USA Waste of California should be in the running for inclusion in the Top 10 Worst Employers in California. In a recent decision, a Ninth Circuit panel reversed a summary judgment granted for USA Waste in a FEHA age discrimination case.
The facts are just terrible. Gilberto Santillan worked for USA Waste for 32 years as a garbage truck driver. His customers loved him. He served Manhattan Beach the whole time and he got to know his customers and they got to know him.
USA Waste’s contract with the City of Manhattan Beach was expiring and USA Waste wanted the City to renew the contract, so USA Waste bragged about Santillan’s service to the community in an effort to get the City to renew the contract. It worked.
But then, after the contract renewal, USA Waste decided it didn’t need Gilberto anymore. Gilberto got a new supervisor. The new supervisor’s name is Steve Kobzoff, but I will refer to him as Mr. Jackass. Well Mr. Jackass did what many new supervisors do, he started picking on Gilberto, who was 53 years old. Mr. Jackass tried disciplining Gilberto, probably hoping Gilberto would just quit. But Gilberto stuck to his guns. And USA Waste fired Gilberto.
Gilberto’s termination his his customers in Manhattan Beach hard. They demanded that USA Waste reinstate Gilberto. They wrote letters. They praised Gilberto’s work ethic, his courtesy and his helpfulness. A local newspaper ran a story about this outrage.
After filing a union grievance, USA Waste was pressured to reinstate Gilberto. But it wasn’t that easy. They made Gilberto pass a drug test, criminal background check and they ordered him to provide proof of his right to work in the US.
Really? After he had already been employed by USA Waste for 32 years?
Gilberto returned to work but didn’t have his work authorization number and expiration date with him, but he did have his driver’s license and social security card. The dumbasses at USA Waste sent Gilberto home and told him to provide the requested information. Which Gilberto tried to do for two days, but USA Waste wouldn’t respond. The fine folks at USA Waste then fired Gilberto.
And this is just a summary of the facts. I encourage you to read the opinion because the facts are even worse.
Gilberto sued USA waste for age discrimination under FEHA and USA Waste removed the case to federal court, probably hoping to find one of those appointed-for-life former AUSA district judges who are known to grant MSJ’s whether or not there is a dispute of a material fact.
BINGO! USA Waste’s strategy worked, and the district judge granted summary judgment on the age discrimination claim concluding that Gilberto failed to establish a prima facie age discrimination case. Gilberto appealed, and thankfully, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district judge’s summary judgment.
If USA Waste doesn’t settle this case soon, either USA Waste is stupid or its lawyers are stupid. I haven’t met Gilberto, but unless he comes across as some United Airlines executive type, I would imagine a jury of his peers will be pretty upset at USA Waste, and will render a rather sizable verdict.
USA Waste already made a mistake by not settling this case because now there’s a published Ninth Circuit opinion detailing what a despicable company it is, and it also tarnishes Mr. Jackass’ reputation, assuming he had a good reputation to start with.
I wonder if Mr. Jackass will put on his resume his fleeting 15 minutes of infamy in a court opinion when he is forced to look for a new job after USA Waste jettisons him for being too old? I bet United Airlines would hire Mr. Jackass to throw passengers of its planes when they are oversold. Sounds like a perfect job for Steve Kobzoff.
Santillan v. United States Waste of California
2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6027 (April 7, 2017)