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Altimus v. Saint-Gobain Corp. of North America

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 21, 2017



         This matter came before the court on November 14, 2017, for hearing on defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and motion for a more definite statement. (Doc. No. 5). Attorney Kelsey A. Webber appeared telephonically on behalf of defendant. Plaintiff did not file any written opposition to the pending motion to dismiss[1] and did not appear at the hearing. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants defendant's motion to dismiss and motion for a more definite statement.


         Plaintiff Justin Altimus brings this action against his former employer, defendant Certainteed Corporation and in his complaint alleges as follows.[2] Plaintiff began working for defendant on or around July 2014. (Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 5.) Plaintiff's supervisors were Kenny Dingler Sr. and Troy Cook. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 9.) Beginning in or around January 2015, plaintiff claims that he was harassed and wrongly “written up” by his supervisors for purported attendance infractions (id. ¶¶ 6, 8, 9-11) and other purported job performance mistakes (id. ¶¶ 12, 15-17). On or around August 1, 2015, Cook falsely told other employees that he had witnessed plaintiff “bent over in a sexual manner with another employee” during an overnight shift. (Id. ¶ 18.) On or around August, 3, 2015, plaintiff reported Cook's statement to Dingler Sr., but Dingler Sr. took no further steps to investigate. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 24, 30.) According to plaintiff, Dingler Sr. took retaliatory actions against plaintiff for reporting the sexual harassment, including but not limited to denying plaintiff training opportunities in favor of less senior employees (id. ¶¶ 20-21), and denying plaintiff bereavement leave following the death of a family member (id. ¶ 23).

         According to the complaint, due to plaintiff's family tragedy and the stressful workplace environment, plaintiff took medical leave beginning in February 2016. (Id. ¶ 24.) The complaint is unclear about the next sequence of events. Plaintiff claims that he was terminated from his employment in January 2017, but apparently was reinstated after he obtained and provided an updated doctor's note authorizing his continued medical leave. (Id. ¶ 29.) Following further disputes with defendant's human resources department regarding his employment status over the subsequent months (id. ¶ 31), plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in April 2017. (Id. ¶ 33.) Plaintiff claims that defendant was aware of the EEOC complaint when it sent a letter to him in May 2017 claiming that plaintiff had abandoned his employment. (Id. ¶ 34.)

         On April 19, 2017, the EEOC issued plaintiff a notice of right to sue. (Doc. 1, Ex. 17.) On July 27, 2017, plaintiff filed a complaint against Saint-Gobain Corporation of North America in Madera County Superior Court. (Doc. No. 1-1.) The complaint alleges seven causes of action for: 1) violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”); 2) violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”); 3) violation of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”); 4) violation of California Civil Code §§ 45-47; 5) violation of Assembly Bill 2053, Chapter 306; 6) violation of California Government Code §§ 12940-12950.1; and 7) violation of defendant's Hourly Employee Handbook. (Id.) On September 29, 2017, defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims brought under OSHA, NLRA, Assembly Bill No. 2053, and defendant's employee handbook. (Doc. No. 5.) Defendant concurrently filed a motion for a more definite statement with respect to plaintiff's claims brought under Title VII, California Civil Code §§ 45-47, and California Government Code §§ 12940-12950.1. (Id.) As noted above, plaintiff did not file any written opposition to the motions and did not appear at the properly noticed hearing on those motions.


         A. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). A dismissal may be warranted where there is “the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         In evaluating whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). However, the court will not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986). While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. A complaint must do more than allege mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         In ruling on such a motion, the court is permitted to consider material that is properly submitted as part of the complaint, documents that are not physically attached to the complaint if their authenticity is not contested and the plaintiff's complaint necessarily relies on them, and matters of public record. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2001).

         B. Standard for Motion for A More Definite Statement

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) provides that a party may move for a more definite statement if the pleading is “so vague and ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). In moving for a more definite statement, the party “must point out the defects complained of and the details desired.” Id. Such motions are “not favored by the courts since pleadings in federal courts are only required to fairly notify the opposing party of the nature of the claim.” Griffin v. Cedar Fair, L.P., 817 F.Supp.2d 1152, 1154 (N.D. Cal. 2011) (quoting Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dean, 854 F.Supp. 626, 629 (D. Ariz. 1994)). Finally, motions for a more definite statement “should not be granted unless the defendant cannot frame a responsive pleading.” Famolare, Inc. v. Edison Bros. Stores, Inc., 525 F.Supp. 940, 949 (E.D. Cal. 1981). A Rule 12(e) motion “is likely to be denied where the substance of the claim has been alleged, even though some of the details are omitted.” Neveu v. City of Fresno, 392 F.Supp.2d 1159, 1169 (E.D. Cal. 2005). This liberal pleading standard is consistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which allows pleadings that simply contain a “short and plain statement of the claim.” Id.


         I. ...

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