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Johnson v. Special School District of St. Louis County

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

May 21, 2018

DENISE JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT OF ST. LOUIS COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff brings this nine-count[1] discrimination lawsuit against her employers, defendants Special School District of St. Louis County (“SSD”), the Jennings School District (“JSD”), and various individuals employed or formerly employed by those entities. Only SSD and the Jennings School District have been served with process. The two school districts have moved to dismiss. They have also moved to consolidate this case with another, nearly-identical case that plaintiff filed in state court and which was subsequently removed by the defendants. Plaintiff has not responded to the motions to dismiss or the motion to consolidate.

         I. Factual Background

         The Court accepts the facts alleged in the complaint as true for the purposes of the motions to dismiss. Plaintiff alleges she is a speech and language pathologist employed by the SSD. She further alleges that the SSD officials discriminated against plaintiff by refusing to transfer her to work at a different school district and retaliated against her for complaining of discriminatory acts. Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination (the “Charge”) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on January 15, 2016. In the Charge, plaintiff selected boxes for discrimination based on “Race” and “Retaliation.” She did not select boxes for “Age” or “Disability, ” nor did she allege facts giving rise to discrimination based on age or disability in her Charge. The EEOC issued plaintiff a Right-to-Sue letter on June 7, 2017, notifying her to file a lawsuit, if at all, within 90 days.

         Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on December 1, 2017. She alleges (1) racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; (2) age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”); (3) “Reprisal for Engaging in Protected Activities”; (4) “Reprisal for Engaging in Whistleblower Protected Activity”; (5) violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (7) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (8) tortious interference with a business expectancy; and (9) “willful and wanton.”

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as to eliminate those actions “which are fatally flawed in their legal premises and deigned to fail, thereby sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the ‘factual content. . . allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'“ Cole v. Homier Dist. Co., Inc., 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The Court must “accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005)). However, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” will not pass muster. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A. Defendant Special School District's Motion

         Defendant SSD moves to dismiss each count. As discussed below, plaintiff fails to state claim on which relief can be granted against SSD on these claims, and SSD's motion will be granted.

         1. Racial Discrimination in Violation of Title VII

         Title VII requires that a litigant bring a discrimination action within 90 days from her receipt of the EEOC's right-to-sue letter. Brooks v. Ferguson-Florissant Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 903, 904 (8th Cir. 1997); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). The “plain meaning of the statute now provides that failure to file suit within ninety days after the receipt of a notice from the EEOC renders a plaintiff's action untimely.” Littell v. Aid Ass'n for Lutherans, 62 F.3d 257, 259 (8th Cir. 1995). Plaintiff's right-to-sue letter was issued on June 7, 2017. Assuming it took three days for plaintiff to receive the letter, her Title VII claim needed to be filed by September 10, 2017. Plaintiff did not file her complaint until December 1, 2017 --- nearly three months after the presumptive deadline. Her Count I is therefore time-barred and will be dismissed.

         2. ADEA Claim

         Defendant contends plaintiff's ADEA claim should be dismissed because she failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The ADEA requires that plaintiffs timely file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC prior to bringing an ADEA action in court. See 29 U.S.C. § 626(d). “Allegations outside the scope of the EEOC charge…circumscribe the EEOC's investigatory and conciliatory role, and for that reason are not allowed.” Kells v. Sinclair Buick-GMC Truck, Inc., 210 F.3d 827, 836 (8th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). A plaintiff who does not allege age discrimination in her EEOC complaint has not administratively exhausted her age discrimination claim, and thus any such claim must be dismissed. See Taylor v. Wright, 4:05 CV 798 JCH, 2005 WL 2033422, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 23, 2005). Plaintiff did not allege age discrimination on the Charge complaint form; she did not check the box indicating discrimination based on “age, ” and she checked only boxes indicating discrimination based on “race” and “retaliation.” In her statement of “particulars, ” plaintiff stated she had been discriminated against based on her race and “retaliated against for advocating for students with disabilities and reporting violations under the IDEA.” Plaintiff did not allege any facts in her Charge that are in any way related to an age discrimination claim, and thus this count will be dismissed.

         3. “Reprisal for Engaging in Protected Activities” Plaintiff brings this apparent retaliation claim pursuant to Title VII and the ADEA. However, because both plaintiff's Title VII claim and her ADEA claim are ...


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