Francis v. County of San Mateo et al, No. 4:2010cv04343 - Document 29 (N.D. Cal. 2010)

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Francis v. County of San Mateo et al Doc. 29 1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 No. C 10-04343 CW MARTINA FRANCIS, 5 6 7 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 ORDER DEFERRING DECISION ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS (Docket No. 18) AND ALLOWING PLAINTIFF TO FILE FURTHER BRIEFING Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF SAN MATEO, a municipal corporation; DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH ADMINISTRATION, a department of County of San Mateo; and FAMILY HEALTH SERVICES, a department of County of San Mateo, Defendants. 11 / 12 13 Plaintiff Martina Francis, who is proceeding pro se, charges 14 Defendants County of San Mateo, et al., with violations of Title 15 VII and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), 16 invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy and wrongful termination. 17 Defendant San Mateo County moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title VII, 18 invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy and wrongful termination 19 claims. 20 the other named Defendants, which are its subordinate departments. 21 Plaintiff opposes the motion, asserting that it failed to give her 22 adequate notice of which Rule 12(b) defense the County raised. 23 also argues that the County filed the motion in bad faith. 24 motion was taken under submission on the papers. 25 the papers submitted by the parties, the Court DEFERS its decision 26 on the County’s motion and allows Plaintiff the opportunity to 27 respond to the County’s argument that her Title VII is time-barred. The County’s motion encompasses claims against itself and She The Having considered 28 1 2 Plaintiff, who is African American, was allegedly employed by 3 the County from January, 2008 through August 5, 2010.1 4 that she worked as an Administrative Secretary III for the County’s 5 Department of Health Administration and its Family Health Services 6 division. 7 June, 2008 and May, 2009. 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California BACKGROUND She avers The conduct of which she complains occurred between Plaintiff alleges that she filed a charge of discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing 10 (DFEH). 11 on June 11, 2009. 12 sue letters from the DFEH, dated November 12, 2009, which refer to 13 case numbers E200809A0373-01-re and E200809A0373-00-re/37AA904048. 14 She does not allege that she filed a complaint with or obtained 15 right-to-sue letters from the Equal Employment Opportunity 16 Commission (EEOC). 17 In her complaint, she refers to a DFEH complaint she filed She attaches to her current pleading right-to- The County, in a request for judicial notice, proffers 18 documents related to case number E200809A0373-00-re/37AA904048, 19 which pertain to a complaint of discrimination filed by Plaintiff 20 on November 12, 2008. 21 to a complaint of discrimination apparently filed by Plaintiff on 22 June 11, 2009, which bears the case number 23 E200809A0753-00-me/37AA904283. 24 complaints were filed both with the DFEH and the EEOC. 25 The County also proffers documents related The November, 2008 and June, 2009 The County tenders an EEOC notice, mailed December 8, 2009, 26 1 27 The County suggests that Plaintiff was discharged in August, 2009, not August, 2010. County’s Mot. at 5 n.3. 28 2 1 stating that the agency closed its case on Plaintiff’s November, 2 2008 complaint. 3 The notice stated that Plaintiff was required to file suit against 4 the County within ninety days. 5 The County tenders another EEOC notice, mailed April 7, 2010, 6 stating that the agency closed its case on Plaintiff’s June 11, 7 2009 complaint. 8 she was required to file suit against the County within ninety 9 days. 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California Def.’s Request for Judicial Notice (RJN), Ex. B. RJN, Ex. E. Plaintiff filed her action on September 24, 2010. 11 12 The notice informed Plaintiff that LEGAL STANDARD A complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the 13 claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” 14 Civ. P. 8(a). 15 claim is appropriate only when the complaint does not give the 16 defendant fair notice of a legally cognizable claim and the grounds 17 on which it rests. 18 (2007). 19 state a claim, the court will take all material allegations as true 20 and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. 21 Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986). 22 However, this principle is inapplicable to legal conclusions; 23 “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, 24 supported by mere conclusory statements,” are not taken as true. 25 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009) 26 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Fed. R. Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 In considering whether the complaint is sufficient to 27 When granting a motion to dismiss, the court is generally 28 3 NL United States District Court For the Northern District of California 1 required to grant the plaintiff leave to amend, even if no request 2 to amend the pleading was made, unless amendment would be futile. 3 Cook, Perkiss & Liehe, Inc. v. N. Cal. Collection Serv. Inc., 911 4 F.2d 242, 246-47 (9th Cir. 1990). 5 would be futile, the court examines whether the complaint could be 6 amended to cure the defect requiring dismissal “without 7 contradicting any of the allegations of [the] original complaint.” 8 Reddy v. Litton Indus., Inc., 912 F.2d 291, 296 (9th Cir. 1990). 9 Leave to amend should be liberally granted, but an amended In determining whether amendment 10 complaint cannot allege facts inconsistent with the challenged 11 pleading. Id. at 296-97. 12 13 DISCUSSION Plaintiff did not respond substantively to the County’s motion 14 to dismiss. 15 her “due process right” because it failed to give her notice of 16 which Rule 12(b) defense the County intended to assert. 17 the County makes sufficiently clear that it seeks to dismiss 18 Plaintiff’s claims on grounds that her Title VII is time-barred, 19 her invasion of privacy and civil conspiracy claims are not 20 sufficiently plead and her wrongful termination claim is barred as 21 a matter of state law. 22 with Bartholomew v. Port, in which the defendants’ motion to 23 dismiss did “not state with particularity the grounds therefor.” 24 309 F. Supp. 1340, 1344 (E.D. Wis. 1970). 25 Plaintiff on notice as to the defenses it raised. 26 27 28 Instead, she argues that the County’s motion violated See County’s Mot. at 6-9. However, This contrasts The County’s motion put Plaintiff also contends that the County filed the motion in bad faith because it relied on documents outside of the pleadings. 4 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 1 Although courts generally cannot consider documentary evidence on a 2 motion to dismiss, doing so is appropriate when the pleadings refer 3 to the documents, their authenticity is not in question and there 4 are no disputes over their relevance. 5 Eisenberg, 593 F.3d 1031, 1038 (9th Cir. 2010); Branch v. Tunnell, 6 14 F.3d 449, 454 (9th Cir. 1994) (holding that courts may properly 7 consider documents “whose contents are alleged in a complaint and 8 whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically 9 attached to the [plaintiff's] pleadings”). Coto Settlement v. In her 1AC, Plaintiff 10 referred to a DFEH complaint filed on June 11, 2009 and attached 11 right-to-sue notices related to a complaint bearing case numbers 12 E200809A0373-01-re and E200809A0373-00-re/37AA904048. 13 proffer relates to these complaints, and Plaintiff does not contest 14 the authenticity or relevance of the tendered documents. 15 Accordingly, the Court may consider them on a motion to dismiss. 16 The County’s Based on these documents, Plaintiff’s claims under Title VII 17 are time-barred. 18 becoming eligible for one by the Commission’s inaction, a plaintiff 19 generally has 90 days to file suit.” 20 F.3d ___, 2010 WL 4273357, at *5 (9th Cir.) (citing 42 U.S.C. 21 § 2000e-5(f)(1)). 22 letters in December, 2009 and April, 2010, well over ninety days 23 before she filed suit on September 24, 2010. 24 Plaintiff did not respond to this argument, and nothing in her 25 motion or her complaint would support equitable tolling of the 26 statute of limitations. 27 is a statute of limitations subject to equitable tolling in 28 “After receiving an EEOC right-to-sue letter or Stiefel v. Bechtel Corp., ___ Here, Plaintiff received the EEOC right-to-sue As noted above, See id. (stating that the “filing period 5 1 2 Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court affords her 3 the opportunity to respond specifically to the County’s argument 4 concerning her Title VII claim. 5 the authenticity of the documents proffered by Defendant, if she 6 can truthfully do so, or provide grounds for applying the doctrine 7 of equitable tolling, excusing her from the ninety-day filing 8 requirement.2 9 her other claims or re-assert those arguments she included in her 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California appropriate circumstances”) (citation omitted). 11 In any response, she may contest Plaintiff shall not offer argument related to any of current opposition. Notably, Plaintiff’s Title VII claim enabled the Court to 12 exercise federal question jurisdiction of her action. 13 U.S.C. § 1331; 1AC ¶ 1. 14 remain in her suit and, as a result, the exercise of supplemental 15 jurisdiction over her remaining state law claims is not necessary.3 16 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). 17 prejudice to refiling in state court. See 28 If it is dismissed, no federal claim would These claims would be dismissed without 18 19 2 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 To invoke the doctrine of equitable tolling, Plaintiff must show her “excusable ignorance of the limitations period” and the lack of prejudice to the County. Santa Maria v. Pac. Bell, 202 F.3d 1170, 1176 (9th Cir. 2000). This may include circumstances in which, despite her diligence, Plaintiff was “unable to obtain vital information bearing on the existence” of her Title VII claim. Id. at 1178. However, Plaintiff may not invoke equitable tolling if, within the ninety-day filing period, she had “sufficient information to know of the possible existence of a claim.” Id. at 1179; see also Scholar v. Pac. Bell, 963 F.2d 264, 268 (9th Cir. 1992) (stating that courts “have been generally unforgiving” in excusing a plaintiff’s failure “to exercise due diligence in preserving his legal rights”) (citation omitted). 3 27 28 Plaintiff does not assert that the Court has diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. 6 1 2 For the foregoing reasons, the Court DEFERS its decision on 3 the County’s motion to dismiss pending Plaintiff’s response to the 4 argument that her Title VII claim is time-barred. 5 file an opposition in a brief not to exceed five pages within seven 6 days of the date of this Order. 7 thereafter in a brief not to exceed three pages. 8 fails to file a response, her Title VII claim will be dismissed 9 with prejudice as time-barred, and her state law claims will be 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California CONCLUSION Plaintiff may The County may reply three days If Plaintiff dismissed without prejudice to refiling in state court. 11 The hearing set for December 16, 2010 is VACATED. 12 IT IS SO ORDERED. 13 14 Dated: 12/8/2010 CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7 1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 2 3 FRANCIS et al, Case Number: CV10-04343 CW 4 Plaintiff, CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE 5 v. 6 COUNTY OF SAN MATEO et al, 7 Defendant. 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 / I, the undersigned, hereby certify that I am an employee in the Office of the Clerk, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. That on December 8, 2010, I SERVED a true and correct copy(ies) of the attached, by placing said copy(ies) in a postage paid envelope addressed to the person(s) hereinafter listed, by depositing said envelope in the U.S. Mail, or by placing said copy(ies) into an inter-office delivery receptacle located in the Clerk's office. 13 14 16 Martina Francis 1918 Lakeshore Avenue, #47 Oakland, CA 94606 17 Dated: December 8, 2010 15 18 Richard W. Wieking, Clerk By: Nikki Riley, Deputy Clerk 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8