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Arakji v. Microchip Technology, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

October 21, 2019

MAZEN ARAKJI, Plaintiff,
v.
MICROCHIP TECHNOLOGY, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REMAND [RE: ECF 8]

          BETH LAB SON FREEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se Plaintiff, Mazen Arakji, claims that Microsemi Corporation (“Microsemi”), subsequently acquired by Defendant, Microchip Technology, Inc. (“Microchip”), engaged in unlawful discrimination by declining to hire him and harassed him based on his race, religion, and disability. Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand Back to the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara for Lack of Jurisdiction. Motion, ECF 8. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court concludes that this motion is appropriate for disposition without oral argument. Accordingly, the hearing set on November 14, 2019 is hereby VACATED. The motion is DENIED for the reasons discussed below.

         I. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff is a 38-year-old male, who for “[M]uslim religious purposes, ” wears a long beard. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF 1-1. Plaintiff also has a “very obvious musculoskeletal disability which limits [his] ability to grip and lift heavy objects.” Id. Plaintiff's “national origin is Lebanese, which is an Arab country in the Middle East” and has “Arabic ancestry and ethnic characteristics.” Id. Plaintiff's first name “Mazen” is “known to be an Arabic name” and his surname “Arakji” is “known to be a [M]uslim surname.” Id. Plaintiff has advanced degrees in electrical and computer engineering, along with various certifications and professional achievements in those fields. Id. ¶¶ 2-5.

         Plaintiff alleges that he “applied for several Firmware Engineer positions at Microsemi between January and April of 2017.” Id. ¶ 20. On May 1, 2017, Plaintiff was telephonically interviewed by a “hiring manager” at Microsemi and had a “positive experience.” Id. ¶ 23. On May 10, 2017, Plaintiff had an on-site interview at Microsemi in Sunnyvale, California, which despite several hours of delay, was “another positive experience.” Id. ¶¶ 23-25. Plaintiff “was contacted several days afterwards and was informed that the interview had been voided by HR.” Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff was promised another interview, which was later cancelled. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff applied for “other positions at Microsemi, ” but received responses that the positions he applied for were cancelled. Id. ¶ 27.

         Based on these facts, Plaintiff alleges that Microchip “intentionally” denied him an “opportunity for employment, ” despite his qualifications. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff alleges that Microsemi/Microchip discriminated and harassed him because “Defendant is revolted by people of [Plaintiff's] religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnic characteristics and disability, and especially those with a combination of all of the above.” Id. ¶¶ 28-30.

         On February 28, 2019, Plaintiff, filed suit against Microchip in the Superior Court of California for the County of Santa Clara. Plaintiff brought two state law claims based on violations of California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”): (1) “violation of Cal Gov Code 12940: Denial of employment due to religious creed, national origin, ancestry, and disability” and (2) “violation of Cal Gov Code 12940: Harassment in employment due to religious creed, national origin, ancestry, and disability.” See Compl. at p. 7. In his Complaint, without specifying an amount, Plaintiff sought (1) monetary damages, (2) punitive damages, and (3) declaratory or injunctive relief. Id. at p. 5.

         II. REMOVAL

         Plaintiff served Microchip with the Complaint on April 25, 2019. Notice of Removal at 2; see also Compl. at p. 4. On May 28, 2019, Microchip timely removed the case to United States District Court for the Northern District of California based on diversity of citizenship. Notice of Removal at 1; see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1332. Plaintiff is a citizen of California and Microchip is a citizen of Delaware and Arizona because it is incorporated in Delaware and its principal place of business is in Chandler, Arizona. Notice of Removal at 3-4. Microchip acknowledged that the Complaint “does not allege a damages amount or a monetary value for the injunctive relief he requests.” Id. at 4. Nonetheless, Microchip claimed that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 because Plaintiffs' FEHA allegations, if proven, would allow him to seek unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees, costs, injunctive relief, and emotional distress damages. Id. at 5. The average yearly salary of a firmware engineer at Microchip's Bay Area facilities (where Plaintiff alleges he applied) is $85, 000. Id. The compensatory damages alone-from early 2017, when Plaintiff allegedly was wrongfully denied the position he applied for, to date-for lost wages would exceed $170, 000, far greater than the $75, 000 jurisdictional minimum. Id.

         Microchip concluded that although Plaintiff's Complaint “fail[ed] to list all the remedies available under FEHA, and fail[ed] to specify a damages amount or a monetary value for his requested injunctive relief, ” based on the allegations in the Complaint and the average salary for the position Plaintiff was seeking, the amount in controversy plausibly exceeds $75, 000. Id. at 6.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal courts have limited subject matter jurisdiction, and may only hear cases falling within their jurisdiction. Generally, a defendant may remove a civil action filed in state court if the action could have been filed originally in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. The removal statutes are construed restrictively so as to limit removal jurisdiction. See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941). The Ninth Circuit recognizes a “strong presumption against removal.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (internal quotation marks omitted). Any doubts as to removability should be resolved in favor of remand. See Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003). The defendant bears the burden of showing that removal is proper. See Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004).

         If at any time before final judgment it appears that a district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a case that has been removed to federal court, the case must be remanded. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Federal courts have diversity jurisdiction only where there is complete diversity of citizenship-no plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any defendant-and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1); see Matao Yokeno v. Sawako Sekiguchi, 754 F.3d 649, 652 (9th Cir. 2014). Where a defendant removes an action to federal court on the basis of diversity, the burden on a plaintiff seeking remand under § 1447(c) depends on whether or not the amount in controversy is clear from the face of the complaint. See Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 2007). When the plaintiff's complaint does not state the amount in controversy, the defendant's notice of removal may do so. Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 574 U.S. 81, 84, 135 S.Ct. 547, 551, 190 L.Ed.2d 495 (2014).

         IV. ...


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