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Williams v. Gyrus ACMI, LP

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

January 12, 2015

GYRUS ACMI, LP, et al., Defendants.



This is a wrongful termination and employment discrimination case brought by Plaintiff Pamela Williams, an African-American woman over the age of forty, against several defendants. Defendant Gyrus ACMI, LP ("Gyrus") brings this partial motion to dismiss Plaintiff's seventh, eighth, and ninth causes of action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court finds this motion suitable for disposition without oral argument. See Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). Having reviewed the briefing of the parties, as well as the governing law, the Court GRANTS Gyrus' partial motion to dismiss, with prejudice.


Plaintiff's allegations in her Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") are taken as true for purposes of deciding this motion to dismiss.

Plaintiff brings suit against Gyrus and Olympus Corporation of the Americas ("Olympus"), alleging that the entities are "substantially identical parties." See SAC ¶¶ 4-13. Plaintiff served as a Territory Manager for Gyrus/Olympus[1] from May 2004 until her termination on November 30, 2011. SAC ¶ 43. Gyrus/Olympus specializes in the sale of medical devices, and Plaintiff sold various specialized medical devices to doctors, medical clinics, and hospitals in Northern California. SAC ¶ 44. Though Plaintiff regularly met her sales quotas during her employment, SAC ¶ 45, she avers that she was treated differently from her white male colleagues, including white men under the age of forty. SAC ¶ 46. After one of Plaintiff's "potential sales account[s]" was taken from her and given to a white male colleague in September 2009, Plaintiff complained to Gyrus/Olympus that "she believed she was being treated differently due to her race" and, on October 15, 2009, filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Education and Housing ("DFEH"). SAC ¶¶ 49, 50. A similar circumstance - the reassignment of one of Ms. Williams' accounts to the same white male colleague in April 2010 - prompted Plaintiff to file a second DFEH complaint in October 2010. SAC ¶¶ 53-54. This complaint alleged that the reassignment of her account was due to her race, age, and gender, and in retaliation for filing her first DFEH complaint. See id.

Plaintiff alleges that, beginning in August or September 2011, Gyrus/Olympus "began an active campaign to get Ms. Williams removed from the company." SAC ¶ 60. In October 2011, Plaintiff was placed on a Corrective Action Plan ("CAP"), see id. Exh. I, which "contained unrealistic and unattainable requirements and expectations that other employees... were not given." SAC ¶ 60. The CAP further warned Ms. Williams not to file "frivolous complaints." SAC ¶¶ 61, 62. Plaintiff once again told Gyrus/Olympus that she believed she was being treated differently because of her age, gender, and race, SAC ¶ 64, though no investigation was undertaken into this differential treatment and Plaintiff was again admonished not to file frivolous complaints. SAC ¶¶ 65, 66. Plaintiff then filed a third complaint with DFEH on October 25, 2011, which she mailed to Gyrus/Olympus, and was thereafter terminated on November 30, 2011. SAC ¶¶ 67-68. This suit followed.

Gyrus now seeks to dismiss Plaintiff's seventh cause of action for breach of implied contract, her eighth cause of action for breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and her ninth cause of action for disparate treatment and adverse impact.[2]

Plaintiff alleges in her eighth cause of action that the law imposed upon Defendants an implied duty to act fairly and in good faith toward Ms. Williams, SAC ¶ 117, and that Defendants breached this duty by interfering with Plaintiff's performance of her job duties. Id. Plaintiff contends that she properly reported her complaints regarding harassment and employment discrimination in reliance on Olympus' policies, but that "there never was a proper investigation or response to Plaintiff's claims, which constitutes a violation of the employment agreement." SAC ¶ 118. She claims that Defendants "acted in bad faith by assuring Ms. Williams she would be covered by [Olympus'] policy against retaliation and then refusing to abide by it." SAC ¶ 120.

In her ninth cause of action, Plaintiff alleges only that "Defendants' practice of eliminating senior employees such as plaintiff had a disparate impact on [Olympus'] workforce." SAC ¶ 123.


A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) concerns what facts a plaintiff must plead on the face of its complaint. Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Any complaint that does not meet this requirement can be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). A "short and plain statement" demands that a plaintiff plead "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), which requires that "the plaintiff plead 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). The Court must "accept factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519, F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). The Court, however, "need not accept as true allegations contradicted by judicially noticeable facts, " nor "assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Kane v. Chobani, Inc., 973 F.Supp.2d 1120, 1127 (N.D. Cal. 2014) (citing Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (per curiam)).


Gyrus makes several arguments in support of dismissing the eighth and ninth causes of action.[3] With regard to the implied duty of good faith claim, Gyrus argues that Plaintiff fails to establish the existence of an underlying contract from which the implied covenant could arise, and because, even if Plaintiff could prove the existence of an underlying contract, there is no tort liability for a bad faith breach of an at-will employment agreement. See Mot. to Dismiss at 8-9. With regard to the disparate impact claim, Gyrus contends that Plaintiff fails to allege any facts in support of her claim and, moreover, that "there is no such cause of action." Id. at 9. Instead, Gyrus states, Plaintiff's disparate impact argument is merely a theory of liability that could be alleged via her race and age discrimination claims under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"). See id. at 9-10.

Plaintiff makes several arguments in response. First, with regard to her eighth cause of action for bad faith, Plaintiff contends that the underlying contract giving rise to the duty of good faith was the October 2011 CAP, and that Gyrus' breached the covenant by "retaliating against Plaintiff by starting an active campaign to get Ms. Williams removed from the company.'" Opp. to Mot. to Dismiss at 5. As to her ninth cause of action, Plaintiff asks for leave to amend to clarify her cause of action, but does not articulate how her ...

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