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Almoghrabi v. Gojet Airlines, LLC

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

March 11, 2015

ALAA ALMOGHRABI, Plaintiff,
v.
GOJET AIRLINES, LLC, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendant GoJet Airlines, LLC ("GoJet") to dismiss in part Plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff Alaa Almoghrabi, a Jordanian Muslim, filed suit against his former employer, GoJet, alleging that he was illegally terminated based on Plaintiff's race, color, religion, and national origin, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 213.010, et seq. GoJet argues that Plaintiff's MHRA claim is untimely, and Plaintiff's discrimination claims based on race and color have not been administratively exhausted. For the reasons set forth below, GoJet's motion shall be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the record establishes the following. Plaintiff was employed as a pilot by GoJet from November 2007 until his termination in October 2012. Plaintiff was terminated following an altercation with a copilot who made fun of Plaintiff's Arabic language and accent.

On January 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed charges of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights ("MCHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") claiming discrimination based on the October 2012 termination. (Doc. No. 25-1 at 1-3.)[1] In his charges, Plaintiff only checked the boxes for discrimination based on religion and national origin. However, in the description section of his charges, plaintiff further stated that the co-pilot "made fun of my accent by imitating my Arabic in a phone conversation to a taxi driver." Id. at 3. Plaintiff also stated that, whereas he was terminated for allegedly pushing the co-pilot, GoJet "did not take similar action against a Caucasian employee of American origin who was arrested for allegedly harassing and chasing a female to her house." Id.

The MCHR issued its right-to-sue on December 8, 2013. (Doc. No. 25-2 at 1.) That letter stated that Plaintiff "[had] a right to bring a civil action within 90 days of the date of this letter...." Id. The letter also reemphasized, in bold and capitalized print: "IF YOU DO NOT FILE A CIVIL ACTION... RELATING TO THE MATTERS ALLEGED IN YOUR COMPLAINT WITHIN 90 DAYS OF THE DATE OF THIS NOTICE..., YOUR RIGHT TO SUE IS LOST." Id.

The EEOC issued its right-to-sue on December 17, 2013. (Doc. No. 40-2 at 1.) That letter stated that Plaintiff must file his lawsuit "WITHIN 90 DAYS of [his] receipt of this notice" and further provided that "[t]he time limit for filing suit based on a claim under state law may be different." Id.

Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit, pro se, on March 19, 2014. Although the complaint states "comes now, plaintiff... by and through his attorney, " counsel did not formally appear in this case on behalf of Plaintiff until August 22, 2014. (Doc. Nos. 1 & 6.) Count I of Plaintiff's complaint asserts discrimination by GoJet based on race, color, religion, and national origin, in violation of Title VII. Count III asserts discrimination by GoJet based on race, color, religion, and national origin, in violation of the MHRA.[2]

GoJet filed its motion to dismiss on November 5, 2014, and contemporaneously filed an answer to Plaintiff's complaint. GoJet answered all counts of Plaintiff's complaint.

In its motion to dismiss, GoJet argues that Count III of Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and, alternatively, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. GoJet argues that Count III of Plaintiff's complaint is time-barred under the MHRA because it was not filed within 90 days of the MCHR issuing its right-to-sue notice. GoJet asserts that because Plaintiff filed his complaint 101 days after the right-to-sue notice was issued, Plaintiff's MHRA claims fail as a matter of law. Therefore, GoJet argues that Count III fails for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Additionally, GoJet asserts that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for his claims of discrimination on the basis of race and color, under both the MHRA and Title VII, by failing to include these claims in his charges of discrimination with the MCHR and EEOC. Therefore, GoJet argues Plaintiff's race and color discrimination claims in Counts I and III must be dismissed.

With respect to Count III, Plaintiff admits that he filed his MHRA claim more than 90 days after the date of his right-to-sue letter from the MCHR, but Plaintiff argues that equitable tolling should apply because the delay was the result of excusable neglect. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that, as a pro se litigant, he confused the deadlines for filing a Title VII claim and an MHRA claim. Plaintiff argues that he received the right-to-sue letters from the EEOC and MCHR around the same time, and that because the EEOC letter stated he had to file a lawsuit within 90 days of receipt of the letter, he thought the same rule applied to his MHRA claim.

With respect to his race and color discrimination allegations in Counts I and III, Plaintiff argues that his complaint is adequate. Plaintiff asserts that his Title VII and MHRA claims need only be "reasonably related" to the factual allegations of his administrative charges. Plaintiff contends that GoJet is not prejudiced by the inclusion of race and color discrimination in the complaint, especially in light of the fact that Plaintiff alleges discrimination based on national origin in his administrative charges. Plaintiff argues that allegations of discrimination based on ...


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