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Sanchez v. Teamsters Western Region & Local 177 Health Care Plan

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 8, 2017

GREGORY SANCHEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
TEAMSTERS WESTERN REGION & LOCAL 177 HEALTH CARE PLAN; and SOUTHWEST SERVICE ADMINISTRATORS, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [43]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Defendants Teamsters Western Region & Local 177 Health Care Plan (“The Plan”) and Southwestern Service Administrators, Inc. (“SSA”) (collectively, “Defendants”) bring a Motion to Dismiss pro se Plaintiff Gregory Sanchez's (“Sanchez”) First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 43; see First Am. Compl. (“FAC”), ECF No. 30.) Sanchez alleges that by denying his children enrollment in Defendants' health care plan, Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and The Privacy Act of 1974, Pub. L. No. 93-57942, Section 7. (FAC 4, 6.)[1] Sanchez contends that he could not provide his children's Social Security Numbers (“SSN”) based on his religious beliefs, and therefore, his children were unjustly deprived of the benefits of the Collective Bargaining Agreement of his union, Local 63 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (“IBT”). (FAC 2.)

         Before this Court is Defendants' second motion to dismiss Sanchez's claims. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion on the basis that Sanchez fails to state cognizable claims upon which relief can be granted.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Sanchez is an employee of the United Parcel Service and has been a union member of IBT for over 15 years. (FAC 2.) Sanchez receives benefits in accordance with IBT's Collective Bargaining Agreement. (Id. at 3.) In 2014, IBT began using The Plan for the union's health care, and SSA administered it. (Id. at 2.) Sanchez met the eligibility requirements for the benefits, and he alleges that his dependents are therefore also eligible. (Id. at 3.) Sanchez tried to enroll his three children into The Plan by providing records of their birth, affidavits, letters from the hospital, and a photocopy of the Sanchez's family bible record. (Id. at 4.) The Plan's Eligibility and Enrollment Department responded to Sanchez on May 15, 2015: “We are unable to enroll your dependent without proper certified birth certificates and social security numbers as stated on the Teamsters Western Region & Local 177 HealthCare Plan California Election Form.” (Id.) However, Sanchez alleges that his religious beliefs prevent him from acquiring SSNs for his children. (Id.) After writing an appeal to The Plan's Claims Administrator and providing birth records, but not SSNs, Sanchez's children were denied enrollment on September 30, 2015. (Id.) On September 30, 2016, Sanchez initiated this lawsuit against Defendants. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on January 20, 2017, for a failure to state a claim for relief pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (First Mot., ECF No. 14). The Court granted Sanchez leave to amend his complaint and denied Defendants' first motion to dismiss as moot. (ECF No. 29). Sanchez filed his FAC on March 22, 2017. (See FAC.) Defendants' second motion to dismiss is now before the Court.[2] For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A court may dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for lack of a cognizable legal theory or insufficient facts pleaded to support an otherwise cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). To survive a dismissal motion, a complaint need only satisfy the minimal notice pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2)-a short and plain statement of the claim. Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 494 (9th Cir. 2003). The factual “allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). That is, the complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         The determination of whether a complaint satisfies the plausibility standard is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. A court is generally limited to the pleadings and must construe all “factual allegations set forth in the complaint . . . as true and . . . in the light most favorable” to the plaintiff. Lee v. City of L.A., 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001). But a court need not blindly accept conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of fact, and unreasonable inferences. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001).

         Generally, a court should freely give leave to amend a complaint that has been dismissed, even if not requested by the party. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). However, a court may deny leave to amend when it “determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency.” Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Sanchez's complaint alleges two causes of action: (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and (2) violation of Section 7 of the Privacy Act. (FAC 4-6.) Defendants move to dismiss Sanchez's first claim under section 1981 for failure to state an actionable claim of intentional racism. (Intro. to Mot. 1.) Defendants also move to dismiss Sanchez's second claim under Section 7for failure to allege that Defendants are accountable to the Privacy Act. (Id.) (4-6.)

         A. Violation of Equal Rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981

         Sanchez's first claim alleges that by denying his children enrollment in The Plan, Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which protects against intentional race-based discrimination in making contracts. (See FAC 4.) Defendants argue that the claim for violation of this statute should be dismissed because Sanchez alleges that his children were denied health insurance coverage ...


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