Lee v. City of Sacramento

Filing 29

ORDER denying the City's 23 Motion to Strike, signed by District Judge John A. Mendez on 8/3/17. The City shall file its Answer to the SAC within 20 days of this Order. (Kastilahn, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 10 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 11 12 IVAN S. LEE, 13 2:17-cv-00118-JAM-EFB Plaintiff, 14 15 No. v. ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO STRIKE CITY OF SACRAMENTO, 16 Defendant. 17 Plaintiff Ivan S. Lee sues the City of Sacramento (“City”) 18 19 for several violations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 20 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and California’s Fair Employment and 21 Housing Act (“FEHA”), Cal. Gov’t Code § 12940. 22 (“SAC”), ECF No. 22. 23 statement or, alternatively, to strike several allegations in the 24 SAC. 25 explained below, the Court denies Defendant’s motion. 1 26 1 27 28 ECF No. 23. Second Am. Compl. The City now moves for a more definite Plaintiff opposes. ECF No. 26. For reasons This motion was determined to be suitable for decision without oral argument. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). The hearing was scheduled for July 25, 2017. In deciding this motion, the Court takes as true all well-pleaded facts in the operative complaint. 1 1 2 I. BACKGROUND Lee filed his original complaint and first amended complaint 3 pro se in Sacramento County Superior Court. ECF No. 1, Notice of 4 Removal, at 2. 5 which Lee retained counsel. See generally id. 6 moved to dismiss Lee’s FAC. ECF No. 8. 7 City’s motion with leave to amend. 8 timely SAC, alleging race discrimination violations under Title 9 VII (claim one) and FEHA (claim two), failure to prevent The City removed the case to this Court, after The City then This Court granted the ECF No. 18. Lee filed a 10 discrimination (claim three), and retaliation (claim four). 11 at 4-7. 12 alternatively, motion for a more definite statement. SAC Now before the Court is the City’s motion to strike or, ECF No. 23. 13 14 II. OPINION 15 A. Rule 12(f) 16 The City moves to strike paragraphs 6, 7, and 8 of the SAC, 17 arguing that these allegations say nothing about Lee having 18 timely exhausted his administrative rights. 19 Rule 12(f) allows a district court to “strike from a pleading 20 . . . any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous 21 matter.” 22 comprised ‘of allegations that constitute a needless repetition 23 of other averments or which are foreign to the issue to be 24 denied.’” 25 LLC, No. 1:14-cv-01445-JLT, 2015 WL 4496349, at *1 (E.D. Cal. 26 July 23, 2015) (citation omitted). 27 no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief 28 or the defenses being pleaded,’ while an ‘[i]mpertinent matter Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). See Mot. at 2-4. “A ‘redundant’ matter is Bakersfield Pipe & Supply, Inc. v. Cornerstone Valve, 2 “An immaterial matter ‘has 1 consists of statements that do not pertain, and are not 2 necessary, to the issues in question.’” 3 omitted). 4 Id. (citations Yet, here, in moving to strike paragraphs 6-8, the City 5 cites not one of Rule 12(f)’s textual bases. Instead, the City 6 contends merely that this Court should strike paragraph 6 7 because Lee “did not file the required claim within 180 days of 8 the allegedly discriminatory bid process”; should strike 9 paragraph 7 because it “is silent as to when [Lee] was assigned 10 unpopular tasks”; and should strike paragraph 8 because Lee took 11 too long to file his complaint with the Department of Fair 12 Employment and Housing (“DFEH”). 13 disagrees, arguing he timely exhausted his administrative 14 remedies and that, at the very least, paragraphs 6-8 provide the 15 Court relevant background information. 16 The City’s See Mot. at 3-4. Lee See Opp’n at 2-3. motion to strike is not well taken. A Rule 17 12(f) motion’s purpose “is to avoid the expenditure of time and 18 money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by 19 dispensing with those issues prior to trial.” 20 & Supply, Inc., 2015 WL 4496349 at *1 (citation omitted). 21 Yet, here, paragraphs 6-8 do not raise “spurious issues” because 22 Lee has, in fact, timely exhausted his administrative remedies. 23 Lee filed his first administrative complaint with the Equal 24 Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on February 12, 2010, 25 Notice of Removal at 27-29 (attached as Ex. 1), and this was 26 constructively filed with the DFEH. 27 Stanislaus, No. 1:13-cv-1897-AWI-SAB, 2014 WL 1922560, at *7 28 (E.D. Cal. May 14, 2014) (“The California DFEH and the EEOC have 3 Bakersfield Pipe Fresquez v. Cty. of 1 a work share agreement whereby charges filed with either the 2 EEOC or the DFEH are deemed ‘constructively filed’ with the 3 other.”) (citing 29 C.F.R. § 1626.10(c)). 4 complaint, Lee cited the same discriminatory acts the City wants 5 this Court to strike from the SAC. 6 bid process; completing tasks other non-black employees need not 7 complete; September 16, 2009 emergency task; and noting that the 8 latest discriminatory act occurred 10 days before he filed the 9 charge). In his first EEOC See Ex. 1 (citing July 2009 Because this EEOC complaint triggered the constructive 10 filing of Lee’s DFEH complaint, Lee had a claim pending in a 11 state agency and, so, had 300 days to file this EEOC complaint. 12 See Parks v. Bd. of Trs. of Cal. State Univ., No. 1:09-cv-1314 13 AWI GSA, 2010 WL 455394, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 3, 2010) 14 (explaining plaintiff must “file a complaint with the EEOC 15 within 180 days of the discriminatory act, or 300 days if a 16 claim is pending in a state agency”). 17 complaint was timely. 18 Lee’s first EEOC Lee also filed a second EEOC complaint on June 13, 2011. 19 See Ex. 1. 20 discriminatory acts that occurred through April 28, 2011. 21 The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on February 25, 2016. 22 Notice of Removal, at 34-35 (attached as Ex. 3). 23 filed his original pro se complaint on May 24, 2016, see Notice 24 of Removal at 4-7 (attached as Ex. 1), satisfying the Ninth 25 Circuit’s 90-day rule, see Stiefel v. Bechtel Corp., 624 F.3d 26 1240, 1245 (9th Cir. 2010) (a plaintiff generally has 90 days to 27 file suit after receiving a right-to-sue letter). 28 He cited his 2010 EEOC complaint and listed more Id. See Lee timely In sum, because paragraphs 6-8 lack allegations involving 4 1 “redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter,” the 2 Court denies the City’s motion to strike these paragraphs. 3 courts “read Rule 12(f) in a manner that allowed litigants to 4 use it as a means to dismiss some or all of a pleading . . . we 5 would be creating redundancies within the Federal Rules of Civil 6 Procedure, because a Rule 12(b)(6) motion (or a motion for 7 summary judgment at a later stage in the proceedings) already 8 serves such a purpose.” 9 618 F.3d 970, 974 (9th Cir. 2010). If Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 10 B. Rule 12(e) 11 The City also asks this Court to order Lee to provide a more 12 definite statement to specify “how his work was scrutinized, how 13 he was punished, ‘discriminated against,’ when these events 14 occurred, and whether he filed a timely claim with either the 15 EEOC or the DFEH.” Mot. at 4-5. 16 This too is without merit. Rule 8(a)’s notice pleading 17 standard applies to Title VII suits. 18 discrimination complaint need not contain specific facts 19 establishing a prima facie case of discrimination under the 20 McDonnell-Douglas framework; instead, it “must contain only ‘a 21 short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader 22 is entitled to relief.’” 23 508 (2002) (citing Rule 8(a)(2)). 24 good law after Twombly and Iqbal, see Cormier v. All Am. Asphalt, 25 458 F. App’x 620 (9th Cir. 2011), a Title VII complaint “easily 26 satisfies” Rule 8(a)’s requirements when “it gives respondent 27 fair notice of the basis for petitioner’s claims.” 28 534 U.S. at 508. An employment Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, 5 Because Swierkiewicz is still Swierkiewicz, 1 This is precisely what Lee has done here. As to his race 2 discrimination claims, Lee alleges the City demoted him because 3 of his race. 4 to his demotion and provides relevant dates. 5 16, 19-20. 6 and, assumed true, more than plausibly suggest Lee is entitled to 7 relief. 8 See SAC ¶¶ 15, 19. Lee details the events leading See SAC ¶¶ 6-8, 15- These allegations are neither bare nor conclusory As to his retaliation claim, Lee alleges sufficient non- 9 conclusory facts to plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief 10 because his SAC alleges everything needed to establish a prima 11 facie case of retaliation. 12 2010 and 2011 when he filed his discrimination charges with the 13 DFEH and EEOC. 14 demoted him, see SAC ¶ 13 (demoted on April 7, 2011); after 15 filing his second EEOC complaint, the City “stacked infractions” 16 against him “to cover its anger against [Lee] for filing 17 [administrative claims]”, see SAC ¶¶ 26-27. 18 state a retaliation claim. 19 No. CIV. S-13-1283 LKK/DAD, 2013 WL 6844493, at *6 (E.D. Cal. 20 Dec. 23, 2013) (prima facie case of retaliation: (1) involvement 21 in protected activity; (2) employer committed adverse employment 22 action; and (3) causal link between the two). 23 Lee engaged in protected activity in After filing his first EEOC complaint, the City This suffices to See Burch v. Dep’t of Motor Vehicles, And, finally, as to Lee’s failure-to-prevent-discrimination 24 claim, because he has stated Title VII and FEHA discrimination 25 claims, he has sufficiently stated a failure-to-prevent- 26 discrimination claim. 27 No. 1:15-cv-01104-MJS, 2015 WL 5604394 at *17 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 28 23, 2015). See Mock v. Cal. Dep’t of Corrs. & Rehab., 6 1 Simply put, the City has fair notice of Lee’s claims and the 2 grounds upon which they rest. That is all Rule 8(a) requires. 3 See Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 515 (holding a complaint detailing 4 events leading to adverse employment action and providing 5 relevant dates easily satisfies Rule 8(a)’s pleading 6 requirements). 7 8 III. ORDER 9 For the reasons set forth above, the Court DENIES the City’s 10 Motion in its entirety. The City shall file its Answer to the SAC 11 within twenty days of this Order. 12 13 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: August 3, 2017 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

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