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Chintala v. CST Brands, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 26, 2018

CST BRANDS, LLC, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Suvarna Chintala, proceeding pro se, alleges that her employer Defendant CST Brands, LLC racially discriminated against her.[1] Ms. Chintala originally filed her complaint in the Superior Court of California for the County of Contra Costa. (Dkt. No. 1-4.) Defendant removed the action based on diversity jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 1.) Now pending before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss. Having carefully reviewed the parties' briefing, the Court concludes oral argument is unnecessary, see Civ. L.R. 7-1(b), and GRANTS Defendant's motion to dismiss with leave to amend.


         Ms. Chintala experienced race, color, and national origin discrimination at work. (Dkt. No. 1-4 at 3.) Ms. Chintala is originally from India. (Id. at 6.) She was hired by Defendant in December 2007 and works as a customer service representative. (Id.) In November 2014, Ms. Chintala was demoted from full-time to part-time by her manager Barbra. (Id.) Ms. Chintala's hours dropped below 30 hours per week. (Id.) Defendant did not provide any reasons for moving Ms. Chintala to part-time. (Id.)

         Other employees receive vacation and medical benefits. (Id. at 3.) A white woman named “Sara” was hired just one year ago for the same position, a customer service representative, and “got everything” - all benefits including vacation every year. (Id. at 3, 7.) Another white woman named “Sharyn” was hired as a cashier and customer service representative and receives full benefits including vacation every year. (Id. at 7.)

         Ms. Chintala has been with the company for eight and a half years yet does not receive “anything.” (Id. at 3.) In 2014, Ms. Chintala received sick time and benefits. (Id. at 10.) Defendant paid her $2000 for dental, $1107.75 for vacation, and $221.55 for sick time. (Id.) In October 2014, Ms. Chintala received a letter from “corporate” stating that she was not eligible for benefits in 2015 because she “did not work an average of 30 hours or more per week.” (Id. at 14.) Ms. Chintala's average hours per week from October 2013 to October 2014 was 29.76 hours. (Id.) Accordingly, Defendant determined she was not a full-time employee. (Id.)

         Ms. Chintala informed her manager who did not say anything. (Id. at 10.) When Ms. Chintala checked her “paysheet” she discovered she was demoted to part-time. (Id.) Over the years when Defendant was short-staffed Defendant made Ms. Chintala work more hours. (Id. at 11) Now that Defendant has hired other people Defendant has cut down Ms. Chintala's work hours. (Id.)

         After demoting her Ms. Chintala's manager is very careful to make sure that Ms. Chintala works less than 30 hours per week. (Id.) Ms. Chintala's manager only gives Ms. Chintala 28.5 hours or 29.5 hours in order to prevent Ms. Chintala from receiving benefits. (Id.) Further, when “big shots” such as the CEO or other corporate officers come to visit the store, Ms. Chintala's manager takes Ms. Chintala off the work schedule. (Id. at 12.) Ms. Chintala was very upset her manager did this to her and Ms. Chintala has suffered a lot mentally. (Id.) The other cashiers asked Ms. Chintala why she is not in the store when the big shots visit. This has made Ms. Chintala sad all of these years. (Id.) Defendant is indirectly forcing Ms. Chintala to leave her job. (Id. at 11.)


         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of a complaint as failing to 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 facial plausibility standard is not a “probability requirement” but mandates “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). On a 12(b)(6) motion, the court “accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Mar. Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). Courts may base dismissal “on either lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief ... [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663-64.

         Courts hold pro se pleadings to a more lenient standard. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Post-Iqbal courts must still liberally construe pro se filings because “[w]hile the standard is higher, our obligation remains, where the petitioner is pro se, particularly in civil rights cases, to construe the pleadings liberally and to afford the petitioner the benefit of any doubt.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Nevertheless, the Court may not “supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled.” Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

         In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court will generally only consider “allegations contained in the pleadings, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters properly subject to judicial notice.” Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 763 (9th Cir. 2007). A plaintiff cannot avoid dismissal by alleging new facts in an opposition to a motion to dismiss. Schneider v. Cal. Dep't of Corrs., 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1998) (finding that “‘new' allegations contained in the [plaintiff]'s opposition motion ... are irrelevant for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes.”). If a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is granted, the “court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleadings was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).


         Defendant argues Ms. Chintala's complaint fails to meet basic pleading requirements. Ms. Chintala counters her EEOC complaint against Defendant sufficiently identifies her employment discrimination claim and adds a number of facts regarding her experience in Defendant's employ. Ms. ...

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