United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
DISTRICT COURT ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER AND DENYING AS MOOT
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM ADR PROGRAM
HOWARD R. LLOYD, Magistrate Judge.
This action arises out of alleged wage payment violations under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1101, et seq. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), defendant Wipro Limited (Wipro) moves for an order transferring this case to the District of New Jersey. Defendant Perez, sued here in his official capacity as the U.S. Secretary of Labor (Secretary), joins the motion. Pro se plaintiff Arvind Gupta opposes the motion. All parties have expressly consented that all proceedings in this matter may be heard and finally adjudicated by the undersigned. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Upon consideration of the moving and responding papers, as well as the arguments presented at the motion hearing, the court grants the motion.
Gupta is a former Wipro employee who lives in Mumbai, India. Wipro is a global information technology, consulting, and outsourcing company. Although it maintains an office in Northern California, Wipro says it is headquartered in India, with its U.S. operations based in East Brunswick, New Jersey. (Rodrigues Decl. ¶ 2). Gupta worked for a period of time for Wipro in the U.S. under an H-1B visa, which essentially allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ nonimmigrant alien workers in specialty occupations. Plaintiff, who says that he worked for Wipro in New York, Nebraska, and Georgia, alleges that Wipro failed to pay his wages and made unauthorized deductions from his paychecks in violation of the H-1B provisions of the INA.
In May 2009, Gupta says he filed a complaint re the alleged violations with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in its San Francisco, California office. He says that DOL concluded that there was reasonable cause to conduct an investigation. (Complaint ¶ 21). Plaintiff goes on to allege that, for reasons unknown, his complaint subsequently was transferred from San Francisco to the DOL's office in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 24). A decision issued adverse to plaintiff, and he requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. Gupta says that although that matter initially was assigned to the DOL's San Francisco office, he requested that it be transferred to New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 31). He proceeded through the administrative process there and lost.
Plaintiff then filed the instant lawsuit here, seeking judicial review of the Secretary's decision against him. Several weeks later, he filed an amended complaint, adding several claims against Wipro for the alleged unauthorized deductions and failure to pay his wages.
Wipro does not dispute that venue is proper here. Nevertheless, it contends that this lawsuit has no material connection to California because Gupta is not a California resident; he never worked for Wipro in California; and, Wipro's U.S. operations are based in New Jersey, where plaintiff's underlying administrative complaint was adjudicated. Wipro argues that transferring this case to the District of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the interest of justice. As noted above, the Secretary joins in Wipro's motion.
Preliminarily, Gupta argues that this case should stay in Northern California because venue is proper here. He further contends that defendants' motion is foreclosed by Atlantic Marine Constr. Co., Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Ct. for the Western Dist. of Texas , 134 S.Ct. 568 (2013). Plaintiff misapprehends the nature of the instant motion, and Atlantic Marine is in apposite. That case concerned the question whether a contractual forum selection clause may be enforced by a motion to dismiss for improper venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) or Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3). Id. at 575. There is no forum selection clause at issue here, and defendants seek transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 404(a), which provides that a district court may transfer a civil action to any district where the case could have been filed originally for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice. As confirmed in Atlantic Marine, "[u]nlike § 1406(a), § 1404(a) does not condition transfer on the initial forum's being wrong.' And it permits transfer to any district where venue is also proper ( i.e., where [the case] might have been brought') or to any other district to which the parties have agreed by contract or stipulation." Id. at 579.
Transfer pursuant to § 1404(a) is appropriate where (1) the transferee court is one where the action might have been brought; and (2) the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interest of justice favor transfer. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); Hatch v. Reliance Ins. Co. , 758 F.2d 409, 414 (9th Cir. 1985). The moving party bears the burden of making a strong showing that transfer is warranted. Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co. , 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986).
Plaintiff does not seriously dispute that he could have filed this lawsuit in New Jersey. He argues only that it doesn't matter. Because § 1404(a) authorizes transfer to courts where the action might have been brought, "the transferee court must: (1) be able to exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant, (2) have subject matter jurisdiction over the claim, and (3) be a proper venue." Zimpelman v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co., No. C09-03306 RMW, 2010 WL 135325 at *1 (N.D. Cal., Jan. 8, 2010) (citing Hoffman v. Blaski , 363 U.S. 335, 343-44, 80 S.Ct. 1084, 4 L.Ed.2d 1254 (1960)). The gravamen of plaintiff's claims is that Wipro engaged in wage payment violations under the INA and that the Secretary erred in deciding against him. Wipro's U.S. operations are based in New Jersey, and plaintiff's administrative complaint was, at his request, adjudicated there. Plaintiff contends that his claims against Wipro arise under California law, but he never worked for Wipro in California, and he has not convincingly demonstrated that California law governs his claims. Even if he had, "other federal courts are fully capable of applying California law." Foster v. Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., No. C07-04928 SI , 2007 WL 4410408 at *6 (N.D. Cal., Dec. 14, 2007).
The decision to transfer therefore depends on the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice. A district court has discretion to decide motions to transfer venue based upon a case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness. Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc. , 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Stewart Org. v. Ricoh Corp. , 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988)). In exercising its discretion, the court must consider public factors, which pertain to the interests of justice, and private factors, which concern the convenience of the parties and witnesses. Decker Coal Co. , 805 F.2d at 843. Among the factors to be considered are: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) convenience of the parties and witnesses; (3) ease of access to evidence; (4) familiarity of each forum with the applicable law; (5) the feasibility of consolidation with other claims; (6) local interest in the controversy; and (7) relative court congestion in each forum. Id .; Jones , 211 F.3d at 498-99.
1. Plaintiff's Choice of Forum
Plaintiff argues that his decision to file suit here must be given deference. Defendants believe that Gupta is simply forum shopping because he liked the DOL San Francisco office's initial decision to investigate his allegations and ...