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Smith v. Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 19, 2014

Michael Smith
Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc

For Michael Smith, Plaintiff: Carney R Shegerian, LEAD ATTORNEY, Shegerian and Associates Inc, Santa Monica, CA.

For Staples, Inc., Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc., Lionel Marrero, Dwayne Morrison, Diana Mondragon, Victor Esposo, Defendants: Glenn L Briggs, Kelly Hsu, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Beth C Kearney, Kading Briggs LLP, Irvine, CA.


The Honorable ANDRÉ BIROTTE, JR.

Proceedings: [In Chambers] Order GRANTING Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 12)

On June 24, 2014, Plaintiff Michael Smith commenced an action in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles (case no. BC549711) against corporate defendants Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc. and Staples, Inc. (collectively, " Staples" or the " Staples Defendants"), and individual defendants Dwayne Morrison, Diana Mondragon, and Victor Esposo (collectively, the " Individual Defendants") (Dkt. No. 1-1.) On October 8, 2014, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 on the ground that the district court has diversity jurisdiction over the action. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand on the grounds that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Defendants have failed to establish complete diversity among the parties. (Dkt. No. 12.) Having considered the materials submitted by the parties, and for the reasons indicated below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Remand.


A. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff in this workplace discrimination and wrongful termination action is a resident of Los Angeles County. As alleged in the operative complaint, Plaintiff worked as a loader for Staples from 2008 to October 18, 2013.[1] (Dkt. No. 1-1, ¶ ¶ 14, 28.) During that time, Individual Defendants Lionel Morerro and Dewayne Morrison were Plaintiffs direct supervisors. (Id., at ¶ 14.) On June 29, 2012, Plaintiff alleges he filed for workers compensation due to stress, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, eating disorder, depression, and nervousness. (Id., at ¶ 15.) However, a human resources manager advised Plaintiff not to tell his supervisors the reason for his leave because Plaintiff's supervisors would likely retaliate against Plaintiff. (Id.)

When Plaintiff returned from his stress leave in February 2013, Individual Defendants Victor Esposo and Dewayne Morrison began to cut Plaintiff's hours, requiring Plaintiff to complete the same amount of work in less time. (Dkt. No. 1-1, ¶ 16.) Unhappy with his new working situation, Plaintiff asked Esposo and Morrison to be transferred to a different department, where he could work a full eight-hour day. (Id., at ¶ 17.) Plaintiff got his transfer to the replenishment department, but Plaintiff's supervisor in the new department quickly reprimanded Plaintiff for returning late from lunch despite the fact that many other employees returned at the same time. (Id., at ¶ 18.) When Plaintiff asked his new supervisor why Plaintiff had been singled out for reprimand, Plaintiff's new supervisor stated " I was told to keep a close eye on you." (Id., at ¶ 19.)

One month after returning to work, Plaintiff suffered a non-work related injury while playing basketball. (Dkt. No. 1-1, ¶ 19.) Plaintiff went on medical leave for ankle surgery in May 2013 and returned to work on June 15, 2013. (Id., at ¶ ¶ 19, 20.) When Plaintiff returned in June 2013, however, he returned with medical restrictions stating he could not pull, push, or lift anything weighing more than 10 pounds. (Id., at ¶ 20.) When Morrison assigned Plaintiff to a job that required Plaintiff to lift more than 10 pounds, Plaintiff stated that he had a medical restriction and could not perform that task. (Id.) Morrison responded by stating " if you can't work here full duty then go back on leave of absence." (Id.) Eager to work, Plaintiff returned to his doctor, who increased Plaintiff's weight restriction from 10 pounds to 60 pounds. (Id.)

Two months later, in August 2013, Morrison told Plaintiff that Morrison needed Plaintiff back on full duty. (Id., at ¶ 21.) Plaintiff said he could not yet return to full duty and could not even drive his car yet due to his medical condition. (Id.) Morrison responded by stating, " well if you can't be here 100%, then we do not need you." (Id.) Plaintiff complained that Morrison was retaliating against him, and Defendant Mondragon (another supervisor) approached Plaintiff and demanded to know when Plaintiff's next doctor's visit would be. (Id.) In September 2013, Plaintiff returned to his doctor, who maintained Plaintiff's 60-pound weight restriction. (Id., at ¶ 22.) After Plaintiff told Mondragon he would continue on the weight restriction, Defendants hired four younger, part-time workers to replace Plaintiff in the replenishment department and, and Mondragon told Plaintiff he would have to return to full duty in the more strenuous bulk department. (Id., at ¶ 22.) Plaintiff asked to stay in the replenishment department because it was a lighter duty job, but Defendant refused, stating they only wanted the younger, cheaper part time employees working in replenishment and there would never be a full-time position for Plaintiff in that department. (Id.) Ultimately, Plaintiff transferred back to the bulk department where his ankle worsened and he developed additional problems in his knee. (Id.) After being transferred to the bulk department, Plaintiff was written-up for being too slow at his more strenuous job. (Id., at ¶ 23.)

On October 8, 2013, Plaintiff went to the human resources department to complain that he was being mistreated. (Dkt. No. 1-1, ¶ 24.) Plaintiff complained that older employees had fewer hours to complete a full-day's work, while younger, part-time workers received 10-12 hour shifts to complete the same amount of work. (Id.) The next day, Morrison and Mondragon called Plaintiff in for a closed-door meeting to discuss the complaints Plaintiff had lodged with human resources. (Id.) In that meeting, Morrison and Mondragon reiterated that Plaintiff would never get the position he wanted back in the replenishment department because they only wanted younger, part-time employees in that department. (Id.) Morrison and Mondragon also asked Plaintiff if he had considered looking for another job. (Id.) Plaintiff complained that his body was " breaking down" and Mondragon suggested Plaintiff start looking for a new job because, if Plaintiff did not find a new job and leave, they would " have to let [Plaintiff] go." (Id.)

On October 9, 2013, Plaintiff attempted to clock in for work at 4:05 p.m., but his security badge did not work. (Dkt. No. 1-1, ¶ 26.) After about 10 attempts, Plaintiff was finally able to clock in. (Id.) Plaintiff told Victor Esposo about the incident and Esposo said he would get Plaintiff a new badge. (Id.) At the end of his shift, Plaintiff filled out a manual time card and reported his start time as 4:10 p.m. (Id.) On October 11, 2013, Defendants notified Plaintiff that they were investigating his tardiness. (Id., at ¶ 27.) On October 15, 2013, Mondragon informed Plaintiff that the investigation revealed his actual start time was 4:20 and she accused Plaintiff of " stealing company time" by falsely reporting his hours. (Id.) Mondragon then informed Plaintiff that he was suspended from duty. (Id.) Three days later, Mondragon called Plaintiff to tell him that he was being terminated. (Id., at ΒΆ 28.) In a follow-up termination email, Defendants told Plaintiff he was ...

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