United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE DEFENDANTS POVERELLO
HOUSE AND NAOMI'S HOUSE MOTION FOR PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON
THE PLEADINGS (ECF NO. 35)
LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE
PRELIMINARY STATEMENT TO PARTIES AND
in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest
caseloads in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote
inordinate time and resources to individual cases and
matters. Given the shortage of district judges and staff,
this Court addresses only the arguments, evidence, and
matters necessary to reach the decision in this order. The
parties and counsel are encouraged to contact the offices of
United States Senators Feinstein and Harris to address this
Court's inability to accommodate the parties and this
action. The parties are required to reconsider consent to
conduct all further proceedings before a Magistrate Judge,
whose schedules are far more realistic and accommodating to
parties than that of U.S. Chief District Judge Lawrence J.
O'Neill, who must prioritize criminal and older civil
trials set before Chief Judge O'Neill trail until he
becomes available and are subject to suspension mid-trial to
accommodate criminal matters. Civil trials are no longer
reset to a later date if Chief Judge O'Neill is
unavailable on the original date set for trial. Moreover,
this Court's Fresno Division randomly and without advance
notice reassigns civil actions to U.S. District Judges
throughout the Nation to serve as visiting judges. In the
absence of Magistrate Judge consent, this action is subject
to reassignment to a U.S. District Judge from inside or
outside the Eastern District of California.
Jill McGee, Lydia Carranza, Tracey Stroud, and Sharon Wade
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”) raise claims under
the Unruh Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code § 51),
California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Federal Fair
Employment and Housing Act, and claims for negligent
infliction of emotional distress and the right to
privacy. Defendants Poverello House and Naomi's
House (collectively, “Defendants”) filed a motion
for partial judgment on the pleadings to dismiss the Unruh
Civil Rights Act claim. ECF No. 35.
Court has determined the motion for partial judgment on the
pleadings is suitable for decision based on the papers under
Local Rule 230(g). For the reasons stated below,
Defendants' motion is GRANTED with leave to amend.
Poverello House “is an organization that provides
meals, social services, and temporary shelter to people in
the Fresno area.” ECF No. 1 ¶ 16. Defendant
Naomi's House is a “24 bed overnight shelter for
single, homeless women.” Id. ¶ 17.
Plaintiffs believe Poverello House operates Naomi's
House. Id. ¶ 16. Poverello House and
Naomi's House are 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporations.
See ECF No. 4-2 at 1. “The overwhelming
majority of women who receive services from Defendant
Poverello [House] and . . . Naomi's House are very
vulnerable and in crisis.” Id. ¶ 19.
Poverello House and Naomi's House provide a “gentle
haven of healing for homeless women.” Id.
¶ 17. To carry out their “mission to provide
shelter, services, and general support to the area's
homeless population, Defendants receive federal funding
including grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development (‘HUD').” ECF No. 35-1 at
2-3 (citing ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 16-17). Programs receiving
HUD funding must abide by rules set forth in the Code of
Federal Regulations. See 24 C.F.R. §§
5.105, 5.106; ECF No. 1 ¶ 24; ECF No. 35-1 at 8-10.
set forth basic rules for women who stay overnight at
Naomi's House. For example, the women must take nightly
showers. ECF No. 1 ¶ 20. According to the complaint,
women shower in groups during certain hours and “women
[are] nude in the presence of other women.”
Id. Women then “change into their cloth[e]s
[sic] and/or bed attire.” Id.
were all homeless women who sought shelter at Naomi's
House at various times from “June 2017 to the
present.” Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiffs allege
that all Plaintiffs suffered substance abuse, mental health,
psychological, physical, sexual abuse, and/or domestic
violence issues. Id.
approximately July 2017, D.N. sought Defendants' shelter
and support. ECF No. 35-1 at 3. According to the complaint,
D.N. is a transgender individual. ECF No. 1 ¶ 22. D.N.
was born a male, but identifies as a female. Id.
“D.N. was allowed to stay at [Defendants']
women's shelter pursuant to HUD's Equal Access Rule
that requires any facility that receives HUD funding, such as
Defendants['], to provide services to transgender clients
based on their gender identi[t]y, i.e., Defendant
Naomi House (a women's shelter) provided shelter to D.N.
because D.N. identifies as female.” ECF No. 35-1 at 3
(citing ECF No. 1 ¶ 24; 24 C.F.R. § 5.106).
state that “D.N. was allowed to shower with
Plaintiffs.” ECF No. 1 ¶ 22. “D.N. initially
undressed and dressed in the open area, but at some point was
not required to undress and dress in the open area. Rather,
D.N. was allowed to wear [her] clothes into the shower stall
to undress and dress.” Id. During shower
times, Plaintiffs allege D.N. “would repeatedly make
lewd and sexually inappropriate comments to some of the
Plaintiffs. D.N. would stare and leer at Plaintiffs while
naked and make sexually harassing comments about their
bodies.” ECF No. 1 ¶ 22. The complaint is devoid
of any specific examples of D.N.'s alleged repeat
“lewd” and “sexually harassing comments
about [Plaintiffs'] bodies.” See generally
ECF No. 1.
further allege that “D.N. would make sexually
inappropriate comments and engage in sexually harassing
activities. These activities included, but are not limited
to, showing some Plaintiffs pictures and/or videos of D.N.
touching [herself] and masturbating. D.N. made sexual
advances on some of the Plaintiffs.” Id.
¶ 23. Plaintiffs do not specify which Plaintiffs were
subject to D.N.'s purported acts. See generally
ECF No. 1.
allege they repeatedly complained verbally and in writing to
Naomi's House's staff regarding D.N.'s conduct.
Id. ¶ 24. “Plaintiffs were informed that
they had to respect D.N.'s decision to identify as a
woman, and that Defendant Naomi's House received HUD
funding and therefore, there was nothing Defendant
Naomi's House could do. If Plaintiffs refused to take
showers with D.N., staff threatened them with expulsion from
the House.” Id. Plaintiffs allege Defendants
“refused to take appropriate disciplinary action
against D.N. or make any reasonable accommodations to protect
the rights and privacy of all parties.” Id.
motion for partial judgment on the pleadings only relates to
Plaintiffs' Unruh Civil Rights Act claim. Plaintiffs
allege they were “denied, discriminated and/or
distinguished against and thereby deprived of full and equal
accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges and/or
services in their housing on the basis of gender.”
Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiffs assert that they were
subject to “sexual harassment and/or sex discrimination
on the basis of their gender, which was a substantial
motivating reason for Defendants' conduct.”
Id. ¶ 32. Plaintiffs allege “Defendants
used fear and/or intimidation against Plaintiffs when they
complained of wrongful conduct.” Id.
STANDARD OF DECISION
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) of the permits a party to seek
judgment on the pleadings “after the pleadings are
closed-but early enough not to delay trial.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion for judgment on the pleadings
“challenges the legal sufficiency of the opposing
party's pleadings . . . .” Morgan v. County of
Yolo, 436 F.Supp.2d 1152, 1154-55 (E.D. Cal. 2006),
aff'd, 277 Fed.Appx. 734 (9th Cir. 2008).
Therefore, a Rule 12(c) motion operates in a similar manner
as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Chavez v.
United States, 683 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2012)
(“Analysis under Rule 12(c) is substantially identical
to analysis under Rule 12(b)(6) because, under both rules, a
court must determine whether the facts alleged in the
complaint, taken as true, entitle the plaintiff to a legal
remedy”) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted); Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys.,
Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 n.4 (9th Cir. 2011) (the legal
standard of review governing Rule 12(c) and 12(b)(6) motions
are “functionally identical”).
judgment on the pleadings is a decision on the merits . . .
.” 3550 Stevens Creek Assocs. v. Barclays Bank of
Cal., 915 F.2d 1355, 1357 (9th Cir. 1990), cert.
denied, 500 U.S. 917 (1991). “A district court
will render a ‘judgment on the pleadings when the
moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings
that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and
that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.'” Enron Oil Trading & Transp. Co. v.
Walbrook Ins. Co., 132 F.3d 526, 529 (9th Cir. 1997)
(quoting George v. Pacific-CSC Work Furlough, 91
F.3d 1227, 1229 (9th Cir. 1996)); Geraci v. Homestreet
Bank, 347 F.3d 749, 751 (9th Cir. 2003) (“A motion
for judgment on the pleadings should be granted where it
appears the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
allegations of fact by the party opposing the motion are
accepted as true, and are construed in the light most
favorable to that party.” Gen. Conference Corp. of
Seventh-Day Adventists v. Seventh-Day Adventist
Congregational Church, 887 F.2d 228, 230 (9th Cir.
1989); Schuett v. FedEx Corp., 119 F.Supp.3d 1155,
1159 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (“A judgment on the pleadings is
appropriate when the pleaded facts, accepted as true and
viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of
law”). A motion for judgment on the pleadings will not
be granted unless it appears “beyond doubt that the
[non-moving party] can prove no set of facts in support of
his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Enron
Oil Trading & Transp. Co., 132 F.3d at 529 (quoting
B.F. Goodrich v. Betkoski, 99 F.3d 505, 529 (2d Cir.
1996)); Morgan, 436 F.Supp.2d at 1155.
deciding a Rule 12(c) motion, courts may consider facts set
forth in the pleadings as well as facts that are contained in
materials of which the court may take judicial notice.
See Heliotrope Gen., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 189
F.3d 971, 981 n.18 (9th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted);
see also Hebert Abstract Co. v. Touchstone Props.,
Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76 (5th Cir. 1990) (a Rule 12(c)
motion “is designed to dispose of cases where the
material facts are not in dispute and a judgment on the
merits can be rendered by looking to the substance of the
pleadings and any judicially noticed facts”) (per
curiam). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(c), a copy
of any written instrument which is an exhibit to a pleading
is a part thereof for all purposes and may be considered on a
motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Qwest
Commc'ns Corp. v. City of Berkeley, 208 F.R.D. 288,
291 (N.D. Cal. 2002) (“materials properly attached to a
complaint as exhibits may be considered” on a motion
for judgment on the pleadings).
may grant leave to amend in response to a Rule 12(c) motion
if the pleadings can be cured by further factual enhancement.
See Sprint Telephony PCS, L.P. v. San Diego, 311
F.Supp.2d 898, 903 (S.D. Cal. 2004) (“Because the two
motions are analyzed under the same standard, a court
considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings may give
leave to amend and ‘may dismiss causes of action rather
than grant judgment.'”); accord Lonberg v. City
of Riverside, 300 F.Supp.2d 942, 945 (C.D. Cal. 2004);
see also Bly-Magee v. California, 236 F.3d 1014,
1019 (9th Cir. 2001) (“We consistently have held that
leave to amend should be granted unless the district court
‘determines that the pleading could not possibly be
cured by the allegation of other facts.'”). If the
court does grant the motion, the court, in its discretion,
may grant the non-moving party leave to amend or enter a
final judgment. See Lonberg, 300 F.Supp.2d at 945
(citations omitted) (“[A]lthough Rule 12(c) does not
mention leave to amend, courts have discretion both to grant
a Rule 12(c) motion with leave to amend and to simply grant
dismissal of the action instead of entry of
Establishments” Under the ...