STATE ex rel. CHURCH & DWIGHT CO., INC., Relator,
The Honorable WILLIAM B. COLLINS, Respondent. And STATE ex rel. FOCUS WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT, INC., et al., Relators,
The Honorable WILLIAM B. COLLINS, Respondent.
ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS IN PROHIBITION
PATRICIA BRECKENRIDGE, JUDGE.
Mulvey filed Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) claims for
discrimination and retaliation against Focus Workforce
Management, Inc., and four Focus employees (collectively,
Focus) and Church & Dwight Company, Inc. Church and Focus
each filed a motion to dismiss on grounds the MHRA claims
were time-barred. Ms. Mulvey then filed a motion for leave to
amend her petition to include common law claims of negligence
and wrongful discharge. When the circuit court overruled the
motions to dismiss and sustained Ms. Mulvey's motion for
leave to amend, Church and Focus each filed a petition for a
writ of prohibition to prevent the circuit court from taking
any action other than vacating its orders overruling their
respective motions to dismiss. Church's writ petition
also sought to prevent the circuit court from taking any
other action than vacating its order sustaining Ms.
Mulvey's motion for leave to amend. This Court issued
Court finds the circuit court exceeded its authority in
overruling Focus' and Church's motions to dismiss Ms.
Mulvey's original petition for failure to state a claim.
Ms. Mulvey did not file her claim in the circuit court until
May 19, 2016 - 91 days after her right-to-sue letter issued.
Ms. Mulvey's MHRA claim, therefore, is barred by the
90-day statute of limitations provided in section
the circuit court abused its discretion by sustaining Ms.
Mulvey's motion for leave to amend her petition with
common law claims of negligence and wrongful discharge
against Church. The remedies available at common law are
fully comprehended by the remedies provided by the MHRA in
section 213.111.2. Accordingly, the amended common law claims
against Church are preempted by the MHRA. The preliminary
writs are made permanent. Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 4.
and Procedural Background
October 2014, Ms. Mulvey was hired by Focus, a staffing
agency, and began work at Church's manufacturing
facility. During her employment, Ms. Mulvey asserts she was
subjected to offensive and derogatory conduct, comments, and
actions based upon her sex. While still employed, Ms. Mulvey
complained of these actions to employees at Focus and
participated in an investigation of the alleged harassment.
At some point after the investigation, she was terminated by
Focus and not hired as a permanent employee by Church.
Mulvey filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri
Commission on Human Rights. The commission issued Ms. Mulvey
a right-to-sue letter dated February 18, 2016, advising her
she must bring a civil action under the MHRA "within 90
days of the date of this notice." On May 19, 2016 - 91
days later - Ms. Mulvey filed a petition in the circuit court
alleging MHRA claims of retaliation and discrimination
against Church and Focus.
and Focus each filed a motion to dismiss Ms. Mulvey's
petition for failure to state a claim, asserting her claim
was time-barred. Before the circuit court ruled on the
motions to dismiss, Ms. Mulvey filed a motion for leave to
amend her petition to add common law claims of negligence and
wrongful discharge. Church and Focus opposed the motion for
leave to amend. The circuit court overruled the motions to
dismiss and sustained Ms. Mulvey's leave to amend her
and Focus each seek a writ of prohibition from this Court to
prohibit the circuit court from doing anything other than
vacating its order overruling their motions to dismiss.
Additionally, Church seeks a writ of prohibition prohibiting
the circuit court from doing anything other than vacating its
order sustaining Ms. Mulvey's motion for leave to amend
her petition. The two cases are consolidated for purposes of
is a discretionary writ that only issues to prevent an abuse
of judicial discretion, to avoid irreparable harm to a party,
or to prevent exercise of extrajurisdictional power."
State ex rel. Schwarz Pharma, Inc. v. Dowd, 432
S.W.3d 764, 768 (Mo. banc 2014). A writ of prohibition is the
proper "remedy to prevent a lower court from proceeding
on [a claim] barred by the statute of limitations."
State ex rel. Holzum, 342 S.W.3d 313, 315 (Mo. banc
2011). "[P]rohibition will lie if plaintiff's
petition does not state a viable theory of recovery, and
relator was entitled to be dismissed from the suit as a
matter of law." State ex rel. Union Elec. Co. v.
Dolan, 256 S.W.3d 77, 81 (Mo. banc 2008) (internal
quotations omitted). If the complaint is insufficient to
justify court action, it is "fundamentally unjust to
force another to suffer the considerable expense and
inconvenience of litigation" in addition to being
"a waste of judicial resources and taxpayer money."
State ex rel. Henley v. Bickel, 285 S.W.3d 327, 330
(Mo. banc 2009).
to Dismiss the MHRA Claims
and Focus assert they are entitled to writs of prohibition
because the circuit court exceeded its authority in
overruling the motions to dismiss because Ms. Mulvey's
MHRA claims are time-barred. The MHRA provides, in pertinent
part, "Any action brought in the court . . . shall be
filed within ninety days from the date of the
commission's notification letter to the individual."
Section 213.111.1. By the statute's plain language, an
MHRA claim must be brought in the circuit court within 90
days of the commission's notification letter.
commission's notification letter to Ms. Mulvey was dated
February 18, 2016. The notification letter twice stated the
90-day filing requirement. Ms. Mulvey did not file her MHRA
action in the circuit court until May 19, 2016 - 91 days
later. Ms. Mulvey, ...