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Garcia v. Rite Aid Corp.

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 3, 2017


          Present: The Honorable BEVERLY REID O'CONNELL, United States District Judge


         Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS)



         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Victor Garcia's Motion to Remand and Motion to Dismiss his breach of express and implied contract claims. (See Dkt. No. 9 (hereinafter, “Mot.”).) After considering the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the instant motions, the Court deems this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument of counsel. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-15. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is DENIED though his Motion to Dismiss his ninth and tenth causes of action is GRANTED.


         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff is a Los Angeles, California resident who alleges that Defendant Rite Aid Corporation (“Rite Aid”) wrongfully terminated him. (See Dkt. No. 1-1 (hereinafter, “Compl.”) ¶ 1.) Rite Aid and Thrifty Payless Incorporated (“Thrifty”) are businesses operating on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. (See Compl. ¶¶ 2-3.) Defendants Joe Rocha, Jilbert Shahdaryan, and Nichole Hubera were Plaintiff's supervisors when he worked for Rite Aid.[1] (See Compl. ¶¶ 4-6.)

         Rite Aid hired Plaintiff on August 12, 1985, and he began working at a store located on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.[2] (Compl. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff worked as a stock clerk and a cashier for thirty-one years. (See Compl. ¶¶ 12-13.) Plaintiff claims that he “was a loyal and hard-working employee” who was well respected by his coworkers and received positive feedback and performance reviews. (See Compl. ¶ 13.)

         Plaintiff is a fifty-one-year-old Latino male who suffers from disabilities, including depressive disorder, allergic rhinitis, hypertension, and chronic leg, elbow, back, and shoulder pain, of which Rite Aid was aware. (Compl. ¶ 14.) In October 2013, Plaintiff injured his back at work when he fell down a set of stairs while moving a table. (Compl. ¶ 15(a).) Around the same time, Plaintiff claims that another supervisor “frequently” called him “Grandpa” and supervisors made other age-related comments to him. (See Compl. ¶¶ 15(b), (f).) In October 2014, Defendant Shahdaryan, a Rite Aid district manager, and loss prevention manager Chris Wade questioned Plaintiff about improperly searching a customer's bag, though Plaintiff claimed he had not performed any search. (Compl. ¶ 15(c).) Defendant Shahdaryan ultimately cleared Plaintiff of this accusation. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's former manager, Robert Leggins, brought a lawsuit against Rite Aid and against several Rite Aid employees. (See Compl. ¶ 16(a).) Plaintiff testified on behalf of Mr. Leggins when the case went to trial in July 2015. (Compl. ¶¶ 16(b), (c).) Plaintiff contends that once he returned to work, Defendant Rocha, his manager at the time, “aggressively approached him” and inquired about Plaintiff's testimony. (Compl. ¶ 15(d).) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Rocha retaliated against him for testifying on Mr. Leggins's behalf by giving him more difficult shifts and requiring him to work two shifts without a ten-hour break in between them, in violation of his union contract. (Compl. ¶¶ 16(f)-(h).) In addition, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Rocha would monitor Plaintiff while he was working and stopped speaking to him at work, though he treated no other employees this way. (Compl. ¶¶ 16(i), (j).)

         In October 2015, Plaintiff injured himself while at work. (Compl. ¶ 16(k).) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Rocha did not allow Plaintiff to see his own doctor and made no injury report. (Id.) In December 2015, Plaintiff's supervisor asked him to follow and stop a suspected shoplifter. (Compl. ¶ 16(n).) After Plaintiff confronted the shoplifter, the shoplifter struck him in the face. (Id.) The police came and took a report and Plaintiff sought treatment for a contusion on his cheek. (Compl. ¶ 16(o).) Several weeks later, two loss prevention employees came to Plaintiff's store and interrogated him about the shoplifting incident. (Compl. ¶ 16(s).) Plaintiff stopped the interrogation and asked to have his union representative present. (Id.) Two days later, with union representatives present, the investigation continued. (Compl. ¶ 16(t).) In addition, throughout 2015 and 2016, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Rocha and Shahdaryan asked him to perform work “off the clock”. (Compl. ¶ 16(w).)

         On March 20, 2016, Defendant Rocha terminated Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 19.) According to Plaintiff, after his termination, Rite Aid's “lawyers sent [him] a letter insinuating that he was terminated for the shoplifting incident that occurred over three months prior to his termination.” (Compl. ¶ 20.)

         B. Procedural Background

         On February 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant Action in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles. (See Compl.) Plaintiff's Complaint includes fourteen causes of action: (1) discrimination in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”); (2) harassment in violation of FEHA; (3) retaliation in violation of FEHA; (4) failure to reasonably accommodate in violation of FEHA; (5) failure to engage in the interactive process in violation of FEHA; (6) failure to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in violation of FEHA; (7) retaliation in violation of California Labor Code section 1102.5; (8) wrongful termination in violation of public policy; (9) breach of express oral contract not to terminate without good cause; (10) breach of implied-in-fact contract not to terminate without good cause; (11) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (12) failure to provide meal breaks; (13) failure to provide rest breaks; and, (14) intentional infliction of emotional distress.[3](See Compl.)

         On March 17, 2017, Defendants removed the action to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, because, according to Defendants, Plaintiff's claims require the interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between Plaintiff's employer and a union. (See Dkt. No. 1 (hereinafter, “Removal”) ¶ 9.) Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Remand the action to the Superior Court on April 7, 2017. (See Mot.) Defendants filed their Opposition on April 17, 2017. (See Dkt. No. 11 (hereinafter, “Opp'n”).) Plaintiff replied on April 24, 2017. (See Dkt. No. 13.)


         Federal courts are of limited jurisdiction and possess only that jurisdiction which is authorized by either the Constitution or federal statute. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal courts have jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A case “arises under” federal law if a plaintiff's “well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action” or that the plaintiff's “right to relief under state law requires resolution of a substantial question of federal law in dispute between the parties.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 13 (1983). 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) provides that a civil action may be removed to the district court only if the district court has original jurisdiction over the issues alleged in the state court complaint.

         In determining whether removal in a given case is proper, a court should “strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). “Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Id. The removing party, therefore, bears a heavy burden to rebut the presumption against removal. See Id. “[T]he court resolves all ambiguity in favor of remand to state court.” Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566).


         As stated above, the Court has jurisdiction over this action only if it arises under federal law.[4] 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff claims that the Court lacks jurisdiction and requests that the Court remand the proceeding to state court. (See Mot.) Defendants contend that the Court has federal question jurisdiction over this action because several of Plaintiff's claims are preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”). (See Opp'n.)

         A. LMRA ...

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