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Quaintance v. City of Columbia

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

June 12, 2017

HOPE QUAINTANCE Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF COLUMBIA, COMO CONNECT Defendant.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court are Defendant's Partial Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, [Doc. 35], and Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration [Doc. 36');">36]. For the following reasons, both motions are denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Hope Quaintance brings this suit pro se under the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging that Defendant City of Columbia-COMO Connect discriminated against her on the basis of race, gender, and disability. [Doc. 1');">1]. According the Plaintiff's Complaint, she was hired to work as a city bus driver on February 9, 201');">13. Plaintiff saw her primary care doctor in May 201');">14 and she was released to return to work with no restrictions. Nevertheless, Defendant required Plaintiff to undergo a “fitness for duty exam.” On or about May 1');">14, 201');">14, Defendant's Employee Health Medical Advisor determined Plaintiff was not fit to drive and needed additional medical treatment. A “return to work” exam was scheduled for July 1');">15, 201');">14, but the exam was cancelled and was not rescheduled. On August 25, 201');">14, Plaintiff was terminated because she “was not DOT certified, was not medically capable of performing the essential[] functions of [the] job; because [Plaintiff] had canceled [her] July 1');">15 follow up appointment and declined to reschedule it; and because [Plaintiff] had not completed the return to duty process.” [Doc. 1');">1-1');">1, p 4]. Plaintiff also alleges “[t]hroughout her employment, [she] was subjected to harassment, in the form of derogatory comments about [her] race and sex from [her immediate supervisor] and from coworkers.” Id. The Complaint alleges she “complained to managers and to human resources verbally and in writing” but “the behavior continued.” Id.

         The first page of the Employment Discrimination Complaint she completed to file this suit lists four statutes and asks the claimant to check “only those that apply.” The form lists Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1');">1964, the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1');">1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1');">1990, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1');">1973. Plaintiff only checked the “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1');">1990.” Later in her complaint, however, she was asked to check all that apply to complete the following sentence: “I believe I was discriminated against because of my ___.” [Doc. 1');">1, p. 4]. Plaintiff checked “race, ” “color, ” “gender, ” and “disability.” Defendant now moves for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings on the grounds that “Plaintiff is attempting to allege claims of race, color, and gender discrimination in her complaint which is filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.” [Doc. 35, p. 1');">1].

         In her response to Defendants' Motion, Plaintiff also moves for reconsideration of the Court's Order, [Doc. 30], on her previous Motion for Recusal.

         II. Discussion

         A. Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings

         The allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint, [Doc. 1');">1], are taken as true for the purpose of determining whether Defendant's Motion should be granted. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). “A pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and ‘pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties'.” Topchian v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843 (8th Cir. 201');">14) (citing Fed. Express Corp. v. Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389, 402 (2008)).

         Defendant moves for judgment on the pleadings as to Plaintiff's claims of race, color, and gender discrimination. Plaintiff only indicated she was bringing suit under the American's with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1');">121');">101');">1, et seq., which only allows for lawsuits on the basis of disability. In her response to Defendant's Motion, Plaintiff asks that race and gender discrimination remain, noting “witness against two white disabled men coworkers” who “are also involved in [her] case.” [Doc. 36');">36, p. 1');">1].

         Based on her filing, it seems clear to the Court that Plaintiff means to bring claims based on alleged racial and gender discrimination. See [Doc. 1');">1, Doc. 36');">36]. On page six of her Complaint, she writes:

I believe I have been discriminated against due to my race, black; sex, female, and in retaliation for my complaints of harassment in the workplace in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1');">1964, as amended. I also believe that I have been discriminated against because of my disability and/or my record of a disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended.

         [Doc. 1');">1, p. 6]. It is therefore clear to the Court that Plaintiff's failure to place a mark next to “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1');">1964” on page one of her Complaint was an inadvertent mistake and does not warrant judgment on the pleadings. Stone v. Harry, 36');">364 F.3d 91');">12, 91');">15 (8th Cir. 2004) (“When we say that a pro se complaint should be given liberal construction, we mean that if the essence of an allegation is discernible, even though it is not pleaded with legal nicety, 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.”).

         If she chooses, Plaintiff may move for leave to file an amended complaint in order to make clear on the first page of her form that she brings this suit under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, because she explicitly notes elsewhere in her Complaint that this suit is brought under both ...


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