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Flores v. Red Robin

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 24, 2017

MOSES FLORES, Plaintiff,
RED ROBIN, Defendant.



         Before the Court is the screening determination regarding Plaintiff's Civil Rights Complaint by a Prisoner (the “Complaint”). (Doc. 1.) For the reasons provided herein, the Court FINDS that the Complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. The Court therefore DISMISSES the Complaint with leave to amend within thirty days.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed the pro se Complaint in this Court. (Doc. 1.) The Complaint includes a single claim, in which Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the “Equal Pay Compensation [sic] Act.” (Id. at 3.) In support of this claim, the Complaint includes the following “[s]upporting [f]acts”:

[Plaintiff] was employed at Red Robin as a line cook for approx. 6 mos. During this 6 month period [Plaintiff] quickly excelled at learning both stations that this kitchen maintained. Now to be brief as possible [Plaintiff] was asking if not demanding that equal pay be granted to [Plaintiff] not only due to the fact that [Plaintiff] had been “cross-trained” in order to better serve [his] employer but more importantly the fact that a female employee had just voluntarily resigned. [Plaintiff] was “cross-trained” in order to take her position. [Plaintiff] was not granted the raise [he] was well deserving of nor were [his] hours increased to equal that of the female employee who just quit.

(Id.) As to the injury Plaintiff suffered, Plaintiff states that he “was not injured per se, ” but that he “immediately resigned in order to maintain and uphold [his] own mental stability” due “to an ongoing hostile work environment that [he] was enduring.” (Id.)

         On March 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed two documents requesting that he proceed in forma pauperis (the “Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis”). (Doc. 2.) Thus, the initial screening determination for the Complaint is currently before the Court.


         Courts are required to “screen . . . an action filed by a plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis.” Shirley v. Univ. of Idaho, Coll. of Law, 800 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 2015) (emphasis added) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)); see, e.g., Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) (stating that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) “applies to all in forma pauperis complaints” (emphasis added)). Under the relevant provisions relating to screening complaints, courts “shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that” (1) “the allegation of poverty is untrue, ” or (2) “the action . . . is frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). “A plaintiff's claim is frivolous ‘when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them.'” Morales v. City of Bakersfield, Case No.: 1:15-cv-01652-JLT, 2015 WL 9481021, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 29, 2015) (quoting Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992)).

         Dismissal for failure to state a claim “is proper where there is either a ‘lack of a cognizable legal theory' or ‘the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'” MCI Commc'ns Servs., Inc. v. Sec. Paving Co., Case No. 1:15-CV-01940-LJO-JLT, 2016 WL 1436521, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 12, 2016) (quoting Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) provides that “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain” the following: (1) “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction;” (2) “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief;” and (3) “a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.” The pleading standard provided by Rule 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         To state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (stating that “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level”). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). “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. (citation omitted). “In practice, ‘a complaint . . . must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.'” MCI Commc'ns Servs., Inc., 2016 WL 1436521, at *2 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562).

         In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the factual “allegations in the complaint . . . are accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, ” Lazy Y Ranch Ltd. v. Behrens, 546 F.3d 580, 588 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001)), and “all doubts” are “resolve[d] . . . in the pleader's favor, ” MCI Commc'ns Servs., Inc., 2016 WL 1436521, at *2 (citation omitted). However, “to be entitled to the presumption of truth, . . . a complaint . . . must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011).

         Additionally, as Plaintiff is appearing pro se in this action, “the court must construe the pleadings liberally and must afford [the] plaintiff the benefit of any doubt.” Karim-Panahi v. L.A. Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985)). See generally Crowley v. Bannister, 734 F.3d 967, 978 (9th Cir. 2013) (“Presumably unskilled in the law, the pro se litigant is far more prone to make errors in pleading than a person who benefits from the representation of counsel.” (citation omitted)). Nonetheless, “the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989).

         Finally, “[p]ro se complaints . . . may only be dismissed ‘if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'” Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012)); see, e.g., Schucker v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d 1202, 1203-04 (9th Cir. 1988) (“Dismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to amend is proper only if it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies in the complaint could not be cured by amendment.” (citation omitted)). Thus, “[a] pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint, and some notice of its deficiencies, unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment.” Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987)). “However, if, after ...

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