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Smith v. Worldlink Inc.

July 30, 2009

MAURICE SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WORLDLINK INC.; PRO STAFF SAMSUNG TELECOMMUNICATIONS AMERICA, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT [Motion filed on June 19, 2009]

I. BACKGROUND

In May 2007, Plaintiff Maurice Smith was hired by Worldlink, Inc. ("Worldlink") as a District Field Manager. (Compl. ¶ 7.) Defendant Samsung Telecommunications America, Inc. ("Samsung") contracted with Worldlink to conduct market research and sales surveys; and Plaintiff was assigned to visit the stores of various cell phone providers and conduct surveys and discuss sales of the Samsung cell phone models that the providers carried. (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff was required to turn in regular reports detailing his activities, and reported directly to supervisor Jeff Curtis ("Curtis"). (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) Curtis was a manager and employee of Dobbs Temporary Services, Inc. d/b/a Pro Staff Personnel Services ("Pro Staff"),*fn1 a company contracted by either Worldlink or Samsung to provide management of the marketing managers for Samsung. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff's next highest supervisor was Ty Jones*fn2 ("Jones"), a director at Samsung. (Id.)

Plaintiff is twenty-six years old and African American. (Id. ¶ 12.) At a September 2007 meeting of marketing personnel, Jones pulled aside Plaintiff, two Muslim employees, and another African-American man to talk to them separately. (Id.) Jones told Plaintiff, specifically, that he had pulled him aside because his "appearance and manner of dress were offensive to the other members of his marketing team." (Id.) Plaintiff has glasses and a goatee, a short "Afro-style" haircut, and typically dresses in a suit and bow-tie for work. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that his style of appearance is derivative and similar to the style worn by the "Black Muslim movement, lead in the sixties by Malcom X and presently by Louis Farrakhan"; although Plaintiff is not a member of that movement or Muslim. (Id.) During their conversation, Jones allegedly continued to generally extol his faith, which is Christian, and to inform Plaintiff that Jones is a fervent believer who is very active in his church's ministry group. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Afterwards, Plaintiff complained to Curtis about his conversation with Jones and asked Curtis what he thought the remarks meant. (Id. ¶ 14.) Curtis declined to explain his opinion of Jones' remarks. (Id.) However, Plaintiff alleges that, shortly after the marketing meeting, Curtis began to regularly pressure Plaintiff to turn in his reports on time. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, completing his reports involves "delays for technical reasons," which Curtis realized, but that Curtis nevertheless issued a warning to Plaintiff against tardy reporting. (Id.) Other employees, who were not African-American nor perceived as Muslim, turned in late reports without similar repercussions or discipline. (Id.) After one particular instance where Curtis disciplined Plaintiff, Curtis allegedly told Plaintiff that he did not think Plaintiff was capable of correcting his behavior because of Plaintiff's "background," which Curtis allegedly "meant . . . as a clear reference" to negative stereotypes about African Americans. (Id. ¶ 15.)

On November 21, 2007, Plaintiff was terminated from Worldlink by Curtis and Jones. (Id. ¶ 16.) Jones claimed that Plaintiff was terminated because he turned his most recent report in late. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges this explanation was false, because the report had actually been turned in on time. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges the true reason for his termination is that he is black and was perceived by Curtis and Jones to be Muslim. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed an administrative complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing ("DFEH") and was issued a right-to-sue letter. On February 2, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Worldlink, Samsung, and Pro Staff, based on violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), Cal. Gov. Code § 12900, et seq.:

(1) Plaintiff was terminated because of his race in violation of Cal.Gov.Code § 12940(a).

(2) Plaintiff was terminated because of his perceived religion in violation of Cal.Gov.Code § 12940(a).

(3) Plaintiff was wrongfully terminated in violation of public policy.

Defendant Pro Staff now moves to dismiss all of the above claims.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint is dismissed when a plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When considering a 12(b)(6) motion, all allegations of material fact are accepted as true and should be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-338 (9th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff's obligation requires more than "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, ...


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