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Ross v. Rengo Packaging, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

August 31, 2017

IAN ROSS, Plaintiff,
v.
RENGO PACKAGING, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT RENGO PACKAGING, INC.'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Richard L. Puglisi, United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Rengo Packaging, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss, filed on July 13, 2017 (“Motion”). ECF No. 10. Plaintiff filed his Opposition on August 9, 2017. ECF No. 15. Defendant filed its Reply on August 29, 2017. ECF No. 19. The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule 7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice for the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii and VACATES the hearing set for September 15, 2017. See ECF No. 13. After carefully reviewing the parties' submissions and the relevant legal authority, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was hired by Defendant on August 1, 2014. ECF No. 1 ¶ 7. Plaintiff alleges that between August 1, 2014, and May 29, 2015, Plaintiff was subjected to racial harassment by another employee who repeatedly called Plaintiff a “f-ing haole, ” even after Plaintiff repeatedly told the employee to stop referring to him in that manner. Id. ¶¶ 8, 9. Plaintiff alleges that he complained about the harassment to the Defendants' human resources manager, but no action was taken to address the matter. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges that he was suspended from his job two times for leaving in early 2015. Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges that he did not violate the company's workplace violence policy. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated from employment with Defendant on May 29, 2015, “due to discrimination based on his race which is White, and in retaliation for complaining about discrimination.” Id. ¶¶ 4, 13.

         Plaintiff asserts claims for race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a claim under Hawaii's Whistleblower's Protection Act (“HWPA”). Id. ¶¶ 16-26. Plaintiff also seeks damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. at 5.

         In the present Motion, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Complaint must be dismissed because it fails to plausibly allege facts in support of Plaintiff's Title VII and HWPA claims. ECF No. 10-1. Defendant also argues that Plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress must be dismissed because it is barred by the exclusivity provision of Hawaii's Workers' Compensation Law. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court may dismiss a complaint that fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 697 F.3d 777, 783 (9th Cir. 2012). The complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as 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)). “The plausibility standard . . . asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A complaint that merely “offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action'” is not sufficient. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). If the complaint is dismissed, the Court should grant leave to amend unless the Court determines that the pleading cannot be cured by new factual allegations. OSU Student All. v. Ray, 699 F.3d 1053, 1079 (9th Cir. 2012).

         I. Defendant's Request to Dismiss Plaintiff's Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress is GRANTED.

         Defendant seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim on the basis that Hawaii's Workers' Compensation Statute, Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 386-5, provides the exclusive remedy for work-related injuries, including emotional distress. ECF No. 10-1 at 12-13. “Generally, the workers' compensation scheme serves to bar a civil action for physical and emotional damages resulting from work-related injuries and accidents.” Nelson v. Univ. of Haw., 38 P.3d 95, 112 (Haw. 2001). “Under the workers' compensation statute, the workers' compensation benefits provided to an employee on account of a work injury ‘shall exclude all other liability of the employer to the employee' on account of that injury.” Yang v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, 284 P.3d 946, 950 (Haw. Ct. App. 2012); see also Chan v. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, 124 F.Supp.3d 1045, 1060 (D. Haw. 2015) (holding that the plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress related to his disability discrimination was barred by section 386-5). Although specific exceptions are enumerated in the statute, they do not apply here. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 386-5. Plaintiff agrees that his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress should be dismissed. See ECF No. 15 at 8. Accordingly, Defendant's request to dismiss this claim is GRANTED.

         II. Defendant's Request to Dismiss Plaintiff's Title VII Claims is GRANTED.

         Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. “Title VII's anti-retaliation provision forbids employer actions that discriminate against an employee . . . because he has opposed a practice that Title VII forbids.” Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 62 (2006) (citations omitted).

         A. Race Discrimination

         To establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that: (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was qualified for his position; (3) he experienced an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated individuals outside the protected class were treated more favorably or other circumstances surrounding the adverse employment action give rise to an inference of discrimination. Hawn v. Exec. ...


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