Kannan v. Apple Inc., No. 5:2017cv07305 - Document 33 (N.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: ORDER GRANTING 13 DEFENDANT APPLE INC.'S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. Signed by Judge Edward J. Davila on 4/19/2018. (ejdlc2S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/19/2018)
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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 SAN JOSE DIVISION 7 8 RAJA KANNAN, Case No. 5:17-cv-07305-EJD Plaintiff, 9 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT APPLE INC.’S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND v. 10 11 APPLE INC., Re: Dkt. No. 13 United States District Court Northern District of California Defendant. 12 13 Plaintiff Raja Kannan (“Plaintiff”) filed this lawsuit against Defendant Apple Inc. 14 15 (“Defendant”), alleging employment discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities 16 Act (“ADA”) and California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Dkt. No. 1 17 (“Compl.”). Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims under Federal Rule of Civil 18 Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and, alternatively, under Federal Rule of 19 Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s 20 motion is GRANTED. 21 I. BACKGROUND 22 According to the allegations in the Complaint, Plaintiff began his employment with 23 Defendant on August 29, 2011 as an SCM Build & Release Engineer, level IC4. Compl. ¶ 10. In 24 the fall of 2013, Plaintiff internally interviewed for an IS&T Project Manager position with a team 25 managed by Joseph Kotni. Id. ¶ 12. As part of the interview, Plaintiff disclosed that he had an 26 autistic son and that he needed flexible working hours to provide care. Id. Plaintiff was offered 27 the position at his same IC4 level and began work in this new position on November 3, 2014. Id. 28 Case No.: 5:17-cv-07305-EJD ORDER GRANTING APPLE INC.’S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND 1 1 ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that he had asked whether he could start this position at the IC5 level, but 2 Defendant declined this request. Id. Over the course of the next few years, Plaintiff received some upward adjustments in his 3 compensation, but was never promoted to the IC5 level. Id. ¶¶ 14-16. Nevertheless, Plaintiff 5 alleges, Mr. Kotni did hire at least three external people between 2015-17 who were given a level 6 of IC5 or higher. Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiff also alleges that Mr. Kotni purposefully gave him lower 7 ratings in his internal reviews so that he would not receive as many Apple Restricted Stock Units 8 (“RSU”) as his peers. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff asserts that, cumulatively, these decisions resulted in a 9 33% reduction in compensation over what he otherwise would have been entitled to. Id. ¶ 22. 10 Plaintiff filed an administrative complaint of discrimination with the California 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 4 Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) on April 5, 2016. Id. ¶ 5. The DFEH 12 marked his complaint as received and dual-filed it with the Equal Employment Opportunity 13 Commission (“EEOC”) on May 10, 2016. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. On December 27, 2016, the DFEH sent 14 Plaintiff a right to sue letter. Id. ¶ 8. The letter notified Plaintiff that, should he file suit, “[t]he 15 civil action must be field within one year from the date of this letter.” DFEH Right to Sue Letter 16 (“DFEH Letter”), Dkt. No. 1 at 10-12. On December 26, 2017, 364 days later, Plaintiff filed the instant suit. Compl. In his 17 18 Complaint, Plaintiff alleges two causes of action: (1) discrimination in violation of the ADA; and 19 (2) discrimination in violation of the California FEHA. Compl. ¶¶ 24-41. Defendant responded 20 with the instant motion to dismiss. Mot. to Dismiss (“MTD”), Dkt. No. 13. 21 22 II. LEGAL STANDARDS A Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenges a court’s subject matter jurisdiction and may be either 23 facial or factual. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1); Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 362 (9th Cir. 2004). 24 When a defendant makes a facial challenge, as in this case, all material allegations in the 25 complaint are assumed true, and the court must determine whether lack of federal jurisdiction 26 appears from the face of the complaint itself. Wolfe, 392 F.3d at 362. Standing can be properly 27 challenged through a Rule 12(b)(1) motion. White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000). 28 Case No.: 5:17-cv-07305-EJD ORDER GRANTING APPLE INC.’S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND 2 1 Since standing is “an indispensable part of the plaintiff’s case, each element must be supported in 2 the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof.” Lujan v. 3 Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of claims alleged in the 4 5 complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Parks School of Business, Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 6 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). Dismissal “is proper only where there is no cognizable legal theory or an 7 absence of sufficient facts alleged to support a cognizable legal theory.” Navarro v. Block, 250 8 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). The complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as 9 true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 III. 12 DISCUSSION A. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Under Rule 12(b)(1) Defendant seeks to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter 13 14 jurisdiction on the theory that Plaintiff’s ADA claim is time-barred and the Court lacks subject 15 matter jurisdiction over the Plaintiff’s remaining state law (FEHA) claim because the parties are 16 not diverse. MTD. For the reasons discussed below, the Court agrees. 17 i. Plaintiff’s ADA Claim is Time-Barred A Title VII1 plaintiff must file a charge with the EEOC within 180 days or with a state or 18 19 local agency within 300 days after the allegedly discriminatory act before seeking federal 20 adjudication of his claim. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b), (f)(1), (e)(1); MacDonald v. Grace Church 21 Seattle, 457 F.3d 1079, 1081-82 (9th Cir. 2006); see also E.E.O.C. v. Farmer Bros. Co., 31 F.3d 22 891, 899 (9th Cir. 1994). A plaintiff generally has 90 days to file suit in federal court after 23 receiving an EEOC or state agency right-to-sue letter. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); Stiefel v. Bechtel 24 Corp., 624 F.3d 1240, 1245 (9th Cir. 2010). This 90-day filing period acts as a statute of 25 limitations on an ADA claim. Stiefel, 624 F.3d at 1245 (quoting Valenzuela v. Kraft, 801 F.2d 26 27 28 1 The ADA adopts the “powers, remedies, and procedures set forth in sections 2000e-4, 2000e-5, 2000e-6, 2000e-8, and 2000e-9.” 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a). Case No.: 5:17-cv-07305-EJD ORDER GRANTING APPLE INC.’S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND 3 1 1170, 1174 (9th Cir. 1986)). Here, Plaintiff filed his Complaint on December 26, 2017, 364 days after the DFEH issued 3 its right to sue letter. Compl. Thus, Plaintiff failed to file suit within the 90-day filing period and 4 his ADA claim is time-barred. That the DFEH, not the EEOC, issued the right-to-sue letter is of 5 no consequence. As the Ninth Circuit has explained, “where . . . a plaintiff is entitled to receive a 6 right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, a plaintiff may proceed absent such a letter, provided []he has 7 received a right-to-sue letter from the appropriate state agency.” Surrell v. California Water Serv. 8 Co., 518 F.3d 1097, 1105 (9th Cir. 2008).2 This is because, under “Worksharing Agreements” 9 between the EEOC and the DFEH (the “appropriate state agency” here), the DFEH was the agent 10 for the EEOC “for the purpose of receiving . . . charges” and thus, “a charge filed with the DFEH 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 2 ‘is deemed to have been received by the EEOC on the same day.’” See Stiefel v. Bechtel Corp., 12 624 F.3d 1240, 1244 (9th Cir. 2010). Thus, from the time Plaintiff received the right to sue letter 13 from the DFEH on December 26, 2017, he was eligible to proceed with his ADA claim. This was 14 sufficient to trigger the 90-day clock. “[T]he 90-day filing period is a statute of limitations subject to equitable tolling in 15 16 appropriate circumstances.” Stiefel, 624 F.3d at 1245 (quoting Valenzuela, 801 F.2d at 1174). 17 “The purpose of the statute, the notice to defendant, and the diligence demonstrated by the 18 plaintiff determine the availability of tolling[.]” Valenzuela, 801 F.2d at 1175. Here, Plaintiff argues that the Court should equitably toll the statute of limitations to 19 20 November 30, 2017, the date the DFEH responded to his second-level appeal. Opp. 4. Plaintiff 21 offers no factual or legal basis, however, for tolling the 90-day limit based on this event. 22 Nevertheless, the Court notes that other courts in this District have tolled the 90-day period based 23 on other broader equitable considerations. See, e.g., Cha v. Kaiser Permanente, No. C-14-4672- 24 EMC, 2015 WL 3758287, at *7 (N.D. Cal. May 6, 2015) (tolling 90-day period based on DFEH 25 letter to pro-se plaintiff which was “arguably ambiguous or misleading” because it “clearly 26 27 28 2 Although Surrell was a Title VII case, “[t]he procedural analysis of Surrell applies to the instant suit under the ADA.” Stiefel v. Bechtel Corp., 624 F.3d 1240, 1245 (9th Cir. 2010). Case No.: 5:17-cv-07305-EJD ORDER GRANTING APPLE INC.’S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND 4 state[d] that [the plaintiff] ha[d] one year to file an action under California law, but sa[id] 2 absolutely nothing about the relevant limitations period under Federal law”). However, Plaintiff 3 does not make any factual allegations regarding whether these same principles apply here, such as 4 whether and to what extent he diligently pursued his claim, whether and to what extent he could 5 have been misinformed or mislead, and whether and to what extent he relied on any alleged 6 misinformation. See Rodriguez v. Airborne Express, 265 F.3d 890, 902 (9th Cir. 2002) 7 (“[E]quities favor a discrimination plaintiff who (1) diligently pursued his claim; (2) was 8 misinformed or misled by the administrative agency responsible for processing his charge; (3) 9 relied in fact on the misinformation or misrepresentations of that agency . . . ; and (4) was acting 10 pro se at the time”), followed by Cha, No. C-14-4672-EMC, 2015 WL 3758287, at *6. Plaintiff 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 also does not make any factual allegations regarding more general factors which could weigh in 12 favor of equitable tolling. See Valenzuela, 801 F.2d at 1175 (“The purpose of the statute, the 13 notice to defendant, and the diligence demonstrated by the plaintiff determine the availability of 14 tolling[.]”). Accordingly, the Court must deny Plaintiff’s request at this stage. 15 Because Plaintiff failed to file suit within the 90-day filing period, his ADA claim is time 16 barred and DISMISSED, but WITH LEAVE TO AMEND to include factual allegations which 17 would support equitably tolling the 90-day period, as appropriate. 18 19 ii. The Court Lacks Subject Matter Jurisdiction Over Plaintiff’s Remaining State Law Claim Plaintiff’s second cause of action, alleging violation of the California FEHA, is a state law 20 claim. Thus, there is no federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In addition, 21 according to the allegations in the Complaint, Plaintiff and Defendant are citizens of the same 22 state. Compl. ¶¶ 3-4. Thus, there is no diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. As such, 23 the Court lacks original jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s FEHA claim. 24 Plaintiff nevertheless argues that diversity jurisdiction exists because Plaintiff’s family 25 owns a home in New York. Opp. 5. Plaintiff also asserts that he currently lives in India. Id. 26 However, none of these facts are alleged in the Complaint. Accordingly, the Complaint fails on its 27 28 Case No.: 5:17-cv-07305-EJD ORDER GRANTING APPLE INC.’S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND 5 1 face to establish that diversity jurisdiction exists. Wolfe, 392 F.3d at 362 (“In a facial attack, the 2 challenger asserts that the allegations contained in a complaint are insufficient on their face to 3 invoke federal jurisdiction.”); cf. Schneider v. California Dep’t of Corr., 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n.1 4 (9th Cir. 1998) (“In determining the propriety of a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a court may not look 5 beyond the complaint to a plaintiff’s moving papers, such as a memorandum in opposition to a 6 defendant’s motion to dismiss.”). If Plaintiff wishes to pursue diversity jurisdiction on a theory 7 that he is not a citizen of California, he must include these allegations in his complaint. Because, as currently plead, the Court lacks original jurisdiction, his FEHA claim is 8 9 10 DISMISSED, but WITH LEAVE TO AMEND to add allegations regarding diversity of citizenship, as appropriate. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 iii. Plaintiff’s Supplemental Briefing Does Not Alter This Result Plaintiff has also filed a supplemental brief, to which he attaches a copy of a right-to-sue 12 13 letter which he received from the EEOC on February 28, 2018. Dkt. No. 21. The Court has 14 considered Plaintiff’s arguments and finds them unpersuasive. The Complaint makes no 15 allegations regarding this new letter and Plaintiff makes no request for judicial notice; thus, it falls 16 outside the Court’s consideration for this motion to dismiss. See Wolfe, 392 F.3d at 362. 17 Moreover, even if the Court were to consider it, it is of no consequence because, as discussed 18 above, the DFEH Letter was sufficient to trigger the 90-day period. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s 19 supplemental briefing does not alter the Court’s conclusions. 20 B. Failure to State a Claim Under Rule 12(b)(6) Because the Court has dismissed Plaintiff’s claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction 21 22 under Rule 12(b)(1), it need not reach Defendant’s challenges under Rule 12(b)(6). 23 IV. 24 ORDER For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss is GRANTED. All claims in 25 the Complaint are DISMISSED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. Any amended complaint must be 26 filed on or before May 10, 2018, and must be consistent with the discussion above. 27 28 Case No.: 5:17-cv-07305-EJD ORDER GRANTING APPLE INC.’S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND 6 1 2 3 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: April 19, 2018 ______________________________________ EDWARD J. DAVILA United States District Judge 5 6 7 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Case No.: 5:17-cv-07305-EJD ORDER GRANTING APPLE INC.’S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND 7