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Bradley v. County of Sacramento Department of Human Assistance of Northern California Welfare Division

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 14, 2014

RUBY BRADLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN ASSISTANCE OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WELFARE DIVISION, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DALE A. DROZD, Magistrate Judge.

This matter came before the court on January 24, 2014, for hearing of defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff Ruby Bradley's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Attorney David Norton appeared on behalf of Defendant County of Sacramento Department of Human Assistance of Northern California Welfare Division ("County") and Defendant Donna Doyle ("Doyle"). Plaintiff Ruby Bradley appeared on her own behalf. After hearing oral argument, defendants' motion was taken under submission.

For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted and plaintiff will be granted leave to file an amended complaint.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced this action on November 21, 2013, by paying the required filing fee and filing a complaint.[1] (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff's complaint alleges, in relevant part, as follows. In March of 1996, the County hired plaintiff as an on-call site coordinator. (Compl. (Dkt. No. 1) at 3.[2]) "Plaintiff is an African American female over the age of forty." (Id. at 2.) In April of 1999, the County hired plaintiff as a part-time Site Coordinator. (Id. at 4.) In January of 2000, the County hired plaintiff as a full-time Human Service Specialist. (Id.)

Approx in 2006 defendants' began promoting and hiring and moving around African American employees to higher positions and lateral transfers, as well as promoting younger candidates with less qualifications for positions plaintiff had applied for and was not selected to fill in which plaintiff had the education and qualifications to perform.

(Id.) Moreover, over an unspecified period of time, the defendants "routinely overlook[ed] black females for promotions to certain positions" and targeted plaintiff by limiting and depriving her of promotional opportunities. (Id. 4-5.)

Specifically, defendant Doyle, the County's Program Manager,
practiced pitting minority employees against each other, and racially orchestrating unlawful employment practices at the bureau level and providing derogatory information to other County employee's regarding plaintiff which was designed to and intended to secretly block plaintiff's attempts to lateral transfer into other positions and effect plaintiff's employment status to remain limited and deprived of equal employment opportunities and promotional opportunities.

(Id. at 5-6.) Defendant Doyle also "recommended and selected supervisors to assist her with oppressing plaintiff's working environment and relationship with other employees." (Id. at 6.) Moreover, supervisors at plaintiff's work location coached candidates "for promotional opportunities and lateral transfers to other positions" and the defendants promoted younger employees "to Social Worker positions and allowed lateral transfers into other positions." (Id.) Although plaintiff had more seniority than some of the younger employees, "[p]laintiff was confined to one stationary work location surrounded by supervisor's to perform plaintiff's duties." (Id.) When plaintiff attempted to transfer to another location, one of defendants' supervisors told plaintiff she could not do so without permission from plaintiff's Program Manager. (Id.)

Defendants denied plaintiff "employment opportunities and other promotional opportunities because of her race." (Id. at 7.) Defendants designed and used methods of testing and policies "to discriminate against plaintiff because of her age, educational background and qualifications." (Id. at 8.) Defendants placed plaintiff's test scores "in very low ranks designed to cause plaintiff to never be chosen for promotional opportunities." (Id. at 9.)

At unspecified times defendants' employees and supervisors also allegedly harassed plaintiff "in conscious disregard of the hardship and embarrassment" it might cause her. (Id. at 11.) Specifically, other County employees harassed plaintiff with sarcastic remarks about her age, character and "for making internal and external complaints regarding defendants' policies and treatment of plaintiff in her employment." (Id. at 10.)

Defendants allegedly designed their actions to "force plaintiff to an act of violence or perform her duties inadequately to be disciplined." (Id.) Defendants then falsely accused plaintiff of violating their policies and disciplined her for doing so. (Id.) Further, "[p]laintiff was targeted in situations where an employee did not perform their duty; plaintiff was presented with the duty to perform." (Id. at 10-11.)

On September 28, 2009, plaintiff informed her supervisor that she "was feeling depress[ed] and exhausted" and could "no longer function adequately to perform her duties." (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff's supervisor provided her with workmen's compensation services. (Id.) In January of 2010, plaintiff began receiving psychiatric care.[3] (Id. at 7.)

Based on these allegations, plaintiff's complaint asserts causes of action for age-based employment discrimination, race-based employment discrimination, and hostile work environment/harassment.[4] On December 12, 3013, defendants filed the motion to dismiss now pending before the court. (Dkt. No. 6.) On January, 3, 2014, plaintiff filed an opposition to defendants' motion. (Dkt. No. 7.) On January 16, 2014, defendants filed a reply to plaintiff's opposition. (Dkt. No. 8.)

MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARDS

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n , 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). "Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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 (2009).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court accepts as true the material allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding , 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp. , 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States , 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). However, the court need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Sanders v. Brown , 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007) (noting that the court is "not obligated to accept every conclusory allegation as true"). While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not ...


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