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Ritter v. Delta School District

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

May 8, 2019

CARL D. RITTER, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DELTA SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Carl D. Ritter, Jr. filed this action against Defendants Delta R-V School District, Mellisa Heath, Ken Cook, David Coomer, Scott Bond, Matt Huffman, Alan Ikerman, Meredith Scherer, and Troy Smith (“Defendants”), alleging age discrimination in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), § 213.010 RSMo and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621; as well as a state common law tort claim for failure to train and supervise. The action was originally filed in the Circuit Court of Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, and was removed to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c) on the basis of federal question jurisdiction.

         Presently pending before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 7.)

         Background[1]

         Ritter, who was 56 years of age at all relevant times, was employed by Defendant Delta School District R-V (“District”) as a junior high school science teacher, physical education teacher, and coach. The District is supervised by a seven-member Board of Education (“Board”), with a superintendent and a high school principal. Defendant Mellisa Heath was Superintendent of the District at all relevant times. Defendants Ken Cook, Davis Coomer, Scott Bond, Matt Huffman, Alan Ikerman, Meredith Scherer, and Troy Smith were members of the Board.

         In February “or at least prior to March 2017,” Heath informed a gathering of faculty, including Ritter, that all faculty contracts were being renewed for the upcoming year. Ritter relied upon this statement and did not apply for open positions at other local school districts.

         Early in March 2017, Ritter applied for the position of Principal at Delta R-V Schools. He was ultimately not chosen for the position. Defendant Heath informed select staff that Ritter had not been selected for the position before Ritter was informed. On March 20, 2017, Ritter was instructed to meet with Defendant Heath at her office later that day. At that meeting, Ritter expressed disappointment that staff was informed of the hiring decision of the Board before Ritter was informed of such.

         On March 21, 2017, Ritter was asked to meet with Defendant Heath, and was subsequently placed on administrative leave and escorted off campus in the presence of faculty and students. On March 23, 2017, Ritter received a phone call from Defendant Heath, during which Heath informed Ritter that she would like to ask him some questions. Ritter agreed to answer Heath’s questions in person and with a witness. Heath then told Ritter that he was refusing to cooperate and ended the phone call. On March 31, 2017, Ritter received a letter signed by the Board President stating that the Board had voted to reconsider its previous offer of employment to Ritter and would not be renewing his contract for the 2017-2018 school year.

         Ritter timely filed a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on or about September 10, 2017. Ritter received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC on February 22, 2018. (Doc. 1-1.)

         Defendants removed this action on July 13, 2018. (Doc. 1.) Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, which the Court granted in part on October 26, 2018.[2] (Doc. 15.) Specifically, the Court dismissed Count I, Ritter’s age discrimination claim under the MHRA, because Ritter failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to this claim.

         In his First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”), Ritter sets forth four counts. Count I asserts a claim of age discrimination in violation of the MHRA, and has already been dismissed by the Court. Count II alleges failure to instruct, supervise, control, and discipline against Defendants the District, Heath, and the Board. In Count III, Ritter alleges an assault claim against Defendant Heath. Finally, Count IV asserts a claim of age discrimination in violation of the ADEA.

         Defendants now move to dismiss Count II pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), on the basis that it is preempted and superseded by the MHRA.

         Ritter has filed a Response, in which he states that he stands by the argument made in response to Defendants’ ...


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