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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. American Laser Centers LLC

August 13, 2010

U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMERICAN LASER CENTERS LLC F/K/A ALC ACQUISITION COMPANY LLC D/B/A AMERICAN LASER CENTERS OF CALIFORNIA, LLC D/B/A AMERICAN LASER CENTERS, ALC-PARTNER, INC D/B/A AMERICAN LASER CENTERS, ALC FRESNO, LLC AND DOES 1-10, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

Doc. No. 10

This is an employment discrimination case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleges that defendants ALC-Partner, Inc. d/b/a American Laser Centers ("ALC-Partner"); American Laser Centers LLC f/k/a ALC Acquisition Company LLC d/b/a American Laser Centers ("ALC"); American Laser Centers of California, LLC d/b/a American Laser Centers ("ALC California"); ALC Fresno, LLC ("ALC Fresno")*fn1 , and Does 1-10 (collectively "Defendants") violated Title VII. EEOC alleges that ALC Fresno employees, Dawb Yang ("Yang") and other unnamed women, were sexually harassed by Defendants' Consulting Physician/Landlord, Dr. Haskin. EEOC alleges that Defendants are liable for this harassment under Title VII because the Defendants failed to take effective remedial action and retaliated against Yang by terminating her employment. Defendants move to dismiss the First-Amended Complaint ("FAC") under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted.

FACTUAL HISTORY*fn2

On or about November 28, 2009, Yang filed a charge with the EEOC alleging violations of Title VII by Defendants. See FAC ¶14. The EEOC investigated the charge and issued a letter of determination finding that Defendants subjected Yang and a class of similarly situated employees to a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII. Id. The EEOC further determined that Defendants subjected Yang to retaliation for engaging in protected activity. Id.

EEOC alleges that since at least August 2006, Defendants have engaged in unlawful employment practices at their Fresno, California location. See FAC ¶15. Defendants subjected Yang and other similarly situated female employees to unwelcome sexual conduct by their Consulting Physician/Landlord, Dr. Haskin, which was sufficiently severe and pervasive to adversely affect the terms and conditions of their employment and create a hostile work environment. See FAC ¶16. The sexual harassment includes, but is not limited: to the Consulting Physician/Landlord repeatedly approaching female employees with a visibly erect penis, openly leering at them, positioning his body unusually close to the women, caressing the hands and faces of the female employees and otherwise touching them in a sexual manner, and unbuttoning the blouse of a female employees.

See FAC ¶16(a). Yang and the female employees complained to several management officials of the Defendants in an effort to stop the unwelcome conduct. See FAC ¶16(d). Defendants failed to take reasonable steps to prevent and correct the harassment. See FAC ¶16(d). Defendants blamed the female employees for the "misunderstanding" and ordered them to return to the work site and to just try to avoid him. Id. Defendants subjected Yang to unlawful retaliation for complaining of the hostile work environment by terminating her employment within two weeks of her complaints. See FAC ¶17(a)-(c). Defendants' allegations of Yang's poor performance are a pretext for retaliation given that the ALC Fresno clinic had only been operational for approximately two weeks and that similarly situated employees who did not complain of any harassment were not terminated. See FAC ¶17(c). Yang and a class of similarly situated employees have been deprived of equal employment opportunities because of their gender. See FAC ¶18. EEOC alleges that Defendants' retaliation was intentional and that Defendants failure to take reasonable steps to prevent and correct the harassment was done with malice or with reckless indifference to Yang's rights. See FAC ¶¶20-21.

EEOC alleges that ALC Fresno is a California corporation that does business in California and "as an integrated enterprise with ALC-Partner has continuously had at least 15 employees." See FAC ¶8. ALC-Partner is a Michigan corporation doing business in California and has continuously had at least 15 employees. See FAC ¶4. ALC is a Delaware corporation doing business in California and has continuously had at least 15 employees . See FAC ¶6. ALC California is a Delaware corporation doing business in California and has continuously had at least 15 employees. See FAC ¶10. Defendants each acted "as a successor, alter ego, joint employer, integrated enterprise, agent, employee, successor, or under the direction and control of the others..." See FAC ¶13.

On December 28, 2009, EEOC filed a complaint in this Court. On March 19, 2010, EEOC filed a first-amended complaint. In the FAC, EEOC alleges that Defendants violated Title VII for subjecting Yang and similarly situated women to a hostile work environment and for retaliating against Yang.

On April 19, 2010, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the FAC for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

On May 10, 2010, EEOC filed an opposition. On May 17, 2010, Defendants filed a reply. On July 14, 2010, Yang filed an intervenor complaint.

GENERAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Rule 12(b)(6)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),a claim may be dismissed because of the plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or on the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). In reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Marceau v. Blackfeet Hous. Auth., 540 F.3d 916, 919 (9th Cir. 2008); Vignolo v. Miller, 120 F.3d 1075, 1077 (9th Cir. 1999). The Court must also assume that general allegations embrace the necessary, specific facts to support the claim. Smith v. Pacific Prop. and Dev. Corp., 358 F.3d 1097, 1106 (9th Cir. 2004); Peloza v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 37 F.3d 517, 521 (9th Cir. 1994). But, the Court is not required "to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1056-57 (9th Cir. 2008); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). Although they may provide the framework of a complaint, legal conclusions are not accepted as true and "[t]hreadbare recitals of elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009); see also Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003). Furthermore, Courts will not assume that plaintiffs "can prove facts which [they have] not alleged, or that the defendants have violated . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme Court has explained:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative ...


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