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Muhammad v. City of St. Louis

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

September 20, 2019

AMIR MUHAMMAD, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant City of St. Louis' ("Defendant") Partial Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 20). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Amir Muhammad ("Muhammad") is a former employee of the City of St. Louis's Department of Public Safety, Police Division. Muhammad was employed as a police officer until his retirement. In his First Amended Complaint, Muhammad alleges he was subjected to discrimination because of his race (black) and his religion (Muslim) during his employment as a police officer.

         On April 27, 2019, Muhammad dually-filed his charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights ("MCHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (ECF No. 16, |9). On May 31, 2018 the EEOC sent Muhammad a right to sue letter. (ECF No. 16-1). On June 19, 2018, the MCHR sent Muhammad a letter stating he had no right to sue on any allegations that occurred prior to October 29, 2016 because he did not timely file his complaint. (ECF No. 16-2). The MCHR advised, however, Muhammad had a right to sue for allegations occurring after October 29, 2016. (ECF No. 16-2).

         Muhammad filed this lawsuit in state court on August 28, 2018. (ECF No. 2). Defendant removed this case to federal court on October 15, 2018. (ECF No. 1). On November 6, 2018, Muhammad filed his First Amended Complaint ("FAC"; ECF No. 16). Muhammad's FAC consists of six counts under the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), six counts under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), one count for race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. §1981 (Count XIII), and a final count challenging the constitutionality of the recently-enacted changes to the MHRA. Defendant asks this Court to dismiss Counts II, IV, V, VI, X, XI, and XII in their entirety for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and Count I-XII to the extend that the allegations are untimely.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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."' Ashcr oft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" will not suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Counts I-VI under MHRA

         In Counts I-VI of the Petition for Damages, Muhammad alleges race and religious discrimination (including claims for hostile work environment) under the MHRA.

         An aggrieved party must file an administrative charge of discrimination within 180 days of an alleged unlawful employment practice under the MHRA. Holland v. Sam's Club, 487 F.3d 641, 643 (8th Cir.2007); Gillespie v. Charter Commc'ns, 31 F.Supp. 3d 1030, 1033 (E.D. Mo. 2014). Failure to do so will result in dismissal of the allegations related to the charge. See Holland, 487 F.3d at 644. Application of the MHRA's 180-day statute of limitations is subject to equitable exceptions, including the continuing violation doctrine. Rowe v. Hussmann Corp., 381 F.3d 775, 782 (8th Cir.2004) (citing Pollock v. Wetterau Food Distrib. Grp., 11 S.W.3d 754, 763 (Mo.Ct.App.1999)). When an employer is accused of a continuing violation, the plaintiff "must first demonstrate that at least one act occurred within the filing period and, second, must show that the harassment is a series of interrelated events, rather than isolated or sporadic acts of discrimination." Id. (internal citation omitted).

         As previously discussed, Muhammad filed his Charge with the MCHR on April 27, 2017. Defendant argues that Muhammad's allegations in Counts I-VI that precede October 29, 2016 are time-barred.

         In response, Muhammad contends that events preceding October 29, 2016 are not time-barred based upon the continuing violation doctrine. To take advantage of the continuing violation doctrine, a plaintiff must satisfy a two-part test: (i) demonstrate that at least one act occurred within the filing period; and (ii) show that the current claim of discrimination is part of a series of interrelated events, rather than isolated or sporadic acts of intentional discrimination. Tisch v. DST Sys., Inc., 368 S.W.3d 245, 252 (Mo.Ct.App. 2012) (citing Pollock v. Wetterau Food Distribution Group,11 S.W.3d 754, 763 (Mo.App. E.D.I 999)). ...


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