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Le v. CTS Electronics Manufacturing Solutions Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

January 6, 2014

TUNG VAN NGUYEN & THANG LE, Plaintiffs,
v.
CTS ELECTRONICS MANUFACTURING SOLUTIONS INC., AND DOES 1 THROUGH 25, INCLUSIVE, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DEYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION; DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFFS' SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6) AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT; GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SEVER PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

LUCY H. KOH, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Tung Van Nguyen and Thang Le bring this lawsuit against Defendant CTS Electronics Manufacturing Solutions Inc. ("CTS") and Does 1 through 25, inclusive. CTS moves the Court to dismiss the second cause of action in Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint, see ECF No. 14-1, Exhibit B (hereinafter "FAC"), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 14 ("CTS Mot. to Dismiss/Strike"). Alternatively, CTS moves the Court to strike Plaintiffs' second cause of action pursuant to Rule 12(f), or to order the Plaintiffs to provide a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e). Id. CTS also moves to sever Plaintiffs' entire FAC pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 20 and 21. ECF No. 15 ("Mot. to Sever"). Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court finds these matters appropriate for resolution without oral argument and hereby VACATES the hearings on these motions scheduled for January 9, 2014, at 1:30p.m. Having considered the parties' arguments, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court hereby GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART CTS' motion to strike Plaintiffs' second cause of action, DENIES AS MOOT CTS' motion to dismiss the second cause of action pursuant to 12(b)(6) and CTS' motion for a more definite statement, and GRANTS CTS' motion to sever the FAC.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations

Defendant CTS is a corporation doing business in California. Plaintiff Nguyen was hired by CTS on April 29, 2002 and worked as an employee in the stockroom until his termination on November 2, 2011. FAC ¶ 13. Nguyen was an exemplary employee who received several awards for his outstanding performance. Id. However, Kenny Lai, director of operations at CTS, eventually solicited Nguyen to join him in illegally selling items that belonged to CTS for a profit. Id. ¶ 5, 15. Because Nguyen rejected his proposal, Lai tried to find ways to get rid of Nguyen. Id. Kevin Cannon, Nguyen's manager, also participated in Lai's illegal scheme, and because Nguyen rejected the proposal, Cannon began "to exhibit racially discriminatory behaviors and comments towards Plaintiffs." Id. ¶ 4, 17. For example, Cannon once told Nguyen, "You are Asian. You don't have money. I always have money in my pocket." Id. ¶ 18. Cannon also called Nguyen "stupid Vietnamese" and yelled and cursed at Nguyen and his co-workers, creating an environment that was hostile and harassing to the thirty employees in the stockroom. Id. ¶ 19. On October 25, 2011, Nguyen circulated a complaint signed by approximately seventeen CTS employees which Nguyen submitted to human resources. Id. ¶ 20. Shortly thereafter, Nguyen was terminated. Id.

Plaintiff Le was an employee of 40 Hrs, Inc., a temporary staffing agency that assigned Le to work at CTS as an employee in the stockroom starting on January 13, 2011. Id. ¶ 14. While Le worked for CTS, Le always performed whatever tasks he was given. Id. During Le's employment at CTS, Kevin Cannon, Le's manager, called Le "boy, " despite the fact that Le was fifty-three years old at the time. Id. ¶ 21. After Le filed a complaint with human resources based on Cannon's behavior, Cannon apologized to Le during a meeting with human resources, but shortly thereafter continued to call him "boy." Id. ¶ 21. Defendants also refused to allow Le to take his rest and meal breaks for four months while he was employed with CTS, and in one instance, Cannon drove by Le in Cannon's car while Le was taking a nap under a tree during lunch and honked his horn in order to disturb Le's rest. Id. ¶ 22. Le was terminated from employment at CTS at an unspecified time. Id. ¶ 27.[1]

Plaintiffs further allege that Cannon often shouted at both Plaintiffs in the presence of other co-workers and embarrassed Plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 23. Plaintiffs allege that "[b]ecause Plaintiffs are Asians and English is their second language, Defendants picked on them as easy targets, Defendants singled out Plaintiffs and treated them differently from other employees of different national origins. In the process of about a few months from July 2011 through December 2011, Defendants systematically replaced Vietnamese workers with those from different national origins and reduced the number of Vietnamese workers to only a handful." Id. ¶ 24.

B. Procedural History

On November 15, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County asserting eight causes of action against CTS, Kevin Cannon, Kenny Lai, and DOES 1 THROUGH 25 INCLUSIVE for (1) wrongful termination; (2) violation of public policy; (3) unlawful harassment; (4) failure to prevent harassment; (5) racial discrimination; (6) retaliation for opposing employment discrimination; (7) statutory violations; and (8) intentional infliction of emotional distress. See ECF No. 1 ("Notice of Removal"), Exhibit A. On May 17, 2013, CTS filed a demurrer to the Complaint. ECF No. 1, Exhibit B. On July 1, 2013, the Superior Court issued an Order sustaining CTS' demurrer with leave to amend. ECF No. 1, Exhibit C. On July 19, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint against CTS and DOES 1 THROUGH 25 INCLUSIVE, asserting the same causes of action as the original complaint but no longer asserting any causes of action against Kevin Cannon and Kenny Lai, and Plaintiff Nguyen no longer asserted causes of action three through seven. See FAC.

Subsequently, on August 8, 2013, CTS timely removed the entire action to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. See ECF No. 1 at 1-10. On August 15, 2013, CTS filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs' second cause of action, or in the alternative, to strike the second cause of action or to order a more definite statement. ECF No. 14 ("CTS Mot. to Dismiss/Strike"). That same day, CTS filed a separate motion to sever the FAC. ECF No. 15 ("Mot. to Sever"). Plaintiffs filed one opposition which responds to both of Defendants' motions on August 29, 2013. ECF No. 18 ("Opp'n). On September 5, 2013, CTS filed a reply in support of its motion to dismiss, ECF No. 21 ("Mot. to Dismiss/Strike Reply"), and a separate reply in support of its motion to sever, ECF No. 20 ("Sever Reply").

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." A complaint that fails to meet this standard may be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Supreme Court has held that Rule 8(a) requires a plaintiff to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). For purposes of ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court "accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008).

However, a court need not accept as true allegations contradicted by judicially noticeable facts, Shwarz v. United States, 234 F.3d 428, 435 (9th Cir. 2000), and the "[C]ourt may look beyond the plaintiff's complaint to matters of public record" without converting the Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one for summary judgment, Shaw v. Hahn, 56 F.3d 1128, 1129 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995). Nor is the court required to "assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations.'" Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (quoting W. Min. Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981)). Mere "conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss." Adams v. Johnson, 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004); accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Furthermore, "a plaintiff may ...


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