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Perez v. Exceptional Children's Foundation

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 21, 2014

FRANCISCO PEREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN'S FOUNDATION; DOROTHY BURBANK; DOES 1-50, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S PARTIAL MOTION TO REMAND [8]

OTIS D. WRIGHT, II, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Francisco Perez worked as a live-in apartment manager and handy man for Defendant Exceptional Children's Foundation ("ECF"). Perez alleges that his supervisor, Defendant Dorothy Burbank, discriminated against him for being Hispanic, making derogatory remarks about his ethnicity and making fun of his Hispanic traditions and culture. He also contends that Burbank made comments about him being homosexual, such as telling him that his sexuality was sinful. Perez eventually went on disability leave due to psychological issues stemming from the harassment.

When ECF terminated his employment, Perez filed this action in state court, alleging one claim for violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and five state-law claims. ECF removed the action to this Court. Perez then moved to partially remand his state-law claims. Since the Court finds that it would needlessly traverse federalism bounds for the Court to weigh in on new and unsettled issues of California law, the Court GRANTS IN PART Perez's Motion and REMANDS his wrongful-termination and invasion-of-privacy claims.[1] (ECF No.8.)

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Perez, a homosexual Hispanic man, was a former employee of ECF, a California corporation located in Culver City, California. (Compl. ¶¶ 2-3.) Perez began working for ECF around September 14, 2009, as a live-in apartment manager at ECF's Los Angeles facility and handy man for five ECF facilities. ( Id. ¶ 9.) ECF initially placed Perez on a six-month probationary period just like other employees. ( Id. ¶ 11.) But Burbank, Perez's manager, unilaterally extended the probationary period after the end of the six months. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Perez eventually became a permanent employee when Burbank's supervisor intervened. ( Id. ¶ 16.)

Perez alleges that following his change to permanent-employee status, Burbank became racially belligerent. ( Id. ¶ 17.) She made comments about "[a]ll you people [Hispanics] just come here [United States] to drain the economy." ( Id. ¶ 19 (second and third alterations in original).) Burbank also made fun of Perez's Hispanic accent and made comments in an exaggerated accent and "homosexual intonation." ( Id. ) She also told him that homosexual relationships were sinful. ( Id. ¶ 21.)

Burbank repeatedly entered Perez's apartment without permission and searched his personal belongings. ( Id. ¶ 22.) She criticized his Catholic prayer candles, calling them "VooDoo candles." ( Id. ) Burbank also would not let Perez prepare Hispanic foods at the facility. ( Id. ¶ 27.)

Perez complained about Burbank's actions to Miriam Hammanian, Burbank's immediate supervisor, but no one intervened. ( Id. ¶ 23.) After Perez attended a mandatory harassment training course, he reiterated his concerns to Burbank. She then became angry and called Perez a "fucking liar" and told him to get out of the room. ( Id. ¶ 28.)

Around May 15, 2012, ECF placed Perez on disability leave due to the psychological issues he suffered as a result of his employment. ( Id. ¶ 29.) But he was never able to return to ECF, and ECF terminated his employment.

On January 14, 2014, Perez filed suit against ECF and Burbank in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging claims for violation of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866 ("CRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 et seq.; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; wrongful termination in violation of public policy; invasion of privacy under article 1, section 1 of the California Constitution; and common-law invasion of privacy. (Not. of Removal Ex. A.) Defendants subsequently removed the case to this Court, invoking federal-question jurisdiction.

On April 24, 2014, Perez moved to remand his state-law claims. (ECF No. 8.) Defendants timely opposed. That Motion is now before the Court for decision.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject-matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1; e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A defendant may remove a suit filed in state court only if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). But courts strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction, and federal jurisdiction "must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., ...


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