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McGuire v. St. Louis County

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

February 5, 2018

DR. PATT MCGUIRE, Plaintiff,
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Dr. Patt McGuire, Ph.D., acting pro se, originally filed this case in state court in August of 2017. At that time she alleged employment discrimination in violation of state law. Defendants removed the case to federal court after plaintiff filed an “Amended Petition (Complaint) and Exhibits - Permission Granted by The Judge Kristine Allen Kerr, ” which added claims under federal law. Plaintiff alleges that she is a full-time employee of St. Louis County, Missouri. She alleges that defendants failed to promote her on the basis of her race, gender and age and that defendants retaliated against her when she complained about the discrimination.

         The Amended Complaint alleges that defendants violated the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.111, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2003(e), et seq. A “Memorandum of Law in Support of Amended Complaint” filed by plaintiff along with the Amended Complaint added claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Plaintiff also attached a declaration and more than 450 pages of exhibits. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages of $4 million, punitive damages of $10.5 million, plus $500, 000 or $350 per hour (whichever is greater) as attorneys' fees for her pro se work on the case. ECF Doc. 4 at ¶ 23.

         In the approximately two months the case has been pending in this Court, plaintiff has filed over fifty additional motions and other documents. Many of the documents are either copies of documents she has already filed, or repeat the same arguments made in her other filings. Most add allegations of what she considers continuing improper treatment by defendants and others with whom she works. She also filed an additional state-court lawsuit, which has now been removed and is pending before another judge of this Court. Dr. Patt McGuire vs. Jerry Edwards and St. Louis County, Case No. 4:18CV71 CAS.

         Plaintiff's Motions to Remand

         Plaintiff has filed several documents arguing that this case should be returned to state court. See ECF Docs. 13, 17, 18, 19, 28, 31, 34, 41. Defendants removed the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), on the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The face of the Amended Complaint shows that plaintiff is claiming that she is entitled to relief under federal law, and so federal-question jurisdiction exists. Removal was timely and otherwise procedurally proper. Plaintiff does not actually argue, in any of her many filings, that this Court lacks jurisdiction; instead she simply argues that the state court would be better suited to hear the case. This is not a reason to remand the case. Jurisdiction is proper in this Court and so I will deny the motions to remand.

         Defendants' Motions to Dismiss

         All defendants have filed motions to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and plaintiff has filed multiple responses to each motion. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, I assume the factual allegations of the complaint to be true and construe them in favor of the plaintiff. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). Although pro se complaints “are to be construed liberally, see Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976), they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced.” Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004). To survive dismissal, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

         All defendants argue that the Amended Complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for employment discrimination or retaliation. I agree as to three of the individual defendants. The Amended Complaint makes no allegations against Defendants Judge Thea A. Sherry or Sue Daniels. In one of her responses, plaintiff asserts that Judge Sherry is a proper defendant because she “is working in a capacity that gives her and when the violation occurred gave her the authority to issues remedies to address the acts of discrimination, retaliation act, and harassment against the Plaintiff.” ECF Doc. 22 at p. 2. The only allegation against defendant Lacy Rakestraw is: “The plaintiff has reason to believe Lacy Rakesfraw [sic] actions on August 28, 2017 were encouraged by outside forces.” ECF Doc. 4 at ¶ 5. The complaint does not allege sufficient facts to support a claim against these defendants under any of the statutes on which plaintiff relies, and I will grant the motions to dismiss as to defendants Judge Sherry, Sue Daniels, and Lacy Rakestraw in their entirety.

         Defendant St. Louis County and the remaining individual defendants, Cliff Faddis, Cheryl Campbell, Marshall Day and Ben Burkemper, also argue that the factual allegations against them are insufficient. Plaintiff has alleged, however, that each of these defendants was involved somehow in the decisions not to promote her or in acts of retaliation. She has also alleged that defendants promoted less qualified and younger white males to the positions she sought. Liberally construed, as is required for this pro se plaintiff, these factual allegations are sufficient for the claims against these defendants to proceed. These defendants have other arguments, however, for why the claims should be dismissed, and some of those arguments are correct.

         The remaining individual defendants argue that the definitions of “employer” in Title VII, the ADEA, and the MHRA do not include individual supervisors or co-workers and so they cannot be held liable under those acts. They are correct with respect to any claims under Title VII and the ADEA, see Bonomolo-Hagen v. Clay Cent.-Everly Comm. Sch. Dist., 121 F.3d 446, 447 (8th Cir.1997) (Title VII); Kelleher v. Aerospace Comm. Credit Union, 927 F.Supp. 361, 363 (E.D. Mo.1996) (ADEA). I will therefore grant the motion to dismiss the Title VII and ADEA claims against the remaining individual defendants and those claims may only proceed against St. Louis County. But the issue is much more complicated with respect to the Missouri Human Rights Act.

         Until last year, individuals such as these defendants could be held liable under the MHRA. The state law was amended, however, and the amendment was effective on August 28, 2017, the same day that plaintiff filed her lawsuit in state court. The amendment changed the definition of “Employer” under the Act to exclude individuals such as the individual defendants here. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.010.1(8). Plaintiff is alleging actions that took place before the amendment was effective, and she filed her charges of discrimination before the effective date. Defendants argue that the change in the law was merely a “procedural” and “remedial” change and therefore the new provision is retroactive.

         I have found only one reported case considering this issue, Woodruff v. Jefferson City Area YMCA, No. 17-4244-CV-C-WJE, 2018 WL 576857 (W. D. Mo. Jan. 27, 2018). This federal decision held that the changes to § 213.010(8) were not retroactive, and did not apply to a MHRA claim based on acts occurring before the effective date of the change in the law, even though the lawsuit was not filed until after the amendment's effective date. Id. at * 3. The Court reasoned that if the law were retroactive it would remove the cause of action plaintiff would otherwise have had against the individual defendants, and that therefore it must be substantive, and not merely procedural. Id. The Court also noted that if the law applied to conduct that had occurred before its effective date it would violate the Missouri Constitution's ban on ex post facto laws. Id.

         The reasoning of the Woodruff court appears correct to me, although I recognize that this is an important issue of Missouri law that has not yet been decided by the Missouri courts. I will deny the motion to dismiss on this basis at this time, although defendants may, of course, re-raise the ...

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