, in 2013 and 2014, Borsari
loaned Bailey $6, 400 using several promissory notes. (Dkt.
No. 52 at 223-226.) Each promissory note contained an
acceleration clause that allowed Borsari the option to
collect the outstanding loan balance in full if Bailey became
delinquent. (Id. at 223-226.) When Bailey was unable
to pay the loans when they became due, Borsari told her to
pay when she could. (Dkt. No. 54 at 17.) After Bailey filed
this lawsuit, Borsari sent her a letter requesting payment in
full. (Dkt. No 56-3 at 70.) Bailey has still made no payments
on any of the loans. (See Dkt. No. 54 at 17.)
Summary Judgment Standard
Court shall grant summary judgment if the moving party shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In making such a determination, the
Court must view the facts and justifiable inferences to be
drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made
and supported, the opposing party must present specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Material facts are
those that may affect the outcome of the case, and a dispute
about a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient
evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the
non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.
Ultimately, summary judgment is appropriate 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, 324 (1986).
Motion to Strike Evidence
initial matter, the Court addresses Defendants' motion to
strike all evidence mentioned in Plaintiff's response
brief regarding the Defendants' 2004 criminal tax
case. (Dkt. No. 57 at 12-13.) Defendants ask
this Court to strike the evidence as irrelevant and improper
“other acts” evidence in violation of Federal
Rules of Evidence 402 and 404(b), or in the alternative, as
unfairly prejudicial under Rule 403. (Id.)
Court has not considered that evidence in making its decision
on Defendants' summary judgment motion. Even without
considering that evidence, the Court finds that the Plaintiff
has presented evidence that creates a genuine dispute of
material fact as it relates to her wrongful termination
claim. The Defendants' motion to strike is therefore
DENIED without prejudice. Defendants can bring their motion
again prior to trial.
Bailey's Wrongful Termination Claim
tort for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy is
a narrow exception to the at-will doctrine.”
Thompson v. St. Regis Paper Co., 685 P.2d 1081
(Wash. 1984). “To state a cause of action, the
plaintiff must plead and prove that his or her termination
was motivated by reasons that contravene an important mandate
of public policy.” Id. In Washington, it is
generally accepted that wrongful discharge claims are limited
to four public policy concerns:
(1) where employees are fired for refusing to commit an
illegal act; (2) where employees are fired for performing a
public duty or obligation, such as serving jury duty; (3)
where employees are fired for exercising a legal right or
privilege, such as filing workers' compensation claims;
and (4) where employees are ...