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Contreras v. United Airlines, Inc.

Court of Appeal of California, Third Appellate District

October 25, 2019, Opinion Filed

C081747

Opinion

Following his discharge from United Airlines, Inc. (United), Santiago Contreras filed suit against United claiming he was unlawfully terminated because of his disability. United afterward filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that Contreras was instead fired for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason—namely, because Contreras had been dishonest and had violated company policy. To support its motion, United offered evidence showing Contreras had called in sick each day he was scheduled to work in September of 2014,1 and then to justify his absences, offered two conflicting doctor's notes. One of those notes claimed Contreras was under a doctor's care in Mexico from September 1 to 28, and was unable to return to the United States until September 28. But because Contreras had used his United flight benefits while out, United knew he had in fact returned to California on September 8, and had afterward flown to Florida and back to California—all during times he was allegedly in Mexico. After giving Contreras an opportunity to explain this discrepancy—during [*2]  which time Contreras varied as to when he returned from Mexico—United terminated Contreras on the stated ground that he had violated United's policies relating to honesty, sick leave, and travel.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of United. On appeal, Contreras raises three general arguments.

First, he argues the trial court failed to apply the appropriate standard of review for summary judgment. But he supports this argument with little reasoning, and we find the claim unfounded.

Second, he contends his offered evidence raised a reasonable inference that United's stated reason for firing him was actually a pretext for discrimination. But his offered evidence only shows that United never contacted his doctor in Mexico to learn more about his medical condition. Although United's failure to contact Contreras's doctor may assist a circumstantial showing of discrimination, it was not sufficient in itself to support a rational inference that intentional discrimination occurred.

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2019 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7128 *; 2019 WL 5485223

SANTIAGO CONTRERAS, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. UNITED AIRLINES, INC., Defendant and Respondent.

Notice: NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS. CALIFORNIA RULES OF COURT, RULE 8.1115(a), PROHIBITS COURTS AND PARTIES FROM CITING OR RELYING ON OPINIONS NOT CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION OR ORDERED PUBLISHED, EXCEPT AS SPECIFIED BY RULE 8.1115(b). THIS OPINION HAS NOT BEEN CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION OR ORDERED PUBLISHED FOR THE PURPOSES OF RULE 8.1115.

Prior History:  [*1] Superior Court of Sacramento County, No. 34201500174953.

CORE TERMS

termination, sick, travel, nondiscriminatory, disability, guidelines, credibility, discipline, pretext, triable, fluids, discrepancy, afterward, flight