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Sternberger v. Gilleland

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 1, 2014

Charrie Sternberger, Plaintiff,
v.
Jonathan Gilleland, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES A. TEIBORG, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendant Jonathan Gilleland ("Mr. Gilleland")'s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) the claims against him in Plaintiff Charrie Sternberger ("Sternberger")'s Complaint (Doc. 1). Sternberger filed a Response (Doc. 12), but Mr. Gilleland has not replied. Also pending before the Court is Sternberger's Motion to Strike (Doc. 20) Defendant Golden Crest Enterprises, Inc. ("Golden Crest")'s Answer (Doc. 15) to the Complaint. Sternberger has not responded. The Court now rules on the motions.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

On or about April 16, 2013, Sternberger began working for Golden Crest, a corporation wholly owned by Defendants John Gilleland and Carrie Gilleland ("Ms. Gilleland") (collectively, "Defendants"). (Compl., Doc. 1 ¶¶ 13-14). Defendants agreed to pay Sternberger $200.00 in wages per week for her work, plus $50.00 in commission for each client she signed for Golden Crest. ( Id. ¶ 15). During Sternberger's first week at Golden Crest, her supervisor, Ben Gates ("Gates"), began subjecting Sternberger to a daily pattern of unwanted sexual advances and sexual statements that continued for the duration of her employment. ( Id. ¶¶ 16-18). These statements included Gates indicating to Sternberger daily that he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her. ( Id. ¶ 19). Sternberger subsequently reported Gates' behavior to Ms. Gilleland, who Sternberger understood to be the "ultimate authority" at the Golden Crest's facility. ( Id. ¶¶ 20, 23). Ms. Gilleland responded to Sternberger's complaint by laughing at Sternberger and stating, "That's just the way [Gates] is." ( Id. ¶¶ 20-21). Ms. Gilleland also did nothing to investigate the complaint or protect Sternberger from further harassment. ( Id. ¶ 22).

After her complaint to Ms. Gilleland proved fruitless, Sternberger submitted another complaint through Defendants' web site. ( Id. ¶ 23). In response to this submission, Ms. Gilleland promised Sternberger that she would speak to Mr. Gilleland about the harassment and instructed Sternberger to stay away from work for two days, during which Defendants claimed an investigation occurred. ( Id. ¶¶ 24-26). During this suspension, Defendants denied Sternberger the opportunity to work or earn any commission while allowing Gates to continue to working as usual. ( Id. ¶ 27).

After the two days passed, Defendants permitted Sternberger to return to work, but Ms. Gilleland required that Sternberger first meet with her. ( Id. ¶ 28). At this meeting, Ms. Gilleland presented paperwork to Sternberger for her to sign. ( Id. ¶ 29). However, when Sternberger attempted to read the documents before signing them, Ms. Gilleland took them away. ( Id. ). Ms. Gilleland refused to allow Sternberger to read them before she signed them. ( Id. ). When Sternberger asked what the documents were, Ms. Gilleland responded that they were to limit Defendants' liability for sexual harassment. ( Id. ¶ 30). Sternberger refused to sign the documents without reading them. ( Id. ¶ 31). Because of this, Defendants sent Sternberger home, refusing to allow her to work and earn commissions that day. ( Id. ).

Sternberger returned to Golden Crest the following day and continued working for Defendants for approximately two weeks. ( Id. ¶ 32). However, on every workday during those two weeks, Defendants requested that Sternberger sign the liability waiver paperwork and every day Sternberger refused. ( Id. ¶ 33). After each refusal, Defendants consistently sent Sternberger home from work, denying her opportunities to earn commissions for the remainder of each day. ( Id. ¶¶ 33, 35). Defendants permitted other employees of Golden Crest who did not make sexual harassment complaints to continue to work and earn commissions per their usual schedules. ( Id. ¶ 34). At the end of this two-week period, Defendants terminated Sternberger's employment with Golden Crest. ( Id. ¶ 36). Sternberger never received any payment for the work she performed for Defendants. ( Id. ¶ 37).

Sternberger subsequently filed a five-count Complaint (Doc. 1) against Defendants, including: (1) Sex Discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) ( id. ¶ 39); (2) Retaliation in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2003e-3(a) ( id. ¶¶ 53-54); (3) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress in violation of Arizona law ( id. ¶¶ 62-64); (4) Failure to pay wages to which Sternberger is entitled, in violation of A.R.S. § 23-355 ( id. ¶¶ 66, 68); and (5) a request for declaratory relief pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act (the "Act"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, et seq. ( Id. ¶¶ 72-73).

II. MOTION TO DISMISS

The Court first addresses Mr. Gilleland's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10 at 11-12). Although Mr. Gilleland failed to state the specific legal basis on which he filed his motion, it appears from the pleading that Mr. Gilleland asserts that Sternberger failed "to state a claim for which relief may be granted" pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6).

A. Legal Standard

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim, a complaint must meet the requirements of Rule 8(a)(2). Rule 8(a)(2) requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " so that the defendant has "fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Also, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, which, if accepted as true, states a claim to relief that is "plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

Although a complaint attacked for failure to state a claim does not need detailed factual allegations, the pleader's obligation to provide the grounds for relief requires "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). Rule 8(a)(2) "requires a showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also grounds' on which the claim rests." Id. (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure §1202, pp. 94, 95 (3d ed. 2004)). Thus, Rule 8's pleading standard demands more than "an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court must construe the facts alleged in the complaint in the light most favorable to the drafter of the complaint and must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Shwarz, 234 F.3d at 435. Nonetheless, the Court does not have to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).

B. Analysis

Mr. Gilleland argues that all counts in Sternberger's claim should be dismissed because they have been filed without merit and consist of "absolutely untrue fabrications." (Doc. 10 at 11). Mr. Gilleland also argues that the timeline of the events alleged in Sternberger's Complaint is inconsistent, proving the inaccuracy of the claims. ( Id. ). Additionally, Mr. Gilleland presents along with the Motion to Dismiss several documents that he claims refute the facts alleged by Sternberger. ( Id. at 13-52). Mr. Gilleland contends that these documents controvert Sternberger's allegations regarding the nature of her employment at Golden Crest, the occurrence of any sexual harassment while she worked there, and the extent of any investigation conducted or remedy implemented by the company. ( Id. at 11-12). Sternberger argues in response that the Court should not consider Mr. Gilleland's factual disputes or documentary evidence because dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) allows only consideration of the relevant pleadings. (Doc. 12 at 5). Sternberger also objects to the Court transforming the instant Motion to Dismiss into a motion for summary judgment and consideration of the submitted extrinsic evidence in that context. ( Id. at 2 n.2). Sternberger argues that such actions would be inappropriate because the documents submitted by Mr. Gilleland lack foundation and Sternberger has not yet been granted opportunity to discover and present all relative material. ( Id. ).

1. Consideration of Extrinsic Evidence and Possible Conversion of the Motion to Dismiss into a Motion for Summary Judgment

As a preliminary matter, the Court first addresses whether it will consider evidence extrinsic to the pleadings and convert Mr. Gilleland's Motion to Dismiss into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 12(d). Generally, a court may not consider evidence beyond the plaintiff's complaint in connection with a motion to dismiss, subject only to specific exceptions. See, e.g., CPI Advanced, Inc. v. Kong Byung Woo Comm. Ind., Co., 135 F.Appx. 81, 82-83 (9th Cir. 2005); Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1990). Rule 12(d) addresses the procedural requirements of one such exception:

If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6)..., matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). It is within the Courts discretion whether to consider the extrinsic evidence and convert the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 12(d), or to merely exclude the evidence. Hamilton Materials, Inc. v. Dow Chem. Corp., 494 F.3d 1203, 1207 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Portland ...


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