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Pedersen v. TJX Companies, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 1, 2013

CINDY PEDERSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE TJX COMPANIES, INC., Defendant.

ORDER

DONALD W. MOLLOY, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Cindy Pedersen ("Pedersen") filed suit against Defendant The TJX Companies, Inc. ("TJX") pursuant to Montana's Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act, alleging TJX lacked good cause to terminate her employment and that the reasons TJX gave for her termination were merely a pretext. TJX filed a motion seeking summary judgment on all of Pedersen's claims. (Doc. 22.) Because no genuine issues of material fact remain, summary judgment is granted in favor of TJX for the reasons set forth below.

BACKGROUND

TJX operates T.J. Maxx stores throughout the country. Pedersen worked at the T.J. Maxx store in Missoula, Montana, from 2002 until her employment was terminated on January 17, 2012. (Def.'s SUF, doc. 24 at ¶ 3.) During the course of her employment, she worked as an hourly employee in multiple positions and, at the time of her termination, served as the Assistant Store Manager. ( Id. at ¶ 3.)

On January 5, 2012, Pedersen went to Kalispell with 8 other T.J. Maxx employees to perform inventory at the Kalispell T.J. Maxx store. ( Id. at ¶¶ 20-21.) Pedersen was the only managerial employee from the Missoula store to go to Kalispell. ( Id. at ¶ 24.) T.J. Maxx paid for all the costs associated with the trip, including the hotel room, rental cars, gas, and breakfast. ( Id. at ¶ 26.) After checking into the hotel in Kalispell, Pedersen drove three members of her inventory team to a local liquor store, where they purchased two twelve-packs of beer and a bottle of vodka. ( Id. at ¶ 28.) The employees then went to the T.J. Maxx store, performing inventory from approximately 6 p.m. to 12:45 a.m., on the morning of January 6. ( Id. at ¶ 29.) Upon completing inventory, the employees returned to the hotel and Pedersen joined up with four other employees (including nineteen-year old Cody Posio) and they drank the alcohol purchased earlier in the evening. ( Id. at ¶¶ 30-31.)

Penny Dickey, the Missoula store manager, was told about the events of that night by one of the employees on the trip. Dickey then corroborated the incident by a conversation with hotel staff the next morning. ( Id. at ¶¶ 35-38.) District Manager Denis Lattin then began an investigation into Pedersen's conduct and he interviewed Pedersen. Pedersen admitted to consuming alcohol the morning in question and that Posio was present at the time. ( Id. at ¶ 39.) After speaking to the other employees involved, Lattin decided to terminate Pedersen's employment, and this decision was communicated to Pedersen by Dickey on January 17, 2012. ( Id. at ¶ 50.)

TJX publishes a Global Code of Conduct Guide ("Code of Conduct") on an annual basis. ( Id. at ¶ 7.) Pedersen annually signed a certificate acknowledging she received and review the Code of Conduct. ( Id. at ¶ 8.) The relevant provisions of the Code of Conduct state:

• "[N]one of us may report to work, come onto Company property, perform any job-related activity, or drive a company vehicle, while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs." ( Id. at ¶ 9.)
• "A conflict of interest exists when a personal interest or activity interferes with the duties that you perform for and owe to TJX. You should always perform your duties with only the interests of the Company in mind." ( Id. at ¶ 14.)
• "Our culture of integrity and compliance starts at the top. All members of management must not only fulfill their duties, but also assume responsibility for those who report to them. If you are a supervisor, manager or executive you must carefully follow the principles listed below:
• Earn respect and lead by example - your Associates expect you to do the right thing.
• Understand this Code and all Company policies that affect your job and help Associates ...

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