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Rivera v. Coventry Health & Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 30, 2016

Dianne G. Rivera, Plaintiff,
Coventry Health and Life Insurance Company, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant (“Aetna”).[1] (Doc. 9). For the following reasons, the Court grants Aetna’s motion to dismiss with leave for Rivera to amend.


         Plaintiff Dianne Rivera is a resident and citizen of the State of Arizona. She brings claims against Coventry/Aetna Health Care and/or Aetna Inc. for age and race discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment, slander and unjust enrichment.

         Rivera was employed as a Concierge Specialist at Aetna from June 3, 2013 until August 4, 2014. She alleges that she was hired at a lower wage than others with less experience. However, according to her complaint, Aetna indicated that she would receive bonuses as a material component of her salary resulting in a rate of pay equivalent to $15.00 per hour. She further alleges she was assured she would receive opportunities for advancement before others received such opportunities and that she would receive monetary contributions to make up for the higher deductible that accompanied her medical insurance benefits. Rivera claims she accepted the job because Aetna assured her of the bonus plan and the opportunity to advance.

         Rivera claims that in October or November of 2013, her supervisor, Aisha Bennett, threatened to terminate her because she left work five minutes early on ten occasions. However, Rivera alleges that on those ten occasions she began work sufficiently early to make up her required time. Rivera complained about this in a letter to Human Resources. In the letter, Rivera also informed Human Resources that shortly after she was hired, she questioned her instructors and apparently received some form of reprimand for doing so. Rivera claims a younger African-American coworker behaved in a similar way but was not reprimanded.

         In or around January 2014, some incident occurred in which Rivera raised her voice to a customer. The complaint implies but does not state that Rivera received a written reprimand for this.

         Approximately three months later, Rivera wrote a letter complaining that her supervisors had failed to give her a bonus. She alleges that she was “written up” in retaliation for submitting this complaint. In turn, she raised the matter with Von Young, the director of her program. Shortly thereafter, she was written up by Mr. Young.

         Finally, Rivera recounts a department meeting on July 18, 2014, at which she alleges her supervisor stated that Rivera refused to help her fellow employees.[2] During the same meeting, Rivera alleges that her supervisor explained to the present employees that Rivera was “always hot because she was going through her personal summer.” Rivera alleges that this statement singled her out for her age, which humiliated her.

         It is unclear from the complaint as to why Rivera’s employment terminated.


         I. Legal Standard

         A. Pleading Standard: Rule 8 and Iqbal/Twombly

         On a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“F.R.C.P.”) 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact are assumed to be true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cousins v. Lockyer, 568 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2009). To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action”; it must contain factual allegations sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While “a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations . . . it must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Clemens v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 534 F.3d 1017, 1022 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is plausible when Rivera presents factual content which “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that [Aetna] is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts which are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (internal citations omitted). Similarly, legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are not given a presumption of truthfulness, and “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are not sufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Pareto v. FDIC, 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998). Rivera must “nudge [her] claims” of invidious discrimination “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547.

         B. Lower Pleading Standard for Pro Se Litigants

         However, pro se litigants will not be held to the same pleading standards as lawyers. “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed, ’ and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (internal quotation marks omitted); cf. F.R.C.P. 8(f) (“All pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice”). Twombly and Iqbal did not alter ...

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