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Jackson v. County of Sacramento Department of Health and Human Services

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 13, 2017

ROBIN E. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          GREGORY G. HOLLOWS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff sues in pro se for alleged violations of her state and federal rights based upon her termination from her employment. ECF No. 1. This proceeding was referred to this court under Local Rule 302(21) and 28 U.S.C. section 636(b)(1). Plaintiff was granted the right to proceed with this action in forma pauperis by an Order entered on July 7, 2016. ECF No. 3

         The federal in forma pauperis statute authorizes federal courts to dismiss a case if the action is legally “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         Defendant County of Sacramento Department of Health and Human Services [“the Department”] and two individual defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint on November 17, 2016, ECF No. 5, and this court took the motion under submission on January 17, 2017. ECF No. 18. This Order will address that Motion and the sufficiency of the Complaint.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was an employee of the Department from January 18, 2005 to October 9, 2013. ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶1. She was approved for a Family and Medical Leave Act leave on March 8, 2013 scheduled to run through June 9, 2013 for the purpose of addressing her mother's need for care. Id. at 4 ¶13. The complaint indicates that plaintiff explained to the DHHS that the leave was necessitated by the fact that the cost of her mother's continuing care in an assisted living facility was about to be raised and plaintiff needed to acquire funds to permit her to move her mother to another facility. Id. On April 22, 2013 DHHS notified plaintiff that her leave was terminated and she was placed on paid administrative leave while the Department investigated the suspected improper use of FMLA benefits and of a Department issued cell phone. Id. at 4 ¶14.

         Plaintiff alleges that she was not informed that her leave was being terminated and she should return to work because the action was taken in retaliation for her previous complaints of racial discrimination and harassment. Id. at ¶¶ 4-5. Plaintiff also alleges age discrimination. Finally, plaintiff sues for damages under a generalized series of allegations of Fourteenth Amendment and federal statutory violations and supplemental claims for violation of state statutory and common law violations all arising from the Department's purported discriminatory acts either direct or through named employees. Her complaint raises 14 claims:[1] (1) Wrongful termination (Breach of contract); (2) Racial Discrimination;[2] (3) Age Discrimination[3] (4) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; (5) HIPPA Violation; (6) Failure to train; (7) Violation of FMLA; (8) Negligent Supervision; (9) Retaliation; (10) Blacklisting; (11) Due Process (Failure to give notice); (12) Disability violation - Failure to Provide Accommodation; (13) Defamation; and (14) Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.

         A. Jurisdiction

         The basic federal jurisdiction statutes, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332, confer “federal question” and “diversity” jurisdiction, respectively. Statutes which regulate specific subject matter may also confer federal jurisdiction. See generally W.W. Schwarzer, A.W. Tashima & J. Wagstaffe, Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial § 2, 5, Unless a complaint presents a plausible assertion of a substantial federal right, a federal court does not have jurisdiction. See Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, k 682 (1945). A federal claim which is so insubstantial as to be patently without merit cannot serve as the basis for federal jurisdiction. See Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 428, 537-538 (1974).

         Broadly read, one can discern that the plaintiff has stated facts that might raise litigable rights under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. section 2000e, rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection, due process) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). She has not, however, pleaded in the manner required to clearly state claims under any theory.

         Even under the less stringent examination afforded pro se pleadings, simple reference to federal law does not create subject-matter jurisdiction. Avitts v. Amoco Prod. Co., 53 F.3d 690, 694 (5th Cir.1995). Subject-matter jurisdiction is created only by pleading a cause of action within the court's original jurisdiction. Id. Here plaintiff has filed an eighteen page Complaint which contains a general recitation of facts which are then incorporated into each of specific legal claims without differentiation in most cases. Further, individual defendants are not identified in the caption but are found at the terminal pages of the filing. There are no specific allegations with regard to actions taken by the individual defendants. Moreover, the federal statutes and Fourteenth Amendment permit the naming of only certain defendants and preclude the naming of others. The consolidation of every defendant into every claim is not proper. This format gives the defendants insufficient information to determine with which claims each of them are charged and the factual basis for those charges against them. Finally, as noted in defendants' motion, various statute of limitations exist for the various statutes/Fourteenth Amendment.

         For these and the following reasons, plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend in conformity to this Order.

         B. The Motion to Dismiss[4]

         In summary, defendant Department moves to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a cognizable claim on the following grounds: (1) Failure to allege compliance with the California Tort Claims Act, ECF No. 9 at 5:14; (2) State claims are barred by sovereign immunity re both Department and individual defendants, id. at 6:23; (3) State entity and officials cannot be found liable for wrongful termination, id at 7:19; (4) Disparate Impact/Treatment allegations fail to state a claim, id. at 8:13; (5) There is no private right of action for HIPPA violations, id. at 8:25; (6) Claim for violation of FMLA both fails to state a claim and is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, id. at 10:5; (7) Blacklisting allegations fail to state a claim, id. at 12:16; (8) Fourteenth Amendment allegations fail to state a claim, id. at 13:20; (9) Disability non-accommodation allegations fail to state a claim, id. at 14:17; (10) 42 U.S.C. section 1983 allegations fail to state a claim and is barred by the statute of limitations, id. at 15:3; (11) Defamation allegations fail to state a claim, id. at 15:23; (12) Punitive damage claim against the Department has no basis in law, id. at 16:24.

         The court intends to dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend. Plaintiff is entitled to amend her complaint, at least once, to determine whether she can in fact state a claim, e.g., honestly allege compliance with the California Tort Claims Act exhaustion requirement, and curing other defects noted by defendants, and this Order. If Plaintiff cannot allege facts, forthrightly and candidly, which demonstrate compliance with undoubted statutory or case law requirements, she should not take the time of everyone making a faulty claim which will simply be dismissed out of hand.

         The remainder of this Order will discuss the ordinary pleading requirements and basic law concerning ...


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