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Sayles v. Saint Louis University

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

April 23, 2019




         Plaintiff Laytonya Sayles claims that her employer, defendant Saint Louis University, unlawfully terminated her employment on account of her race and disability, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq.[1] Because the undisputed evidence before the Court shows that Sayles released all claims of discrimination against the University, I will grant the University's motion for summary judgment on Sayles' claims.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment must be granted when the pleadings and proffer of evidence demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). I must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and accord her the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 379 (2007). Initially, the moving party must demonstrate the absence of an issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once a motion is properly made and supported, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the allegations in her pleadings or in general denials of the movant's assertions, but must instead come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042. A verified complaint is equivalent to an affidavit for summary judgment purposes. Hanks v. Prachar, 457 F.3d 774, 775 (8th Cir. 2006) (per curiam).

         If the nonmoving party fails to properly address an assertion of fact made by the movant, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit me to consider the fact undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). The Local Rules of this Court, however, require it. Under Local Rule 4.01(E), moving parties must include a statement of uncontroverted material facts with their memorandum, with citations to the record if the fact(s) are established by the record.

Every memorandum in opposition shall include a statement of material facts as to which the party contends a genuine issue exists. Those matters in dispute shall be set forth with specific references to portions of the record, where available, upon which the opposing party relies. The opposing party also shall note for all disputed facts the paragraph number from movant's listing of facts. All matters set forth in the statement of the movant shall be deemed admitted for purposes of summary judgment unless specifically controverted by the opposing party.

E.D. Mo. L.R. 4.01(E) (emphasis added). A party's pro se status does not excuse them from complying with the rule. See Bennett v. Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., 295 F.3d 805, 808 (8th Cir. 2002). Accordingly, I deem admitted any statement of fact that Sayles did not specifically controvert in response to the University's motion.

         Evidence Before the Court on the Motion

         The following recitation of undisputed facts is taken from Sayles' verified complaint, the University's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts, and my independent review of the record. The facts stated in the University's Statement are deemed admitted because Sayles did not specifically controvert them in response to the motion for summary judgment. Further, because a party cannot rely on unsworn/unattested declarations or statements to support or oppose a motion for summary judgment, I do not consider the unsupported factual averments made in Sayles' unsworn response to the University's motion. Banks v. Deere, 829 F.3d 661, 667-68 (8th Cir. 2016).

         Plaintiff Sayles was a Senior Financial Assistant at St. Louis University. On May 30, 2017, the University informed Sayles that it was eliminating her position and that her employment would be terminated. On or around that same date, the University presented Sayles with a Mutual Agreement of Separation, Waiver, and Release (Release Agreement).

         Sayles had worked at the University for ten years. When the University informed Sayles' of her termination on May 30, she was on leave under the Family Medical Leave Act as a result of being involved in a motor vehicle accident that occurred on April 12, 2017.

         On July 10, 2017, Sayles signed a Charge of Discrimination alleging that the University discriminated against her in her employment on account of her race and disability.[2] The charge was filed with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the EEOC on July 19, 2017.

         On July 12, 2017, Sayles executed the Release Agreement, which provided, in part:

Release by Employee. In consideration of the payment, benefits and rights provided to Employee under the terms of this Agreement, Employee, for and on behalf of Employee and Employee's heirs and assigns, hereby forever releases the [University], and each and every one of its past and present trustees, officers, employees, insurers, attorneys, agents or representatives (collectively, the “University Releasees”), from any and all manner of claims, complaints or causes of action of any kind and nature whatsoever, which Employee may have or claim to have against the University Releasees by reason of ...

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