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Gladue v. Saint Francis Medical Center

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

October 16, 2014



CAROL E. JACKSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss certain claims in plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff has responded in opposition, and the issues are fully briefed.

I. Background

On December 20, 2013, plaintiff filed her original pro se complaint against her former employer, defendant Saint Francis Medical Center, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq. She alleges that defendant terminated her employment due to her religion, gender, and age. On May 21, 2014, plaintiff filed an amended pro se complaint, naming as defendants the president and CEO of Saint Francis, Steven C. Bjelich, and executives Jeanette Fadler, Marilyn Curtis, and Teri Kreitzer. She also asserted new claims of wrongful discharge, defamation, tortious interference, and discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Defendants move to dismiss the new claims and the claims of discrimination asserted against the individual defendants in the amended complaint.

II. Legal Standard

The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. The factual allegations of a complaint are assumed true and construed in favor of the plaintiff, "even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A. , 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1 (2002)); Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989) ("Rule 12(b)(6) does not countenance... dismissals based on a judge's disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations"); Scheuer v. Rhodes , 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) (a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that a recovery is very remote and unlikely"). The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to present evidence in support of his claim. Id . A viable complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. , 550 U.S. at 570. See also id. at 563 ("no set of facts" language in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957), "has earned its retirement.") "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555.

III. Discussion

A. Title VII and ADEA Claims Against Individual Defendants

It is not clear whether plaintiff seeks to assert claims of discrimination under Title VII and the ADEA against the individual defendants added in her amended complaint. However, "[i]t is well-settled in the Eighth Circuit that individuals are not subject to individual liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and longstanding precedent in this Court also holds that individuals are not liable under the ADEA." Ebersole v. Novo Nordisk, Inc., No. 1:11-CV-25 (SNLJ) , 2011 WL 6115655, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 8, 2011) (citations omitted). Accordingly, to the extent plaintiff seeks to assert such claims, they are dismissed.

B. Claims of Discrimination Under 42 U.S.C. § 1981

Section 1981 applies only to claims of race-based discrimination. See Hartman v. Smith & Davis Mfg. Co. , 904 F.Supp. 983, 986 n. 3 (E.D. Mo. 1995) ("Section 1981 is limited to claims of race discrimination and does not encompass claims of sex discrimination."). Plaintiff does not allege that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race, and so she cannot assert a claim against any defendant under § 1981.

C. Wrongful Discharge

Plaintiff argues that she can maintain an action for wrongful discharge under Missouri common law because her employment was terminated for discriminatory reasons. Under Missouri law, "at-will" employees can be terminated at any time with or without cause. Boyle v. Vista Eyewear, Inc. , 700 S.W.2d 859, 870-71 (Mo.Ct.App. 1985). However, under the public policy exception to the at-will employment rule "often called the wrongful discharge doctrine... [a]n at-will employee may not be terminated for refusing to perform an illegal act or reporting wrongdoing or violations of law to superiors or third parties." Noel v. AT&T Corp. , 936 F.Supp.2d 1084, 1088 (E.D. Mo. 2013) (citing Fleshner v. Pepose Vision Inst., P.C., 304 S.W.3d 81, 92 (Mo. 2010) ( en banc )). Plaintiff has not ...

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