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Herring v. Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri.

May 28, 2019

SHELBY HERRING, Plaintiff,
v.
YANFENG USA AUTOMOTIVE TRIM SYSTEMS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Manpower US, Inc. (“Manpower”) moves to dismiss plaintiff Shelby Herring's claims against it. Doc. 7. For the following reasons, Manpower's motion is granted.

         I. Background

         Prior to filing suit, Ms. Herring filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (“MCHR”) asserting claims under the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.010 et seq. Doc. 8-1 (Plaintiff's June 18, 2018 MCHR Charge). She identified “Yanfeng Automotive Interiors” as the only respondent. Id. at p. 1. Defendant Manpower appeared in the “Particulars” (description) of the charge but was not identified as a formal respondent. Id. (“When I was with Manpower as a temp, Lavonda Brown, a black female did not like me and many others who were white, and she created a hostile work environment.”).

         On June 26, 2018, the MCHR sent Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems, Inc. (“Yanfeng”) written notice that Ms. Herring had filed a charge of discrimination against it, which included information about participating in the investigation moving forward. See Doc. 8-2 (June 26, 2018 Notice). Manpower received no such notice to participate in the investigation.

         On December 17, 2018, the MCHR issued a Notice of Right to Sue granting Ms. Herring the right to sue “the respondent(s) named” in the charge. Doc. 8-3 (December 17, 2018 Right to Sue). Thereafter, on March 5, 2019, Ms. Herring filed suit against defendants Manpower and Yanfeng in the Circuit Court of Platte County, Missouri asserting claims under the MHRA for discrimination on the basis of disability (Count I), sex (Count II), and race (Count III), retaliation (Count IV), and hostile work environment (Count V).

         Defendant Yanfeng removed the case to federal court on April 5, 2019. On April 12, 2019, Manpower filed the motion to dismiss currently before the Court.

         II. Legal Standard

         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.'” Zink v. Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1089, 1098 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim has facial plausibility when “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Before filing a civil action under the MHRA, a plaintiff must “exhaust administrative remedies by timely filing an administrative complaint and either adjudicating the claim through the MCHR or obtaining a right-to-sue letter.” Alhalabi v. Mo. Dept. of Nat. Res., 300 S.W.3d 518, 524 (Mo.Ct.App. E.D. 2009); Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.075(1) (identifying exhaustion as a “jurisdictional condition precedent” to filing suit). While the Missouri Supreme Court has taken a “liberal approach” to exhaustion under the MHRA, Alhalabi, 300 S.W.3d at 525, it has also acknowledged its purpose, and the importance, of “giv[ing] notice to the charged party and . . . provid[ing] an avenue for voluntary compliance without resort to litigation, ” Hill v. Ford Motor Co., 277 S.W.3d 659, 669-70 (Mo. 2009). Thus, when a plaintiff has failed to include a party in the administrative process, the Court must determine whether there is “substantial identity of interest” between the parties sued and those charged, such that the failure to join the unnamed party can be forgiven and the case permitted to proceed. Id.

         III. Discussion

         Manpower argues that Ms. Herring's claims against it must be dismissed because she failed to name Manpower as a respondent in her MCHR charge, [1] and therefore, has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. In opposition, Ms. Herring argues that dismissal is not required because there is “substantial identity of interest” between Manpower and the party charged, Yanfeng, such that her failure to include Manpower in the administrative process should be excused.

         To determine whether there is “substantial identity of interest” between Manpower and Yanfeng, the Court considers whether: (1) the role of Manpower could be ascertained by Ms. Herring's reasonable effort at the time of filing; (2) interests of Yanfeng and Manpower are so similar that for the purpose of obtaining voluntary conciliation and compliance it would be unnecessary to include Manpower in the administrative proceedings; (3) Manpower's absence resulted in “actual prejudice” to its interests; and (4) Manpower has “in some way represented to [Ms. Herring] that its relationship with [her] is to be through the named party.” Id. at 669-70 (quoting Glus v. G.C. Murphy Co., 562 F.2d 880, 888 (3rd Cir. 1977)).

         There is no real question that the first Hill factor weighs in favor of Manpower; Ms. Herring does not even address it in her suggestions in opposition to the motion to dismiss. Ms. Herring not only could have ascertained Manpower's role in the alleged acts of discrimination and retaliation through reasonable effort but had actual knowledge of it before she filed her administrative charge, as evidenced by her mention of Manpower in the charge. See Stoker v. Lafarge N. Am., Inc., No. 4:12-CV-0504-DGK, 2013 WL 434049, at *4 (W.D. Mo. Feb. 5, ...


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