California Court Tosses Female Employee’s Discrimination Class Action Against Sony

The plaintiff leading a collective action against Sony Interactive Entertainment and alleging pervasive gender discrimination will have to replead her claims after Sony secured their dismissal last week. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler ruled the majority of the 13 discrimination and harassment-related causes of action had to be dismissed “because the allegations are mostly conclusory.”

The plaintiff’s case, filed last November, is about the difficulties she faced as a female Sony employee. Reportedly, she was harassed, denied promotion, demoted, and terminated after working for the company from 2015 to 2021 because of her gender, implicit company bias, and because she spoke up about her concerns.

The complaint includes class causes of action for pay inequality, failure to promote, failure to investigate discrimination, among others and individual causes of action for state-law wrongful termination, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, discrimination and harassment in the form of wrongful termination.

Sony moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s first amended complaint on grounds that the ex-employee’s claims singled out unactionable run-of-the-mill personnel activity. The video game and video game console maker also moved to strike under Rule 12(f) on the basis that the allegations were too individualized to establish that a class or collective action was procedurally proper.

In last week’s opinion, Judge Beeler reviewed each claim or grouping of claim, addressing to what degree the allegations satisfied the elements. For instance, the plaintiff’s California harassment claim fell short for failure to plead actionable facts. 

The court explained that being blocked from promotion or pay raises is not the kind of conduct that gives rise to harassment under California law. Instead, such management decisions fall within the ambit of discrimination claims.

The court found three individual claims, statutory and common-law wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation, well-pleaded and permitted those claims to proceed. However, because Judge Beeler dismissed the federal claim, the court dismissed the entire complaint because it then lacked jurisdiction over the state law claims.

The opinion also said the motion to strike was denied without prejudice “because it is premature to decide it based on an inadequately pled complaint.” The plaintiff has 28 days to file an amended pleading.

She is represented by ILG Legal Office P.C. and Sony by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.