AGHMANE v. BANK OF AMERICA, N.A.

Case No. C-13-03698 DMR.

SALMA AGHMANE, Plaintiff, v. BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Defendant.

United States District Court, N.D. California.

December 5, 2014.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Salma Aghmane, Plaintiff, represented by Hallie Von Rock , Aiman-Smith & Marcy, Randall Bruce Aiman-Smith , Aiman-Smith & Marcy & Reed W. L. Marcy , Aiman-Smith & Marcy.

Bank of America, N.A., Defendant, represented by Don A. Innamorato , Reed Smith LLP, Meghan O. Offer , Reed Smith LLP, Roxanne McClure Wilson , Reed Smith LLP & Renee Cheryl Snyder Feldman , Reed Smith LLP.


ORDER ON PARTIES' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

DONNA M. RYU, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Salma Aghmane brings this employment discrimination action against Defendant Bank of America, N.A. ("BANA"), asserting claims for sex, race, and national origin discrimination, violation of California's Equal Pay Act, blacklisting, defamation, several other tort claims, and failure to pay wages. Both parties now move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. [Docket No. 65 (Def.'s Mot.), 79 (Pl.'s Mot.).] Having carefully considered the parties' arguments, the relevant legal authority, and having had the benefit of oral argument, the court hereby grants Defendant's motion in part and denies Plaintiff's motion.

I. Facts1 & Background

The facts in this case are largely undisputed. Defendant BANA hired Plaintiff in New York as a Vice President, Client Manager in May 2008. (Joint Statement of Undisputed Facts ("UF") 8, 10.) In October 2009, she transferred to the same position in San Francisco, California, reporting to Market Executive Claudio Cipollina. (UF 11-13.) Plaintiff's job responsibilities included managing the relationship between Defendant and a portfolio of business banking clients, and growing the portfolio by selling business banking services to new and existing clients. (UF 14.)

A. Plaintiff's Incentive Compensation Plan

Defendant's Client Managers receive an annual salary and participate in a bonus plan, the terms of which are set forth in Defendant's annual "Incentive Plan." (UF 92, 96.) Each Client Manager is given a "Baseline Incentive Opportunity," or "BIO," which is formulated from performance goals applicable to the employee's role.2 (UF 97; Feldman Decl. Oct. 9, 2014, Ex. E.) Defendant adjusts the BIO to determine a Client Manager's annual bonus based on two components, the "what" and the "how" of an employee's performance. The bonus is also contingent upon the performance of the line of business as well as the corporation as a whole. (UF 100; Feldman Decl. Ex. E.) An employee's "what" rating, also called a "composite score," is a percentage derived by comparing the employee's actual performance against set goals. (UF 99.) This component is non-discretionary. (Feldman Decl. Ex. E.) The "how" performance rating is based on management's assessment of how an employee achieves results, or behaviors exhibited in performing his or her job. (Feldman Decl. Ex. E; UF 100.)

Pursuant to the Incentive Plan, Defendant made payments on February 15 of the year following the applicable performance period (January 1 to December 31). (UF 101, 102, 104.)3 The Incentive Plan set forth Defendant's purpose and intent in providing incentive payments, as well as the eligibility requirements for receiving payments:

The Plan is intended to reward current job performance but its most fundamental purpose is to provide an incentive for future individual performance of eligible Plan participants. It is also designed not only to attract but especially to retain qualified employees. Also, because the performance of the business and company overall determine the size of the available incentive pool, the contribution of any individual cannot be determined except on a performance period basis (e.g., quarterly, annually) for achievement of goals and a comparison of performance with others. For all these reasons, participants whose employment is terminated (either by Bank of America or the participant) prior to the payment date of an incentive award are no longer eligible to be Plan participants and as such, are not eligible to receive a Plan award or other incentive payment, subject to the requirements of applicable law.

(UF 107; Feldman Decl. Ex. E (BANA-007704).) Plaintiff's offer letter states, in part, that she would be eligible for "a discretionary Performance Incentive Award based upon: [1] your overall performance; [2] the contributions of your Group; and [3] the overall success of the Company, provided you remain an employee in good standing at the time future Performance Incentive Awards are paid." (UF 106.)

B. Unauthorized Transactions on Family Member's Bank Account

Plaintiff's cousin's daughter, D.A.,5 held a bank account with Defendant. In October 2012, D.A. filed a claim with Defendant's fraud claims department regarding ATM transactions. (UF 16; Glover Decl., Oct. 8, 2014, Ex. A (Fraud Case Notes 11/20/12).) On November 16, 2012, D.A. filed another fraud claim, alleging that someone conducted several unauthorized transactions in her account in September and October 2012. (UF 18, 19.) D.A. signed a "Fraud Statement of Claimant," which listed unauthorized transactions including a $3,200 transfer from D.A.'s savings account to her checking account, and $12,800 in bill pay transactions to American Express, Chase Cardmember Services, and a third party. (UF 19; Glover Decl. Ex. B (Fraud Statement).) Defendant's fraud claims and retail investigations departments identified fifteen transactions totaling $21,900 in successful or attempted withdrawals from D.A.'s account. (UF 18.) Defendant stopped payment on $9,100 of the transactions and provisionally credited D.A.'s account for $12,800 on November 28, 2012. (UF 18, 23.)

Defendant further investigated the unauthorized transactions in D.A.'s account and learned that Plaintiff had conducted the transactions from her cousin's online banking account. (UF 18, 32, 39.) Seven of the transactions were online bill payments to credit card accounts in Plaintiff's name, and six were payments to one of Plaintiff's former coworkers. (UF 18.) Defendant also discovered that Plaintiff used Defendant's internal systems to access D.A's account several times immediately before and during the period of the unauthorized transactions. (UF 31, 32.)

D.A., who lived in Morocco at the time of the investigation, had several phone calls with Defendant's fraud analysts in November and December 2012, summaries of which are in Defendant's fraud case notes. (Glover Decl. ¶¶ 1-4.) The case notes from December 4, 2012 summarize a conversation with D.A. via a French translator:

[D.A.] states she knows Salma Aghmane, she is her cousin. Sender stated that Salma lives in San Francisco and she went with her to open her account because [D.A.] did not speak English well and then after that she never saw her again. [D.A.] stated that she never lived w/Salma, never gave info, or cards. [D.A.] suspects that she took her personal info the day she translated for her and she never saw her again. [D.A.] was upset to learn the [sic] her cousin was recieving [sic] funds.

(Glover Decl. Ex. A (Case Notes6).) D.A. had another conversation with a fraud analyst two days later:

[D.A.] wanted temp password and claim update. Explained fraud statement needed. [D.A.] stated concerns about if we are sure of Salma (her cousin) [sic] involvement. Explained that we had valid evidence that she received benefit. [D.A.] stated that her cousin works for BOA. ... [D.A.] asked what would happen if she were to work it out w/her cousin, explained that she has a right at any time to [withdraw] claim.

(UF 25.) On December 12, 2012, D.A. called the fraud analyst to discuss her claim. A summary of the conversation included the following:

[D.A.] had questions about claim withdraw process, and what would happen to her cousin Selma [sic]. [D.A.] stated that she is considering contacting her and possibly working it out with Selma [sic]. ... explained liabilities. [D.A.] stated that she will get back to me by end of next week of [sic] her decision.

(UF 26.)

On December 21, 2012, Defendant received D.A.'s Fraud Statement of Claimant, which included a "letter of circumstance." (UF 27.) In her letter, D.A. stated "I've not used online banking to make any of [these] activities." (Fraud Statement.) D.A. checked "no" in response to questions "Are you willing to prosecute?" and "Did you file a police report?" and left blank a question asking her to identify any individual she suspected of having performed the unauthorized transactions on her account. (UF 20-22.) D.A. never withdrew her fraud claim, and on December 27, 2012, Defendant finalized the $12,800 provisional credit to D.A.'s account. Defendant thus sustained an overall loss of $12,800. (UF 18, 23, 29.) Defendant did not contact Plaintiff regarding D.A's claim prior to finalizing the provisional credit. (UF 30.)

On January 2, 2013, Senior Internal Investigator Karen Muth began her investigation into the unauthorized transactions on D.A.'s account. (UF 33.) Muth reviewed the files, including the summaries of the telephone calls with D.A. Muth also conferred with the fraud claims and retail investigation departments, and conducted additional research, such as verifying payments to one of the credit card companies and running an Accurint search on Plaintiff. (Muth Dep. 22-23, 25-26, 28, 32, 55, 133-34.) She did not speak with or interview D.A. (Muth Dep. 22.) On January 8, 2013, Muth notified Cipollina that she was investigating Plaintiff, and on January 9, 2013, Muth interviewed Plaintiff for approximately two hours. (UF 34, 35.) During the interview, Muth informed Plaintiff that viewing D.A.'s account on Defendant's systems violated Defendant's policies, which prohibit bank employees from viewing a family member's account for any reason. (UF 37.) Specifically, Defendant's Associate Handbook states that "[l]ooking up or obtaining information, and/or handling or processing transactions (e.g., reversing fees) on your own accounts or those of a family member, other relatives, or any one with a close personal relationship and/or making changes on any company computer system or other record of such accounts" is "prohibited conduct," and that engaging in prohibited conduct may lead to disciplinary action, including termination. (UF 38.)

Plaintiff initially denied accessing her cousin's account on Defendant's systems but later in the interview admitted she had done so. (UF 36, Feldman Decl. Ex. S (Investigator Diary).) Plaintiff admitted to Muth that she had personally conducted transactions totaling $12,800 from D.A.'s online banking account, but explained that D.A. owed her money, and that D.A. had verbally told Plaintiff to take the money from her banking account by conducting online transactions, including credit card payments. (UF 39, 40.) She also stated that D.A. had provided Plaintiff with her credentials to log onto D.A.'s online banking account. (UF 40.) According to Plaintiff, D.A. had come from Morocco to San Francisco to study English in January 2011. At D.A.'s family's request, Plaintiff helped D.A. with her living arrangements in California, including paying her rent and buying her furniture. (Aghmane Decl. Oct. 9, 2014, ¶ 12.) D.A.'s family later made arrangements to repay Plaintiff by transferring money from D.A.'s bank account. (Aghmane Decl. ¶ 14.)

During her interview with Muth, Plaintiff prepared and signed a voluntary statement. (UF 45.) In her statement, Plaintiff wrote that she and D.A. agreed on the amount of $12,800 and that D.A. asked Plaintiff "to make a transfer to cover that amount." Plaintiff admitted that she had accessed D.A.'s online banking account and made payments totaling $12,800.7 (UF 46, 49.) She also admitted that she had logged on to D.A.'s account from Defendant's systems but stated that she couldn't recall why she had done so. Plaintiff also acknowledged that she was aware of Defendant's "policy not to access family member's account under no circumstances." (UF 47, 48.) In her statement, Plaintiff wrote

I had no intention of deceiving the Bank and I used my name to pay my credit card and to log in to the account. ... I would of [sic] never put myself or the Bank and my colleagues in this situation had I known or suspected [D.A.] was doing and ill intentions [sic]. ... if I had a 1% doubt that this situation would cause the Bank any losses I would of [sic] contacted [Cipollina] immediately.

(UF 51.) It is undisputed that Plaintiff was not a signer on D.A.'s account, nor did she have power of attorney over D.A.'s account. Further, D.A. never notified Defendant that Plaintiff was authorized to use her account. (UF 42-44.)

Following the interview, Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. (UF 52.) Later that day, Plaintiff emailed Muth attaching documentation of the money that she had spent on D.A.'s behalf, including hotel receipts, the lease agreement for D.A.'s apartment, and the security deposit and rent payments she had made on D.A.'s behalf, totaling $13,322. (Aghmane Decl. Ex. G.)

After Plaintiff's interview, Muth contacted Defendant's Advice & Counsel department, an internal human resources group. (UF 53, 54.) An Advice & Counsel advisor discussed Plaintiff's actions with Muth and Cipollina, and recommended that Plaintiff be terminated for a Code of Ethics violation. (UF 55, 56.) Defendant's Code of Ethics provides that employees may be terminated for violation of the Code and other policies applicable to its employees, and a violation of the Associate Handbook may constitute violation of the Code of Ethics. (UF 57, 58.) Cipollina discussed Stewart's recommendation that Plaintiff be terminated with his manager, Regional Executive Kathie Sowa, and with Human Resources Manager Shelley Smith, both of whom agreed with the recommendation to terminate Plaintiff's employment. (UF 61, 62, 64, 65.) Although Cipollina initially expressed his desire that Plaintiff remain employed with Defendant, he ultimately agreed with the recommendation of termination. (UF 63, 66.)

Cipollina met with Plaintiff on January 11, 2013. During their meeting, Plaintiff executed an Acknowledgment of Debt and Repayment Agreement agreeing to repay Defendant $12,800. (UF 70.) In the Repayment Agreement, Plaintiff acknowledges that she is indebted to Defendant in the sum of $12,800 as "the result of online bill pay," and that she "now wishes and agrees to make full restitution in the amount of $12,800." (UF 71.) Prior to her meeting with Cipollina, Plaintiff had reviewed the Repayment Agreement and discussed it with Muth. (UF 67.) Plaintiff signed the Repayment Agreement, stating that she felt that her job depended on her signing it. (Aghmane Decl. ¶ 17.) After signing the agreement, Cipollina handed Plaintiff a termination notice from Defendant. (Aghmane Decl. ¶ 18; UF 68, 73.) In its termination notice, Defendant states that Plaintiff's "conduct, including Code of Ethics violation is not acceptable and has caused us to lose trust and confidence in you as a bank associate. Your personnel records will reflect that you are not eligible for rehire with Bank of America." (UF 69.) Plaintiff has made monthly payments under the Repayment Agreement since February 2013. (UF 72.)

By January 1, 2013, nearly two weeks before Plaintiff's termination, Defendant had calculated Plaintiff's anticipated 2012 bonus to be $110,000. (UF 109.) Plaintiff had received an "exceeds" rating for the "what" and "how" aspects of her 2012 performance. (UF 108.) Defendant made payments pursuant to the 2012 Incentive Plan on February 15, 2013, after Plaintiff's January 11, 2013 termination. (UF 105.) Plaintiff did not receive an incentive compensation payment for 2012.

C. Defendant's Reporting to Early Warning Services, LLC

Early Warning Services, LLC ("EWS") is a third party that provides fraud prevention services to member financial institutions, and maintains a database of members' former employees who were released for knowingly causing or attempting to cause financial loss. (UF 74.) Defendant and EWS have been parties to a contract regarding Defendant's participation in EWS's internal fraud prevention services since 2006. (UF 75.) As a participating institution, Defendant is contractually obligated to report an employee to EWS if Defendant, in its discretion, determines that the employee meets the reporting criteria. (Cabrera Decl., Oct. 8, 2014, ¶ 4.) In order for an individual to qualify for EWS reporting, the following criteria must be met: 1) the employee must be a former employee; 2) the employee must have been at least 18 years old at the time of the incident; and 3) an oral or written admission of criminal wrongdoing was obtained from the employee or there was conclusive evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the employee. (UF 76.) Defendant's Director of the Regulatory Inquiries & Internal Investigations Group testified that the phrase "conclusive evidence of criminal wrongdoing" means "sufficient evidence to corroborate, and to lead the investigator to reasonably believe, that a violation of the law occurred." (Cabrera Decl. ¶ 6.) EWS reporting must take place within 30 days of an employee's termination. (UF 77.)

Following Plaintiff's termination, Muth, in conjunction with an investigations manager, determined that Plaintiff should be reported to EWS. Muth testified that she took "everything" into account in making this determination, including D.A's fraud statement; the fraud claim investigation, which included the notes of the investigators' conversations with D.A.; Defendant's loss of $12,800; and Plaintiff's admission that she had performed the transactions on D.A.'s account. (UF 79; Muth Dep. 25-26, 28, 124, 138.) After Muth marked Plaintiff's file for submission to EWS, Defendant automatically transmitted an electronic data file regarding Plaintiff to EWS on January 13, 2013. (UF 78, 80, 81.) The data Defendant submitted to EWS included Plaintiff's name, contact information and social security number, as well as the investigation case number and date of monetary loss. (UF 81, 82.)

In early March 2013, Plaintiff received an offer of employment from Chase Bank ("Chase"), having passed all of Chase's pre-hiring screening processes. (UF 84.) On March 14, 2013, before she started work, Plaintiff received an email from Chase notifying her that she was ineligible for hire "due to an alert found with the Early Warning Services Fraud Scan from Bank of America." (UF 85, 86.) By correspondence dated March 18, 2013, Chase formally rescinded its employment offer, stating "Our decision was based, in whole or in part, on information obtained from the consumer reporting agency [EWS]." (UF 86.) Plaintiff filed a Notice of Dispute regarding her EWS record on June 26, 2013. (UF 87.) A BANA internal committee reviewed Plaintiff's dispute and documents in the internal investigation file, discussed the case with Muth, and ultimately upheld Plaintiff's EWS listing. (UF 88, 89.) In May 2013, Plaintiff started working as a Vice President, Commercial Lending Officer at a non-EWS participating bank. (UF 127.)

II. Procedural History

On June 27, 2013, Plaintiff filed a state court complaint against Defendant, as well as Bank of America Corporation, and Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. It alleged eight causes of action under California law. Defendant removed the suit to federal court on August 9, 2013. The parties stipulated to dismiss Defendants Bank of America Corporation and Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., and on February 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, alleging the following ten causes of action: 1) sex, race, and national origin discrimination under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Government Code section 12940 et seq.; 2) violation of California's Equal Pay Act, California Labor Code section 1197.5; 3) blacklisting under California Labor Code section 1050, et seq.; 4) defamation; 5) intentional infliction of emotional distress; 6) negligent infliction of emotional distress; 7) intentional interference with economic advantage; 8) negligent interference with economic advantage; 9) failure to pay compensation in violation of California Labor Code sections 201 and 204; and 10) waiting time penalties pursuant to California Labor Code section 203. [Docket No. 42-1.]

Defendant moves for summary judgment, or in the alternative, partial summary judgment. Plaintiff moves for partial summary judgment on her sex discrimination claim, her claims for blacklisting and defamation, and her claims for failure to pay wages and waiting time penalties.

III. Legal Standard

A court shall grant summary judgment "if . . . there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact lies with the moving party, see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986), and the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citation omitted). A genuine factual issue exists if, taking into account the burdens of production and proof that would be required at trial, sufficient evidence favors the non-movant such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in that party's favor. Id. at 248. The court may not weigh the evidence, assess the credibility of witnesses, or resolve issues of fact. See id. at 249.

To defeat summary judgment once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party may not simply rely on the pleadings, but must produce significant probative evidence, by affidavit or as otherwise provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, supporting the claim that a genuine issue of material fact exists. TW Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). In other words, there must exist more than "a scintilla of evidence" to support the non-moving party's claims, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; conclusory assertions will not suffice. See Thornhill Publ'g Co. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 738 (9th Cir. 1979). Similarly, "[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts" when ruling on the motion. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

Where, as here, the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, "[e]ach motion must be considered on its own merits." Fair Hous. Council of Riverside Cnty., Inc. v. Riverside Two, 249 F.3d 1132, 1136 (9th Cir. 2001). "In fulfilling its duty to review each cross-motion separately, the court must review the evidence submitted in support of each cross-motion." Id.

IV. Discussion

A. Preemption

As a preliminary matter, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claim for discriminatory termination, as well as claims three through ten, are preempted by Section 24 (Fifth) of the National Bank Act (NBA), 12 U.S.C. § 24 (Fifth).8

Section 24 (Fifth) gives a national bank the power "[t]o elect or appoint directors, and by its board of directors to appoint a president, vice president, cashier, and other officers . . . [and] dismiss such officers or any of them at pleasure." 12 U.S.C. § 24 (Fifth). "The original congressional intent behind the at-pleasure provision of the Bank Acts was to ensure the financial stability of the banking institutions by affording them the means to discharge employees who were felt to compromise an institution's integrity." Kroske v. U.S. Bank. Corp., 432 F.3d 976, 983-84 (9th Cir. 2005) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Under the United States Constitution's Supremacy Clause, state law that conflicts with federal law has no effect, Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516 (1992) (citing U.S. Const. art VI, cl. 2), and the Ninth Circuit has held that the NBA's "dismiss at pleasure" provision preempts wrongful termination claims under state law. Inglis v. Feinerman, 701 F.2d 97, 99 (9th Cir. 1983) (citing Bollow v. Fed. Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 650 F.2d 1093, 1098 (9th Cir. 1981)). It also "bars contract claims challenging a bank's dismissal of an officer" as well as state law tort claims. Kroske, 432 F.3d at 984.

Plaintiff does not dispute the preemptive nature of Section 24 (Fifth), nor does she dispute that she was an "officer" who served at the pleasure of Defendant's Board of Directors. Instead, she argues that Section 24 (Fifth) does not preempt claims that arise under FEHA because FEHA is consistent with federal anti-discrimination law, which falls outside the NBA's preemptive power. See Kroske, 432 F.3d at 987 (by implication, federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) repealed dismiss-at-pleasure provision of § 24 (Fifth), but "only to the extent necessary to give effect to the ADEA"; holding age discrimination claim brought under Washington state anti-discrimination law not preempted because state law "mirrors the substantive provisions of the ADEA and is interpreted consistently with the ADEA"); see also Lambright v. Fed. Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, No. C 07 4340 CW, 2007 WL 4259552, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 3, 2007) (analyzing similar "at pleasure" provision of the Federal Home Loan Bank Act9, concluding that "the FEHA limits a [bank's] . . . power to dismiss at pleasure `officers, employees, attorneys, and agents' only to the extent of allowing [] claims under state law that mirror Title VII" (citing Kroske, 432 F.3d at 987)). In its reply, Defendant concedes that only partial preemption applies to Plaintiff's FEHA termination claim, and that the effect of the partial preemption is to limit Plaintiff's claim to the standards and remedies provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (See Def.'s Reply 4.) Pursuant to Kroske, Plaintiff may only pursue her FEHA claims to the extent they are consistent with Title VII. See Lambright, 2007 WL 4259552, at *5 (holding former bank employee could pursue FEHA claims "to the extent that they mirror Title VII causes of action"; noting FEHA, unlike Title VII, allows unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, dismissing claims against individual defendants because individual employees cannot be liable under Title VII).

Defendant asserts that the remaining challenged claims10 "could not exist but for [Plaintiff's] termination, and are therefore preempted." (Def.'s Reply 5.) Plaintiff responds that those claims are not related to or based upon her termination, and therefore are not preempted. The Ninth Circuit provided guidance on the scope of preemption in Walleri v. Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, 83 F.3d 1575, 1582 (9th Cir. 1996). In Walleri, the court applied a similar "dismiss at pleasure" provision of the FHLBA, dismissing as preempted an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim based upon allegations regarding the manner in which the plaintiff's supervisors had treated her during her employment, including terminating her. Id. The court reasoned that it did "not think that the statutory power to dismiss at pleasure necessarily preempts claims based on an employer's wrongful act directed at the employee outside of the employment relationship"; instead, preemption occurs where "the conduct complained of relates solely to the employment relationship." Id. (emphasis added). The court held that the plaintiff's emotional distress allegations were "all addressed to defendants' management of the employment relationship" with the plaintiff and were thus preempted, noting that the FHLBA's grant of power to dismiss employees at pleasure "left no room for oversight under state law over the manner in which that power is exercised." Id.

Applying Walleri, the court finds that some but not all of Plaintiff's remaining claims are preempted by Section 24 (Fifth). Plaintiff's blacklisting and defamation claims are based upon Defendant's post-termination report to EWS. Defendant argues that Section 24 (Fifth) preempts these claims because they are closely tied to the reasons for Plaintiff's termination.11 However, Defendant reported Plaintiff's alleged conduct to EWS after it terminated her. While it is true that the basis for the EWS report mirrored the stated basis for her termination, Defendant took the independent and subsequent action of filing the EWS report. Accordingly, the report to EWS was "outside of the employment relationship"; it was not part of Defendant's "management of the employment relationship." See Walleri, 83 F.3d at 1582. The conclusion that Section 24 (Fifth) does not preempt Plaintiff's defamation and blacklisting claims based upon post-termination acts is consistent with both Walleri and the purpose of the "dismiss at pleasure" provision. The provision "afford[s] [banks] the means to discharge employees who were felt to compromise an institution's integrity" in order to "ensure the financial stability of the financial institutions." Kroske, 432 F.3d at 984 (citation and quotation marks omitted); see Westervelt v. Mohrenstecher, 76 F. 118, 122 (8th Cir. 1896) ("it is essential to the safety and prosperity of banking institutions that the active officers, to whose integrity and discretion the moneys and property of the bank and its customers are intrusted, should be subject to immediate removal whenever the suspicion of faithlessness or negligence attaches to them."). Section 24 (Fifth) preemption serves this purpose by granting banks near-absolute discretion in making decisions in the course of "management of the employment relationship," including the decision to terminate an officer. See Walleri, 83 F.3d at 1582. However, once a bank dismisses an employee, the need for such discretion is no longer present. Thus, Plaintiff's defamation and blacklisting claims, both of which are based upon Defendant's post-termination reporting to EWS, are not preempted. Similarly, Plaintiff's negligent and intentional interference with economic advantage claims are based upon Defendant's reporting "false statements" to EWS. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 93, 97, 98.) Accordingly, they are not preempted.

Plaintiff asserts that her intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims arise from two bases: 1) Defendant's alleged unlawful discrimination and 2) post-employment blacklisting and defamation based on Defendant's reporting to EWS. (See Pl.'s Opp'n 24.) Accordingly, Plaintiff's emotional distress claims are partially preempted to the extent that they are based upon Defendant's "management of the employment relationship" with Plaintiff, or pre-termination actions. See Walleri, 83 F.3d at 1582. To the extent that the claims are based upon Defendant's reporting to EWS, they are not preempted.

Plaintiff's remaining claims are for failure to pay compensation and waiting time penalties, based upon Defendant's failure to pay her the 2012 bonus following her termination. These claims do not challenge Defendant's decision to terminate Plaintiff, nor are they addressed to Defendant's management of the employment relationship with Plaintiff, as Plaintiff does not challenge Defendant's Incentive Plan eligibility requirements. Instead, these claims are based upon Plaintiff's claim that the 2012 bonus constituted earned wages and was thus payable upon termination.

Accordingly, the court finds that these claims are not preempted by Section 24 (Fifth).

B. Plaintiff's Sex Discrimination Claims Under the FEHA

Plaintiff's first cause of action is for violation of FEHA, California Government Code section 12940, including subdivisions (a) (discharge or discrimination in employment); (c) (discrimination in training); (i) (aiding and abetting); (j) (harassment); and (k) (failure to prevent discrimination or harassment). Plaintiff alleges that "she was denied a work environment free of discrimination and/or retaliation, denied equal pay, denied promotion, denied commissions and other compensation, wrongfully terminated, and labeled as having an `Unfavorable Employment Record' in EWS." (Am. Compl. ¶ 56.) In her opposition, Plaintiff abandons her claims for discrimination in training, aiding and abetting, and harassment. In addition, she abandons her claims for discrimination on the basis of race and national origin. Therefore, Plaintiff's remaining FEHA claims are for sex discrimination and failure to prevent sex discrimination. Plaintiff's sex discrimination claims are based upon her termination as well as differential treatment regarding compensation, sales leads, post-maternity leave sales goals, and promotion. The court will first address her termination claim and then consider her differential treatment claims.

1. Discriminatory Termination

a. Legal Standard

Under FEHA, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee "in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment" on the basis of sex. Cal. Gov't Code Code § 12940(a). Courts apply the burden-shifting framework articulated by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-04 (1973). Guz v. Bechtel Nat'l Inc., 24 Cal.4th 317, 355-56 (2000) (applying McDonnell Douglas framework in age discrimination claim brought under FEHA); see also Metoyer v. Chassman, 504 F.3d 919, 941 (9th Cir. 2007) ("California courts apply the Title VII framework to claims brought under FEHA." (citing Guz, 24 Cal. 4th at 354)). The McDonnell Douglas test "reflects the principle that direct evidence of intentional discrimination is rare, and that such claims must usually be proved circumstantially." Guz, 24 Cal. 4th at 354.

In the first step of the McDonnell Douglas test, the plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination, the elements of which may vary depending on the particular facts. Id. at 355. Generally, to establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must show: "(1) [plaintiff] was a member of a protected class, (2) [plaintiff] was qualified for the position [he or she] sought or was performing competently in the position [he or she] held, (3) [plaintiff] suffered an adverse employment action, such as termination, demotion, or denial of an available job and (4) some other circumstance suggests discriminatory motive." Id. (citing Nidds v. Schindler Elevator Corp., 113 F.3d 912, 917 (9th Cir. 1996) (analyzing FEHA age discrimination claim)). "While the plaintiff's prima facie burden is `not onerous,' he must at least show `actions taken by the employer from which one can infer, if such actions remain unexplained, that it is more likely than not that such actions were `based on a [prohibited] discriminatory criterion.'" Guz, 24 Cal. 4th at 355 (alteration in original) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

If the plaintiff makes the required showing at the first step, "a presumption of discrimination arises." Id. at 355. The burden then "shifts to the employer to rebut the presumption" by articulating a "legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason" for the adverse employment action. Id. at 355-56. Finally, in the third step, if the employer rebuts the presumption of discrimination, "[t]he plaintiff must then have the opportunity to attack the employer's proffered reasons as pretexts for discrimination, or to offer any other evidence of discriminatory motive. In an appropriate case, evidence of dishonest reasons, considered together with the elements of the prima facie case, may permit a finding of prohibited bias." Id. at 356. A "plaintiff may establish pretext either directly by persuading the court that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer or indirectly by showing that the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of credence." Godwin v. Hunt Wesson, Inc., 150 F.3d 1217, 1220 (9th Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted). If a plaintiff uses circumstantial evidence to satisfy this burden, "such evidence of `pretense' must be `specific' and `substantial' in order to create a triable issue." Id. at 1222. "An employee in this situation cannot simply show the employer's decision was wrong, mistaken, or unwise." Morgan v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 88 Cal.App.4th 52, 75 (2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Rather, the employee must demonstrate such weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies, or contradictions in the employer's proffered legitimate reasons for its action that a reasonable factfinder could rationally find them unworthy of credence . . . and hence infer that the employer did not act for the . . . non-discriminatory reasons." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

b. Analysis

Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case because she cannot show that she adequately performed her job, as she was terminated for a Code of Ethics violation, nor can she demonstrate that Defendant terminated her under "circumstance[s] suggest[ing a] discriminatory motive." See Guz, 24 Cal. 4th at 355.

Plaintiff attempts to characterize the reason for her termination as "violating [Defendant's] Code of Ethics because she looked at her cousin's account." (Pl.'s Opp'n 13.) Plaintiff concedes that accessing a family member's account is a violation of Defendant's policy, but contends that Defendant applied the policy in a discriminatory manner by not disciplining or terminating male Client Managers who engaged in similar behavior.

As a preliminary matter, Plaintiff's statement that she was terminated for simply "looking" at her cousin's account is a mischaracterization. Defendant's Associate Handbook prohibits "[l]ooking up or obtaining information, and/or handling or processing transactions . . . on your own accounts or those of a family member [or] other relatives," and provides that violation of this provision may result in a Code of Ethics violation. (UF 38 (emphasis added), 58.) Plaintiff's termination letter states that she was being terminated for her "conduct, including Code of Ethics violation." (UF 69.) The undisputed evidence indicates that Defendant made the decision to terminate Plaintiff after receiving a signed Fraud Statement from a client disputing online transactions, and obtaining Plaintiff's admission that she had accessed her cousin's account on Defendant's systems and performed the transactions in question, ultimately causing a loss of $12,800 to Defendant. (See Muth Dep. 104-05.) Plaintiff has failed to present any evidence suggesting her termination was motivated by sex discrimination. Specifically, Plaintiff has not presented evidence that other Client Managers committed similar actions and were not disciplined or terminated. The only "evidence" she cites in support of her position is her own unsupported testimony that her male colleagues also reviewed family accounts while at work. Plaintiff's testimony on this point is problematic for several reasons. First, her testimony includes non-specific, sweeping and conclusory statements such as "[e]very single bank associate has a family member, a friend that calls and requests information." (Plaintiff Dep. 530.) She also states "every team member was conducting transactions and helping their family members," and lists four male colleagues who she says "all assisted the families with their banking needs." (Plaintiff Dep. 538-39.) This testimony lacks foundation as Plaintiff has offered no evidence that she has personal knowledge of those matters, only stating that she knew colleagues assisted their family members in some unspecified way "[b]ecause they all talked about it." (Plaintiff Dep. 540.) Her coworkers' statements are also hearsay. Second, even if Plaintiff's testimony were admissible, it does not demonstrate that any of her colleagues engaged in actions similar to hers but were not disciplined. In other words, she does not identify any male colleagues who not only accessed family members' accounts, but made transactions later disputed as unauthorized that caused a loss to Defendant.

The only specific example cited by Plaintiff involves H.A., who Plaintiff claims was openly "managing his uncle's account." Plaintiff asserts that Cipollina was aware of this because they discussed it in pipeline meetings. (Plaintiff Dep. 536, 539.) Unfortunately, Plaintiff provides no other evidence regarding H.A.'s relationship to the account at issue, his involvement or role in the account, or Defendant's knowledge of the relationship. Therefore, it is entirely possible that H.A. was a signatory on the account, or was otherwise authorized to conduct transactions on the account.

Moreover, there is no evidence that her colleague ever conducted any transactions that were later disputed as unauthorized by his uncle or the accountholder, resulting in a loss to BANA. On this record, Plaintiff's insinuations about her colleague's alleged involvement with his uncle's account are speculative, and are insufficient to create a dispute of material fact as to whether "other [male] employees with qualifications similar to her own were treated more favorably." See Godwin, 150 F.3d at 1220.

Even if Plaintiff were able to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination, the court finds that Plaintiff has failed to present evidence that Defendant's reason for terminating her was a pretext for sex discrimination. Upon demonstrating a prima facie case, the burden shifts to Defendant to rebut the presumption of unlawful discrimination by producing admissible evidence that its actions were taken for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. Defendant has done so, by presenting unrebutted evidence that Plaintiff was terminated for accessing her cousin's bank account to make transactions that the cousin claimed were unauthorized, resulting in a loss to Defendant. Therefore, the burden shifts back to Plaintiff to attack Defendant's reasons for her termination as a pretext for discrimination or offer any evidence of discriminatory motive. Guz, 24 Cal. 4th at 356. Plaintiff presents no direct evidence of discriminatory motive. Accordingly, she must present "specific" and "substantial" evidence of pretense in order to create a triable issue. See Godwin, 150 F.3d at 1222. Plaintiff has failed to do so. The only evidence she cites to support her claim of pretext are her own unsupported statements that male colleagues looked at and conducted transactions on family members' accounts but were not disciplined. As discussed above, Plaintiff's statements are inadmissible, and in any event, too vague to compare to Plaintiff's conduct. As Plaintiff has failed to present a triable issue of fact regarding her ultimate burden of persuasion on the issue of discriminatory termination, the court grants summary judgment on this claim in favor of Defendant.

2. Differential Treatment Regarding Terms of Employment

Plaintiff also alleges sex discrimination in the terms of her employment, including compensation, sales leads, promotion, and post-maternity leave sales goals. Defendant moves for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's entire differential treatment claim. Plaintiff moves for summary judgment as to her claim based upon post-maternity leave sales goals. The court will first address Plaintiff's compensation and promotion related claims before turning to her post-maternity leave claim.

a. Discrimination in Compensation and Promotion

Plaintiff asserts that she was paid less than her male counterparts in base salary and incentive compensation. The parties do not cite any cases regarding the standard by which the court must analyze a FEHA claim of sex-based wage discrimination. However, the Ninth Circuit has analyzed a Title VII claim of sex-based wage discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas disparate treatment model of sex discrimination. See Spaulding v. Univ. of Wash., 740 F.2d 686, 700 (9th Cir. 1984). As courts apply the Title VII framework to claims brought under FEHA, see Metoyer, 504 F.3d at 941, the court will apply that framework to Plaintiff's FEHA wage discrimination claim.

In order to make out a prima facie case of wage discrimination, a plaintiff must show that "she was paid less than non-members of her class for work requiring substantially the same responsibility," Belfi v. Prendergast, 191 F.3d 129, 139 (2nd Cir. 1999). She must also show facts sufficient to raise an inference of intentional discrimination. See Spaulding, 740 F.2d at 700. Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot establish that she was paid less than similarly situated males, nor can she show that decisions regarding her pay occurred under circumstances suggesting a discriminatory motive. See Guz, 24 Cal. 4th at 355.

Plaintiff, like other Client Managers, received an annual salary and participated in an incentive plan. At the end of 2009, the year Plaintiff moved to San Francisco and began reporting to Cipollina, there were five Client Managers reporting to Cipollina, including Plaintiff. Two were male and three were female. Defendant presents evidence that at the end of 2009, Plaintiff was paid the second highest salary among the five Client Managers. The only person who received a higher salary was a woman. (Greenough Decl., Oct. 7, 2014, Ex. A (BANA-01391.) At the end of 2010, Plaintiff received the third highest salary among the five Client Managers. Of the two Client Managers paid more, one was a woman and one a man, H.A., who was paid $360 more annually than Plaintiff. (Greenough Decl. Ex. A (BANA-01393).) In 2011 and 2012, Plaintiff was the second highest paid among the four Client Managers on Cipollina's team of two men and two women. (Greenough Decl. Ex. A (BANA-01395, 01397).) Only H.A. made more than Plaintiff in those years, earning only $260 more annually than Plaintiff. (Greenough Decl. Ex. A (BANA-01395, 01397).) In addition, Defendant notes that merit increases scheduled to become effective in February 2013 would have made Plaintiff the highest paid Client Manager on Cipollina's team had she not been terminated. (D.M. Smith Decl., Oct. 2014, Ex. D (BANA-01630.)

Therefore, the undisputed facts regarding salary illustrate that, at most, in several years, a male colleague earned an annual salary that was insignificantly higher ($260 to $360) than Plaintiff's annual salary. Defendant sets forth three unrebutted explanations for the less than $500 difference between H.A. and Plaintiff's salaries. Defendant demonstrates that H.A. had longer tenure than Plaintiff on Cipollina's team, as an employee of Defendant, and in the banking industry. H.A. started working for Defendant in December 2005, almost two and a half years before Plaintiff, and reported to Cipollina's predecessor almost four years before Plaintiff transferred to Cipollina's team. (H.A. Dep. 16.) He started working in the banking industry in 2002, three years before Plaintiff entered the industry in 2005. (H.A. Dep. 14-16; Feldman Decl. Ex. B.)

Regarding bonuses, Defendant presents evidence that throughout her employment, Plaintiff's bonuses reflect amounts similar to or in excess of her male colleagues. In 2009, Plaintiff received a $40,000 bonus, the second highest bonus among the five Client Managers reporting to Cipollina. (Greenough Decl. Ex. A (BANA-01391.) H.A., who received a bonus of $65,000, had a higher composite score than Plaintiff. (D.M. Smith Decl. Ex. A (BANA-01613).) In 2010, Plaintiff again received the second highest bonus, $50,000, with H.A. receiving $60,000. H.A. had a higher BIO on which to base his bonus. (Greenough Decl. Ex. A (BANA-01393).)12

In 2011, Plaintiff received a $90,000 bonus, the second highest bonus among the four Client Managers reporting to Cipollina, second only to H.A., who received $100,000. (Greenough Decl. Ex. A (BANA-01395).) H.A.'s composite score was 10% higher than Plaintiff's. (D.M. Smith Decl. Ex. A (BANA-01623).) Finally, for 2012, had Plaintiff remained employed and received a bonus, she would have received $110,000, which would have been the highest bonus among the four Client Managers on Cipollina's team. (UF 109; Greenough Decl. Ex. A (BANA-01397).)

Plaintiff does not refute any of the evidence showing her salary was consistently near the top of the Client Managers reporting to Cipollina. Nor does Plaintiff challenge or rebut any of the evidence presented by Defendant to explain why H.A. earned a higher bonus or a slightly higher annual salary than she did. In fact, Plaintiff does not argue that H.A. is her male comparator for purposes of establishing her claim for discriminatory compensation. Instead, Plaintiff argues that Defendant "artfully compares" her salary only to the Client Managers instead of to Senior Client Managers. Plaintiff claims, without any supporting evidence, that "[t]he undisputed evidence shows that the skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions to make [] sales was identical [for both jobs]," and that at the very least, that the question of whether the jobs were substantially similar should be put to a jury. (Pl.'s Opp'n 18.) This ignores, and in fact, blatantly contradicts the evidence Plaintiff previously accepted as undisputed. (See UF 111.) According to the parties' joint statement of undisputed facts, "Senior Client Managers belong to different job bands, receive higher goals, have more responsibility regarding mentoring and leadership, and typically, but not always, have more tenure than Client Managers." (UF 111.) Plaintiff offers no evidence from which a jury could infer that, despite these agreed-upon differences, the two positions are nevertheless substantially similar. Plaintiff's comparison of her compensation with that of Senior Client Managers is thus inapposite, given the stipulated fact that there are significant differences in the two positions. See Hein v. Or. Coll. of Educ., 718 F.2d 910, 916 (9th Cir. 1983) (noting plaintiff may not choose highest-paid employees for comparison for Equal Pay Act claim; proper comparator group includes "employees of the opposite sex performing substantially equal work and similarly situated with respect to any other factors, such as seniority, that affect the wage scale").

Plaintiff also argues that her overall compensation was affected by Cipollina's discriminatory practice of giving the most favorable and lucrative sales leads almost exclusively to male Client Managers. Plaintiff testified that on one occasion, she complained to Cipollina that she felt like a "step-child" following a meeting where he distributed 24 leads to her male colleagues and none to her. (Plaintiff Dep. 318-19.) She also testified that when she started in San Francisco, the portfolio she received contained several accounts that were not large enough to qualify for business banking. (Plaintiff Dep. 92-93.) She also claims that her portfolio had been stripped of the biggest clients, but her testimony on this point is not clear, and she presents no other evidence to support this contention. In any event, Plaintiff does not present any evidence regarding who made the decision to alter the portfolio or to suggest that it was altered based upon animus towards her because she was a woman. She also does not present any evidence that Cipollina actually distributed 24 sales leads to her male clients, and cites no other evidence regarding distribution of clients and sales leads. Although she argues that her female colleagues, Jennifer Emmons-Koelemijer and Griselda Ceja, testified that the most lucrative leads from management were given to male Client Managers, there is no record evidence to support this assertion, as Plaintiff did not submit their testimony.

The court finds that Plaintiff has failed to show facts sufficient to raise an inference of intentional discrimination related to her pay. Accordingly, as Plaintiff has failed to carry her burden on the issue of differential treatment based on sex in compensation and sales leads, Defendant is granted summary judgment on these claims.

Finally, Plaintiff argues that Cipollina had the discretion to recommend her for a promotion, and that based on her experience, tenure, and performance, he should have promoted her to the position of Senior Vice President, Client Manager. In order to establish a prima facie case of discriminatory failure to promote, a plaintiff must show that 1) she belongs to a protected class; 2) she "applied and was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants"; 3) despite her qualifications, she was rejected; and 4) after her rejection, "the position remained open and the employer continued to seek applicants from persons of [plaintiff's] qualifications." See Perez v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, 111 Cal.App.4th 671, 675-76 (2003).

According to Plaintiff, during Cipollina's tenure, he promoted two men and no women to the Senior Vice President position.13 Plaintiff further claims that with respect to composite score, she outperformed one of the men promoted in each of the three years she worked for Cipollina, and that she outperformed the other for two out of the three years.

In response, Defendant contends that Cipollina had three ascending categories of Client Managers reporting to him: 1) Vice President, Client Manager (Plaintiff's position); 2) Vice President, Senior Client Manager; and 3) Senior Vice President, Senior Client Manager. (Greenough Decl. Ex. A.) As a Vice President, Client Manager, Plaintiff was at the least senior level, but she argues that she should have been promoted two levels up to Senior Vice President, Senior Client Manager. There is no evidence that Defendant has ever promoted an employee from Plaintiff's level to the position two levels up, skipping the middle level. There is also no evidence that Cipollina filled any openings for Vice President, Senior Client Manager (the next position up from the position held by Plaintiff), during Plaintiff's tenure on Cipollina's team. (See Greenough Decl. Ex. A.) Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to prove a prima facie case of discriminatory failure to promote, as there is no evidence that Plaintiff "applied and was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants," and that "despite [her] qualifications, [she] was rejected." See Perez, 111 Cal. App. 4th at 675-76. Accordingly, the court grants Defendant summary judgment on Plaintiff's failure to promote claim.14

b. Maternity Leave

Plaintiff's final sex discrimination claim is based upon her allegation that she was treated less favorably than male colleagues as the result of having taken a three-month maternity leave in 2011.15 According to Plaintiff, upon her return to work, she was given twelve-month sales goals even though she had only nine months left in the year in which to achieve those goals. In other words, Cipollina did not make a downward adjustment to her annual performance goals despite her three month absence, instead requiring her (and other female Client Managers who took maternity leave) to meet her full year goals in a shorter amount of time. As a result of this practice, Plaintiff argues that she achieved a lower composite score and a corresponding lower bonus for 2011. Plaintiff further asserts that no male Client Manager ever took family leave of a similar length and so no male Client Manager was ever held to this standard. Both parties move for summary judgment on this claim.

Plaintiff's summary judgment motion is less than a model of clarity on this point. In her motion, she argues that this claim is based upon a disparate impact theory of discrimination, emphasizing that such a claim "does not require a showing of discriminatory motive," a requirement applicable to a disparate treatment theory of discrimination. (See Pl.'s Mot. 10-11 (citing Raytheon Co. v. Hernandez, 540 U.S. 44, 52-53 (2003) ("Under a disparate-impact theory of discrimination, a `facially neutral employment practice may be deemed [illegally discriminatory] without evidence of the employer's subjective intent to discriminate that is required in a `disparate-treatment' case.'" (citation omitted))), CACI 2502 ("Disparate Impact (Gov. Code, § 12940(a)"), 11 ("There is no need for Plaintiff to prove that Cipollina acted with discriminatory animus.").) In its opposition, Defendant contends that it had no notice that Plaintiff ever intended to pursue a disparate impact theory of discrimination based upon her post-maternity leave sales goals, and that it only learned of this claim in Plaintiff's summary judgment motion. In her reply, Plaintiff argues that this claim is not solely based upon a disparate impact theory, but that it is also based on a disparate treatment theory, in that Cipollina allegedly treated female Client Managers differently because of their sex. (See Pl.'s Reply 4.) Because Plaintiff only raised her disparate treatment argument in her reply brief, Defendant did not have an opportunity to respond.

At the hearing, the court ordered the parties to submit briefing regarding when and under what circumstances Plaintiff identified her post-maternity leave sales goals claim. According to Defendant, it first learned of Plaintiff's maternity leave theory on August 25, 2014, when Plaintiff served her mediation statement and raised an argument regarding the sales goals.16 Discovery closed the next day, on August 26, 2014. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff did not raise the claim in her DFEH administrative complaint or plead the claim in her amended complaint. Defendant further avers that Plaintiff failed to identify the claim in response to interrogatories that requested that Plaintiff state the basis for and facts supporting each FEHA subdivision that Plaintiff contends Defendant violated. (Feldman Decl., Nov. 14, 2014, Exs. B, C.) Defendant also asserts that when asked in deposition to identify the specifics of her lawsuit, Plaintiff did not identify this theory, instead only making a single passing reference to her post-maternity leave sales goals.

In response, Plaintiff argues that she has consistently alleged that she was denied equal compensation on the basis of her sex, including in her DFEH administrative complaint and her amended complaint.17 She points to the same March 14, 2014 deposition testimony highlighted by Defendant about her return to work following maternity leave:

I went on maternity leave last week of January. I came back from maternity leave May 15. I had goals just like everyone else that I needed to meet by December 31st. There was no discussions about me being pregnant or me coming back from pregnancy. I was having a midyear review like everyone else, and I was grilled just like everyone else. Luckily, I out-performed even after I came back from my maternity leave . . . and my June numbers were great. I did work hard.

(Plaintiff Dep. 244.) She also points to her testimony about the stress her female coworkers experienced returning to work following maternity leave, including Cipollina's "differential treatment" and "the way he basically treated them after that in terms of pressure and goals." (Plaintiff Dep. 364-66.) Additionally, Plaintiff states that she questioned Cipollina about holding women who had taken maternity leave to twelve-month performance goals at his deposition, and that two other witnesses, Jennifer Emmons-Koelemijer and Griselda Ceja, discussed the subject at their depositions as well. (Von Rock Decl., Nov. 14, 2014, Exs. B, C, D.)

The court has carefully reviewed Plaintiff's amended complaint and DFEH administrative complaint, as well as the highlighted deposition testimony and Plaintiff's discovery responses. In her first cause of action for discrimination under FEHA, Plaintiff generally alleges "she was denied a work environment free of discrimination and/or retaliation, denied equal pay, denied promotion, denied commissions and other compensation, wrongfully terminated, and labeled as having an `Unfavorable Employment Record' in EWS." (Am. Compl. ¶ 56.) She does not plead a claim of discrimination based upon Defendant's leave policies, maternity leave policies, or the treatment she received upon her return from leave, nor does she provide any notice of a disparate impact claim. Plaintiff's DFEH administrative complaint is similarly general. FEHA provides that a person aggrieved by an unlawful practice "shall set forth the particulars" of an alleged unlawful practice in a verified complaint submitted to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), including "a description of the alleged act or acts of discrimination." Cal. Gov't Code § 12960(b); Cal. Code Regs. tit. 2 § 10002(a)(3). Plaintiff's DFEH complaint alleges the following wrongful conduct: "Salma Aghmane contends she was subjected to ongoing discrimination on the basis of her sex, race, and national origin . . . Ms. Aghmane contends that she was denied equal pay, denied equal access to client leads and other employment opportunities, denied promotion, denied her bonus, and denied a workplace free of discrimination." (Feldman Decl. Ex. L (DFEH Complaint).) It makes no mention of a disparate impact claim, or a claim concerning post-maternity leave performance goals.

Regarding the deposition testimony, Plaintiff's reference to her sales goals during the year she took maternity leave was somewhat vague and not clearly related to any assertion that she was subject to discrimination on this basis. Although other witnesses testified briefly about the subject, Plaintiff apparently did not seek any other discovery on this topic, which might have put Defendant on clear notice of the claim. Following her March 2014 deposition, Defendant propounded an interrogatory asking Plaintiff to review her previous interrogatory responses and, for any response that was no longer correct or complete, to state whatever information was necessary to correct or complete it. Plaintiff did not take this opportunity to set forth the basis for her maternity leave claim; instead, in responses dated August 22, 2014, four days before discovery closed, Plaintiff responded "[e]xcept for information provided in detail in Plaintiff's deposition and/or the depositions of other witnesses in this case, Plaintiff is not currently aware of any interrogatory responses that are no longer correct or complete." (Feldman Decl., Nov. 14, 2014, Ex. C.) Plaintiff does not dispute that the first time she squarely raised the claim was the day before discovery closed.

Dismissal of Plaintiff's disparate impact theory of discrimination based upon post-maternity leave sales goals is appropriate, as Defendant was not put on notice of the claim prior to the close of discovery and did not have an opportunity to conduct relevant discovery. See Coleman v. Quaker Oats Co., 232 F.3d 1271, 1292 (9th Cir. 2000) (affirming dismissal of plaintiffs' disparate impact claims of age discrimination under ADEA on grounds that they had not pled that theory of liability in their complaint and first raised claim in connection with motions for summary judgment); Rosenfeld v. Abraham Joshua Heschel Day Sch., Inc., 226 Cal.App.4th 886, 894 (2014) ("[d]isparate treatment and disparate impact claims are different theories of liability, with different elements, and must be specifically alleged.").

As to Plaintiff's disparate treatment theory of discrimination based upon post-maternity leave sales goals, Ninth Circuit precedent permits a court to dismiss claims at summary judgment for violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 where a plaintiff fails to "`give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Pickern v. Pier 1 Imports (U.S.), Inc., 457 F.3d 963, 968 (9th Cir. 2006) (in ADA case, affirming court's refusal to consider claims based on different architectural barriers than those alleged in the complaint pursuant to Rule 8) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002) (quotation omitted)); see also Adobe Lumber Inc. v. Hellman, No. CIV 2:05-1510 WBS EFB, 2010 WL 760826, at *5 (E.D. Cal. March 4, 2010) ("[a] plaintiff may not make vague and generic allegations in [the] complaint and simply add facts as discovery goes along without amending the complaint because to do so `would read the `fair notice' requirement out of Rule 8(a) and would seriously undermine the rule's goal of encouraging expeditious resolution of disputes.'" (quoting Pickern v. Pier 1 Imports (U.S.), Inc., 339 F.Supp.2d 1081, 1088 (E.D. Cal. 2004)).

Although the record raises serious concerns about whether Plaintiff gave Defendant "fair notice" of this claim, the court finds that Plaintiff gave enough notice of the claim such that dismissal at summary judgment on Pickern grounds would be unjust. Plaintiff's disparate treatment claim related to post-maternity leave sales goals may proceed. However, Plaintiff did not put Defendant on clear notice of the claim until the day before the discovery deadline. Therefore, Defendant was prejudiced by the fact that it did not have an opportunity to conduct relevant discovery. The court will allow Defendant to conduct limited discovery solely on Plaintiff's disparate treatment claim that Defendant discriminated against her on the basis of sex by requiring her to meet twelve-month sales goals in 2011 even though she had taken a three-month maternity leave, thus resulting in a lower composite score for that year and a corresponding lower bonus. As Plaintiff had the opportunity to conduct discovery relevant to her claim, she is not granted leave to conduct any further discovery. The current case schedule, including the January 12, 2015 trial date, is VACATED. Defendant is granted leave to re-open Plaintiff's deposition for no longer than two hours solely for the purpose of allowing questioning about her post-maternity leave sales goals claim. It may also propound up to five additional interrogatories. This limited discovery period shall close on February 2, 2015. By no later than February 9, 2015, Defendant may file a motion for summary judgment on this claim, as well as Plaintiff's failure to prevent discrimination claim and punitive damages claim (discussed below) that does not exceed seven pages. Plaintiff's opposition, which shall not exceed seven pages, shall be filed by February 23, 2015. Any reply shall not exceed five pages and shall be filed by March 2, 2015.

3. Failure to Prevent Discrimination

Section 12940(k) "prohibits an employer from failing `to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination.'" Veronese v. Lucasfilm Ltd., 212 Cal.App.4th 1, 28 (citing Cal. Gov't Code § 12940(k)). "This provision creates a statutory tort action with the usual tort elements [duty of care to plaintiff, breach of duty, causation and damages]." Id. (citations omitted) (brackets in original). As discussed above, the court allows Plaintiff's post-maternity leave sales goals claim to proceed, subject to additional limited discovery by Defendant and a further summary judgment motion. Therefore, the court denies summary judgment on Plaintiff's failure to prevent discrimination claim without prejudice to Defendant's right to renew its motion as to this claim after the close of limited discovery, as set forth above. See Trujillo v. N. Cnty. Transit Dist., 63 Cal.App.4th 280, 288-89 (1998) ("Employers should not be held liable to employees for failure to take necessary steps to prevent [discrimination], except where the actions took place and were not prevented.").

B. Equal Pay Act

Plaintiff's second cause of action is for violation of the Equal Pay Act. Plaintiff alleges that she was "denied equal pay, denied promotion which would have resulted in higher wages, and denied commissions and other compensation" on account of her sex. (Am. Compl. ¶ 63.)

To prove a prima facie violation of California's Equal Pay Act, a plaintiff must show that the defendant paid men more "for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions." Cal. Labor Code § 1197.5(a); Green v. Par Pools, Inc., 111 Cal.App.4th 620, 628-29 (2003). If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant to show that the pay differential is based on a bona fide factor unrelated to sex, including experience, education, seniority, or production. Id. at 629-32. If the defendant establishes a bona fide factor, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show that the stated reasons are pretextual. See id. at 632.

As with her FEHA claim for discrimination in compensation, Plaintiff argues that her comparators are Senior Vice Presidents, who were two levels above her own job level. For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff failed to submit any evidence to support that her compensation should be compared to that of male Senior Vice Presidents. In fact, Plaintiff stipulated to facts indicating that such a comparison is inappropriate because there are significant differences in the two jobs: Senior Vice Presidents "belong to different job bands, receive higher goals, have more responsibility regarding mentoring and leadership, and typically, but not always, have more tenure than Client Managers." (UF 111.) Accordingly, summary judgment is granted as to Plaintiff's Equal Pay Act Claim.

C. Defamation & Blacklisting

Plaintiff's third and fourth causes of action are for blacklisting in violation of California Labor Code section 1050 and defamation, respectively. Both of these claims are based upon the fact that Defendant reported Plaintiff in the EWS system following her termination and caused her to be rated as having an "Unfavorable Employment Record" in that system. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 69-72, 74-82.) Plaintiff asserts that the representation that she has an "Unfavorable Employment Record" in the EWS system is false and defamatory and has injured Plaintiff and her reputation in the banking and business community, causing her to lose a lucrative position with another bank. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 72, 77, 80.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant's reporting to EWS was made with malice. (Am. Compl. ¶ 78.) The parties each move for summary judgment on these claims.

1. Defamation

A claim for defamation requires the following elements: "(a) a publication that is (b) false, (c) defamatory, and (d) unprivileged, and that (e) has a natural tendency to injure or that causes special damage.'" Taus v. Loftus, 40 Cal.4th 683, 720 (2007). "Publication" requires some communication, whether oral or written. Cal. Civ. Code §§ 45, 46.

Defendant argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on this claim because Plaintiff cannot establish that it made a false statement about Plaintiff to EWS. As a preliminary issue, the parties dispute the meaning of Defendant's reporting Plaintiff to EWS. Defendant argues that it only reported a string of data about Plaintiff, including her name, contact information, and other identifying information, and that each piece of data was true. A reasonable jury could easily reject this characterization. EWS "maintain[s] a database of fraud information related to employees who were released by a financial institution because they knowingly caused or attempted to cause financial loss." (Cabrera Decl. Ex. A at BANA-00808.) There is no dispute that in order to report a former employee to EWS, a participating bank must have either an admission of criminal wrongdoing or "conclusive evidence of criminal wrongdoing." Therefore, a reasonable jury could conclude that submitting an individual's name to EWS is itself a representation of facts about that individual; i.e., that the reporting bank has either an admission or conclusive evidence of a financial crime by the individual.

Plaintiff argues that this representation was false. She asserts that she did not admit to criminal wrongdoing; instead, she explained to Muth that she had D.A.'s permission to conduct the online transactions in order to repay herself the money owed by D.A. She also told Muth that she had documentation to support her claim, which she later provided to Muth, and set forth the circumstances leading up to the online transactions in her written statement. She also denied any intent to defraud BANA or cause it a loss in her written statement. Therefore, Plaintiff argues that Defendant did not have a written admission of wrongdoing or conclusive evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, according to Plaintiff, Defendant had the opposite, for Plaintiff had provided a written statement denying wrongdoing.

In response, Defendant provides testimony that the phrase "conclusive evidence of criminal wrongdoing" for purposes of EWS reporting means "sufficient evidence to corroborate, and to lead the investigator to reasonably believe, that a violation of the law occurred." (See Cabrera Decl. ¶ 6.) According to Defendant, the undisputed facts show that Muth "reasonably believe[d]" that Plaintiff had committed criminal wrongdoing, and accordingly, its reporting to EWS was appropriate. D.A. provided Defendant with a Fraud Statement affirming that she had not authorized the transactions at issue, and had a number of telephone conversations with Defendants' fraud analysts in which she denied having given Plaintiff her account information. During these calls, Defendant told D.A. of Plaintiff's suspected involvement and explained that D.A. had the right to withdraw her claim at any time, but D.A. never withdrew the claim. Plaintiff admitted that she conducted the transactions in her cousin's account even though she was not an account signatory, and did not possess a power of attorney. She also conceded that she benefitted from the transactions, having made payments to her credit card companies. Defendant sustained a loss as a result of these transactions, and Plaintiff signed a repayment agreement accepting responsibility for the bank's loss. Defendant argues that these facts constitute "sufficient evidence to corroborate, and to lead the investigator to reasonably believe, that a violation of the law occurred," thereby meeting the prerequisite for EWS reporting.

Defendant's position rests upon its own interpretation of the EWS reporting standard. The EWS documentation requires "conclusive evidence of criminal wrongdoing." Defendant's declarant testified that this means "sufficient evidence to corroborate, and to lead the investigator to reasonably believe, that a violation of the law occurred." (Cabrera Decl. ¶ 6.) A reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant's declarant is not credible because her definition significantly waters down the plain meaning of EWS' "conclusive evidence" standard. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines "conclusive" as "putting an end to debate or question especially by reason of irrefutability." See Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, http://merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conclusive (last visited Dec. 2, 2014). A reasonable jury could apply this definition and decide that Defendant did not have "conclusive" evidence of wrongdoing, as Plaintiff emphatically refuted the allegation that she performed unauthorized transactions during her interview and in her written statement, and Muth did not conduct further investigation, such as contacting D.A. to discuss Plaintiff's side of the story. Therefore, the court finds that a dispute of material fact exists as to whether the publication, i.e. Defendant's reporting to EWS, was false.

Defendant next argues that Plaintiff's defamation claim fails because Defendant's communication to EWS is protected by the common interest privilege. California Civil Code section 47(c) grants a conditional privilege against defamation to communications made without malice on subjects of mutual interest. A privileged publication is made "without malice, to a person interested therein, (1) by one who is also interested, or (2) by one who stands in such a relation to the person interested as to afford a reasonable ground for supposing the motive for the communication to be innocent, or (3) who is requested by the person interested to give the information." Cal. Civ. Code § 47(c). While defendants have the burden of proving that an allegedly defamatory statement falls within the scope of the common interest privilege, plaintiffs have the burden of proving that the statement was made with malice. Lundquist v. Reusser, 7 Cal.4th 1193, 1203 (1994). "[I]f malice is shown, the privilege is not merely overcome; it never arises in the first instance." Brown v. Kelly Broadcasting Co., 48 Cal.3d 711, 723 n.7 (1989). Here, Plaintiff does not dispute that Defendant's reporting Plaintiff to EWS was a statement made between interested persons. Therefore, the burden shifts to Plaintiff to prove that the statements were made with malice. Lundquist, 7 Cal. 4th at 1203.

The malice necessary to defeat an assertion of the qualified privilege is "actual malice," which may be established in two ways: "[1] by a showing that the publication was motivated by hatred or ill will towards the plaintiff or [2] by a showing that the defendant lacked reasonable grounds for belief in the truth of the publication and therefore acted in reckless disregard of the plaintiff's rights." Sanborn v. Chronicle Pub. Co., 18 Cal.3d 406, 413 (1976) (citation omitted); see also Rollenhagen v. City of Orange, 116 Cal.App.3d 414, 424 (1981) ("a statement made with `actual malice' has been defined as one made with knowledge that it was false or with a reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.") (citations omitted), disapproved on other grounds in Brown v. Kelly Broadcasting Co., 48 Cal.3d 711, 738 (1989); Cuenca v. Safeway San Francisco Employees Fed. Credit Union, 180 Cal.App.3d 985, 997 (1986).

Plaintiff does not assert the existence of hatred or ill will toward Plaintiff. Instead, she argues that Defendant acted with actual malice because it lacked reasonable grounds to believe that it possessed conclusive evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Plaintiff when it reported her to EWS. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that despite providing Muth with documentation of her cousin's debt to her, Defendant chose not to look further into the matter; thus, Defendant made a deliberate decision not to acquire knowledge of facts that could prove the falsity of the claims against Plaintiff. Plaintiff argues that Muth should have investigated further to determine whether in fact the transactions were authorized. According to Plaintiff, this failure amounted to reckless disregard, thereby defeating the qualified privilege asserted by Defendant. However, for purposes of determining the applicability of the common interest privilege, while "a lack of inquiry and investigation may supply the sufficient inference of lack of good faith or negligence sufficient to supply the element of malice" in light of all of the relevant evidence, mere failure to inquire alone "cannot constitute lack of reasonable or probable cause" to believe in the truth of the publication. Rollenhagen, 116 Cal. App. 3d at 423; see also Vackar v. Package Machinery Co., 841 F.Supp. 310, 314 (N.D. Cal. 1993) ("Mere negligence in investigating the truth of the allegedly defamatory statements is insufficient to establish malice."). Plaintiff's actual malice claim rests solely on her allegation that Defendant failed to conduct an adequate investigation. This alone is insufficient to establish malice as a matter of law. There is no evidence to suggest that any purported negligence on Muth's part "amount[ed] to a reckless or wanton disregard for the truth." See Rollenhagen, 116 Cal. App. 3d at 424 (citing Roemer v. Retail Credit Co., 3 Cal.App.3d 368, 371-72 (1970)).18

Because Defendant's reporting Plaintiff to EWS was a statement made between interested persons, and because Plaintiff has failed to raise triable issues of fact regarding whether Defendant acted with malice, the common interest privilege in Section 47(c) applies. As privileged statements are not defamatory, the court grants Defendant summary judgment on Plaintiff's defamation claim. See McGrory v. Applied Signal Tech., Inc., 212 Cal.App.4th 150, 1541 (2013) (granting summary judgment for employer on employee's defamation claim, where employee failed present evidence "giving rise to a reasonable inference either that [the employer] did not believe it when he said [it] or that [the employer's] belief was unreasonable").

2. Blacklisting

California Labor Code section 1050 imposes liability on any person who, after having discharged an employee, makes misrepresentations preventing the former employee from obtaining other employment. In order to establish a blacklisting claim under section 1050, a plaintiff must establish that 1) after the plaintiff's employment with a defendant ended, the defendant made a representation to a prospective employer about the plaintiff; 2) the representation was not true; 3) the defendant knew the representation was not true when it was made; 4) the defendant made the representation with the intent of preventing the plaintiff from obtaining employment; 5) the plaintiff was harmed; and 6) the defendant's conduct was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm. CACI No. 2711; see Cal. Labor Code § 1050.

Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's blacklisting claim. The common interest privilege pursuant to California Civil Code section 47 also applies to blacklisting claims. See O'Shea v. Gen. Tel. Co., 193 Cal.App.3d 1040, 1047 (1987) (applying Section 47 privileges to plaintiff's claim for violation of California Labor Code section 1050); Noel v. River Hills Wilsons, Inc., 113 Cal.App.4th 1363, 1372-73 (2003) (where Section 47(c) common interest privilege applied to bar defamation claim, granting summary judgment on all other tort claims based on statements at issue, including blacklisting, negligence, and emotional distress claims, noting "California courts have held that plaintiffs may not avoid the strictures of defamation law by artfully pleading their defamation claims to sound in other areas of tort law." (citations omitted)). "California permits no cause of action based upon the defamatory nature of a communication which is itself privileged under the defamation laws." Brody v. Montalbano, 87 Cal.App.3d 725, 738-39 (1978). Accordingly, as Defendant's reporting to EWS was a privileged statement as discussed above, the court grants Defendant summary judgment on Plaintiff's blacklisting claim.

D. Emotional Distress Claims

In order to establish a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, Plaintiff must show "(1) extreme and outrageous conduct by [Defendant] with the intention of causing, or reckless disregard of the probability of causing, emotional distress"; (2) that Plaintiff "suffer[ed] severe or extreme emotional distress; and (3) actual and proximate causation of the emotional distress by [Defendant's] outrageous conduct." Hughes v. Pair, 46 Cal.4th 1035, 1050 (citations and quotation marks omitted). "A defendant's conduct is `outrageous' when it is so `extreme as to exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized community." Id. at 1051 (citations and quotation marks omitted). Negligent infliction of emotional distress "is not an independent tort, but the tort of negligence." Burgess v. Superior Court, 2 Cal.4th 1064, 1072 (1992) (emphasis removed). To proceed on a "direct victim" theory of negligent infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent, including proving duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Id. The plaintiff must also prove that she suffered serious emotional distress and that the defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the distress. Id. at 1072-74; CACI 1620.

As discussed above, the only portions of Plaintiff's emotional distress claims that survive preemption are her claims based upon Defendant's reporting to EWS. As the court concludes that the common interest privilege applies to Defendant's reporting, summary judgment is appropriate on Plaintiff's emotional distress claims as they also stem from Defendant's reporting. See Noel, 113 Cal. App. 4th at 1372-73 (2003) (granting summary judgment on emotional distress claims stemming from privileged communications). Accordingly, summary judgment is granted on Plaintiff's intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims.19

E. Interference with Economic Advantage

In order to establish a claim for intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, a plaintiff must establish five elements: "(1) an economic relationship between the plaintiff and some third party, with the probability of future economic benefit to the plaintiff; (2) the defendant's knowledge of the relationship; (3) intentional acts on the part of the defendant designed to disrupt the relationship; (4) actual disruption of the relationship; and (5) economic harm to the plaintiff proximately caused by the acts of the defendant." Youst v. Longo, 43 Cal.3d 64, 71 n.6 (1987). A claim for negligent interference with prospective economic advantage requires a plaintiff to prove the same elements, except instead of proving intentional acts on the defendant's part, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent. See N. Am. Chem. Co. v. Superior Court, 59 Cal.App.4th 764, 786 (1997).

The gravamen of Plaintiff's interference with economic advantage claims is that Defendant interfered with her "probable prospective employment" and corresponding economic advantage by making false statements about her to EWS. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 93, 97.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant's false statements "prevent[] Plaintiff from obtaining employment with any bank, financial institution, or other employer who runs a report from EWS." (Am. Compl. ¶ 94.) In her opposition, Plaintiff clarifies that this claim is based upon both the offer of employment rescinded by Chase in March 2013, as well as any future employment prospects with EWS-participating banks.

Given the court's conclusion that the common interest privilege applies to Defendant's report to EWS, summary judgment is appropriate on Plaintiff's interference with economic advantage claims as they are based on the same communications. See Noel, 113 Cal. App. 4th at 1372-73 (2003); see also Kachlon v. Markowitz, 168 Cal.App.4th 316, 335, 344 ("Although the section 47 privileges were originally applicable only to defamation actions, case law now recognizes that the privileges apply to all torts except malicious prosecution"; affirming directed verdict on slander of title claim and JNOV on negligence claim where defendant's "conduct constituted privileged communications" pursuant to Section 47(c)); Brody, 87 Cal. App. 3d at 738-39. Therefore, summary judgment is granted on Plaintiffs intentional and negligent interference with economic advantage claims.

F. Failure to Pay Bonus and Waiting Time Penalties

Plaintiff's ninth and tenth claims are for failure to pay all compensation due upon her termination. Plaintiff alleges that her 2012 incentive payment was a commission, not a discretionary bonus, and thus constituted "earned compensation" required to be paid at her termination. Both parties move for summary judgment on these two claims.

California Labor Code section 204.1 provides that "[c]ommission wages are compensation paid to any person for services rendered in the sale of such employer's property or services and based proportionately upon the amount or value thereof." Therefore, in order to qualify as a commission, the payment "must be a percent of the price of the product or service" sold. Keyes Motors, Inc. v. Div. of Labor Standards Enforcement, 197 Cal.App.3d 557, 563 (1987); see Burden v. SelectQuote Ins. Servs., 848 F.Supp.2d 1075, 1080 (N.D. Cal. 2012) ("[a] commission is based proportionately upon an `amount' where an employer pays an employee a uniform fee for each unit of property or service sold."). Here, under the terms of the Incentive Plan, Defendant does not calculate incentive payments as a percentage of the price of the product or service sold. Instead, the amount of the bonus is based upon the employee's composite score or "what" performance rating, which is a percentage comparison of the employee's performance to set goals, along with the "how" performance rating, which is management's discretionary assessment of how an employee achieves results. (Feldman Decl. Ex. E; UF 100.) As to the composite score or "what" rating, this metric does not purely correlate to sales goals, as Plaintiff contends. Instead, it is based upon "total revenue, asset quality, new relationships, and pipeline." (UF 99.) The amount of the bonus also depends upon the line of business and corporate performance. (UF 100.)

In addition, the explicit, controlling terms of the Incentive Plan demonstrate that the bonus is not "based proportionately on the `amount or value' of the property or services an employee sells." Burden, 848 F. Supp. 2d at 1080 (quoting Cal. Lab. Code § 204.1). First, the terms make clear the discretionary nature of the Plan, providing that "[m]anager judgment is . . . applied to incentive decisions to ensure all circumstances affecting a portfolio are considered. ... While individual performance will have a strong correlation to incentive pay, management will have the judgment to adjust awards." In addition, it states "[t]he Incentive Plan is a performance-driven plan. It is not designed to be a commission/production-based plan. All incentive opportunities are estimates, not guarantees." (Feldman Decl. Ex. E (BANA-00767.) Further, the nature of the Incentive Plan is not a commission-based plan. The Incentive Plan states that bonuses are not only intended to "reward current job performance," for the Plan's "most fundamental purpose is to provide an incentive for future individual performance of eligible Plan participants. It is also designed not only to attract but especially to retain qualified employees." (UF 107; Feldman Decl. Ex. E (BANA-00770). Plaintiff does not present any evidence to rebut Defendant's facts about the characteristics and purposes of the bonus payments.

The court finds that the undisputed facts show that Defendant's Incentive Plan does not qualify as a commission under California law. Plaintiff's arguments rest solely on her contention that her anticipated 2012 incentive plan was a commission; she makes no arguments that the Incentive Plan's eligibility requirements, including the requirement that only employees active as of the date Defendant makes incentive payments are eligible for payments, do not otherwise apply to her. See Schachter v. Citigroup, Inc., 47 Cal.4th 612, 621 (2009) ("[e]ligibility to receive incentive compensation `is properly determined by the . . . plans' specific terms and general contract principles. . . [o]nly when an employee satisfies the condition(s) precedent to receiving incentive compensation, which often includes remaining employed for a particular period of time, can that employee be said to have earned the incentive compensation (thereby necessitating payment upon resignation or termination)." (citations omitted)). Accordingly, the court grants Defendant summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim for unpaid compensation and waiting time penalties.

G. Punitive Damages

As discussed above, the court allows Plaintiff's post-maternity leave sales goals claim to proceed, subject to additional limited discovery by Defendant and a further summary judgment motion. Therefore, the court denies summary judgment on Plaintiff's punitive damages claim without prejudice to Defendant's right to renew its motion as to this claim after the close of limited discovery, as set forth above.

V. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted as to all claims except Plaintiff's disparate treatment claim related to post-maternity leave sales goals, California Government Code section 12940(k) claim for failure to prevent discrimination, and punitive damages claim. Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment is denied.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

FootNotes


1. The court notes that Plaintiff submitted Objections to Evidence in violation of the Court's local rules. [Docket No. 95.] Civil Local Rule 7-3(a) requires that "[a]ny evidentiary . . . objections to [a] motion be contained within the brief or memorandum." N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-3(a). If a party files objections in a separate document, the court will strike and disregard them. See, e.g., Ferretti v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 11-4486 LHK, 2013 WL 140088, at *1 n.1 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 10, 2013). The court therefore strikes Plaintiff's Objections from the record. The court will consider any evidentiary objections which the parties included in their briefs. See Lotes Co. v. Hon Hai Precision Indus. Co., No. 11-1036 JSW, 2012 WL 2917450, at *1 n.1 (N.D. Cal. July 17, 2012).
2. The parties do not provide any further detail on how Defendant determines each employee's BIO, nor does Plaintiff challenge the method by which Defendant determined her (or any other employee's) BIO.
3. The February 15 payments thus complied with the terms of the Incentive Plan. For example, the 2012 Incentive Plan provides that payments of incentive awards "will be made as soon as administratively practicable following the end of the applicable performance period, but in no event later than March 15 immediately following the calendar year in which the applicable performance period ends." (UF 103.) Where the performance period ends on December 31, "payment shall be made on or after January 1 and on or before March 15 immediately following the end of the performance period." (UF 103.)
4. The Ninth Circuit set forth the applicable standards governing requests to seal in Kamakana v. City and County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1180 (9th Cir. 2006). Where, as here, a party seeks to seal records filed in connection with dispositive motions, a "compelling reasons" standard applies. A party seeking to seal judicial records must show that "compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings . . . outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring disclosure." Id. at 1178-79 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). While the court grants Defendant's motion to seal the exhibit containing Defendant's 2012 Business Banking Incentive Plan on the grounds that it is a confidential trade secret, the court finds that the portions of the Incentive Plan excerpted in this opinion do not meet the "compelling reasons" standard as the excerpts themselves do not contain trade secrets or any other confidential information.
5. The court uses initials instead of full names where privacy rights are implicated, and where the use of a full name is not relevant to the dispute.
6. The court grants Defendant's motion to seal the fraud case notes on the grounds that Defendant's customer has a protected interest in the information contained therein, and that the documents contain confidential and sensitive information regarding Defendant's fraud investigation procedures. However, the court finds that D.A.'s privacy is adequately protected by the use of her initials in this opinion, rather than her full name. Additionally, the court finds that nothing about Defendant's internal procedures can be inferred by setting forth the quoted portions of the substance of D.A.'s communications with Defendant's investigators. See Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178-79.
7. The parties do not explain the $9,100 difference between the $12,800 that D.A. allegedly agreed to pay Plaintiff and the $21,900 in total transactions that were identified as payments or attempted payments that Plaintiff made from D.A.'s account to pay Plaintiff's debts.
8. Thus, Defendant asserts preemption as to all of Plaintiff's claims except for her allegations regarding discriminatory actions short of termination, and the alleged violation of the California Equal Pay Act.
9. The NBA, Federal Home Loan Bank Act (FHLBA), 12 U.S.C. § 1432(a), and the Federal Reserve Act (FRA), 12 U.S.C. § 341 (Fifth), confer on national banks, Federal Home Loan Banks, and Federal Reserve Banks the authority to dismiss "at pleasure." Courts cite authority on these Acts interchangeably. See Lambright, 2007 WL 4259552, at *4 n.1 (citing Osei-Bonsu v. Fed. Home Loan Bank of New York, 726 F.Supp. 95, 97-98 (S.D.N.Y. 1989)).
10. Blacklisting, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with economic advantage, negligent interference with economic advantage, failure to pay compensation, and California Labor Code section 203 waiting time penalties.
11. The only support Defendant cites in support of its position is Valdez v. Bank of America, No. GCG-09-493440, 2012 WL 3101662, at *2-3 (Cal. App. July 31, 2012), an unpublished California Court of Appeal decision in which the court held that the NBA preempted wrongful termination and defamation claims. However, the court's discussion was limited to whether the plaintiff was an "officer" of the defendant bank for purposes of Section 24 (Fifth); it did not analyze the scope of preemption. Therefore, Valdez did not reach the present issue.
12. As counsel confirmed at oral argument, Plaintiff does not assert that the method used to determine her or any other employee's composite score or BIO was discriminatory or even discretionary. Indeed, Plaintiff does not identify any particular aspect of the Incentive Plan as having been applied in a discriminatory manner.
13. Plaintiff did not cite any evidence on this point. Therefore, the court does not know if this statement is correct and if so, what positions the two men held before they were promoted.
14. Because the court grants Defendant summary judgment on Plaintiff's sex discrimination claims, it need not reach its argument that certain of Plaintiff's claims are time-barred.
15. Plaintiff began a maternity leave on February 4, 2011 and returned to work on April 29, 2011. (UF 95.)
16. It is not clear whether Plaintiff's mediation statement included a reference to a disparate impact theory of discrimination based on these facts, or whether she only addressed a disparate treatment theory. (See Pl.'s Suppl. Brief, "Plaintiff also thoroughly discussed the liability and damages for differential treatment, related to maternity leave, in her confidential brief . . . prior to the August 2014 mediation.")
17. Thus, by inference, Plaintiff concedes that she did not specifically identify the post-maternity leave sales goals theory in her administrative charge or her amended complaint.
18. Plaintiff also cites Carney v. Santa Cruz Women Against Rape, 221 Cal.App.3d 1009, 1016 (1990), for the proposition that negligent acts can defeat the common interest privilege in cases involving private persons. This statement is an incorrect summary of the cited section of Carney; in that case, the court held that a jury should have been instructed that "negligence, rather than malice," was an element of the private plaintiff's libel claim. Id. at 1016. It did not address negligence for purposes of establishing actual malice to defeat the common interest privilege. See Rollenhagen, 116 Cal. App. 3d at 423 (noting that in the context of proving malice to defeat Section 47 privilege, "[l]ack of reasonable or probable cause . . . is not . . . a simple negligence concept.").
19. Because the court concludes that Plaintiff cannot establish the first element of her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, it need not reach Defendant's argument that the California Workers' Compensation Act, California Labor Code section 3600 et seq., preempts this claim.

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