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Jose Luis Ramos v. Molina Healthcare

July 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Otis D. Wright, II United States District Judge



This action involves the alleged employment misconduct of Defendants Molina Healthcare, Inc. ("MHI") and Molina Information Systems, LLC ("MMS"). Plaintiff Jose Luis Ramos, a former employee of MMS, asserted nine claims relating to age and racial discrimination against him by employees at MMS. Defendants seek to dismiss Ramos's action in its entirety under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(3), or alternatively, transfer venue under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). (ECF No. 7.) For the following reasons, the Court finds that transfer to the Eastern District of Virginia is appropriate, and thus GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Transfer.*fn1


Defendants MHI and MMS are part of the Molina organization, which provides medical services for Medicaid recipients. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Ramos, who is over the age of 60 and of Puerto Rican descent, was employed by MMS from 2010 to early 2011 as a Technical Director. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 8.) The crux of Ramos's action concerns alleged discriminatory behavior by the Vice President of Engineering Delivery, Timothy Brewer, and the Chief Technical Officer, Timothy Skeen, during Ramos's time at MMS. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.)

In early 2011, Ramos received information indicating that money was being kicked back to senior managers at MMS in exchange for the award of subcontracts. (Id. ¶ 14.) Ramos reported these allegations to Brewer and the Division President, Norm Nichols. (Id.) Two weeks later, Brewer fired Ramos without any warning, job related criticism, or reason for the termination. (Id.) Ramos believes he was terminated because of his age and national origin, in retaliation for opposing hiring practices, and for reporting the allegations of bribery. (Id. ¶ 18.) Based on these facts, Ramos brought suit against Defendants in the present action.

MHI is a Delaware corporation and has its principal place of business in the County of Los Angeles, California. (Id. ¶ 3.) Ramos maintains that MMS is a California corporation with its principal place of business in the County of Los Angeles. (Id.) Defendants, however, argue that MMS, though headquartered in California for tax purposes: has no offices in California; has a total of four employees in California; and derives no revenue from California. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 3.) Rather, its principal places of business are in Idaho, Maine, New Jersey, West Virginia, Louisiana, Florida, and Virginia. (Id. ¶ 2.) Defendants contend that they have 113 employees in Virginia, and that the events giving rise to Ramos's action, including the termination, took place in Virginia. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 8.)


A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) -- improper venue

Venue in federal question cases is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), which provides that venue is proper in any judicial district where any defendant resides if all defendants reside in the same state, or in any judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391(b)(1), (2). A corporation is deemed to reside in any judicial district where it would be subject to personal jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c).

When determining proper venue, a court can look beyond the pleadings of the claim, and does not have to take a plaintiff's factual allegations as true. Murphy v. Schneider Nat'l, Inc., 362 F.3d 1133, 1137 (9th Cir. 2003). But when the facts are disputed, the trial court must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all factual conflicts in favor of the non-moving party. Id. at 1138.

Ramos's Complaint states, "Venue as to all claims for relief asserted by this Complaint is proper in this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a) because MOLINA have their principal places of business in this District." (Compl. ¶ 6.) Defendants, while arguing that MMS has only four employees in California, no offices in California, and derives no revenue from California, does not deny that MMS is incorporated in this district and that MHI has its principal place of business in California. (Brewer Decl. ¶¶ 2--3; O'Donnell Decl. ¶ 2.) Venue would therefore appear to be proper in California. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391(b)(1), (c). But under § 1391(b)(2), that would not be the case, as none of the events giving rise to this claim occurred in California. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).

Yet, Ramos's Title VII claims are governed by specialized venue rules. Causes of action arising under Title VII are subject to 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(f)(3), which provides stricter venue requirements than § 1391. Title VII authorizes lawsuits to be filed "in any judicial district in the State in which the unlawful employment practice is alleged to have been committed," as well as: in the district where employment records are kept; in the district where the plaintiff would have worked but for the alleged unlawful practice; and if those provisions fail to provide a forum, in the district where the defendant keeps its principal office. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3); Johnson v. Payless Drug Stores Nw., 950 F.2d 586, 587 (9th Cir. 1991).

The Court finds venue improper in this district for Ramos's Title VII claims because Ramos has not established that the events giving rise to his action have a significant connection to California. Ramos' Complaint is silent on the location where the instances of employment discrimination occurred. Defendants provide evidence that the employment decisions regarding Ramos took place in Virginia. (Brewer Decl. ΒΆ 8.) Further, Ramos does not allege that the employment records relevant to the alleged misconduct are maintained in this district, nor that he would have ...

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