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Becton v. St. Louis Regional Public Media, Inc.

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

February 28, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on defendants St. Louis Regional Public Media, Inc., d/b/a Nine Network of Public Media (“NNPM”), John Galmiche III, Richard Skalski, and Amy Shaw's Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff Eddie Lee Becton, II did not respond to the motion and the time to do so has passed. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is an African-American male over the age of 40. Plaintiff's pro se Complaint alleges he was hired by NNPM as a Senior Evaluation Associate on January 5, 2015, and was terminated on July 23, 2015. Plaintiff alleges that the defendants, acting jointly and severally, wrongfully terminated his employment and conditioned his continued employment on “Plaintiff violating the law and a clear mandate public policy by requiring Plaintiff to falsify data for the purpose of deceiving state, federal, and private funding sources into the false belief that funded programs were more effectual than was actually the case, at the specific behest of Amy Shaw.” (Complaint at 4, ¶ 21.) Plaintiff alleges that Amy Shaw instructed him to “revise [his] data language so that West County, despite its many resources, would be more like the City of St. Louis with its meager resources.” (Id. at 5, ¶¶ 33, 45.) Plaintiff alleges he was terminated because he refused to engage in unlawful or prohibited data collection and reporting, and because he is of African-American descent.

         The Complaint asserts four causes of action against the defendants: Count I alleges race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Count II alleges age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), Count III alleges a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and Count IV alleges a supplemental state law claim of wrongful discharge in violation of Missouri public policy.

         II. Legal Standards

         As a threshold matter, pro se pleadings are to be liberally construed and are held to less stringent standards than those drafted by an attorney. Smith v. St. Bernards Reg'l Med. Ctr., 19 F.3d 1254, 1255 (8th Cir. 1994). This means “that if the essence of an allegation is discernible . . . then the district court should construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework.” Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoted case omitted).

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In making this determination, the Court must grant the plaintiff all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the complaint's factual allegations. See Lustgraaf v. Behrens, 619 F.3d 867, 872-73 (8th Cir. 2010).

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         The standards applicable to summary judgment motions are well settled. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court shows “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The initial burden is placed on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988) (the moving party has the burden of clearly establishing the non-existence of any genuine issue of fact that is material to a judgment in its favor). Once this burden is discharged, if the record shows that no genuine dispute exists, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party who must set forth affirmative evidence and specific facts showing there is a genuine dispute on a material factual issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

         Once the burden shifts, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations in its pleadings, but by affidavit and other evidence must set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Herring v. Canada Life Assur. Co., 207 F.3d 1026, 1029 (8th Cir. 2000); Allen v. Entergy Corp., 181 F.3d 902, 904 (8th Cir. 1999). The non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Herring, 207 F.3d at 1029 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A party resisting summary judgment has the burden to designate the specific facts that create a triable question of fact, see Crossley v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 355 F.3d 1112, 1114 (8th Cir. 2004), and “must substantiate allegations with sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in the plaintiff's favor.” Davidson & Assocs. v. Jung, 422 F.3d 630, 638 (8th Cir. 2005).

         III. Facts[1]

         A. Uncontroverted Facts Material to Count II-ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 621

         1. On July 28, 2015, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging race and sex discrimination and retaliation, but not age discrimination, EEOC Charge Number 560-2015-01667. (Defs.' Ex. A.)

         2. On July 29, 2015, the EEOC issued its Dismissal and Notice of Rights regarding Plaintiff's charge of discrimination. (Defs.' Ex. B.)

         B. Uncontroverted Facts Material to Count III-FMLA, 29 U.S.C. § 2601

         3. Plaintiff was not employed by Defendant, St. Louis Regional Public Media for one year. (Complaint, ¶¶ 12-13.)

         C . Uncontroverted Facts Material to Count ...

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