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Walker v. CA Employment Development Dept.

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 5, 2017





         Plaintiff Colleen Denise Walker, pro se, brings this employment discrimination action against her former employer, the California Employment Development Department ("EDD"). The Court previously granted Walker‘s application to proceed in forma pauperis (dkts. 2, 4) and now reviews the sufficiency of her amended complaint[1] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). For the reasons discussed below, the amended complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend. Walker may file a second amended complaint addressing the deficiencies discussed herein no later than May 3, 2017.[2] The case management conference previously set for April 7, 2017 is hereby CONTINUED to June 30, 2017 at 2:00 PM in Courtroom G, located on the fifteenth floor of the San Francisco courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Avenue.


         Walker brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging employment discrimination in the course of her employment with EDD at a call center. Am. Compl. (dkt. 9). She describes the "acts complained of" as follows:

Management caused a stressful work environment in lieu of my medical condition and denied me a work environment free of discrimination. Harassment by management regarding the nationality of my fiancé (Iranian) and defamation of my character as a U.S. Veteran. Denied access to my Department of Veteran Affairs physician after causing Acute Stress in workplace and directed me to return to harassing and stressful environment. Forced to quit on January 6, 2016 due to working conditions that were affecting my physical and mental health.

Id. ¶ 4 (sic throughout).

         Walker alleges that EDD discriminated against her based on her race or color, her status as a veteran, and her fiancé‘s Iranian descent. Id. ¶ 5. She describes the facts of her claim as follows:

Questioned and denied access to VA urgent care via email in 2012 by manager Raymond Tapia, resulting in emergency hospitalization, voiced concern to Senator Eric Swalwell (Exhibit A) Management posted my fiancés Nader Zand picture in front entrance and lunch room (Exhibit B) Retaliation by management regarding my rights to a discrimination free work environment (Exhibit‘s C & D), Called CHP on me at workplace (Exhibit E), Processed over 3000 electronic Spanish claims during overtime backlog, but denied hardship transfer because I do not speak Spanish (Exhibit F), Addressed concerns to U.S. Senators (Exhibit G), Great concerned ignored (Exhibit H), Denied access to VA healthcare because emergency card was missing (Exhibit I).

Id. ¶ 6 (sic throughout). The exhibits attached to Walker‘s amended complaint are summarized below in chronological order, with the exception of Exhibit B, which is a photograph of a bulletin board that includes one posting with a picture of a man‘s face. See Am. Compl. Ex. B. Walker alleges that the discrimination at issue occurred on or about December 7, 2015, and that she received a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on December 7, 2016. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 9.

         Exhibit A is a letter to Walker from U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell, dated July 25, 2014. Am. Compl. Ex. A. This letter does not reference any correspondence from Walker to Swalwell, but instead states Swalwell‘s opposition to the Supreme Court‘s holding in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2751 (2014), and his view that "[h]ealth care decisions should be made by a woman in consultation with her family, her faith, and her physician - not her boss." Am. Compl. Ex. A. The version of this letter attached to the amended complaint also includes a photocopy of a Department of Veterans Affairs card bearing Walker‘s name and photograph. Id.

         Exhibit C is a memorandum from A‘Nette Knox-Talley to Walker dated July 24, 2015 and captioned "Memorandum of Discussion - Disturbances at Workplace." Am. Compl. Ex. B (capitalization altered). The memorandum describes an incident in which Walker‘s fiancé Nadder Zand stood near the EDD office building staring into a window, and another incident in which he stood outside the gate of building yelling: "You, I want to talk to you, what the hell is going on with management? Come here, I want to talk to you, Damn you, Tammy? What the hell is going on?" Id. at 1 (purporting to quote Zand). According to Knox-Talley, Walker stated: (1) that Zand grabbed Walker‘s arm and yelled at her when she went outside to talk to him; (2) that Zand had refused Walker‘s requests to stop coming to the office because he believed he needed to protect her; (3) that over the previous few months Zand had begun yelling at Walker to come meet him during her breaks from work; and (4) that Zand asked for the names of some of Walker‘s coworkers and supervisors and wanted to speak to them directly. Id. at 1-2. Knox-Talley wrote that she had advised Walker that Zand‘s behavior was "impacting the office" and Walker‘s ability to focus on work, that Walker should contact the Oakland Police Department if she thought that was necessary, that it was Walker‘s responsibility to resolve the issue so that it did not disrupt the workplace, and that Knox-Talley expected Walker to do so immediately. Id. at 2. The memorandum also advised Walker that resources were available through EDD‘s employee assistance program. Id. Knox-Talley signed the memorandum, but Walker refused to sign it. Id.

         The same day that Knox-Talley issued her the memorandum, Walker sent an email to Ernesto Magana, another EDD employee, stating that she wanted to dispute aspects of the memorandum and raise concerns, and asking to whom she should direct such a response. Am. Compl. Ex. C-1. Magana responded eleven minutes later to ask Walker how she wished to proceed, and suggested the possibilities of submitting a rebuttal to the memorandum, a formal complaint, or a union grievance. Id.

         Walker sent a rebuttal to Knox-Talley on July 27, 2015. Am. Compl. Ex. C-2. She wrote that the issues arose from incidents where she was docked pay or questioned when she stayed home from work due to illness or back pain. Id. at 1. According to Walker, Zand was concerned that Walker had been treated with indifference by management, but Walker asserted that aspects of Knox-Talley‘s characterization of Zand‘s behavior were inaccurate, and that her ability to focus on her job had not been affected. Id. According to Walker, the California Highway ...

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