United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS DOCKET NO. 29
M. CHEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Violeta Grigorescu filed her second amended complaint
(“SAC”) against the San Mateo County Community
College District (“District”) and two of its
employees, Eugene Whitlock and Charlene Frontiera
(collectively “Defendants”). The Court previously
dismissed Ms. Grigorescu's first amended complaint with
leave to amend. Docket No. 25. Ms. Grigorescu's SAC
asserts various federal law violations, which include 42
U.S.C. sections 1983 and 1981, and Title VII. Currently
pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss
the SAC. Docket No. 29 (“Mot.”). Having
considered the Parties' briefs, accompanying submissions,
the oral argument of counsel, the Court GRANTS in part and
DENIES in part Defendants' motion to dismiss, but
provides Ms. Grigorescu leave to amend.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
2004, Ms. Grigorescu started to work for the District as a
lab tech at the College of San Mateo (“CSM”).
See SAC ¶¶ 1, 35. Starting in 2011, Ms.
Grigorescu began to experience problems with her employment
with the District when she organized a group called Friends
of CSM Gardens.” Id. ¶¶ 5, 41. In
September 2011, Friends filed a lawsuit against, inter
alia, the District in state court. See Friends of
the Coll. of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo County Cmty.
Coll. Dist., No. CIV 508656 (Cal. Super.
2014, Mr. Whitlock became Vice Chancellor of Human Resources.
Id. ¶ 57. Mr. Whitlock, an attorney, advised
and represented the District in the state environmental
lawsuit that Friends filed against the District in 2011.
October 2014, a full-time position for a physics teacher
became available. Id. ¶ 59. In March 2015, Ms.
Grigorescu applied for the position, but Mr. Whitlock removed
her from the application pool and accused her of
“dishonesty and . . . misrepresenting her educational
credentials.” Id. ¶ 60.
2015, Mr. Whitlock informed Plaintiff that he was
recommending her suspension and termination on the ground
that she had “falsely claimed she had a master's
degree and the equivalency of a minor in mathematics.”
Id. ¶ 77. Shortly thereafter, a Skelly
hearing took place before a District employee who
upheld the proposed suspension and termination. An
administrative hearing followed the Skelly hearing.
The administrative hearing officer later issued her findings
and recommendations stating there was insufficient cause to
terminate Ms. Grigorescu's employment because the
District did not meet its burden to establish dishonesty or
falsified information. However, the hearing officer found Ms.
Grigorescu engaged in a pattern of dishonesty by
misrepresenting that she possessed a minor in mathematics,
but this dishonesty did not support termination.
December 2015, Ms. Grigorescu filed a complaint with the
California Department of Fair Employment and Housing
(“DFEH”) against the District. In her complaint,
Ms. Grigorescu asserted that Mr. Whitlock and Ms. Frontiera
had personal animosity against her and that the adverse
employment actions were also motivated by “intentional
disability discrimination.” Subsequently, after
receiving her right-to-sue notice, Ms. Grigorescu filed a
lawsuit in state court. The state-court filing contained
allegations related to disability discrimination and/or
failure to accommodate.
filing the state court action, Ms. Grigorescu continued to
have problems with her employment. She sought a flexible work
schedule to teach a class at San Francisco State University
(“SFSU”) on Friday mornings, but the District
refused to accommodate her schedule. SAC ¶¶ 84, 87.
March 2016, Ms. Grigorescu learned of the District's
intent to suspend and terminate her from her lab tech
position because she missed six consecutive Fridays. SAC
¶ 91. This event prompted her to file an amended
petition and complaint in the state court action, which
asserted multiple causes of action centered on disability
discrimination and/or failure to accommodate.
April 2016, Ms. Grigorescu was informed of the proposed
termination due to her decision to accept employment at SFSU
that conflicted with her employment at CSM on Fridays. SAC
¶¶ 83-93. Thereafter, in June and July 2016, a
second Skelly hearing took place. Id.
¶ 95. This time, the hearing officer recommended
termination “due to prior discipline: alleged
misrepresentation of her math minor, and alleged
misrepresentation of her Baccalaureate high school
diploma.” Id. ¶ 96. In January 2017, Ms.
Grigorescu's employment as a lab tech was terminated.
Id. ¶ 97. Mr. Whitlock did not allow Ms.
Grigorescu to return to campus to retrieve her personal
belongings until September 2018, with close supervision and
prearrangement. Id. ¶¶ 4, 98.
District terminated Ms. Grigorescu's employment on
January 19, 2017. SAC ¶ 97. On February 13, 2018, Ms.
Grigorescu filed a charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that she
was subject to retaliation and discrimination on the basis of
sex, national origin, age, and disability.
September 2018, after receiving a notice of right to sue from
the EEOC, Ms. Grigorescu filed the instant action. On April
24, 2019, this Court dismissed Ms. Grigorescu's FAC with
leave to amend. Ms. Grigorescu subsequently filed this SAC
alleging the following eight claims for relief:
• First Claim for Relief (42 U.S.C. §
1983): Defendants Mr. Whitlock and Ms. Frontiera
retaliated against Ms. Grigorescu for exercising her First
Amendment rights through her activism with Friends.
• Second and Eighth Claims for Relief (42 U.S.C.
§ 1981): Defendants Mr. Whitlock and Ms. Frontiera
harassed Ms. Grigorescu, failed to promote, and ultimately
terminated her employment because of her race.
• Third through Seventh Claims for Relief (Title
VII): Defendants terminated, discriminated, and harassed
Ms. Grigorescu because of her race/national origin and
gender, and retaliated against her because she engaged in
protected activity by opposing unlawful employment practices.
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to
include “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint that fails to meet this
standard may be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). To
overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss after the Supreme
Court's decisions in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007), a plaintiff's “factual allegations
[in the complaint] ‘must . . . suggest that the claim
has at least a plausible chance of success.'”
Levitt v. Yelp! Inc., 765 F.3d 1123, 1135 (9th Cir.
2014). The court “accept[s] factual allegations in the
complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Manzarek v.
St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031
(9th Cir. 2008). But “allegations in a complaint . . .
may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action [and]
must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to
give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend
itself effectively.” Levitt, 765 F.3d at 1135
(internal quotation marks omitted). “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.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “The plausibility
standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it
asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Id. (internal quotation
Third through Seventh Claims (Title VII)
Grigorescu asserts various Title VII claims. The Court
previously dismissed these claims for failure to timely
exhaust administrative remedies but gave Ms. Grigorescu leave
to amend to allege a ...