United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
November 2014, defendant Michael Reuter was elected Clerk of
the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Missouri in a partisan
election. At the time of the election, plaintiff Rochelle
Marie Mayes was working at the court as a courtroom clerk to
Judge Darrell Missey. Reuter ran as a Republican; Mayes had
supported her coworker and Reuter's Democratic
competitor, Jeanette McKee, in McKee's failed run for
Clerk of Court.
years later, Mayes, who is African-American, was replaced as
courtroom clerk for Judge Missey by a Caucasian woman. Mayes
alleges that during the ten months following, coworkers
Katrina Lingenfelter and Ashley Scrivner filed false
workplace reports about her, she was passed over for
promotion, and eventually she was terminated by Reuter in
October 2017. Mayes brings this action against Lingenfelter,
Scrivner, Reuter, and the State of Missouri under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, the Missouri Human Rights Act, Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 213.010 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. for political and racial
discrimination and retaliation.
pending before me are motions to dismiss filed by all
defendants, seeking dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R.
Civ. P., of all counts against them. Because I find that
Mayes's complaint contains insufficient factual support
for most of its allegations, defendants' motions to
dismiss will be granted, except as to the racial
discrimination claims brought against the State of
Rochelle Mayes began her employment as a Deputy Clerk with
the Circuit Court in Jefferson County, Missouri in 2000. She
was promoted to a level III Deputy Clerk and assigned to
Judge Darrell Missey's courtroom in 2007. Mayes was the
first African-American clerk to work at the court.
November 2014, Republican Michael Reuter defeated Democrat
Jeanette McKee for the elected position of Clerk of the
Jefferson County Circuit Court. Democrat Mayes had publicly
supported her coworker, Deputy Clerk McKee, in her failed
campaign for Clerk of Court.
Reuter took office in January 2015, Mayes was still working
as the courtroom clerk for Judge Missey. Mayes alleges that
she had a very good relationship with Judge Missey until
September 2016 when Missey was elected to be the Presiding
Judge of the court for the term starting January 1, 2017.
Traditionally, when a judge was elected as Presiding Judge,
his courtroom clerk would become the Secretary to the
Presiding Judge and receive a $200 per month pay increase.
However, after being elected, Judge Missey informed Mayes
that he might move her to a different courtroom clerk
position for another judge. But when the other judge
requested to meet with Mayes about the position, Mayes
refused because of a health problem she was experiencing at
work that day.
November 30, 2016, Judge Missey confronted Mayes about her
refusal to meet with the other judge. At that meeting, Mayes
told Missey that she believed he was replacing her as his
courtroom clerk because she is African-American. Following
the meeting, fellow Deputy Clerk and defendant, Ashley
Scrivner, submitted a complaint about Mayes to Reuter.
Although Scrivner was not in the meeting with Missey and
Mayes, she claimed that she was nearby and had heard Mayes
yelling and cursing at Judge Missey. Mayes denies raising her
voice in the meeting and alleges Scrivner's report is
December 1, 2016, the day after the meeting with Missey,
Mayes was informed by Reuter and her supervisor that she had
been removed as courtroom clerk for Judge Missey. She was
reassigned to a pool of Deputy Clerks in the juvenile
division. Mayes filed a grievance concerning her removal as
courtroom clerk. Reuter denied the grievance based on a state
law that permits judges to select their own courtroom clerks.
Around the same time as the grievance denial, Reuter demoted
Mayes from Deputy Clerk level III to level II, stating that
she no longer qualified as level III because she was not a
courtroom clerk. Mayes alleges that this is false.
Katrina Lingenfelter was appointed by Judge Missey as his new
courtroom clerk and Secretary to the Presiding Judge. Mayes
and Lingenfelter had a friendly relationship until
Lingenfelter was appointed as Missey's courtroom clerk.
Mayes alleges that Lingenfelter “is Caucasian, slim,
blonde and younger than [Mayes], but is not as efficient,
experienced or competent.” ECF No. 1 at ¶ 77.
December 26, 2016, Mayes filed a charge of discrimination
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Her
charge was brought against Judge Missey and Reuter, claiming
discrimination based on “1. OBESITY, 2. DISABILITY -
(OSETO-ARTHRITIS), 3. RACE & 4. AGE.” ECF No. 1-1
at 3. In her letter to the EEOC, Mayes described the events
leading up to her demotion from Missey's courtroom clerk
and from a Deputy Clerk level III to II. On September 29,
2017, the EEOC issued her a right-to-sue letter.
April 25, 2017, Mayes filed a complaint with the Missouri
Commission on Human Rights (MCHR). On the charge document,
she checked the boxes for discrimination based on race,
retaliation, age, and disability. The MCHR charge contains
the same narrative of facts as the EEOC charge, naming both
Missey and Reuter. On November 20, 2017, the Missouri
Commission issued Mayes a right-to-sue letter.
December 2016 and October 2017, Mayes continued to work at
the court in the pool of juvenile division Deputy Clerks. She
alleges that she was mostly ignored by her coworkers.
Courtroom clerk and backup courtroom clerk positions opened
up during this period, but Mayes was not considered for the
positions and less-experienced clerks were appointed to them.
August, September, and October 2017, Mayes alleges that
Lingenfelter submitted three false reports about Mayes's
workplace behavior. In two of the reports, Lingenfelter
accused Mayes of calling her a “bitch.” In the
third report, Lingenfelter claims Mayes hit the back of her
knee with her lunchbox and then elbowed her in the back. Two
of these three false reports were submitted to Reuter.
October 6, 2017, Reuter issued Mayes a notice of
“Intent to Terminate” employment because of
“recent actions taken by [Mayes] toward other coworkers
as well as your supervisor.” Because Mayes's
request for a pre-termination hearing was not postmarked by
the effective date of the dismissal, Reuter issued a
“Final Letter of Termination” on October 16,
2017. Mayes's appeals of the termination to Judge Missey
and the Circuit Court Budget Committee were denied. There is
no allegation that Mayes filed second charges with the EEOC
or MCHR regarding her termination.
complaint seeks relief on seven counts: three 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 counts for political discrimination, retaliation
for political activity, and equal protection based on race;
two Missouri Human Rights Act counts for racial
discrimination and retaliation; and two Title VII counts for
racial discrimination and retaliation. All seven counts are
brought against the three individual defendants:
Lingenfelter, Scrivner, and Reuter. The MHRA and Title VII
counts are also brought against the State of Missouri.
seek dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., of all
counts. Defendants argue Mayes has failed to exhaust her
administrative remedies because the charges she filed did not
encompass all the claims made in the lawsuit, failed to plead
sufficient facts of their personal involvement, and failed to
state sufficient allegations to support her claims for
relief, including a conspiracy claim. Defendants also claim
they are protected by qualified immunity, quasi-judicial
immunity, and official immunity. Mayes concedes that the four
MHRA and Title VII claims should be dismissed against
defendants Lingenfelter and Scrivner, but she opposes
dismissal of the other claims.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test
the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). When considering a 12(b)(6) motion, the court
assumes the factual allegations of a complaint are true and
construes them in favor of the plaintiff. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). However, the
court need not accept as true merely conclusory allegations,
Hanten v. Sch. Dist. of Riverview Gardens, 183 F.3d
799, 805 (8th Cir. 1999), or legal conclusions drawn by the
plaintiff from the facts pled. Westcott v. City of
Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990).
8(a)(2), Fed. R. Civ. P., provides that a complaint must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court
clarified that Rule 8(a)(2) requires complaints to contain
“more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). Specifically, to survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain enough factual allegations,
accepted as true, to state a claim for relief “that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
Counts I & II: §1983 Political Discrimination
public employee, §1983 “imposes liability for
certain actions taken ‘under color of' law that
deprive a person ‘of a right secured by the
Constitution and laws of the United States.' ”
Magee v. Trustees of Hamline Univ., Minn., 747 F.3d
532, 535 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Lugar v. Edmondson Oil
Co., 457 U.S. 922, 931 (1982)). A claim of political
discrimination is based on an employee's status or
affiliation, while a claim of political retaliation is based
on her speech or conduct. Wagner v. Jones, 664 F.3d
259, 269 (8th Cir. 2011). The tests for each claim are
similar in that both require a plaintiff to make a prima
facie showing that she suffered an adverse employment action
and that the plaintiff's political beliefs or affiliation
(in a political discrimination claim), or activity (in a
retaliation claim), was a substantial or motivating factor in
the employer's decision to take the adverse employment
action. Id. at 270. Substantial or motivating
factors can be shown through either direct or indirect
evidence. Id. at 271.
alleges that the three individual defendants conspired
together to discriminate against her based on her political
affiliation as a Democrat and in retaliation for her support
of Democrat McKee in the 2014 election for Clerk of Court.
Mayes's complaint does not allege that Lingenfelter or
Scrivner are politically adverse to Mayes, that they were
aware that Mayes supported a Democrat in the 2014 election,
or that they themselves did not also support Democrat McKee
in that election. Mayes alleges that the political animosity
started with the November 2014 election but she admits that
she had a good relationship with Lingenfelter for the two
years following the election, until Lingenfelter was
appointed to replace her. Neither fellow Deputy Clerk
Lingenfelter nor Scrivner had the authority or power to make
any adverse employment decision affecting Mayes's
employment. Her only factual accusations against Lingenfelter
and Scrivner involve the filing of false reports. However,
the complaint contains no facts that could support a finding
that political affiliation or ...