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Taylor v. Contra Costa County Employment

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 12, 2017

SHARON E. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY EMPLOYMENT AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISMISS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT DKT. NO. 28

          MARIA-ELENA JAMES United States Magistrate Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendants Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department (the “County”), Renee Giometti, and Cassandra O'Neal (together, “Defendants”) move to dismiss Plaintiff Sharon Taylor's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). See Mot., Dkt. No. 28; FAC, Dkt. No. 24. Plaintiff filed an Opposition (Dkt. No. 29), and Defendants filed a Reply (Dkt. No. 30). The Court previously found this matter suitable for disposition without oral argument, vacated the March 30, 2017 hearing, and took the matter under submission. Dkt. No. 32.

         Having considered the parties' positions, the relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS IN PART Defendants' Motion for the following reasons.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Original Complaint

         Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's original Complaint on the ground disability is not a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). First Mot., Dkt. No. 14; see Compl., Dkt. No. 1. The Court granted the Motion and dismissed the Complaint without prejudice to allow Plaintiff to assert claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). First Order, Dkt. No. 22. Plaintiff filed her FAC on January 13, 2017. Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court screened the FAC and found it stated a claim for disability discrimination under the ADA:

As is relevant here, the ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regards to the hiring, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. See 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). “Discrimination” includes limiting the employee in a way that adversely affects her opportunities because of her disability; excluding or otherwise denying equal jobs or benefits to a qualified individual because of her disability; and not making reasonable accommodations for the employee. Id. § 12112(b). Plaintiff alleges that she is disabled, that as a result of her disability she was treated less favorably by her supervisors Cassandra O'Neal and Renee Giometti, and that O'Neal failed to accommodate her disability. Plaintiff also alleges that O'Neal and Giometti retaliated against Plaintiff after she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint regarding her supervisors' discriminatory practices. Plaintiff further alleges that O'Neal and Giometti harassed and bullied her and created a hostile work environment, although it is not clear from the allegations how Plaintiff contends this conduct was connected to her disability.
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds the FAC, for purposes of screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), states claims under the ADA for disability discrimination.

See Second Screening Order, Dkt. No. 26.

         B. Allegations of the FAC

         Plaintiff is a visibly-disabled individual with a mobility impairment who has worked for the County since May 2006.[1] Plaintiff organizes the allegations in the FAC into five categories: disability accommodations; harassment; hostile work environment; retaliation; and isolation. See FAC. The Court construes these as alleging three forms of disability discrimination: failure to accommodate, retaliation, and harassment/hostile work environment.[2]

         Since 2008, the County has provided Plaintiff a scooter as a reasonable accommodation. Plaintiff nonetheless alleges the County failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation because: (1) Defendants failed to maintain the scooter during three periods when Plaintiff was out on medical leave, causing it to be delivered to Plaintiff in non-working order when she returned from leave; (2) when Plaintiff returned from medical leave in 2013, she was supervised by O'Neal and Giometti, and it took Defendants 12 weeks to have her scooter repaired; (3) Defendants did not provide alternative accommodation during the first 6 weeks Plaintiff's scooter was broken, and it was not until Plaintiff's union got involved that Defendants gave her administrative leave for the next 6 weeks it took them to have the scooter fixed; (4) when Plaintiff worked for a new supervisor in 2015, her scooter was repaired in 5 days; (5) after O'Neal reprimanded Plaintiff for failing to leave the scooter plugged in overnight on several occasions in 2014, the scooter vendor explained that the scooter should only be charged when the battery was low, and that the scooter battery exploded because it had been overcharged; (6) O'Neal demanded Plaintiff provide medical verifications of her disability repeatedly, despite the fact Plaintiff's disability has always been established as permanent; (7) when she returned from medical leave in April 2012, Defendants denied her request to return to a “4/10 work schedule because [she] had ‘been gone too long'” but another employee who was on maternity leave for the same period of time was allowed to have her 4/10 schedule back[3]; and (8) Plaintiff “made several suggestions to Ms. O'Neal” to help Plaintiff perform her job better, such as having group meetings as opposed to having one-on-one meetings with clients; O'Neal refused, but other employees adopted the suggestion and teamed up together, although they declined to team up with Plaintiff. FAC at 2-3.

         Plaintiff alleges O'Neal harassed her by (1) accusing her of abusing sick leave in 2012 without investigating the reason why Plaintiff took leave and then requiring Plaintiff to provide medical verification each time she used sick leave; (2) intentionally humiliating her in connection with weekly unit meetings by congratulating staff for “not having any CAT 38 cases . . . ‘with the exception of one member who[] had 2” when there were only 8 workers in the unit and it therefore was “not hard to narrow” down whom O'Neal was identifying as the exception; (3) congratulating another employee publicly but never congratulating Plaintiff publicly for performing at the same level; (4) making “accusations and reprimands without full information”; and (5) describing a former co-worker as “fat” and having “a body odor” when Plaintiff was the only “fat” person in her unit. FAC at 3-4.

         Plaintiff also alleges O'Neal created a hostile work environment by (1) asking Plaintiff's co-workers and clients to report errors by Plaintiff, thereby undermining her relationships with these groups; (2) reprimanding Plaintiff based on co-workers' reports, without giving her an opportunity to explain her side of the story; (3) not promoting Plaintiff; (4) not giving Plaintiff approval to perform volunteer work, once telling her “you know how you are” and stating Plaintiff did not have a car, but another co-worker with less than one year of service was “called to volunteer and earn a stipend”; (5) “spread[ing] word” to management that Plaintiff is “a troublemaker” and thus depriving her of promotional and volunteer opportunities; (6) not timely completing an incident report in 2013 after Plaintiff had a near fall; (7) denying Plaintiff breaks and charging her vacation time for hours she actually worked; (8) discouraging other employees from visiting Plaintiff at her work station; (9) not including Plaintiff in informal pod meetings; and (10) hiding Plaintiff's drink at a unit meeting once and pretending not to know what happened to it. Id. at 5-8.

         Finally, Plaintiff alleges O'Neal and Giometti retaliated against her for filing an EEOC complaint by (1) refusing to reschedule a mandatory training; (2) not redistributing her case load when she was out on administrative leave in 2013 in violation of office protocol; (3) reprimanding Plaintiff for mistakes other workers made while processing her cases; (4) giving Plaintiff additional cases to oversee, thereby exceeding Plaintiff's caseload maximum; and (5) inundating Plaintiff with additional work normally performed by other employees and by failing to transfer inactive cases off of Plaintiff's docket. Id. at 6.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 8(a) requires that a complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint must therefore provide a defendant with “fair notice” of the claims against it and the grounds for relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

         A court may dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) when it does not contain enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Id. at 570. “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). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations and parentheticals omitted).

         In considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. at 550; Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007); Vasquez v. Los Angeles Cty., 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007). In addition, courts may consider documents attached to the ...


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