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Emsweller v. Bi-State Development Agency of Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division

October 22, 2019

TWESTLY EMSWELLER, Appellant,
v.
BI-STATE DEVELOPMENT AGENCY OF MISSOURI-ILLINOIS METROPOLITAN DISTRICT, Respondent.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis 1622-CC09956-01 Honorable Michael F. Stelzer

          OPINION

          ROBERT M. CLAYTON III, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Twestly Emsweller ("Plaintiff") appeals the trial court's grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of Bi-State Development Agency of Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District ("Defendant") on Plaintiff's petition seeking damages against Defendant under the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA").[1] We affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Relevant Allegations in Plaintiff's Petition

         Because this appeal involves a grant of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, it is important to initially set out the relevant allegations of Plaintiff's petition. These allegations are as follows.[2]

         Plaintiff worked for Defendant from approximately 2002 through 2015 as a service manager in Defendant's Call-A-Ride Division for residents of the St. Louis area. Defendant initiated a practice prior to Plaintiff's termination where Medicaid riders were refused transport service to certain locations, while non-Medicaid riders were not. Plaintiff believed the practice was discriminatory of African-American riders and expressly voiced his concerns to superiors. Shortly after, Plaintiff was terminated on March 19, 2015, for an alleged troubled behavioral pattern.

         B. Procedural Posture

         After Plaintiff was terminated, he filed a complaint of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights ("MCHR") on September 4, 2015, related to his termination. 273 days later, on June 3, 2016, the MCHR issued a right-to-sue letter to Plaintiff. Then, Plaintiff filed a petition against Defendant in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis alleging his termination violated the MHRA.

         Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's action on the grounds Defendant is an interstate compact which would not subject it to the MHRA ("the interstate compact defense"). The circuit court denied Defendant's motion to dismiss on April 11, 2017. Then, Defendant filed its answer, again asserting the interstate compact defense.

         Subsequently, on August 21, 2018, this Court issued its decision in Jordan v. Bi-State Development Agency, 561 S.W.3d 57 (Mo. App. E.D. 2018). There, our Court found "the increase in potential employer liability that accompanied the different burdens of proof under the MHRA and the [Illinois Human Rights Act] imposed an impermissible unilateral burden on [the defendant Bi-State Development Agency of Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District]." Id. at 58, 62. Our Court further held that the defendant Bi-State Development Agency of Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District was not subject to suit under the MHRA as the statutes existed prior to the 2017 amendments, because Defendant is an interstate compact and had an impermissible burden under the MHRA. Id. at 58, 59 n.1, 62, 62 n.2; see also footnote 1 of this opinion.

         After Jordan, Defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings in this case, again asserting the interstate compact defense. The circuit court granted Defendant's motion. Plaintiff then filed this appeal.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff raises one point on appeal, asserting the trial court erred in granting Defendant's motion for judgment on the ...


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