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Mauller v. Heartland Automotive Services, Inc.

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

February 19, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Heartland Automotive Services, Inc., d/b/a Jiffy Lube, and Raphael Doriety's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count I. (Doc. 37.) Plaintiff Jenna Mauller has filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. 39), and Defendants have filed a Reply (Doc. 40).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff alleges the following facts in her complaint: She was hired in August 2015 to work at the Jiffy Lube on North New Florissant Road in Florissant, Missouri, where Doriety was employed as a supervisor. (Doc. 1 at 2.) On August 25, 2015, "[a]fter making several sexually suggest[ive] comments to [Plaintiff], Doriety grabbed [Plaintiffs] breasts." (Id.) "Soon thereafter," Doriety asked Mauller to join him in the office at the Jiffy Lube. (Id.) When Plaintiff entered, Doriety closed and locked the door and positioned himself between Plaintiff and the exit. (Id.) Doriety intimated that he would help Plaintiff with payroll issues and schedule her for additional hours in exchange for sexual favors. (Id. at 3.) He "then moved toward [Plaintiff] and unzipped the fly of his pants and said: 'I need some assistance.'" (Id.) Plaintiff asked Doriety to unlock the door, left work, and reported the incident to police. (Id.) She did not return.

         In Count I of her complaint, Plaintiff accuses Defendants of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. (Doc. 1.) She also advances claims of assault, battery, and false imprisonment under Missouri law. (Id.) Shortly after Plaintiff filed suit, Defendants moved to dismiss the case, arguing among other things that Plaintiff had failed to file her lawsuit within ninety days of receiving a Notice of Right to Sue from the Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Doc. 5.) The Court granted that motion on the separate ground that Plaintiff had not given Defendants their statutorily required opportunity to address the harassment and dismissed the case without prejudice, granting Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 9.) The Court noted that timeliness was a factual inquiry not suitable for determination at the motion to dismiss stage. (Id.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 10.)

         Defendants then moved for summary judgment on the amended complaint, reiterating their argument that the claim is untimely. (Doc. 21.) The Court ordered limited discovery on the issue of timeliness (Doc. 31), and Defendants have now filed an amended motion for summary judgment (Doc. 37).

         II. Legal Standards

         a. Summary Judgment

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a court may grant a motion for summary judgment only if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The burden is on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Coop. Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, all reasonable inferences must be drawn in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp, 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir. 2005). The evidence is not weighed and no credibility determinations are made. Jenkins v. Winter, 540 F.3d 742, 750 (8th Cir. 2008).

         Once the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the nonmovant must do more than show there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth affirmative evidence and specific facts by affidavit and other evidence showing a genuine factual dispute that must be resolved at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. "A dispute about a material fact is 'genuine' only 'if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Herring v. Canada Life Assur. Co., 207 F.3d 1026, 1030 (8th Cir. 2000) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate only when "the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a).

         b. Timeliness

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1), Title VII plaintiffs must file suit within ninety days of receipt of their Notice of Right to Sue. See also, Hill v. John Chezik Imports, 869 F.2d 1122, 1124 (8th Cir. 1989). The Supreme Court and Eighth Circuit employ a rebuttable presumption "that a claimant receives correspondence from an agency three days after it was mailed." Euell v. Potter, No. 4:06-CV-1154 CAS, 2007 WL 1704934, at *3 n.2 (E.D. Mo. June 12, 2007). "[T]he presumption of receipt can be rebutted with 'testimony or other admissible evidence from which it could be reasonably inferred either that the notice was mailed later than its typewritten date or that it took longer than three days' to reach the intended recipient." Dewberry v. Alphapointe Ass'n for the Blind, No. 05-0187CVWODS, 2005 WL 3479507, at *1 (W.D. Mo. Dec. 20, 2005) (quoting Sherlock v. Monteflore Med. Ctr., 84 F.3d 522, 526 (2d Cir. 1996)).

         Title VII's time limitations are subject to equitable tolling. Irwin v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs,498 U.S. 89, 95 (1990). "As a general rule, equitable tolling is a remedy reserved for circumstances that are 'truly beyond the control of the plaintiff.'" Shempert v. Harwich Chem. Corp.,151 F.3d 793, 797-98 (8th Cir. 1998) (quoting Hill v. John Chezik Imports, 869 F.2d 1122, 1124 (8th Cir. 1989)); see also Lown v. Brimeyer,956 F.2d 780, 782 (8th Cir. 1992) (quoting Heideman v. PFL, Inc.,904 F.2d 1262, 1266 (8th Cir. 1990) ...

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