United States District Court, C.D. California
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND [DKT.
J. CARNEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
6, 2019, Plaintiff Janice Reyes brought an action against
Staples the Office Superstore, LCC (“Staples”)
and Does 1 through 100 in Los Angeles Superior Court. (Dkt.
1-3 [Complaint, hereinafter “Compl.”].) Before
the Court is Plaintiff's motion to remand. (Dkt. 10
[hereinafter “Mot.”].) For the following reasons,
the motion is GRANTED.
allegations in Plaintiff's complaint arise from an
altercation that occurred while she was working at
Staples's East Hollywood location on February 1, 2018.
That morning, two women named Sherri Shepard and Kim Tavares
allegedly entered Staples and asked Plaintiff if there was a
restroom in the store. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff, who
allegedly believed that the restrooms were closed for
maintenance, related this information to the customers and
suggested they try another store. (Id.) A few
minutes later, Plaintiff's supervisor told her that the
two women were accusing her of being a racist for not letting
them use the restroom. (Id. ¶ 10.) Ms. Shepard
is African-American and Ms. Tavares's race is not
disclosed in the pleadings. (Id. ¶ 17.) The
Plaintiff is Hispanic. (Id. ¶ 43.)
minutes later, Plaintiff returned to her post at a checkout
aisle and saw Ms. Shepard and Ms. Tavares standing in her
line. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff's supervisor,
who was aware that the women were angry with Plaintiff,
allegedly saw them approaching but did nothing.
(Id.) As Ms. Shepard and Ms. Tavares were checking
out, they allegedly began berating Plaintiff, calling her a
racist and a liar for telling them that the bathroom was out
of order when it was not. (Id. ¶¶ 12-17.)
This altercation allegedly lasted for several minutes without
Plaintiff's supervisor intervening. (Id. ¶
18.) Eventually, Plaintiff said, “I'm not taking
this shit, ” and left the checkout counter.
(Id.) Later that day, Plaintiff learned that Ms.
Shepard was a celebrity and that her assistant had been
making calls to Staples's corporate office, requesting
that Plaintiff be terminated for racial profiling.
(Id. ¶ 21.) Ms. Shepard also posted a video on
Instagram making similar accusations. (Id. ¶
allegedly feeling pressure to take action due to Ms.
Shepard's celebrity status, investigated the incident
over the next few days. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.)
Plaintiff discussed the matter with a Staples corporate
employee over the phone and provided a statement.
(Id.) When Plaintiff arrived at work on February 6,
2018, her manager informed her that she had been terminated
by corporate for swearing in front of a customer.
(Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff alleges that this given
reason was pretextual and that she was actually terminated
because of Ms. Shepard's allegations of racial profiling.
(Id. ¶ 27.) Following her termination,
Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies with the
California Department of Fair Employment and Housing
(“DFEH”) and received a notice of the right to
sue on June 11, 2018. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.)
sued Staples in Los Angeles Superior Court, asserting a
number of violations of California law including (1)
violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing
Act's (“FEHA”) prohibition of harassment in
employment on the basis of race, (2) violation of FEHA's
prohibition of discrimination in employment on the basis of
race, (3) failure to remedy and prevent discrimination and
harassment, (4) wrongful termination, and (5) negligent
retention and supervision. (See generally id.) On
August 14, 2019, Staples removed the case to federal court,
invoking diversity jurisdiction. (Dkt. 1 [Notice of Removal,
hereinafter “NOR”].) Plaintiff then filed a
motion to remand the case to Los Angeles Superior Court.
action brought in state court may be removed by the defendant
to a federal district court if the action could have been
brought there originally. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The
burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction falls on
the defendant, and the removal statute is strictly construed
against removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, Inc.,
980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). “Federal
jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the
right of removal in the first instance.” Id.
Federal district courts have diversity jurisdiction over
suits where more than $75, 000 is in controversy if the
citizenship of each plaintiff is different from that of each
defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). The parties dispute both
(a) whether there is complete diversity between the parties
and, (b) whether the amount in controversy has been met. The
Court will address each issue in turn.
parties first dispute whether there is complete diversity of
citizenship. Federal courts only have diversity jurisdiction
over a matter when the parties are completely diverse. 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). Plaintiff, a California citizen,
alleges that complete diversity is not present here due to
her claims against Doe Defendants, who she alleges are also
California citizens. Staples asserts that Plaintiff's
inclusion of “Does 1 through 100” cannot be used
to destroy complete diversity. On this point, the Court
agrees with Staples.
1987, the Ninth Circuit held “the presence of Doe
defendants . . . destroys diversity and, thus, precludes
removal.” Bryant v. Ford Motor Co., 844 F.2d
602, 605 (9th Cir. 1987). Congress swiftly abrogated this
decision by amending the removal statute. See 28
U.S.C. § 1447(b)(1) (“In determining whether a
civil action is removable on the basis of the jurisdiction
under section 1332(a) of this title, the citizenship of
defendants sued under fictitious names shall be
disregarded.”). Since these amendments, the rule has
been clear. “The citizenship of fictitious defendants
is disregarded for removal purposes and becomes relevant only
if and when the plaintiff seeks leave to substitute a named
defendant.” Soliman v. Philip Morris Inc., 311
F.3d 966, 971 (9th Cir. 2002). Here, Plaintiff has not sought
to substitute any named defendants. Accordingly, the unnamed
Doe Defendants in Plaintiff's complaint cannot be used to
destroy complete diversity. Absent the Does, Plaintiff does
not dispute that the parties are completely diverse. For
diversity purposes, Plaintiff is a citizen of California and
Staples is a citizen of Delaware and Massachusetts, so there
is complete diversity between the parties.