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Sheaffer v. Superior Tank Lines Northwest Division LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

June 13, 2019

MICHAEL SHEAFFER, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERIOR TANK LINES NORTHWEST DIVISION, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND

          BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Michael Sheaffer instituted this employment discrimination action against his former employer Defendant Superior Tank Lines Northwest Division, LLC ("Superior"), alleging: (1) willful withholding of wages, (2) wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and (3) sex discrimination. Dkt. No. 1, Ex. 2. Superior moves to dismiss with prejudice Plaintiffs wrongful termination and sex discrimination claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 8. Plaintiff opposes the motion or, in the alternative, seeks leave to file an amended complaint. Dkt. No. 12. Having reviewed the motion, opposition thereto, the record of the case, and the relevant legal authorities, the Court will grant the motion. The reasoning for the Court's decision follows.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant, a California-based regional transport company specializing in refined petroleum products, hired Plaintiff as an equipment expert in February 2017. Dkt. No. 1, Ex. 2 at ¶ 2.1. In this role, Plaintiffs primary duty was to repair and maintain the company's fleet of trucks. ¶ 2.2. Plaintiff contends that he was often required to work past business hours and respond to after-hours work calls and emails. ¶ 2.3, 2.6. He claims he was not appropriately compensated for time spent working "outside normal business hours." ¶ 2.4.

         Plaintiff also alleges that one of his coworkers would often bring a loaded handgun to work and leave it "lying around his worksite." Id. at ¶ 2.9. Plaintiff complained to his manager about the presence of the gun at work and inquired as to whether Superior maintained a weapons policy. ¶ 2.10, 2.11. His manager, informed Plaintiff that no such policy existed and took no further action with respect to the gun. Id. "After several months of complaining to his manager" about the presence of the gun at work, Plaintiff decided to escalate his concern to the human resources office at Superior's headquarters in California. ¶ 2.12. He was then contacted by an HR representative who informed Plaintiff that the company maintained a "company-wide, zero-tolerance weapons policy" and that she would address his concerns. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that after he spoke to the HR representative, the administrator at the branch office where he worked "came to him at work and started cursing at him for contacting HR." Id. at ¶ 2.13. According to Plaintiff, the administrator is also the wife of his manager. Id. Plaintiff reported the incident to his manager who, according to Plaintiff, informed him that he would not fire the administrator. ¶ 2.14. When Plaintiff asked whether he would have been fired if he cursed at a colleague, his manager purportedly "answered in the affirmative." Id.

         Plaintiff then reported the entire interaction, regarding both the administrator and the manager, to Superior's human resources office. In response, the human resources office dispatched a Vice President to the branch office with a list of "'dos' and 'don'ts'" for employees to sign. Id. at ¶ 2.15, 2.16. When Plaintiff pointed out that the list did not include a commitment to abide by the company's zero-tolerance weapons policy, the Vice President responded that such a commitment "was not going to happen." ¶ 2.17. At this point, Plaintiff decided to leave the company and submitted two weeks' notice of his intent to leave his employment with Superior. ¶ 2.18. He claims he was terminated by the company prior to the expiration of his notice. Id.

         Plaintiff initiated this action in the Superior Court of the State of Washington for King County and it was removed by motion of Defendant to this Court on February 7, 2019. Dkt. No. 2-1 at 5. As stated above, Plaintiff states three causes of action: (1) willful withholding of wages, (2) wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and (3) sex discrimination. Dkt No. 2, Ex. 1. Defendant moved to dismiss the latter two causes of action. Dkt. No. 8. After striking this initial motion to dismiss based on the parties' failure to confer in accordance with the Court's Standing order, Dkt. No. 16, Defendant filed largely the same motion to dismiss, this time, however, with the required certificate of conferral. Dkt. No. 20.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Dismissal is proper only where there is either a "lack of a cognizable legal theory," or "the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep 't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). The court must accept all factual allegations pleaded in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). The court need not, however, accept as true unreasonable inferences or conclusory legal allegations cast in the form of factual allegations. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 553-56 (2007).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         As stated above, Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiffs claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, as well as Plaintiffs sex discrimination claim. The Court will address each claim in turn.

         A. Wrongful Termination in Violation ...


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