Stewart v. Chick-Fil-A, Inc

Filing 14

ORDER : (1) Granting Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 6 ]; and (2) Denying as Moot to Remand [Doc. No. 9 ]. Signed by Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo on 6/4/2021.(All non-registered users served via U.S. Mail Service)(anh)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 Lindsey Stewart, Case No.: 21cv587-CAB-DEB Plaintiff, 12 13 14 ORDER: (1) GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS [Doc. No. 6]; and (2) DENYING AS MOOT MOTION TO REMAND [Doc. No. 9] v. Chick-Fil-A Inc., 15 Defendant. 16 17 On June 3, 2021, the Court held a hearing regarding Defendant Chick-Fil-A, Inc.’s 18 motion to dismiss the complaint [Doc. No. 6] and Plaintiff’s motion to remand to state 19 court [Doc. No. 9]. Plaintiff Lindsey Stewart, pro se, appeared at the hearing. Barbara 20 Miller, Esq., appeared on behalf of Defendant. For the reasons stated at the hearing and 21 as set forth below, Defendant’s motion to dismiss is GRANTED WITHOUT LEAVE 22 TO AMEND, and the motion to remand is DENIED AS MOOT. 23 24 PROCEDURAL HISTORY OF 2019 ACTION On September 17, 2019, Plaintiff Lindsey Stewart (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, 25 filed a complaint against Danny Putnam, Becky Putnam, 3 Little Cows, Inc., dba Chick- 26 Fil-A (“3 Little Cows”), and Chick-Fil-A, Inc (“CFA”), for employment discrimination 27 (hereinafter the “2019 Action”). [Case No. 19cv1780-CAB-DEB, Doc. No. 1.] On 28 November 6, 2019, Defendants filed motions to dismiss and strike the original complaint. 1 21cv587-CAB-DEB 1 [19cv1780, Doc. Nos. 5 and 7.] On January 17, 2020, this Court issued an order granting 2 the motions to dismiss the original complaint with leave to amend. [19cv1780, Doc. No. 3 21.] 4 On February 21, 2020, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). 5 [19cv1780, Doc. No. 22.] The FAC did not contain any allegations as to Defendant CFA 6 and therefore CFA was dismissed from the 2019 action. [19cv1780, Doc. No. 40 at 3.] 7 On March 12, 2020, Defendants Danny Putnam and 3 Little Cows filed a motion to 8 dismiss and strike the FAC. [19cv1780, Doc. No. 28.] On May 15, 2020, rather than 9 filing an opposition to Defendant’s motion, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend. [19cv1780, 10 Doc. No. 37.] On June 15, 2020, this Court issued an order granting in part the motion to 11 dismiss, denying the motion to strike, and denying Plaintiff’s motion to amend 12 (hereinafter the “June 15 Order”). [19cv1780, Doc. No. 40.] 13 In the June 15 Order, the Court dismissed Plaintiff’s gender discrimination, sexual 14 harassment, and age discrimination claims without leave to amend. [19cv1780, Doc. No. 15 40 at 3-5.] The Court also made clear the 2019 Action would proceed only as to the 16 fourth cause of action for retaliation, and only against Defendant 3 Little Cows. 17 [19cv1780, Doc. No. 40 at 7.] 18 On October 2, 2020, Plaintiff filed a Motion to take leave to amend under FRCP 19 15(a)(1), requesting that she be allowed to amend the FAC to again add CFA as a 20 defendant, and to add new causes of action for (1) Wrongful Termination in Violation of 21 Public Policy; (2) Failure to Prevent Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation of 22 FEHA; and (3) Failure to Investigate Work Place Sexual Harassment Complaints. 23 [19cv1780, Doc. No. 54.] On November 3, 2020, this Court issued an order denying 24 Plaintiff’s motion to amend her FAC. [19cv1780, Doc. No. 56 at 3-5.] 25 On February 2, 2021, Plaintiff and defendant 3 Little Cows participated in a 26 mandatory settlement conference and the case settled. [19cv1780, Doc. No. 63.] On May 27 20, 2021, the case was dismissed with prejudice. [Doc. No. 73.] 28 ///// 2 21cv587-CAB-DEB 1 PROCEDURAL HISTORY OF CURRENT CASE 2 In the meantime, on December 18, 2020, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the San 3 Diego Superior Court, entitled Lindsey Stewart v. Chick-fil-A, Inc., Case No. 37-2020- 4 00046783-CU-OE-CTL (the “2020 Action”). [Doc. No. 1-2.] 5 On April 5, 2021, Defendant CFA removed the 2020 Action to this Court. [Doc. 6 No. 1.] On April 12, 2021, Defendant CFA filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. 7 [Doc. No. 6.] Plaintiff did not file an opposition to the motion to dismiss. However, on 8 May 5, 2021, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand to state court. [Doc. No. 9.] 9 10 LEGAL STANDARD Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a party to raise by motion the 11 defense that the complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted”— 12 generally referred to as a motion to dismiss. The Court evaluates whether a complaint 13 states a cognizable legal theory and sufficient facts in light of Federal Rule of Civil 14 Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that 15 the pleader is entitled to relief.” Although Rule 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual 16 allegations,’ . . . it [does] demand . . . more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully- 17 harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. 18 Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). 19 “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual 20 matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Id. 21 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A claim is facially 22 plausible when the collective facts pled “allow . . . the court to draw the reasonable 23 inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. There must be 24 “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. Facts “‘merely 25 consistent with’ a defendant’s liability” fall short of a plausible entitlement to relief. Id. 26 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). The Court need not accept as true “legal 27 conclusions” contained in the complaint, id., or other “allegations that are merely 28 conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences,” Daniels-Hall v. 3 21cv587-CAB-DEB 1 Nat’l Educ. Ass’n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). 2 DISCUSSION 3 As discussed extensively at the hearing, Plaintiff fails to plead facts stating a claim 4 against CFA.1 First, Plaintiff’s FEHA claims fail because, just as in the 2019 Action, 5 Plaintiff does not allege that CFA was her employer.2 [See 19cv1780, Doc. No. 21 at 3- 6 4; 19cv1780, Doc. No. 56 at 3-5.] Second, just as in the 2019 Action, Plaintiff does not 7 sufficiently allege that CFA was a joint employer.3 Id. Third, just as in the 2019 Action, 8 Plaintiff fails to plead the factual basis for either of her claims, as she does not allege that 9 she herself was harassed or discriminated, does not present facts showing that Defendant 10 failed to prevent retaliation, and does not say how she was harmed. [See 19cv1780, Doc. 11 No. 56 at 3-4.] Finally, Plaintiff’s second cause of action for “Failure to Provide Required 12 Mechanism in the Complaint Process to Report Sexual Harassment” is identical to the 13 one she attempted to assert in the 2019 Action and fails for the same reason – there is no 14 private right of action under California Government Code sections 12940(k) or 12950. 15 [19cv1780, Doc. No. 56 at 4-5.] Therefore, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against CFA. This is Plaintiff’s third unsuccessful attempt to state a claim against CFA. At the 16 17 hearing, Plaintiff acknowledged that she has no further facts she could allege to state a 18 claim against CFA. Therefore, leave to amend would be futile. 19 CONCLUSION 20 For the reasons stated at the hearing and as set forth above, Defendant’s motion to 21 dismiss the complaint is GRANTED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. The pending 22 motion to remand [Doc. No. 9] is DENIED AS MOOT. The Clerk shall enter judgment 23 24 25 26 27 28 The Court declines to reach the issue of whether Plaintiff’s complaint is barred by res judicata. In fact, Plaintiff alleges that she was “employed by CFA Three Little Cows.” [Doc. No. 1 at 2.] 3 Plaintiff’s allegation that there was an “operators agreement” between CFA and Three Little Cows [Doc. No. 1 at 3], merely shows that she was employed by a CFA franchisee. See Salazar v. McDonald’s Corp., 939 F.3d 1051, 1056 (9th Cir. 2019)(“McDonald’s involvement in its franchises and with workers at the franchises is central to modern franchising and to the company’s ability to maintain brand standards, but does not represent control over wages, hours, or working conditions”). 1 2 4 21cv587-CAB-DEB 1 2 3 accordingly and CLOSE the case. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: June 4, 2021 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5 21cv587-CAB-DEB

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