Villaflor v. U.S. Postal Service et al

Filing 29

ORDER granting defendants' 19 Motion to Dismiss; defendants Julio Rodriguez, U.S. Postal Service, Ron Harrell and Yun Hee Lee are dismissed; plaintiff granted leave to amend within 21 days signed by Judge Ricardo S Martinez.(RS)

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  1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 10 11 12 Case No. C16-1757 RSM ERNESTO VILLAFLOR, ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS Plaintiff, v. 14 U.S. POSTAL SERVICE; MEGAN BRENNAN, POSTMASTER GENERAL; YUN HEE LEE; RON HARRELL, JULIO RODRIGUEZ, 15 Defendants. 13 16 I. INTRODUCTION 17 18 This matter comes before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss claims against 19 Defendants United States Postal Service, Yun Hee Lee, Ron Harrell, and Julio Rodriguez 20 pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Dkt. #19. Plaintiff Ernesto Villaflor opposes this 21 Motion. Dkt. #18. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion 22 23 24 under Rule 12(b)(6), dismisses Mr. Villaflor’s claims against all Defendants except Megan Brennan with prejudice, and dismisses Mr. Villaflor’s ADA claim with leave to amend. II. BACKGROUND 25 26 27 Plaintiff Ernesto Villaflor alleges that he is an employee of the United States Postal Service. See Dkt. #1 at ¶ 1. Mr. Villaflor alleges he was discriminated against in his 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS - 1   1 employment by his employer due to his disability, race, color, gender, and age and also was 2 retaliated against for engaging in protected EEO activity. See id. at ¶¶ 20-62. Mr. Villaflor 3 names as defendants the United States Postal Service, Postmaster General Megan Brennan, sued 4 in her official capacity, and Mr. Villaflor’s supervisors, Yun Hee Lee, Ron Harrell, and Julio 5 6 7 Rodriguez, sued in their individual capacity. See id. at ¶¶ 2-6, 63. Mr. Villaflor alleges that Defendants Lee, Harrell, and Rodriguez were supervisors at the Post Office where he worked 8 and that they “acted within the scope and authority of their employment with the United States 9 Postal Service.” Id. at ¶ 19. Defendant Brennan admits these allegations. See Dkt. #8 at ¶ 19. 10 11 12 On January 17, 2017, Defendants United States Postal Service and Postmaster General Megan Brennan (“Postal Service” and “Brennan”) filed their Answer. See id. The Court 13 granted Individual Defendants’ “Unopposed Motion to Extend Deadline to Respond to 14 Plaintiffs’ Complaint” so that these defendants, Lee, Harrell, and Rodriguez, could obtain DOJ 15 authorization for legal representation. See Dkts. ##14 and 16. Individual Defendants Lee and 16 Harrell file this motion to dismiss as their response to the plaintiff’s complaint. Defendants 17 18 Postal Service and Brennan join in the motion. Defense counsel has represented efforts to 19 represent Defendant Rodriguez and the difficulty in doing so due to his serious illness. See 20 Dkt. #21. 21 22 23 24 III. DISCUSSION A. Legal Standard In making a 12(b)(6) assessment, the court accepts all facts alleged in the complaint as 25 true, and makes all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Baker v. 26 Riverside County Office of Educ., 584 F.3d 821, 824 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted). 27 However, the court is not required to accept as true a “legal conclusion couched as a factual 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS - 2   1 allegation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 2 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as 3 true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 678. This requirement is met 4 when the plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference 5 6 7 that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The complaint need not include detailed allegations, but it must have “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic 8 recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Absent 9 facial plausibility, Plaintiff’s claims must be dismissed. Id. at 570. 10 11 12 Where a complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim, “leave to amend should be granted unless the court determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with the 13 challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency.” Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv- 14 Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986). 15 B. Standing 16 As an initial matter, Mr. Villaflor argues that defense counsel does not have “standing” 17 18 to file this Motion on behalf of Defendant Julio Rodriguez or that the Motion cannot apply to 19 him. 20 Defendants’ arguments apply equally to Mr. Rodriguez and that the Court has the authority to 21 dismiss claims against Mr. Rodriguez even if this Motion was brought by his co-defendants. 22 23 24 Dkt. #24 at 2-3. Mr. Villaflor cites to no legal authority. The Court finds that The Court notes that defense counsel has taken reasonable efforts to represent Mr. Rodriguez. C. ADA Claim against Federal Employer 25 Plaintiff’s First Cause of Action is brought pursuant to the Americans with Disability 26 Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112. See Dkt. #1, ¶¶ 42-47, 60-62. Defendants argue that this 27 claim should be dismissed because the ADA does not apply to federal employers. Dkt. #19 at 3 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS - 3   1 (citing Maish v. Napolitano, No. C12-581RAJ, 2013 WL 5770345, at *4 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 24, 2 2013); Cornette v. Potter, No. C09-5373BHS, 2009 WL 5195793, at *3 (W.D. Wash. Dec. 21, 3 2009), aff'd sub nom. Cornette v. Donahoe, 472 F. App'x 482 (9th Cir. 2012)). Defendants 4 argue that the exclusive remedy is under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 791, et seq. Id. 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Mr. Villaflor essentially concedes these points in his Response. See Dkt. #24 at 4. The Court will therefore dismiss this cause of action and encourages Mr. Villaflor to amend. D. Claims against Individual Defendants and the USPS Defendants argue that the only proper defendant for all of Mr. Villaflor’s claims is the “head of the department, agency or unit.” Dkt. #19 at 3 (citing Johnston v. Horne, 875 F.2d 1415, 1418–19 (9th Cir. 1989)); Dkt. #19 at 4 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(c)-16; Romain v. 13 Shear, 799 F.2d 1416, 1418-19 (9th Cir. 1986); Scott v. Moniz, No. C14-5684 RJB, 2014 WL 14 12539672, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 17, 2014)). Defendants argue that Title VII does not 15 impose individual liability on employees, even supervisors. Id. at 4 (citing, inter alia, Greenlaw 16 v. Garrett, 59 F.3d 994, 1001 (9th Cir. 1995)). 17 18 In Response, Mr. Villaflor argues that the individual Defendants in this case are liable 19 under the alter ego doctrine, citing only to a case interpreting New York law, which dealt with a 20 non-federal employer. Dkt. #24 at 5-6 (citing Lane v. Maryhaven Ctr. of Hope, 944 F. Supp. 21 158 (E.D.N.Y. 1996)). 22 23 24 On Reply, Defendants argue that Mr. Villaflor’s reliance on Lane is misplaced, first because the Lane court actually granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), 25 and second because Lane involved a corporate employer and not a federal government 26 employer. Dkt. #28 at 2. Defendants point out that Mr. Villaflor fails to address “federal 27 statutory authority and Ninth Circuit precedent identified in Defendants’ motion that directs that 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS - 4   1 2 the only proper defendant in a federal employment discrimination action is the head of the department, agency, or unit, sued in an official capacity only.” Id. at 1. 3 The Court agrees with Defendants. The individual Defendants acted within the scope 4 and authority of their employment, and the employer in this case is a federal agency. The law is 5 6 7 clear that they cannot be sued individually, and Mr. Villaflor presents no valid argument otherwise. An alter-ego analysis as described in Lane is inapplicable here for the reasons stated 8 by Defendants. The Court will dismiss with prejudice under Rule 12(b)(6) all claims against 9 Defendants United States Postal Service, Yun Hee Lee, Ron Harrell, and Julio Rodriguez. The 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 only proper defendant in this federal employment discrimination action is Defendant Megan Brennan, Postmaster General, sued in her official capacity only. The Court need not conduct a Rule 12(b)(1) analysis given the above. E. Leave to Amend Where a complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim, “leave to amend should be granted unless the court determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with the 17 18 challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency.” Schreiber, supra. The Court finds 19 that Mr. Villaflor should be granted leave solely to amend his ADA claim to properly assert 20 claims under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 791, et seq. Mr. Villaflor cannot present other 21 facts consistent with the existing Complaint that could cure the other deficiencies above. 22 23 24 25 26 27 IV. CONCLUSION Having reviewed the relevant pleadings, the declarations and exhibits attached thereto, and the remainder of the record, the Court hereby finds and ORDERS: 1) Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #19) is GRANTED. Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants United States Postal Service, Yun Hee Lee, Ron Harrell, and Julio 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS - 5   1 2 Rodriguez are DISMISSED with prejudice. Plaintiff’s first cause of action, brought under the ADA, is dismissed without prejudice. 3 2) Plaintiff is granted leave to amend his first cause of action no later than twenty-one 4 (21) days from the date of this Order. Failure to file an Amended Complaint within 5 6 this time period will result in dismissal of these claims. 7 8 9 10 11 12 DATED this 7th day of July 2017. A RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS - 6

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