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Woodson v. State

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 19, 2017

STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Oralee Woodson (“Plaintiff”) alleges that Defendant California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”)[1] breached a contract and violated Plaintiff's civil rights by ending her participation in the Foster Grandparent Program (“the Program”).[2] Currently before this Court is the CDCR's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).[3] ECF No. 28. Plaintiff has failed to file any opposition to that Motion.[4] For the reasons set forth below, Defendant CDCR's Motion is GRANTED.[5]

         BACKGROUND [6]

         Plaintiff is an African-American woman. For more than ten years, she served as a “Foster Grandparent” in the CDCR'S Program at the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility. Plaintiff's duties in that capacity were to provide mentorship and to act as a role model for juvenile offenders. Plaintiff alleges she was compensated as a Foster Grandparent through an hourly stipend, reimbursements for transportation and meals, as well as time off for various purposes including sick leave, holidays and vacation. Plaintiff further alleges that she was covered under federal and state compensation for work-related accidents.

         According to Plaintiff, she performed her duties satisfactorily and without complaint prior to being terminated on March 20, 2014. Beginning in March 2013, however, she claims that Donnie Alexander, the Program Director, subjected her to verbal and psychological abuse. Defendant Alexander allegedly accused Plaintiff of disrespecting, slandering, and undermining the credibility of the Program staff. Plaintiff contends that those accusations were unverified, unsubstantiated, and dishonest. Furthermore, Defendants allegedly defamed Plaintiff by communicating that she participated in theft of funds collected for a social event, was a poor performer as a Foster Grandparent, had a problem with authority, had a negative attitude, and was unfit for the position. Plaintiff contends that those statements were also false.

         Plaintiff further claims that Defendant Alexander denied her the opportunity to exercise grievance procedures mandated by the Program Orientation Handbook (“Handbook”) before terminating her participation in the Program. Specifically, the Handbook allows “any person” to file a sexual harassment claim. Plaintiff contends that her termination was based on pretextual grounds and that she was terminated because of her “sex, race/color, national origin/ancestry, and job status.” FAC, ¶ 26. She also claims, without further factual explication, that Alexander “had a reputation” for “harassing minority women.” Id. at ¶ 35.

         Plaintiff's original Complaint was filed on February 27, 2015, in San Joaquin Superior Court before being removed to this Court based on federal claims that Defendants violated both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq, (“Title VII”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”). On June 10, 2015, Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). That motion was granted by Memorandum and Order filed February 10, 2016, on grounds that Plaintiff, as a Foster Grandparent volunteer, had not shown she was entitled to protection under either Title VII or California's corresponding protections against discrimination as codified in the Fair Employment and Housing Act, California Government Code § 12900, et seq. (“FEHA”). The Court further found that Plaintiff's defamation claims, as well as the claims levied against Defendant Alexander, were not viable. She was nonetheless given leave to amend and, on February 28, 2016, she filed the currently operative First Amended Complaint.

         In response to the FAC, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss seeking dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of (1) the FEHA and Title VII claims in causes of action two, three, and thirteen, (2) the defamation claim in cause of action five, and (3) the breach of contract claim against Defendant Alexander in cause of action one. That motion was granted by Memorandum and Order filed November 14, 2016, which left as Plaintiff's only surviving claim her cause of action against breach of contract against Defendant CDCR. See ECF No. 27, 14:3-4.

         In the motion now before the Court, Defendant CDCR requests judgment on the pleadings with respect to that remaining breach of contract claim.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), “a party may move for judgment on the pleadings” after the pleadings are closed “but early enough not to delay trial.” A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) challenges the legal sufficiency of the opposing party's pleadings. See, e.g., Westlands Water Dist. v. Bureau of Reclamation, 805 F.Supp. 1503, 1506 (E.D. Cal. 1992). Any party may move for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) after the pleadings are closed but within such time as to not delay trial.

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings should only be granted if “the moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1989). Judgment on the pleadings is also proper when there is either a “lack of cognizable legal theory” or the “absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). In reviewing a Rule 12(c) motion, “all factual allegations in the complaint [must be accepted] as true and construe[d] . . . in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009). Judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is warranted “only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.” Deveraturda v. Globe Aviation Sec. Servs., 454 F.3d 1043, 1046 (9th Cir. 2006) (internal citations omitted).

         Although Rule 12(c) does not mention leave to amend, courts have the discretion in appropriate cases to grant a Rule 12(c) motion with leave to amend, or to simply grant dismissal of the action instead of entry of judgment. See Lonberg v. City of Riverside, 300 F.Supp.2d 942, 945 (C.D. Cal. ...

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