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Wanda Al-Raheem v. Covenant Care

June 11, 2012

WANDA AL-RAHEEM,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COVENANT CARE, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED COMPLAINT Doc. # 20

This is a civil rights action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for damages and equitable relief by pro se plaintiff Wanda Al-Raheem ("Plaintiff") against defendant Covenant Care ("Defendant"). In the instant motion, Defendant seeks to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("FAC") pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Federal question jurisdiction exists pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue is proper in this court.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

On October 3, 2011, the court issued a memorandum opinion and order granting Defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (the "October 3 Order"). The currently-operative FAC was filed on October 21, 2011, and alleges two claims for relief. The first claim for relief alleges race-based harassment or hostile work environment and the second alleges unlawful retaliation, both in violation of Title VII. Plaintiff's FAC omits any claim of disparate treatment, a claim that the court interpreted the original complaint to have alleged. The factual background giving rise to the instant action is little changed from the factual background that was presented in the October 3 Order. Plaintiff's FAC is factually very detailed and contains a number of examples of what Plaintiff contends are adverse employment actions, however most of the detail presented there is not relevant to the resolution of Defendant's motion to dismiss. The following is a summary that is borrowed, with minor updates, from the court's October 3 Order. The facts alleged in the FAC are essentially identical to those alleged in the original complaint except that the FAC clarifies to some extent the relationship between non-parties Toni Perkins and Executive Director Michael Darouze and Defendant Covenant Care.

Plaintiff is an African-American woman was hired by Defendant in September 2006 as a "Business Office Manager" at Turlock Nursing Rehabilitation Facility, a Defendant-owned medical treatment facility. At the time of Plaintiff's employment, Michael Darouze was the Executive Director and the person to whom Plaintiff reported. Toni Perkins, the other prominent non-party in this action, is described in the FAC as an employee of Defendant who has the title of "Regional Accounts Receivable Consultant." While there remains some ambiguity as to the authority of Perkins to hire, fire, or carry out disciplinary proceedings, it is clear that Perkins was instrumental in establishing the type and intensity of demands placed on Plaintiff in the workplace. Likewise, it is not clear what the authority relationship between Perkins and Darouze was, however it is clear that Plaintiff alleges that Darouze did not interfere in Perkins' actions or relationship with Plaintiff.

The complaint alleges that Perkins acted to undermine Plaintiff's efforts to meet company goals and objectives such that Plaintiff felt it necessary to complain to Darouze, who failed to act to take any action to resolve the situation. The FAC alleges that following Plaintiff's complaint to Darouze, Perkins began an incessant campaign of harassment in retaliation for what Plaintiff contends was the protected activity of complaining about Perkins' subversive and intimidating behavior. Plaintiff alleges the retaliatory harassment included the imposition of highly unreasonable job demands; demands she alleges were not imposed on Plaintiff's White predecessor. Plaintiff also alleges Perkins embarked on a campaign of interference by calling Plaintiff every sixty minutes and demanding that Plaintiff answer e-mail inquiries immediately while she was trying to process the old Medicare claims.

Plaintiff alleges that ultimately the stress caused by Perkins' harassment and the failure of Darouze or anyone from Covenant Care to address Plaintiff's complaints required Plaintiff to be placed on medical leave by her physician. Plaintiff returned to the workplace on May 15, 2007 to drop off a "Medical Leave Extension Notice." While there, Plaintiff notice an unsigned "Corrective Disciplinary Action" notice which noted Plaintiff's failure to achieve the unreasonable work demands and threatened employment termination. Plaintiff contends that the Corrective Disciplinary Action form was "a clear case of retaliation" since it was both unreasonable and unwarranted in view of Plaintiff's performance. Doc. # 19 at ¶¶ 75-76. The FAC alleges the Corrective Disciplinary Action was never supplied to the EEOC but alleges that the document was signed by Darouse on May 2, 2007.

Ultimately, Plaintiff alleges she suffered considerable stress and emotional trauma and decided to leave the area when her husband was offered a job in another state. Plaintiff resigned from her job on May 31, 2001. Plaintiff contends the resignation was not voluntary and that she suffered constructive discharge.

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure can be based on the failure to allege a cognizable legal theory or the failure to allege sufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 533-34 (9th Cir.1984). To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must set forth factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) ("Twombly"). While a court considering a motion to dismiss must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), and must construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and resolve factual disputes in the pleader's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, reh'g denied, 396 U.S. 869 (1969), the allegations must be factual in nature. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 ("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"). The pleading standard set by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ("Iqbal").

The Ninth Circuit follows the methodological approach set forth in Iqbal for the assessment of a plaintiff's complaint:

"[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief."

Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 970 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950).

DISCUSSION

The claims asserted by Plaintiff in her FAC are the same as the first two claims asserted by Plaintiff in her original complaint although Plaintiff's FAC alleges a few additional facts and clarifies others. Plaintiff's original complaint was dismissed for a very simple reason; the facts alleged in the original complaint failed to establish the adverse employer actions Plaintiff faced had their origins in racial animus. Thus, the legal framework previously set out by the court in its October 3 Order is applicable to the two claims set forth in Plaintiff's FAC. The main determination for the court is whether the additional or ...


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