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Stiefel v. Bechtel Corp.

May 6, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge United States District Court


On February 7, 2008, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's initial Complaint. (Doc. No. 10.) Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on March 8, 2008. (Doc. No. 11.) On March 26, 2008, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and/or strike the FAC, also requesting sanctions. (Doc. No. 13.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on April 21, 2008. (Doc. No. 15.) Defendants filed their reply on April 28, 2008. (Doc. No. 17.) On April 29, 2008, Plaintiff filed a notice clarifying that he does not object to striking one sentence from the FAC, which he admits was retained in error. (Doc. No. 19.) The Court previously submitted this motion without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7.1(d)(1). (See Doc. No. 16.) For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part the pending motion.


The following facts are drawn from the allegations of the FAC and the parties' requests for judicial notice, which the Court granted in their entirety in its order of February 7, 2008. See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b), (d); Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 689-90 (9th Cir. 2001).

I. Factual Background of Plaintiff's Complaint

Defendants provide services at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station ("SONGS") as a subcontractor of Southern California Edison ("SCE"). (FAC ¶ 4.) Beginning in May of 2004, Defendants employed Plaintiff as an ironworker in the facilities department of SONGS. (Id. ¶ 7.) In November of 2005, Defendants moved Plaintiff to the Unit 1 decommissioning project. (Id. ¶ 8.) Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was involved in an emergency caused by a boom lift malfunction. (Id. ¶¶ 9-12.) Plaintiff reported those involved to Defendants' personnel, and Plaintiff's supervisor subsequently refused to speak to Plaintiff and demonstrated animosity toward him. (Id. ¶ 13-14.) In December of 2005, Plaintiff brought to his supervisor's attention a cracked weld in a system designed to remove radioactive material in the containment building which housed the nuclear reactor, resulting in additional cost to Defendants and criticism from Plaintiff's supervisor. (Id. ¶ 15.)

On January 31, 2006, Plaintiff injured his left thumb while employed by Defendants. (Id ¶ 16-17.) A Bechtel worker's compensation doctor treated Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 17.) The doctor placed Plaintiff's thumb in a splint and scheduled a follow-up appointment. (Id.) Plaintiff saw the doctor again on February 7, 2006, and the doctor placed Plaintiff's thumb in a splint and advised him that he could perform full time regular duties with no restrictions. (Id. ¶ 19.) The complaint alleges that the doctor failed to properly diagnose or treat the injury because, in fact, the injury required complete immobilization and restrictions on Plaintiff's job duties. (Id.)

On February 8, 2006, Plaintiff returned to his work area. (Id. ¶ 20.) John Patterson, an SCE supervisor, indicated that he wanted the SCE safety department to review the circumstances to assure proper procedure was followed in light of Plaintiff's injury. (Id. ¶ 21) The next day, Plaintiff met with Mr. Patterson and informed him that Plaintiff was concerned that Defendants would retaliate against him because of Mr. Patterson's involvement. (Id. ¶ 22.)

The complaint alleges that, after SCE became involved, Defendants arranged an appointment with an orthopedist for Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 24.) The orthopedist determined that Plaintiff had a torn tendon and placed Plaintiff's left hand in a cast. (Id.) He released Plaintiff to return to work, but only on light duty with no use of his left hand. (Id.)

On February 14, 2006, Plaintiff was assigned work that complied with the orthopedist's instructions. (Id. ¶ 26.) Two days later, however, Defendants allegedly assigned Plaintiff several tasks (e.g., welding, grinding, climbing ladders) that required the use of both of Plaintiff's hands. (Id.) The FAC alleges that Defendants assigned these painful and dangerous tasks to Plaintiff in order to intentionally punish him. (Id.)

On March 6, 2006, Defendants laid off Plaintiff in what Defendants characterized as a "medical reduction in force." (Id. ¶ 28.) At all times after that date, the complaint alleges that Defendants have persistently discriminated against Plaintiff by passing him up for jobs that need staffing whenever such jobs become available each month. (Id.)

Plaintiff underwent surgery on his hand in June of 2006. (Id. ¶ 30.) In late October 2006, Plaintiff's doctor released Plaintiff to work in a light duty capacity. (Id.) The complaint alleges that Defendants have refused to put Plaintiff back to work, stating that no light duty work is available. (Id. ¶ 30.) Defendants allegedly have declined "on a monthly basis" to rehire Plaintiff because Defendants maintain a policy against rehiring an injured employee without a full medical release. (Id. ¶ 30.)

II. Plaintiff's Administrative Complaints

In April of 2006 Plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA") with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing ("DFEH"). (See Defs.' Request for Judicial Notice ("Defs.' RJN"), Ex. B.) Plaintiff's complaint detailed the alleged discrimination as follows: "I raised safety concerns - I was forced to use improper tools resulting in an injury to myself. I went outside the chain of command and was retaliated against." (Id.) In a letter dated May 8, 2006, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing closed Plaintiff's complaint and issued him a right-to-sue notice pursuant to Plaintiff's request that the DFEH immediately issue him a right-to-sue. (Id.) The letter informed Plaintiff that, if he ...

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