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Williams v. First National Bank of St. Louis

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

November 7, 2014

SHAIKENYA WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF ST. LOUIS, and CENTRAL BANCOMPANY d/b/a FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF ST. LOUIS, and CHRIS PURCELL, and JOHN DOE ENTITY A, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

E. RICHARD WEBBER, Senior District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on "Defendant Central Bancompany's Motion to Dismiss For Failure to State a Claim" [ECF No. 8].

I. BACKGROUND AND FACTS

Plaintiff Shaikenya Williams initiated this employment discrimination lawsuit in the Circuit Court of the County of St. Louis on July 9, 2014 [ECF No. 3]. Plaintiff named First National Bank of St. Louis ("FNB"), Central Bancompany[1] ("Central"), Chris Purcell, and John Doe Entity A as defendants. Plaintiff's Petition (hereinafter "Complaint") asserts the following claims: race discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act (Count I); retaliation under the Missouri Human Rights Act (Count II); race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Count III); retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Count IV); "race and retaliation" under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count V); and wrongful discharge under Missouri common law (Count VI). Each claim is alleged against all defendants. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges her race was a contributing or motivating factor in FNB's decisions to reduce her pay and terminate her, a violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff also alleges her complaint of racial discrimination to Purcell was a contributing or determining factor in her termination, constituting wrongful discharge and a violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff alleges defendants are "employers" under Chapter 213, RSMo, and Title VII. Plaintiff seeks actual and punitive damages, as well as costs incurred. On August 22, 2014, defendants FNB and Central removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367(a), and 1441(a) [ECF No. 1]. On August 29, 2014, Defendant Central Bancompany filed the pending Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 7 and 12(b)(6), and Local Rule 7-4.01 [ECF No. 8].

For purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the Court accepts as true the following facts alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint. Great Rivers Habitat Alliance v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, 615 F.3d 985, 988 (8th Cir. 2010). On October 3, 2011, Plaintiff, an African-American woman, began working for Defendant First National Bank of St. Louis at its Des Peres location. She served as a mortgage lender, and her job duties included originating and closing residential mortgage loans. For this, Plaintiff was paid a base salary, as well as commission on any loans she closed. Around this time, FNB agreed to open a branch in Ferguson, Missouri, an area in which the residents are predominately African-American. The average value of homes and mortgages in Ferguson is lower than those of homes and mortgages in Des Peres.

In or around early 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to the Ferguson location. Only African-American employees of FNB were transferred to this location. FNB rarely approved loans for the customers of the Ferguson location, and because loans were rarely approved, Plaintiff's commissions fell in value from where they were prior to her transfer. Plaintiff complained to her management, including Defendant Chris Purcell, about what she believed to be discriminatory practices in denying loans to the customers of the Ferguson location, and about her lower pay relative to white employees, due to her transfer to the Ferguson location. Shortly after making these complaints, Purcell terminated Plaintiff.

On or about August 26, 2013, Plaintiff timely submitted a charge of discrimination against Defendants with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights ("MCHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") [Charge No. 560-2013-02189, FE-11/13-20493] for racial discrimination and retaliation. On or about April 10, 2014, the EEOC issued its Right to Sue letter, and on or about June 25, 2014, the MCHR issued its Notice of Right to Sue. Plaintiff instituted this action within ninety days of the receipts of these notices.

II. STANDARD

Under FRCP 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a 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) (internal quotations and citation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

A court accepts "as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, " and affords the non-moving party "all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those allegations" when considering a motion to dismiss. Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 540-41 (8th Cir. 2014) (internal quotations and citation omitted). A well-pleaded complaint may not be dismissed even if it appears proving the claim is unlikely and if the chance of recovery is remote. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). However, if a claim fails to allege one of the elements necessary to recovery on a legal theory, that claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Crest Constr. II, Inc. v. Doe, 660 F.3d 346, 355 (8th Cir. 2011).

Bare assertions constituting merely conclusory allegations failing to establish elements necessary for recovery will not suffice. See id. ("Plaintiffs, relying on facts not in the complaint, make bare assertions that [defendants] were not just lenders, but owners that controlled the RICO enterprise... these assertions are more of the same conclusory allegation... "). "Threadbare recitals of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although courts must accept all factual allegations as true, they are not bound to take as true "a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotations and citation omitted); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78. Additionally, "some factual allegations may be so indeterminate that they require further factual enhancement in order to state a claim." Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009).

A complaint is also to be read as a whole, not broken down into its various parts to determine which allegations are plausible. Id. "Ultimately, evaluation of a complaint upon a motion to dismiss is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. (internal quotation and citation omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant Central requests dismissal for two reasons. First, it argues Central and FNB are separate legal entities, contending Plaintiff has alleged no wrongdoing against Central or its employees [ECF No. 9 at 1]. Second, Defendant Central argues Plaintiff is not and has never been its employee [ECF No. 9 at 2]. For ...


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