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Arakji v. Microchip Technology, Inc.

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

November 1, 2019

MAZEN ARAKJI, Plaintiff,



         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 Microchip's unopposed motion to dismiss. MTD, ECF 9. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. 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 holds two degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder: (1) “Bachelors Electrical and Computer Engineering” and (2) “Masters Computer Engineering.” Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff has earned various certifications in his field. Id. ¶¶ 3-4. Plaintiff worked at Sun Microsystems (now Oracle), where he was promoted within 6 months and was accepted into the “selective Sun Engineering Enrichment & Development (SEED) program” on the technical tract-designed for individuals with a high potential to excel. Id. ¶ 5. He received a letter from a previous employer commending his performance and contributions. Id. Recently, Plaintiff has developed three Android and two iOS applications. Id. Plaintiff has also developed a “novel RTOS architecture” for which he has a patent pending. Id.

         Plaintiff applied for “over 1000 positions” between 2012 and 2014 but was unable to secure employment. Id. ¶ 7. In April 2014, Plaintiff was arrested and subsequently harassed and intimidated by the police in Colorado. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. He was again arrested “without probable cause” and mistreated in Colorado in August 2014. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. He filed a civil suit in April 2015. Id. ¶ 12.

         In November 2015[1], Plaintiff traveled overseas to pursue employment opportunities. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff was unable to return to the United States because his tax refund was not transferred to his account. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiff was unable to secure employment overseas, but while there, he created and released the Android and iOS applications mentioned earlier. Id. ¶ 16. While in Egypt, Plaintiff was twice apprehended and jailed. Id. ¶ 17. One of those arrests took place shortly after a successful interview with Telepin for an Android developer position. Id. Plaintiff was interrogated and mistreated while in Egyptian prison. Id. ¶ 18. In November 2016, Plaintiff returned to San Jose, California, homeless and without any belongings or money. Id. ¶ 19. He is “deeply traumatized by all the experiences [he] ha[s] been through.” Id.

         Plaintiff “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 Srinivas Yelisetti (a hiring manager at Microsemi) and had a “positive experience.” Id. ¶ 23. Plaintiff was then contacted by Donna Vespe (a Senior Talent Acquisition Partner) and was offered an invitation for an on-site interview on May 10, 2017, in Sunnyvale, California. Id. Upon arrival, Plaintiff was told that his interview was cancelled. Id. ¶ 24. Nevertheless, he waited for several hours and proceeded with the interview, which was “another positive experience.” Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Several days later, Plaintiff was contacted and was informed that “the interview had been voided by HR.” Id. ¶ 25. On January 5, 2018, Plaintiff was contacted by Donna Vespe for another interview, which she cancelled two days prior to the interview. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff has since applied for “other positions at Microsemi, ” but received responses that the positions he applied for were cancelled. Id. ¶ 27.

         Plaintiff alleges that Microchip “intentionally wanted to deny [him] an opportunity for employment despite the fact that [he is] qualified.” Id. ¶ 28. According to Plaintiff, “Defendant discriminated because the Defendant is revolted by people of [his] religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnic characteristics and disability, and especially those with a combination of all of the above.” Id.Plaintiff claims that Microchip violated Cal. Gov't Code § 12940 by (1) denying him employment and (2) harassing him, due to his religious creed, national origin, ancestry, and disability. Id. ¶¶ 29-30. Plaintiff claims that he obtained right-to-sue notices on both claims from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) on March 3, 2018. Id.

         On February 28, 2019, Plaintiff, filed suit against Microchip in the Superior Court of California for the County of Santa Clara. See Compl. On May 28, 2019, Microchip removed the case to United States District Court for the Northern District of California based on diversity of citizenship. ECF 1. Plaintiff filed a motion to remand, which the Court denied. ECF 16.

         B. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         Defendant concedes that Plaintiff has adequately pled that he falls within a number of protected classes but argue that his “Complaint fails to allege any facts suggesting that Defendant refused to hire him because he is a member of those protected classes.” MTD at 2. Defendant moves to dismiss based on the following grounds: (1) the Complaint lacks facts necessary to sufficiently allege a FEHA claim for discrimination (e.g., that he was qualified for the position(s) for which he applied, that Defendant either filled the position with someone who was less qualified and not within his protected classes, or continued searching for applicants of comparable qualifications), (2) the Complaint lacks facts necessary to sufficiently allege a FEHA claim for harassment (e.g., that he experienced unwelcome conduct or comments, based on one or more of his protected classes), and (3) Plaintiff fails to plead facts showing he exhausted his administrative remedies. Id. at 6-9.

         Defendant acknowledges that Plaintiff has alleged that he obtained DFEH right-to-sue notices on March 3, 2018. Id. at 8; see also Compl. ¶¶ 29-30. Nevertheless, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to include facts to support those allegations (e.g., when he filed a complaint with the DFEH or what protected classification he asserted as basis of his DFEH complaint). MTD at 8. Defendant claims that ...

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