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Walker v. Northview Village Nursing Center

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

June 30, 2015

HERSHEL WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTHVIEW VILLAGE NURSING CENTER and MARKLOUF SOUISSA, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CHARLES A. SHAW, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the following motions to dismiss: (1) defendants Northview Village Nursing Center ("Northview Village") and Makhlouf Suissa's ("Suissa") motion to dismiss, and (2) defendant Suissa's separate motion to dismiss.[1] Plaintiff Hershel Walker has not filed any response, and the time for doing so has passed. For the following reasons, defendants' combined motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part, and defendant Suissa's separate motion to dismiss will be granted.

Background

Plaintiff, a former employee of Northview Village, filed the instant pro se employment discrimination case against Northview Village and his supervisor, defendant Suissa pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. Plaintiff alleges he was subjected to discrimination based on his race and religion and that his termination was retaliatory. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages.

On November 7, 2013, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), claiming religious discrimination and retaliation. In the charge, plaintiff alleged that he was subjected to unwarranted jokes and comments regarding his religious beliefs. He said he tried numerous times to complain to the human resources director, but was never afforded a meeting. He believes he was laid off in retaliation for his complaint of religious discrimination. (Defs.' Mot., Ex. A).

The EEOC investigated plaintiff's claims of religious discrimination and retaliation, and issued a notice of right to sue on September 12, 2014. See Doc. 14, ¶ 5. On December 1, 2014, plaintiff filed this action in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis. Defendants removed the action to this Court on December 23, 2014.

Defendants move to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim, because they allege plaintiff failed to raise the issue of race discrimination before the EEOC in his charge of discrimination. Additionally, defendant Suissa moves to dismiss the claims against him on the grounds that (1) there is no individual liability pursuant to Title VII; and (2) plaintiff did not name defendant Suissa as a respondent in the charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC.

Legal Standard

On a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true the factual allegations contained in the complaint and grants the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those allegations. See Lustgraaf v. Behrens, 619 F.3d 867, 872-73 (8th Cir. 2010). "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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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.

Discussion

A. Defendants Northview Village and Suissa's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

Title VII requires claimants to timely file a discrimination charge with the EEOC before he or she may bring a Title VII action in court. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). As the Eighth Circuit has recognized, "[e]xhaustion of administrative remedies is central to Title VII's statutory scheme because it provides the EEOC the first opportunity to investigate discriminatory practices and enables it to perform its roles of obtaining voluntary compliance and promoting conciliatory efforts.'" Duncan v. Delta Consolidated Indus., Inc., 371 F.3d 1020, 1024 (8th Cir. 2004) (quoting Shannon v. Ford Motor Co., 72 F.3d 678, 684 (8th Cir. 1996)), abrogated on other grounds by Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). Although the Eighth Circuit does not require that subsequently-filed lawsuits mirror the administrative charges, "the sweep of any subsequent judicial complaint may be [only] as broad as the scope of the EEOC investigation which could reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge of discrimination." Duncan, 371 F.3d at 1025 (internal quotations and citations omitted). "To determine whether an allegedly discriminatory action falls within the scope of a claim, the administrative complaint must be construed liberally in order to further the remedial purposes of applicable legislation." Dorsey v. Pinnacle Automation Co., 278 F.3d 830, 838 (8th Cir. 2002). Claims of discrimination raised in a judicial complaint that were not previously raised in an EEOC charge, or are not "like or reasonably related to" such EEOC claims, are deemed not to be exhausted and are thus barred from judicial review. Williams v. Little Rock Mun. Water Works, 21 F.3d 218, 222 (8th Cir. 1994).

Plaintiff filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC on November 7, 2013, using the standard EEOC charge form. The form instructs complainants to check the appropriate boxes for the alleged cause of discrimination. Plaintiff checked the boxes for "religion" and "retaliation." Although a box is provided on the form for "race, " plaintiff did not check this box on his charge of discrimination. In the space provided for "particulars, " plaintiff described the allegedly discriminatory and retaliatory conduct:

1. I was employed by the above in the position of Painter/Maintenance worker. I was subjected to unwarranted harassment and ...

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