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Martin v. O'Fallon Modern Dentistry

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

June 3, 2019

SHAWN MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
O'FALLON MODERN DENTISTRY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RODNEY W. SIPPEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Shawn Martin brings this suit for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act. This matter is now before the Court upon plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, or without prepayment of fees. Having reviewed plaintiff's motion and financial affidavit, the Court finds that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the filing fee. Plaintiff's motion will be granted and the filing fee will be waived. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). However, for the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and will therefore dismiss the complaint without prejudice. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. To state a claim for relief, a complaint must plead more than “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 679. “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.” Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court accepts the well-pled facts as true, White v. Clark, 750 F.2d 721, 722 (8th Cir. 1984), and liberally construes the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). A “liberal construction” means that if the essence of an allegation is discernible, the district court should construe the plaintiff's complaint in a way that permits his or her claim to be considered within the proper legal framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015). However, even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). Federal courts are not required to assume facts that are not alleged. Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (refusing to supply additional facts or to construct a legal theory for the pro se plaintiff that assumed facts that had not been pleaded).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action for employment discrimination against two defendants: his previous employer, O'Fallon Modern Dentistry, and its parent company, Pacific Dental Services. Plaintiff, who was born in 1972, alleges that defendants discriminated against him based on his age during the period of December 2015 to April 6, 2018. According to plaintiff's complaint, defendants' discriminatory conduct included termination from employment, retaliation, and harassment. Plaintiff describes the circumstances as follows.

         Plaintiff was terminated from his employment with O'Fallon Modern Dentistry on April 6, 2018, by regional manager Katie Orschlen, with Dr. David King present. Plaintiff “believe[s]” that his termination was “under the direct direction of Simon Abrahms, ”[1] a regional partner at O'Fallon Dentistry. ECF No. 1 at 6. According to plaintiff, Abrahms had previously complained about plaintiff's “lack of treatment primary crowns not done” and about plaintiff's dental assistants. Plaintiff alleges that Abrahms told him numerous times in front of other employees to fire the lead dental assistant because she was making too much money and she “wasn't making the doctors produce more treatment.” Id. at 6-7. Abrahms also made statements about doctors of certain races and national origins not being “good fits” in certain office locations. Id. at 7.

         In a mid-2017 closed-door meeting with Abrahms and former regional manager, Nick Dillard, plaintiff expressed to Abrahms “how hard [Abrahms] made it working at O'Fallon Modern Dentistry.” Id. Plaintiff also spoke with Dr. David King in early 2018 about his concerns. Dr. King had started at O'Fallon Modern Dentistry in June 2017 and he was an “owner doctor.” Id. Dr. King informed plaintiff that he told Abrahms and Orschlen that plaintiff “was the right person for the job” and that plaintiff “could lead the office into the future.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was told by Dillard that his termination was at the direction of Abrahms. Id. at 5. Approximately two months prior to plaintiff's termination, Dillard had a meeting with Abrahms in which the two decided that Dillard should give his two weeks' notice of resignation. Plaintiff alleges that Dillard informed him that during this meeting, Abrahms told him that he did not like plaintiff and that plaintiff needed to find another job. Abrahms said that the new regional manager “would be a ‘Yes' manager and would follow Simon [Abrahms'] direction.” Id. at 6. Orschlen started as the new regional manager on March 8, 2018. Plaintiff states that he worked under her supervision for twenty-one business days - five of which he took as vacation days - before Orschlen terminated his employment.

         Plaintiff asserts that he filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC in October 2018, however, the charge of discrimination documents attached to the complaint indicate that plaintiff signed them on November 30, 2018. See ECF Nos. 1 at 3, 1-1 at 3, 5. On those documents, plaintiff specified the time period for the alleged discrimination as being between “04-06-2018” and “04-06-2018.” ECF No. 1-1 at 3. In the particulars of the charge, plaintiff explains that he was hired by defendants as an office manager around October 8, 2015, and then terminated by Orschlen and Dr. King on April 6, 2018. He was told at the time of termination that “his services were no longer required.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that, prior to his termination, regional partner Abrahms had been overheard “discussing about employees who make to[o] much [money], and [that] those employees should be fired.” Id. Plaintiff believes that at the time of his termination, he was the oldest and highest paid office manager within the regional area supervised by Abrahms. Based on this belief, plaintiff alleges that he was discharged because of his age.

         On December 4, 2018, plaintiff received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, which he also attached to the complaint. ECF No. 1-1 at 1-2. Plaintiff filed this suit on March 1, 2019, seeking an unspecified amount of monetary relief.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff's claims of employment discrimination based on termination, retaliation, and harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq.; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq.; and the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”), 29 ...


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