Robinson v. Hewlett-Packard Corp., HEWLETT-PACKARD

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtBRAUER; AGLIANO, P.J., and PHILLIPS
Citation183 Cal.App.3d 1108,228 Cal.Rptr. 591
Parties, 48 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 819 Robert ROBINSON, Plaintiff and Appellant, v.CORPORATION, Defendant and Respondent H000328.
Decision Date29 July 1986

Page 591

228 Cal.Rptr. 591
183 Cal.App.3d 1108, 48 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 819
Robert ROBINSON, Plaintiff and Appellant,
Court of Appeal, Sixth District, California.
July 29, 1986.
As Modified July 30, 1986.

Page 592

[183 Cal.App.3d 1112] Alfred P. Chasuk, Inc., Glynn P. Falcon, Mountain View, for plaintiff and appellant.

Gibson, Dunn & Cruther, Dennis A. Gladwell, Christopher J. Martin, Susan M. Byrd, San Jose, for defendant and respondent.

[183 Cal.App.3d 1113] BRAUER, Associate Justice.

Robert Robinson appeals from a summary judgment entered in favor of respondent Hewlett-Packard Corporation (hereinafter designated HP). On appeal Robinson advances a variety of arguments, all devoted essentially to the proposition that the trial court abused its discretion in granting summary judgment. For reasons hereinafter set forth, we affirm in part and reverse in part.


On May 1, 1978 HP hired Robinson as a janitor, at a salary of $725 per month. He voluntarily left that position on July 10, 1978. On November 5, 1979 HP rehired Robinson as a janitor, at a salary of $800 per month. Robinson again left the position, apparently voluntarily, on February 19, 1980. On the latter date his then supervisor wrote a comment describing Robinson as "an excellent worker," and expressing the opinion that "he should be eligible for rehire."

On September 2, 1980 HP again rehired Robinson, this time as a general maintenance serviceman, at a salary of $900 per month. He was assigned to a plating department, where he worked the graveyard shift. After three months his supervisor, Ronald Hadanak, noted in a performance evaluation (1) that Robinson's initiative, dependability,

Page 593

and work quantity were all "very good"; (2) that his work quality, teamwork, and judgment were all "good"; and (3) that Robinson "has thus far done a very good job." Robinson continued working in the plating department thereafter, and he was assigned a wider variety of tasks. On May 1, 1981 his pay rate was increased to $1,000 per month.

During the third week of June in 1981, Robinson sustained an injury to his lower back while working in the plating department. Ultimately the Worker's Compensation Appeals Board determined that this injury caused Robinson permanent partial disability of 13.75%, 1 after adjustment for age and occupation. Nevertheless Robinson continued to work in the plating department. In a performance evaluation dated July 21, 1981, Hadanak (1) rated Robinson's judgment "very good" and his work quality, [183 Cal.App.3d 1114] work quantity, initiative, teamwork, and dependability all "good"; and (2) wrote that "Robert's overall performance is good." Hadanak also noted that Robinson was "considering the possibility of transferring to another area of the Division or Company more suited to him."

On September 17, 1981 Robinson transferred to one of HP's product assembly departments. There he was involved in "cable cutting, stripping, soldering wires to connectors, labeling and bagging as well as operating machinery such as Tin Canning, Jack Screwing and Sonic Welder," plus "Electronic Testing of products, Inspection, Training of personnel, Quality Controlling and Housecleaning." He worked the swing shift, and his new supervisor was Michael Christmon. One of Robinson's assignments was that of "Pushbutton Switch inspection." After ten months Christmon wrote a performance evaluation (dated May 28, 1982) in which he concluded that "Robert is a good performer overall." Christmon said that "[t]he quality of work produced by Robert over the last 10 months was consistently at a very good level. Robert takes pride in the quality of the work that he is producing and his workmanship was well demonstrated by the inspection of the pushbutton switches and the HPIB Cable Assembly process." As to the quantity of work, Christmon wrote that "[t]he output of products produced by Robert is at a good average overall.... Pushbutton Switch Inspection and Jack Screwing were just under standard on occasions.... In Pushbutton Switch inspection he did 7.18 tubes per hour Vs. 8.0 standard." 2 On the topic of "dependability," Christmon wrote: "Robert had the misfortune of an accident before he transferred to Product Assembly. His dependability has suffered due to 168 hours on sick leave and 96 hrs. on IPP in the past 10 months. This high lost time has cast a shadow on Robert's ability to be rated higher over the past 5 months and has caused difficulty in scheduling assignments and meeting production targets." In a summary, Christmon concluded: "His dependability was hurt badly due to high Lost Time on sick leave and I.P.P.; But when Robert was at work he could be counted on to follow assignment and do his share of the workload." Well before

Page 594

Christmon wrote his evaluation, Robinson's salary was increased to $1,100 per month.

Then on June 1, 1982 Robinson transferred to the day shift of the product assembly line. There his sole function was that of pushbutton switch inspector. [183 Cal.App.3d 1115] The only evidence 3 in the record which sheds any light on the reason for the change of shift and the abridgement of Robinson's duties is a sentence written by Peter Mosely of HP's personnel department. That sentence reads: "I pointed out to Robbie several times during the conversation that, given his injury, it had been our decision to give him the lightest possible work that we could find in the organization, and he acknowledged that there was nothing lighter than our switches to work on; but, then countered that the sitting was a problem." 4

On the day shift Robinson encountered a different supervisor, Giovanna ("Jo") Rosso. According to Robinson, Rosso made contumelious remarks to him, saying (1) that she did not like blacks; (2) that black people in general don't like to work, they try to get something for nothing; (3) that Robinson himself, being black, didn't want to work; and (4) that Robinson was "faking it," i.e., magnifying the true measure of his back injury. 5 Under Rosso's supervision, Robinson inspected an average of 800 pushbutton switches per day, at a time when HP's "standard" rate was 1,333 switches per day. Robinson also rejected far too many acceptable switches. 6

On October 22, 1982 Rosso presented Robinson with a typewritten "Performance Warning," which in essence told Robinson (1) that his rate of inspection was sub-standard, and (2) that he was rejecting too many acceptable pushbutton switches. Rosso herself signed the warning, as did [183 Cal.App.3d 1116] Tom Offutt, the section manager; but Robinson refused to sign. The warning told Robinson to increase his output of inspected switches to a rate of 1440 per day, and concluded with an admonition that "[f]ailure to comply with these corrective actions will lead to probation."

On November 11, 1982 Rosso and Bart McMurray (another supervisor) approached Robinson with a view toward instructing him in the proper method of handling pushbutton switches. Robinson immediately adopted a defensive stance, accused the supervisor of "being after him," and shouted that "he didn't want to hear any of that 'B.S.' " The outburst disrupted the product assembly department, and the supervisors retired in disarray. Later in the day Robinson did a reprise with McMurray in

Page 595

the plastic molding department. Once again, the outburst caused disruption. In the afternoon Robinson calmed down, and McMurray showed Robinson "the handling procedures necessary not to bend west switch contacts." McMurray also told Robinson "that refusal to listen to a supervisor's feed-back was an unacceptable work habit."

Thereafter Robinson's inspection rate steadily decreased from 800 switches per day to an average of 464 switches per day. On December 1, 1982 Rosso gave Robinson a typewritten "Notice of Probation," which (1) told Robinson that he was placed on probation for 60 days; (2) directed him to increase his inspection output to a rate of 1440 switches per day; (3) directed him to reduce the number of rejected switches; (4) said "[f]ailure to meet the above conditions or to achieve an overall acceptable level of performance will result in your termination as an employee of Hewlett-Packard"; and (5) concluded with the admonition that "[a]ny slip back to a previous unacceptable performance level or unacceptable pattern of conduct will be grounds for immediate termination." The notice was signed by Rosso and by Tom Offutt, the section manager; but once again, Robinson refused to sign.

Evidently the notice of probation had no effect. 7 According to notes made by Peter Mosely of HP's personnel department, on Wednesday, December [183 Cal.App.3d 1117] 14, 1982 "I responded to a request from Robbie to come and talk with him. This was at his work station. He stated that he was unable to do the work. That it was being tampered with. I discussed the flow of work with him carefully and tried to understand how it could be tampered with. I inspected some returned work, and could not see any of the gross defects he claimed were there. I formed the strong impression that he was sabotaging his own work, but did not say this to him. Ted Elms arrived on the scene. Robbie was defensive when I tried to get him to explain the process, and became hostile and told me I wasn't interested in helping him. By now, he had me angry as he was not accepting my effort to help, but rather felt I was trying to prove him wrong, and I said to him, 'I wouldn't have spent so damn much time on this if I didn't want to help.' This upset him and he accused me of swearing at him. I realized he was now making me very angry so I left the area leaving him with Ted. [p] A few minutes later, he approached me as I was talking to Mike Cowan about the incident and asked to see us together. Ted, Mike, and I went into a conference room where he reiterated the fact...

To continue reading

Request your trial
63 cases
  • Foley v. Interactive Data Corp.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 29, 1988
    ...(See, e.g., Steward v. Mercy Hospital, supra, 188 Cal.App.3d 1290, 1296, 233 Cal.Rptr. 881; Robinson v. Hewlett-Packard Corp. (1986) 183 Cal.App.3d 1108, 1123, 228 Cal.Rptr. 591; Hentzel v. Singer Co., supra, 138 Cal.App.3d 290, 304, 188 Cal.Rptr. 159 [same]; Walker v. Northern San Diego Co......
  • Froyd v. Cook, Civ. No. S-86-1169 LKK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 15, 1988
    ...of good faith and fair dealing into the field of racial discrimination in employment," Robinson v. Hewlett-Packard Corporation, 183 Cal.App.3d 1108, 1125, 228 Cal.Rptr. 591 (1986), while another has held that a retaliatory discharge also does not state common law claims. Ficalora v. Lockhee......
  • Gantt v. Sentry Ins., 3
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 11, 1990
    ...(Ficalora v. Lockheed Corp. (1987) 193 Cal.App.3d 489, 492, 238 Cal.Rptr. 360; see also Robinson v. Hewlett-Packard Corp. (1986) 183 Cal.App.3d 1108, 1124-1125, 228 Cal.Rptr. 591.) That subdivision reads: "While it is the intention of the Legislature to occupy the field of regulation of dis......
  • Rojo v. Kliger, S010142
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 20, 1990
    ...(§ 12993, subd. (c).)" (Id. at p. 492, 238 Cal.Rptr. 360; accord Robinson v. Page 140 [801 P.2d 383] Hewlett-Packard Corp. (1986) 183 Cal.App.3d 1108, 1124-1125, 228 Cal.Rptr. 591 [racial What the Ficalora v. Lockheed Corp. court overlooked in its analysis is that the intent expressed in su......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Employment
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Causes of Action
    • March 31, 2022
    ...Regents of University of California , 191 Cal. App. 3d 1318, 1327, 237 Cal. Rptr. 92, 94 (1987); Robinson v. Hewlett-Packard Corp. , 183 Cal. App. 3d 1108, 1126, 228 Cal. Rptr. 591 (1986). This includes the perception that a person is of a certain race. Cal. Gov’t Code §12926(m). The Califo......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT