Sepulvado, Maldonado & Couret’s Managing Principal, Elaine Maldonado-Matías, scored a significant victory on May 10, 2023, when the Puerto Rico Court of Appeals upheld the summary dismissal with prejudice of the unjustified dismissal, disability, and age discrimination claims raised by Plaintiff against Monsanto Caribe, LLC (“Monsanto”).
Following the initial judgment, the Plaintiff filed an appeal challenging the decision of the trial Court, arguing that the usage of documents and information to contradict the uncontested facts identified in Monsanto’s summary judgment motion was discretionary and that she could, instead, adopt by reference the initial facts alleged in her claim. The plaintiff also argued that the trial Court’s judgment was erroneous as it did not apply the presumption of unlawful dismissal against the employer, as provided under Puerto Rico Law 80, which requires the employer to establish that the dismissal was justified first.
The Court of Appeals thoroughly reviewed the case and found no basis to overturn the lower Court’s ruling, as it concluded that Plaintiff’s claims lacked merit. In its decision, the Court of Appeals reiterated the lower Court’s findings that Plaintiff’s temporary employment status meant she had no expectation of continued employment and, therefore, was not entitled to the protection afforded to indeterminate workers under Puerto Rico Law 80.
Furthermore, the Court upheld the finding that Plaintiff’s discharge was non-discriminatory, based on fourteen documented instances of tardiness and seven documented instances of early departure by Plaintiff before completing her work shift. These instances were all violations of Monsanto’s workplace policies and procedures incorporated into Plaintiff’s employment contract. Thus, the Court of Appeals agreed with the lower Court’s conclusion that these actions justified Plaintiff’s dismissal and that her claims of disability and age discrimination were unsubstantiated by admissible evidence.
In upholding the dismissal of the Plaintiff’s claims, the Court of Appeals highlighted in its judgment that “[t]o dispute the facts alleged by the appellees in their dispositive motions, the appellant was obligated to present sworn contradictions and any other admissible documentary evidence to support her position. She could not rely on mere affirmative allegations, such as those in the document entitled ‘historical,’ to challenge them. Simply put, the appellant crossed her arms and did not provide the necessary evidence for the Court of First Instance to adopt her position.” Accordingly, the dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff’s claims against Monsanto was warranted.
The Court of Appeals’ detailed and well-supported judgment in Jessica Asencio Plaza v. Monsanto Caribe, LLC, KLAN202200459 (2023), can be accessed here.