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Evans v. Ford Motor Co.

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

September 18, 2017

MONIQUE D. EVANS, Plaintiff,


          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court are a motion by Defendants Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) and Frank Rogers to dismiss (Doc. 6) and a motion by Plaintiff to remand (Doc. 8). For the reasons set forth below, the motion to remand is denied and the motion to dismiss is granted.

         I. Background[1]

         Ms. Evans is a former employee of Ford. According to her petition, Mr. Rogers terminated her employment with Ford effective November 14, 2015 because of her pregnancy. On January 25, 2016, after Ms. Evans complained to union representatives that the termination was discriminatory, Mr. Rogers offered to reinstate her under the following conditions: she would remain on probation for twelve months and would forfeit all backpay and future bonuses. When Ms. Evans asked to discuss the offer with a union representative, Mr. Rogers rescinded the offer to reinstate her.

         On February 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed pro se a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging discrimination on the basis of sex. She explained that, after she took maternity leave due to pregnancy complications, Ford terminated her effective November 14, 2015. She stated, “[O]n or about January 23, 2016, I was told by my union representative that I could have my job back with conditions. I had to agree to 12 months' probation and forfeit all my bonuses.” She expressed the belief that she was “discharged and denied [her] bonuses” because of her pregnancy. The charge was dated and time-stamped February 9, 2016, more than two weeks after Mr. Rogers made and then revoked the conditional offer of reinstatement.

         On June 16, 2016, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (the “MCHR”) issued to Ms. Evans a Notice of Right to Sue (the “First RTS Notice”), notifying her that it had decided to terminate all proceedings related to the First Charge. The notice specified in bold, capitalized letters, “IF YOU DO NOT FILE A CIVIL ACTION IN STATE CIRCUIT COURT RELATING TO THE MATTERS ASSERTED IN YOUR COMPLAINT WITHIN 90 DAYS OF THE DATE OF THIS NOTICE, YOUR RIGHT TO SUE IS LOST.” The notice also explained that “[n]o person may file or reinstate a complaint with the MCHR after the issuance of a notice under this section relating to the same practice or act.” Plaintiff did not file suit within 90 days of the First RTS Notice.

         On July 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second Charge of Discrimination with the MCHR. The second charge named Mr. Rogers, in addition to Ford, as a respondent and complained not only of sex discrimination, but also of retaliation for Ms. Evans' prior complaints about sex discrimination. The second charge purported to address “new discriminatory incidents, ” but like the first charge, described Ms. Evans' termination on November 14, 2017, her January 23, 2016 conversation with a union representative, and Ford's January 2016 offer to reinstate Ms. Evans on the conditions that she submit to probation for twelve months and waive her rights to backpay and future bonuses.

         On February 27, 2017, the MCHR issued Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue (the “Second RTS Notice”) in connection with her second charge.

         On May 8, 2016 (70 days after the Second RTS Notice was issued), Ms. Evans filed her Petition against both Ford and Rogers in Clay County Circuit Court.

         On June 16, 2017, Defendants removed this action from state court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, asserting that Ms. Evans joined Mr. Rogers, a fellow Missouri citizen, solely to defeat federal diversity jurisdiction. Ms. Evans moved to remand this action to state court. Ford moved to dismiss the complaint.

         II. Discussion

         a) Motion to Remand

         Ms. Evans insists that defendant Rogers' Missouri citizenship precludes diversity jurisdiction and requires remanding the proceedings to state court. However, as discussed below, Ms. Evans' claims against both defendants fail as a matter of law. As such, her joinder of Mr. Rogers is fraudulent and does not deprive the Court of jurisdiction. See Anderson v. Home Ins. Co., 724 F.2d 82, 82 (8th Cir. 1983) (“Joinder designed solely to deprive federal courts of jurisdiction is fraudulent and will not prevent removal. Fraudulent joinder exists if, on the face of plaintiff's state court pleadings, no cause of action lies against the resident defendant.”) (citation omitted).

         b) ...

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