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Conner v. Aviation Services of Chevron U.S.A.

United States District Court, Northern District of California

November 5, 2014

BRIGITTE SCHIESSER CONNER, Plaintiff,
v.
AVIATION SERVICES OF CHEVRON U.S.A., et al., Defendants

For Brigitte Schiesser Conner, Plaintiff: Brenda F. Biren, LEAD ATTORNEY, Pamela Miriam Sayad, Sayad & Biren, San Francisco, CA.

For Aviation Services of Chevron U.S.A., M. Brady Pierce, Chris Nelson, Defendants: Tracey Adano Kennedy, LEAD ATTORNEY, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, Los Angeles, CA.

For Chevron Corporation, Chevron U.S.A., Inc., Defendants: Matthew A. Tobias, LEAD ATTORNEY, Tracey Adano Kennedy, Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton LLP, Los Angeles, CA.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT Re: Dkt. No. 15

JAMES DONATO, United States District Judge.

This action is an employment case brought by plaintiff Brigitte Schiesser Conner, an aircraft mechanic. Plaintiff has brought suit against three Chevron entities: Chevron U.S.A., Inc.; Chevron Corporation; and Aviation Services of Chevron U.S.A.[1] The complaint also names as defendants two individual Chevron employees: M. Brady Pierce, who was plaintiff's supervisor, and Chris Nelson, a co-worker. Plaintiff's state court complaint, which was removed to this Court, asserts thirteen causes of action under state and federal law, including wrongful termination, harassment and discrimination, and retaliation.

Currently before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss seven of plaintiff's causes of action pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6), as well as to dismiss, or in the alternative, for a more definite statement under FRCP 12(e) for six of plaintiff's causes of action. Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The operative complaint in this case contains allegations that are numerous and wide-ranging, factually and legally, but the key factual allegations are straightforward. Plaintiff, who was " the only female mechanic" for aircraft at Chevron, is a citizen of the United States and Germany and is 56 years old. Dkt. No. 1, Ex. B ¶ ¶ 8, 13. She worked for the Chevron defendants for ten years, starting in 2002. Id. Plaintiff alleges that she initially had an excellent employment record with positive reviews, but that she was " subjected to discriminatory and harassing conduct, a hostile work environment, and retaliation by Defendants." Id. ¶ 12. She asserts that the course of events at issue in her complaint began in 2010 after the retirement of her supervisor John Lett, " with whom Plaintiff had an excellent working relationship." Id. ¶ 10, 12. Plaintiff alleges that she subsequently experienced numerous instances of discriminatory and harassing conduct, including one instance in which her new supervisor, defendant Pierce, informed her that she " should not have reported the harassment, because she is working in a man's world and there are different rules." Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges this comment was made to her after she reported the " unrelenting" harassment by defendant Nelson and others of another mechanic, who is " Japanese and diminutive for a man." Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff asserts that she was also harassed on the basis of her national origin and " call[ed] . . . a Nazi" by defendant Nelson. Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff further claims that she was subjected to " violent pictures on the wall" which " were disturbing and had bullet holes in them as well as images of people being choked, " and which defendants " refused to remove." Id. ¶ 16.

Plaintiff alleges that " [b]ecause of the abuse she suffered in the workplace, and the terrible and hostile environment, [she] suffered a disability and commenced a medical leave of absence" on May 17, 2012. Id. ¶ 25. On September 6, 2012, when she returned to work as directed by defendants, she was allegedly " immediately removed from the workplace and terminated." Id. ¶ 28. She claims that she was prohibited from subsequently reporting to work and her termination became effective on November 30, 2012. Id.

On this factual basis, plaintiff alleges thirteen causes of action: (1) wrongful termination in violation of public policy under California Government Code § 12900, Article I, Section 8 of the California Constitution, California Labor Code § § 1102.5 and 6310-12, and the FMLA and CFRA (" against Chevron defendants"); (2) harassment and discrimination based on national origin/ancestry, sex, age and disability in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code § 12900 (" against defendants"); (3) retaliation for opposing discrimination and harassment in violation of the FEHA and for opposing and reporting safety violations under California Labor Code § § 6310-12 and 1102.5 (" against Chevron defendants and defendant Pierce"); (4) failure to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring (" against Chevron defendants and defendant Pierce"); (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress (" against defendants"); (6) negligent infliction of emotional distress (" against defendants"); (7) negligence (" against defendants"); (8) negligent hiring, supervision and retention (" against Chevron defendants"); (9) violation of California Labor Code § § 1102.5, 6310-12 (" against defendants"); (10) breach of contract (" against Chevron defendants"); (11) failure to engage in the interactive process and accommodate disability (" against Chevron defendants"); (12) discrimination in violation of FMLA, CFRA and FEHA (" against defendants"); and (13) violation of the Bane Act (" against defendants"). Dkt. No. 1, Ex. B at 12-28.

In the motion to dismiss, defendants seek dismissal of plaintiff's second, third, fourth, sixth, seventh, ninth and twelfth causes of action under FRCP 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Dkt. No. 15. Defendants also argue that " plaintiff's first, second, third, ninth, eleventh and twelfth causes of action are improperly pled and should be dismissed, or in the alternative, Plaintiff should be ordered to provide a more definite statement" pursuant to FRCP 12(e). Id., Notice of Motion and Motion at 3.

DISCUSSION

I. GOVERNING STANDARD

Dismissal under FRCP 12(b)(6) " 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) (citation omitted). To avoid dismissal, a complaint must allege " enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell A. 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 pleaded factual content 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) (citing Twombly at 556). " [F]or a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory 'factual content, ' and reasonable inferences from that ...


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