United States District Court, N.D. California
ALFONSO G. GALARPE, Plaintiff,
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS DOCKET NO. 35
M. CHEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
No. 35 Plaintiff Alfonso Galarpe Jr. alleges he was
wrongfully terminated by United Airlines
(“United”) on account of his status as a
Filipino-American veteran over the age of 40, and that the
termination caused him severe emotional distress. He was
reinstated to his position after a labor arbitration found
the termination lacked just cause, so he seeks only damages
related to emotional distress in this case. The Court
previously dismissed certain claims with prejudice, but gave
Mr. Galarpe leave to amend his claims for wrongful
termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress
if he could adequately plead that his protected status was a
substantial factor for his termination. The Court also
granted Mr. Galarpe leave to amend his defamation claim to
adequately plead a defamatory publication.
reasons below, the Court GRANTS United's
motion to dismiss Mr. Galarpe's wrongful termination
claim as pled with prejudice, DENIES
United's motion to dismiss Mr. Galarpe's defamation
claim and intentional infliction of emotional distress claim
(to the extent it is based on defamatory publications), and
GRANTS Mr. Galarpe's request to file a
third amended complaint consistent with this order to attempt
to state a claim for age and disability discrimination
occurring after his return to United in July 2017.
is Filipino-American and a disabled veteran. SAC ¶ 5. He
worked for United for over 30 years with a “discipline
free record.” Id. ¶ 6. In July and August
2016, Defendant “accused Plaintiff of committing a hate
crime and/or engaging in hate speech when Plaintiff tied two
knots known as hangman's known, uniknots, or
nooses.” Id. ¶ 5. He tied knots with jet
engine packing rope on two consecutive days during idle time
at the end of his shift. Id. ¶ 8. United
terminated Plaintiff after he admitted to tying the knots.
Plaintiff claims that “he was genuinely not aware of
the negative connotation of the noose in the context of
racism in America, ” id. ¶ 11, because he
“was born in the Philippines and came to the United
States at the age of ten.” Id. ¶ 12. A
labor arbitrator later determined that Plaintiff's
actions merited discipline but not termination, and
reinstated Plaintiff to his position with backpay.
Id. ¶¶ 32-33.
alleges that United's termination reflected
“reckless . . . disregard of Plaintiff's
rights” because it fired him “without adequate
inquiry” after a “flawed investigation.”
Id. ¶ 17. In essence, Plaintiff alleges that
United fired him knowing he harbored no malicious intent.
Plaintiff alleges “[o]n information and belief”
that United's “acts and omissions are based on a
perception of Filipino people as compliant and malleable, and
that this view is shared by those in leadership roles at
[United], including . . . Mr. Van Wart, ” id.
¶ 39, who composed and sent the letter of termination.
Id. ¶ 8.
also alleges that United defamed him by branding him a racist
to his colleagues. The sole specific publication alleged,
however, is the termination letter, which states:
Your actions are contrary to expectations for behavior set
forth for all United employees. On two different occasions
you made a noose in the workplace and both times displayed
the noose in an area where it was likely to be seen and
perceived as threatening and intimidating by co-workers.
Because such imagery is so closely associated with violent
executions and hate crimes, the Company strictly prohibits it
in the workplace. Thus, after considering all of the facts
and your extremely egregious behavior, I have decided to
terminate your employment . . .
Id. ¶ 15 (see also SAC, Ex. A).
According to Plaintiff, the termination letter “in
effect call[ed him] a racist hate monger or otherwise
associate[d] him with racism, bigotry, and discrimination
citing [United] policies and even calling [his] conduct
'unlawful.'” Id. ¶ 29.
alleges that the allegation he “displayed the noose in
an area where it was likely to be seen” is false
because, in fact, as United knew, “[o]ne rope was
tossed on the planning board and the other was left in a pile
on the jet engine floor shop such that one would not even
know a knot had been tied in it without picking it up.”
Id. ¶ 18.
also alleges that, on the day he was interviewed about the
knots, he was escorted out of the building “in a
humiliating and shameful fashion” without being
permitted to pick up his tools first. Id. ¶ 22.
He calls this a “gauntlet of humiliation-the literal
march to Plaintiff's car in view of many of
Plaintiff's co-workers.” Id. ¶ 23. He
argues that the presence of so many witnesses “goes far
beyond the circumstances warranted by any arguable qualified
privilege, including an investigation privilege.”
of these acts, Plaintiff alleges he “underwent great
emotional distress and depression” and has required
ongoing treatment. Id. ¶ 34.
also alleges that after returning to work on July 26, 2017
(following the labor arbitration), United “has failed
to honor previously approved workplace reasonable
accommodations, ” id. ¶ 36. As of March
27, 2018, Plaintiff claims to have exhausted his
administrative remedies and requests permission to amend to
state a claim for age and disability discrimination.
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must
take all allegations of material fact as true and construe
them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,
although “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted
inferences are insufficient to avoid a Rule 12(b)(6)
dismissal.” Cousins v. Lockyer, 568 F.3d 1063,
1067 (9th Cir. 2009). While “a complaint need not
contain detailed factual allegations ... it must plead
'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Id. “A
claim has facial plausibility 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); see also Bell Atl. Corp. ...