LCW Obtains Summary Judgment For Private University In Response To Employee’s Claims For Wrongful Termination, Wage And Hour Violations, And Workplace Violence

CATEGORY: Private Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Private Education
DATE: Mar 04, 2020

Plaintiff Cory Scott was employed in Azusa Pacific University’s (APU) Department of Campus Safety (DCS) since August 2006 in various campus safety positions.  In 2012, Scott was promoted to the Manager Department of Campus Safety, Student Workers, where he directly supervised a total of about 120 employees.  In 2014, Scott was promoted to Lieutenant in DCS, where he was responsible for overseeing all operations of the Department.  In 2015, Scott applied for a promotion to a new Deputy Chief (DC) position but was not selected for the position.  One month later, Scott left work on medical leave on October 6, 2015, never returned to work and resigned from his employment at APU on June 22, 2017.  APU kept Scott’s position open for nearly two years before he resigned.

During his employment, Scott and his supervisor, the Chief, frequently socialized, including going to see movies together at least 61 times.  Scott and the Chief were both attending different graduate school programs at other schools.  Scott sometimes did the Chief’s homework.  It was not until after he did not get the promotion to DC and had been off work on leave for several months that Scott disclosed to APU that he was doing the Chief’s homework.  Scott also alleged that the Chief threatened to kill him if he ever told anyone and that he was afraid he would lose his job and his tuition benefits for his children attending APU.  As soon as APU became aware of Scott’s complaints about the Chief, it promptly investigated and took corrective action.

Scott filed a lawsuit seeking overtime compensation for the time spent doing the Chief’s homework and the time he spent going to the movies and socializing with the Chief, and on-call pay for all hours that he was not working on campus.  In addition, Scott brought claims for wrongful termination, sexual harassment, emotional distress, and workplace violence against the University.

LCW attorneys Brian Walter and Alison Kalinski vigorously litigated this lawsuit on behalf of APU.  LCW initially obtained dismissal of Scott’s claims for sexual harassment and retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act on the basis that the school is a religious corporation.

In April 2019, the trial court granted APU partial summary adjudication on the following causes of action:  (i)  retaliation in violation of Labor Code Section 98.6, because Scott never complained to APU about any unpaid overtime and because he voluntarily resigned; (ii) intentional infliction of emotional distress, because the alleged conduct was either time-barred or outside the scope and course of employment so APU could not be responsible; (iii) wrongful termination in violation of public policy because Scott voluntarily resigned; and (iv) violation of Bane Act, Civil Code Section 52.1, a workplace violence statute, because the only alleged threat of violence was outside the statute of limitations.

As to Scott’s wage and hour claims, the trial court agreed with LCW’s arguments that Scott was an exempt executive employee.  However, the court found that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether he should be compensated for the hours he spent on call.  Because an employee who is exempt cannot obtain overtime, even for being on-call, LCW filed a petition for a writ of mandate with the Court of Appeal challenging the trial court’s decision.  After the Court of Appeal ordered further briefing from the parties asking for any authority for the proposition that an exempt employee could still recover over time, the Court of Appeal issued a notice to the trial court stating its intention to grant the peremptory writ of mandate.  In response, the trial court scheduled a further hearing and then granted summary judgment to APU in its entirety.