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McLemore v. Dennis Dillon Automotive Group, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 12, 2013

WALTER McLEMORE, Plaintiff,
v.
DENNIS DILLON AUTOMOTIVE GROUP, INC., Defendant.

INITIAL REVIEW ORDER RE AMENDED COMPLAINT

MIKEL H. WILLIAMS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Walter McLemore's Complaint (Dkt. 2) was conditionally filed on November 15, 2012, due to his request for in forma pauperis status. The Court subsequently entered an Order (Dkt. 6) granting the Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (Dkt. 1) and dismissing the Complaint with leave to amend to cure deficiencies noted in the Order. The Court now initially reviews Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Dkt. 7), and enters the following Order dismissing the Amended Complaint in its entirety but granting leave to amend in part.

INITIAL REVIEW OF AMENDED COMPLAINT

The Court previously found that the Complaint was deficient in a number of respects. First, it was unclear why the registered agent was a named party. Second, the Court lacked jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 given that neither Dennis Dillon Automotive Group, Inc. nor its registered agent was a state actor. Third, Plaintiff did not provide factual support for his conclusory claim of racial discrimination and provided two different dates of termination. The Court determined that Plaintiff likely was attempting to assert a cause of action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17, given that he alleged that he had received a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). However, the Court found the Complaint deficient in alleging a Title VII action in that it did not identify his race, the names of individuals involved in his termination, relevant dates, and other facts from which the Court could draw the reasonable inference that racial discrimination occurred. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556-77 (2007) (finding that under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts that allow the court to reasonably infer that the defendant would be liable for the alleged misconduct).

1. Background

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is brought expressly pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Am. Comp. at 1. It names as Defendants Dennis Dillon Automotive Group, Inc.; Brad Dillon; Gary Luper; and Tim Byers. Plaintiff alleges that Dennis Dillon Automotive Group, Inc. ("Dennis Dillon") was his employer, that Brad Dillon was an officer and owner of Dennis Dillon, that Gary Luper was an employee of Dennis Dillon, and that Tim Byers was a management employee of Dennis Dillon. Am. Comp. ¶ 4. Plaintiff, who presumably is African-American, cites two instances of alleged racial discrimination by the individual Defendants whom he alleges are Caucasian. Am. Comp. ¶¶ 5, 6.

On October 11, 2011, Gary Luper allegedly made racial comments, slurs, and verbal threats against Plaintiff in front of customers and other employees which he described in the Amended Complaint. Am. Comp. ¶ 5. As a result of the racial attack by Gary Luper, Plaintiff was discharged from his job by Brad Dillon. Am. Comp. ¶ 6.

Apparently, Plaintiff subsequently became employed by Tom Scott (presumably Tom Scott Motors which is known to the Court to have a place of business in Nampa, Idaho). He was discharged from his job at Tom Scott on April 16, 2012, allegedly because of accusations and statements communicated to Tom Scott personnel by Tim Byers regarding the incident leading to Plaintiff's termination from Dennis Dillon. Am. Comp. ¶¶ 10, 11.

Plaintiff alleges that he suffered loss of income, fringe benefits, and other valuable job rights due to his termination from Dennis Dillon, and harm to his personal and business reputation due to his termination from Tom Scott. Am. Comp. ¶¶ 8, 12. In addition, he alleges he has suffered emotional distress, depression, mental anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation as a result of Defendants' actions. Id. He concludes that Dennis Dillon and Brad Dillon ratified and condoned Tim Byers' false accusations and defamation. Am. Comp. ¶ 13. He seeks a total of $780, 000 in damages.

As he did in his original Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he has exhausted his administrative remedies by receiving a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

2. Legal Standards

As stated in the Court's Initial Review Order, as relevant here, Title VII prohibits employers from failing or refusing to hire or discharging "any individual... because of such individual's... race...." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). "To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, a Title VII plaintiff must offer evidence that give[s] rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination.'" Palmer v. Pioneer Inn Associates, Ltd., 338 F.3d 981, 984 (9th Cir. 2003) (addressing discrimination on the basis of sex) (citation omitted). A plaintiff may utilize the McDonnell Douglas framework or direct evidence of discriminatory intent in establishing a prima facie case. Id. (citing Vasquez v. County of L.A., 307 F.3d 884, 889 (9th Cir. 2002)).

Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, unlawful discrimination against any member of a Title VII protected class is presumed, and the plaintiff has established a prima facie case, if he demonstrates that (1) he belongs to a protected class, (2) he was performing his job satisfactorily, (3) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) his employer treated him differently from other employees with qualifications similar to his who did not belong to the same protected class. Cornwell v. Electra Cent. Credit Union, 439 F.3d 1018, 1028 (9th Cir. 2006) (applying McDonnell Douglas in race discrimination context). See also Peterson v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 358 F.3d 599, 603 (9th Cir. 2004) (applying the McDonnell Douglas framework in religious discrimination context).

Despite the failure to plead a prima facie case, "[d]ismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to amend is proper only if it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment." Weilburg v. ...


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