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Sanders-Hollis v. State

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 20, 2019



         Defendant California Department of Social Services’ (DSS) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint is before the court. For the reasons set out below, the court GRANTS defendant’s motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 20, 2018, plaintiff Clarice Sanders-Hollis filed a complaint against defendant DSS alleging seven separate California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) violations, violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, and violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Compl., ECF No. 1 at 10–17. On January 14, 2019, defendant timely removed the action to this court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1 at 2 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1331). On January 22, 2019, defendant moved to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Mot., ECF No. 3 at 1–2 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)). Plaintiff opposed, ECF No. 6, and defendant responded, ECF No. 7. The court submitted the motion without a hearing, ECF No. 12, and resolves it here.


         A party may move to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The court may grant the motion only if the complaint lacks a “cognizable legal theory” or if its factual allegations do not support a cognizable legal theory. Hartmann v. Cal. Dep’t of Corr. & Rehab., 707 F.3d 1114, 1122 (9th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). A complaint 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), though it need not include “detailed factual allegations, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). But “sufficient factual matter” must make the claim at least plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Conclusory or formulaic recitations of elements do not alone suffice. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In a Rule 12(b)(6) analysis, the court must accept well-pled factual allegations as true and construe the complaint in plaintiff’s favor. Id.; Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93–94 (2007).

         If a plaintiff requests leave to amend a claim subject to dismissal, the federal rules mandate that leave “be freely given when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Before granting leave, a court considers any potential bad faith, delay, or futility regarding the proposed amendment, and the potential prejudice to the opposing party. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); see also Smith v. Pac. Prop. Dev. Co., 358 F.3d 1097, 1101 (9th Cir. 2004).


         Plaintiff does not meet her burden of pleading sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief to support any of her nine claims. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In fact, plaintiff’s complaint does not include any allegations of fact whatsoever; rather, the complaint merely contains conclusory statements followed by a recitation of the elements of each cause of action. Plaintiff must plead more than conclusory statements to state a claim. Id.

         A. FEHA Claims (Claims 1–7)

         Plaintiff pleads seven claims under FEHA, Cal. Gov’t Code section 12940, discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, harassment, failure to prevent harassment, retaliation, failure to provide reasonable accommodation, and failure to engage in good faith in the interactive process. See Compl. at 12–16 (reordered here for clarity of discussion).

         1. Discrimination Claim

         To establish a prima facie showing of discrimination under FEHA, a plaintiff must provide evidence that she “(1) [] was a member of a protected class, (2) [] was qualified for the position [she] sought or was performing competently in the position [she] held, (3) [] suffered an adverse employment action, such as termination, demotion, or denial of an available job, and (4) some other circumstance suggests discriminatory motive.” Nielsen v. Trofholz Technologies, Inc., 750 F.Supp.2d 1157, 1165 (E.D. Cal. 2010) (quoting Guz v. Bechtel Nat. Inc., 24 Cal.4th 317, 355 (2000)). Plaintiff has not pleaded facts to show any of these elements; therefore, plaintiff fails to adequately plead a claim for discrimination under FEHA.

         2. Harassment Claim

         To state a FEHA harassment claim, an employee must allege facts showing workplace harassment was “severe enough or sufficiently pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create a work environment that qualifies as hostile or abusive to employees, ” Hughes v. Pair, 46 Cal.4th 1035, 1043 (2009) (quoting Miller v. Dep’t of Corrs.,36 Cal.4th 446, 462 (2005)); see also Andrade v. Staples, Inc., No. CV 14–7786 PA (Ex), 2014 WL 5106905, *3 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 9, 2014) (“Harassment, under FEHA, ‘can take the form of discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment.’” (quoting Rehmani v. Superior Court,204 ...

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