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Imel v. County of El Dorado

June 28, 2010

LINDA IMEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF EL DORADO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank C. Damrell, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on defendant County of El Dorado's (the "County" or "defendant") motion to dismiss plaintiff Linda Imel's ("Imel" or "plaintiff") complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(b)(6). Plaintiff opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below,*fn1 defendant's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Imel was employed by defendant County with its Department of Child Support Services ("DCSS"). (Compl., filed Mar. 22, 2010, ¶ 5.) She was hired by DCSS on or about March 11, 2000 and worked continuously for the County over the next 10 years. (Id. ¶ 6.) During the vast majority of that time, she received exemplary performance reviews and appraisals from her supervisors and consistently received merit raises. (Id.)

On or about September 17, 2008, management began to criticize plaintiff's appearance as "unprofessional." (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff was called into an individual meeting after management had chastised all the employees about the perceived inadequacies of their attire. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff was the only employee who demanded her union shop steward accompany her in the meeting. (Id.)

At the same time, management also found reasons to reprimand plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 8.) Specifically, she was chastised for failing to read an email and consequently, failing to attend a workshop. Subsequently, on October 23, 2009, after plaintiff committed a clerical oversight in failing to generate a preliminary notice to a consumer, she was summarily terminated. There was no progressive discipline, and plaintiff contends that her "Skelley" hearing was "a farcical kangaroo court." Plaintiff alleges that at the time of her termination she was nearing a step-up in her benefits due to her seniority and years on the job.

Plaintiff contends that the proffered reasons for her termination were pretext for (1) retaliating against her for asserting her rights; and (2) terminating "costlier older workers and the costly retirements to which they were entitled, as well as the costly health care they needed and had earned." (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff further contends that after her termination, she did not receive her earned wages or accrued benefits in a timely fashion and did not receive any interest or penalties on the delayed payments.

On March 22, 2010, plaintiff filed a complaint, alleging claims against the County for (1) violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 623; (2) unfair labor practice in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 158;*fn2 (3) failure to pay wages when due in violation of California Labor Code § 218.6; and (4) retaliation in violation of California Labor Code § 1102.5.

STANDARDS

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Under notice pleading in federal court, the complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations omitted). "This simplified notice pleading standard relies on liberal discovery rules and summary judgment motions to define disputed facts and issues and to dispose of unmeritorious claims." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002).

On a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The court is bound to give plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6 (1963). A plaintiff need not allege "'specific facts' beyond those necessary to state his claim and the grounds showing entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

Nevertheless, the court "need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986). While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. A pleading is insufficient if it offers mere "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."). Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff "can prove facts which it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

Ultimately, the court may not dismiss a complaint in which the plaintiff has alleged "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Only where a plaintiff has failed to "nudge [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible," is the complaint properly dismissed. Id. at 1952. While the plausibility requirement is not akin to a probability requirement, it demands more than "a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. at 1949. This ...


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