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Evans v. Blanton Construction Co.

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

July 11, 2018

ST. LOUIS CARP. DIST. CNCL., et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint filed by each of the seven defendants in this case (Docs. 13, 14, 25, 36, & 40); Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint to add an eighth defendant, Carpenter's Union Local #97, to the case (Doc. 49); and the motion filed by two of the defendants to strike to strike Plaintiff's motion to amend (Doc. 50). The motions have been fully briefed, and the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. (Doc. 33.) For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motions to dismiss will be granted, Plaintiff's motion to amend will be denied, and this case will be dismissed.

         I. Procedural Background

         On April 25, 2017, Plaintiff Tab Quentin Evans, acting pro se, filed his original Complaint in this action. (Doc. 1). On the same date, he filed another complaint in a second case, Evans v. St. Louis Carpenters District Council, et al., No. 4:17-CV-1390-SPM. On August 3, 2017, the Court identified several deficiencies in Plaintiff's Complaint and ordered him to file an amended complaint addressing those deficiencies. (Doc. 5). On August 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in the instant action. (Doc. 7). On September 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed identical amended complaints in the two cases; in the instant case, that complaint was the Second Amended Complaint. On October 2, 2017, after finding that the two cases involved common questions of law and fact, the Court entered an order consolidating the second case into the instant case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42. (Doc. 10). Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 34) is at issue here.

         II. Factual Background

         Plaintiff is, or has been during several years prior to the filing this lawsuit, an apprentice carpenter and a member of the Union. He is also a Jehovah's Witness. He brings this action against one of his employers, Blanton Construction Co. (“Blanton”); his apprenticeship program, St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program (“CJAP”); his union, St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council (“the Union”), identified in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint as St. Louis Carpenters District Council; an international labor organization, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (“UBC”), identified in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint as U.B.C.-International; the Department of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (“DOL-BAT”); the Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship (“DOL-OA”); and the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (“DOL-ETA”).

         In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff appears to allege generally that the defendants have engaged in, allowed, and/or covered up discrimination against him and others. In 2007, Plaintiff filed a grievance letter that all of the defendants are aware of (the “2007 Grievance”), complaining of discrimination and/or harassment by his employers and coworkers based on his religion and on a perception that he was gay, as well as complaining that he had been unable to get jobs and that the Union had given him poor references. The 2007 Grievance is attached as an exhibit to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint.[1] Plaintiff alleges that UBC conducted an investigation over a period of more than a year, but instead of giving the results of the investigation to Plaintiff, concealed its findings and referred Plaintiff to its lawyers. Plaintiff also alleges that at the outset of the investigation, he was told that they thought they “solved that problem” in St. Louis. Plaintiff asserts that UBC may be covering up its findings of a local affiliate breaking laws and procedures barring discrimination.

         Plaintiff also alleges that records from his F.O.I.A. request will show that CJAP and the Union “confer[red] with their Counsel, and decide[d] ‘this could make us look bad as a ‘Parens Patriae' civil case and neglect[ed] their responsibility toward the apprentice.” It is unclear what “this” is, but it may be the 2007 Grievance. Plaintiff also alleges that the Union chose to look out for its Union contractors, provided no Union representation for him, and did not “look into the 15 years of ‘promiscuous hiring and firings' to see if it's discrimination or not.”[2]

         Plaintiff further alleges that records show that Union staff admit to telling Union contractors in advance that he was a Jehovah's Witness, which resulted in Union carpenter employees threatening him that if he was a Jehovah's Witness, they would take actions that could maim, paralyze, or kill Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that this occurred within one to two minutes of his starting a new job, without his having said anything. In the body of his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff does not state where or when this alleged incident took place. However, a review of the 2007 Grievance attached as an exhibit to his Second Amended Complaint shows that it occurred when he was working for McBride Builders in October of 2003. See 2007 Grievance, Doc. 34-1, at p. 13.

         Plaintiff alleges that although the Union's Apprenticeship Standards Agreement and various laws and rules require the Union to help him secure work, the Union told D.O.L. that it was not required to supply work. He also alleges that the Union has continued “to discriminately lie to particular individuals, to whom they chose, and NOT place them on jobs.”

         Plaintiff also alleges that since his 2007 Grievance, the Union has changed its Collective Bargaining Agreement so that an individual only has ten days to file a grievance, which makes it easier to discriminate against individuals. He alleges that the Union tells employees that they are allowed to be fired under the contract, which permits employers to point to nondiscriminatory reasons for firing employees. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Blanton Construction Co. sent a letter to Plaintiff in which they attributed his firing to the fact that “employees all refuse to work with [Plaintiff].” Plaintiff asserts that the Union's failure to look into the matter permits discrimination to occur. Plaintiff also suggests that “the employer” (presumably Blanton) was following the Union's lead in “wrongfully and discriminatorily firing the plaintiff.”

         Plaintiff also appears to allege that the Union and/or CJAP have failed to meet their “Affirmative Action Plan prerequisites.” He suggests generally that “discrimination against the plaintiff and discrimination against fellow St. Louis minorities, against whomsoever they choose to discriminate against, for their race, for their religion, for their gender, for their personal choices, whomsoever they dislike, is discrimination against the rest of society.”[3] Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $50, 000, 000.

         Each defendant has filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         III. Legal Standard

         When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint, but it need not accept legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim satisfies the plausibility standard “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         In applying these principles, the court must construe Plaintiff's pro se Second Amended Complaint liberally. Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004). Thus, “if the essence of an allegation is discernible, even though it is not pleaded with legal nicety, then the district court should construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework.” Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 544 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Stone, 364 F.3d at 915). However, a pro se complaint “still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced.” Stone, 364 F.3d at 914.

         “It is well-established that an amended complaint supercedes an original complaint and renders the original complaint without legal effect.” In re Wireless Telephone Fed. Cost Recovery Fees Litig., 396 F.3d 922, 928 (8th Cir. 2005). Thus, the Court considers only the allegations in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint and not those in earlier pleadings. The Court will also consider the 2007 Grievance, which is attached as an exhibit to the Second Amended Complaint. See Abels v. Farmers Commodities Corp., 259 F.3d 910, 921 (7th Cir. 2001) (“[A]court ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) may consider material attached to the complaint.”).

         IV. Discussion

         As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint does not make clear what specific claims Plaintiff is alleging against any of the defendants. The defendants appear to treat Plaintiff's allegations as raising possible claims of discrimination arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). In his response in opposition to Defendants' motions, Plaintiff does not appear to dispute this characterization and does not identify any other statutes under which his claims may arise.[4] The Court will liberally construe Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint to include claims that the defendants violated Title VII by discriminating against him based on race, religion, sex, and/or perceived sexual orientation, as well as allegations that the defendants retaliated against him after he participated in protected activities. The Court will consider separately the each of the motions to dismiss filed by the defendants.

         A. Blanton's Motion ...

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