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Jefferson v. Hollingsworth

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 2, 2018

HOLLINGSWORTH, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff James Leroye Jefferson, a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed this action against California Prison Industry Authority staff alleging employment discrimination in violation of his civil rights. See Doc. No. 1. On January 29, 2018, Defendants L. Gularte, K. Hollingsworth, and J. Neil filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Doc. No. 27. Plaintiff opposes the motion. See Doc. No. 34. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion to dismiss.


         This action arises out of events occurring between 2011 and 2015 at R. J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) in San Diego, California.[2] Plaintiff identifies himself as an “African American transgender.” Complaint at 5.[3] According to Plaintiff, the Prison Industry Authority (“PIA”) interviewed him[4] for a job in the bakery and indicated he would be hired. Two years passed and he was not given a job in the bakery. Plaintiff has breasts and has been diagnosed as HIV-positive. Defendant Hollingsworth, the PIA bakery supervisor, advised Plaintiff that they do not hire “high risk, ” “sick” inmates. Id. Hollingsworth told Plaintiff that she did not want to hire an African American transgender with breasts. Instead, she hired six (6) sex offenders with less work experience than Plaintiff. According to Plaintiff, he has worked for the PIA for three (3) years “on a main line at clothing.” Id. In addition, Defendant Hollingsworth permitted inmates employed by PIA to continue working, despite the fact that the inmates stole from the office, gambled, and cooked on the pipes at work. Plaintiff contends that he has a constitutional right to work at a PIA job which he has been denied based on his race, gender identification, and medical disability. Plaintiff brings claims for “gender discrimination” and “medical discrimination.” Id. at 5-6.

         Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). A pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, plaintiffs must also plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plausibility standard thus demands more than a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, or naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Instead, the complaint “must contain allegations of underlying facts sufficient to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011).

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts must assume the truth of all factual allegations and must construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). The court need not take legal conclusions as true merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations. Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 1987). Similarly, “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are not sufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Pareto v. FDIC, 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998). In determining the propriety of a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, courts generally may not look beyond the complaint for additional facts. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). “A court may, however, consider certain materials-documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice-without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.” Id.; see also Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir 2001). “However, [courts] are not required to accept as true conclusory allegations which are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint.” Steckman v. Hart Brewing, Inc., 143 F.3d 1293, 1295-96 (9th Cir. 1998). Where dismissal is appropriate, a court should grant leave to amend unless the plaintiff could not possibly cure the defects in the pleading. Knappenberger v. City of Phoenix, 566 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2009).

         Pro se litigants “must be ensured meaningful access to the courts.” Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc). When the plaintiff is appearing pro se, the court must construe the pleadings liberally and afford the plaintiff any benefit of the doubt. Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2001); Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). In giving liberal interpretation to a pro se complaint, however, the court is not permitted to “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). The court must give a pro se litigant leave to amend his complaint “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) (quotation omitted), citing Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1447 (9th Cir. 1987). But where amendment of a pro se litigant's complaint would be futile, denial of leave to amend is appropriate. See James v. Giles, 221 F.3d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 2000).


         As an initial matter, Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim is subject to dismissal without leave to amend as to all defendants. As this Court recently explained:

“The Eighth Amendment, which applies to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the infliction of ‘cruel and unusual punishments' on those convicted of crimes.” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 296-97 (1991) (internal citations omitted) (quoting U.S. Const. amend. VIII). The Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause may “be applied to some deprivations that were not specifically part of the sentence but were suffered during imprisonment.” Id. at 297. This application rests on the premise that “deprivations suffered by a prisoner constitute ‘punishment' for Eighth Amendment purposes.” Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 37 (1993) (Thomas, J., dissenting).

Arellano v. Ojeda, No. 14cv2401-MMA (JLB), 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54905, at *7 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 30, 2018). It is well-settled that deprivation of a prison job opportunity does not constitute “punishment, ” and as such, does not violate the Eighth Amendment. See Baumann v. Ariz. Dep't of Corr., 754 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1985) (“General limitation of jobs and educational opportunities is not considered punishment.”) (citing Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1254-55 (9th Cir. 1982) (“Idleness and the lack of programs are not Eighth Amendment violations. The lack of these programs simply does not amount to the infliction of pain.”)).

         With respect to his ADA claim, Plaintiff must allege:

(1) he ‘is an individual with a disability;' (2) he ‘is otherwise qualified to participate in or receive the benefit of some public entity's services, programs, or activities;' (3) he ‘was either excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of the public entity's services, programs, or activities, or was otherwise discriminated against by the public entity;' and ...

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