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Mauller v. Heartland Automotive Services, Inc.

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

January 31, 2018

JENNA MAULLER, Plaintiff,
v.
HEARTLAND AUTOMOTIVE SERVICES, INC., d/b/a Jiffy Lube, and RAPHAEL DORIETY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Heartland Automotive Services, Inc., d/b/a Jiffy Lube, and Raphael Doriety's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 5.) Plaintiff Jenna Mauller has filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. 7), and Defendants have filed a Reply in Support (Doc. 8).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff alleges the following facts in her complaint: She was hired in August 2015 to work at the Jiffy Lube on North New Florissant Road in Florissant, Missouri, where Doriety was employed as a supervisor. (Doc. 1 at 2.) On August 25, 2015, “[a]fter making several sexually suggest[ive] comments to [Plaintiff], Doriety grabbed [Plaintiff's] breasts.” (Id.) “Soon thereafter, ” Doriety asked Mauller to join him in the office at the Jiffy Lube. (Id.) When Plaintiff entered, Doriety closed and locked the door and positioned himself between Plaintiff and the exit. (Id.) Doriety intimated that he would help Plaintiff with payroll issues and schedule her for additional hours in exchange for sexual favors. (Id. at 3.) He “then moved toward [Plaintiff] and unzipped the fly of his pants and said: ‘I need some assistance.'” (Id.) Plaintiff asked Doriety to unlock the door, left work, and reported the incident to police. (Id.) She did not return.

         On February 17, 2016, Plaintiff requested Right to Sue Letters from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Missouri Human Rights Commission (“MHRC”). (Doc. 7 at 1.) On August 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed this suit, alleging discrimination under Title VII and assault, battery, and false imprisonment under Missouri law. (Doc. 1 at 3-5.) Defendants moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Title VII claim as untimely and urges the court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining Missouri tort claims. (Doc. 5 at 6.) Defendants also argue that Plaintiff's state-law claims are barred by issue preclusion and fail on the merits. (Id. at 7-8.)

         II. Analysis

         To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “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, 768 (2009) (citing 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.

         Defendants first argue that the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's Title VII claim as time-barred. (Doc. 5 at 4-6.) Title VII claims must be brought within ninety days of the date on which Plaintiff receives the EEOC's right to sue letter. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). The EEOC mailed its letter on March 23, 2016. (Doc. 1-2.) Defendants state in their Reply that they received a copy of the letter on March 25, 2016 (Doc. 8 at 2, n.2), but Plaintiff asserts that she did not receive her copy until August 4, 2017, more than sixteen months after it was mailed (Doc. 1 at 3).

         Defendants correctly assert that EEOC letters are presumed to have been delivered three days after they are mailed. Baldwin Cty. Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 148 n.1 (1984) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 6). However, Plaintiff's assertion that the letter arrived on August 4, 2017, is a factual matter that the Court is required to accept as true for purposes of the instant motion. The Court therefore concludes that the allegations in Plaintiff's August 7, 2017, complaint are sufficient to rebut the presumption and to survive dismissal as to the timeliness issue.

         Defendants do not address the merits of Plaintiff's Title VII claim in their argument. (See Docs. 5, 8.) Nevertheless, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient factual matter to allow the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the Defendants are liable for the misconduct Plaintiff described. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 768 (2009).

         “[A] plaintiff may establish a violation of Title VII by proving that discrimination based on sex has created a hostile or abusive work environment.” Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 66 (1986). To establish a prima facie hostile work environment claim based on sexual harassment, Plaintiff must show that:

(1) she was a member of a protected group;
(2) she was subject to unwelcome ...

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