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Helander v. Hoang

January 23, 2007

TINA HELANDER, A.K.A. TINA KINSTOF, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DR. ANDY HOANG, PACIFIC DENTAL SERVICES, ESCONDIDO DENTAL GROUP, AND DOES 1-100, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge

ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

Pending before the Court are Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. # 4), motion for a more definite statement (Doc. # 4) and motion to strike (Doc. # 5). The Court finds these matters suitable for submission on the papers and without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1).

ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT

From February 2001 to August 2005, Defendant Pacific Dental Services employed Plaintiff Tina Helander (Plaintiff) as a dental assistant and treatment coordinator. Complaint, ¶ 6. During that time, and specifically in the spring of 2004, Plaintiff worked for Defendant Escondido Dental Group pursuant to an express or implied contract for employment. Compl., ¶¶ 6, 16. While at Escondido Dental Group, Plaintiff worked under Defendant Dr. Andy Hoang. Compl., ¶ 6. Defendant Pacific Dental Services is a corporation which operates in California, Nevada, and Arizona. Compl., ¶ 1. Defendant Escondido Dental Group is an organization which operates in California. Compl., ¶ 2.

While working for Escondido Dental Group, Plaintiff recommended various treatment options to patients as part of her employment. Compl., ¶ 7. According to the Complaint, however, Defendants asked Plaintiff to lie to patients regarding which treatments were required, and further, Defendants asked Plaintiff to recommend, coerce, or require patients to purchase goods or treatments which were more costly and not medically necessary. Compl., ¶ 7. Whenever "any goods or over treatments were questioned by an insurance company or patient," Defendants asked Plaintiff to lie and "to characterize the over treatment or over billing as a mistake." Compl., ¶ 7. Plaintiff performed the allegedly fraudulent acts with the understanding that her job at Pacific Dental Services required them, and she received additional compensation of $125.00 per month for performing the fraudulent acts. Compl., ¶ 8.

At some point during Plaintiff's employment, Plaintiff questioned whether she should continue to perform the fraudulent acts. Compl., ¶ 8. As a result, Defendants reprimanded and disciplined Plaintiff for failing to follow her employer's instructions. Compl., ¶ 8. Thereafter, Plaintiff discovered that Defendants billed insurance companies for procedures which were never performed, and "brought the matter before her supervisors to insure they were aware of the practice." Compl., ¶ 9. After bringing this information to Defendants attention, Defendants began to harass Plaintiff through discipline. Compl., ¶ 9. Among other things, Defendants disciplined Plaintiff for (1) "failing to conduct herself in a professional manner," (2) "gossiping," and (3) wearing inappropriate clothing. Compl., ¶ 9. According to the Complaint, Defendants disciplined Plaintiff in retaliation for Plaintiff's "refusing to participate and/or propagate" in Defendants fraudulent billing scheme. Compl., ¶ 10.

On August 12, 2005, Defendants terminated Plaintiff's employment because she refused to partake in Defendants' fraudulent practices. Compl., ¶¶ 12, 21. As a result of Defendants conduct, Plaintiff suffered damages, including humiliation, embarrassment, harassment, mental anguish, lost wages, and attorney fees. Compl., ¶¶ 13, 21.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the pleadings. De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F.2d 45, 48 (9th Cir. 1978). A complaint may not be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), "unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). In ruling on a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court must construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and further, must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint, as well as any reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom. See Broam v. Bogan, 320 F.3d 1023, 1028 (9th Cir. 2003). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a court may not look beyond the complaint. Moore v. Costa Mesa, 886 F.2d 260, 262 (9th Cir. 1989).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff's Complaint asserts state causes of action for tortious termination in violation of public policy and breach of contract, as well as a federal cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 215. (Doc. # 1). Defendants contend that Plaintiff's claims for breach of contract and wrongful termination should be dismissed for failing to state a claim. Specifically, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's failure to allege the existence of a contract, the terms of the contract, and the parties to the contract render Plaintiff's breach of contract claim infirm, while Plaintiff's failure to allege that she filed a complaint with Defendants precludes her stating a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 215. Defendants also contend that Plaintiff's claim under the FLSA does not relate to the subject matter of the FLSA, and therefore cannot state a claim under the Act as a matter of law.

I. Fair Labor Standards Act

Pursuant to § 215(a)(3) of the FLSA, it is unlawful for any person to, discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act [29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. . . .], or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding, or has served or is about to serve on an industry committee.

29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3) (Emphasis added.). Thus, according to the plain language of the statute, a person must file a complaint or institute a proceeding under or related to the FLSA in order to state a claim for relief under 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3). Defendants contend that Plaintiff has not filed a complaint under or related to the Act. In support, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's claim of retaliation was based on her unwillingness to participate in fraud, a subject unrelated to ...


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