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Ware v. Lumiere Place Casino

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

December 10, 2019

DARIA A. WARE, Plaintiff,
v.
LUMIERE PLACE CASINO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on defendant TEI (ES), LLC's motion for partial dismissal and defendant Ayman Gurguis's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff Daria Ware opposes both motions and they are fully briefed. For the following reasons, both motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         On July 19, 2019, plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Lumiere Place Casino and Ayman Gurguis (“Gurguis”) using the Court's pre-printed Employment Discrimination Form. Doc. 1. On August 14, 2019, after retaining legal counsel, plaintiff filed an amended complaint dismissing Lumiere Place Casino and adding defendant TEI (ES), LLC d/b/a Lumiere Place Casino & Hotels (“Lumiere”). Doc. 4. Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges she was subjected to discrimination based on her sex and race and retaliatory termination.

         Plaintiff, an African-American woman, began her employment with Lumiere on March 8, 2014. She was promoted to Front Office Supervisor on March 27, 2017. In this role, plaintiff was supervised by Front Office Manager Gurguis, an Egyptian-American male. Plaintiff alleges she was subjected to a hostile work environment as a result of Gurguis's unwelcome comments and behaviors, which included: (1) touching her thigh; (2) squeezing her arms; (3) excessive staring; (4) requesting her to exit the elevator first so he could watch her body as she exited; (5) telling her that in his country women do not speak the way she speaks to men in authority; (6) telling her that if he was 20 years younger he would warm her up; (7) standing uncomfortably close to her; (8) asking if he needed to teach her Arabic to understand his instructions; and (9) directing her to assign darker-skinned women to work in the back of the hotel and lighter-skinned women to work the front desk, regardless of their respective qualifications.

         In April of 2017, plaintiff reported Gurguis's behavior to Veronica Payne, Lumiere's human resources representative. Plaintiff states she was told Gurguis was “under investigation, ” but his behavior did not change, and he continued to be her supervisor. Plaintiff alleges she began to experience physical manifestations due to the hostile work environment, such as chest pains, shortness of breath, stomach aches, headaches, and dizziness. Plaintiff requested from Lumiere and was granted a medical leave of absence from June 21, 2017 to August 14, 2017. After receiving no response from Payne regarding the status of Lumiere's investigation of Gurguis, plaintiff provided a written “involuntary resignation” to Lumiere for the reason that the hostile environment was jeopardizing her health. Plaintiff's last day of employment was August 14, 2017.

         On August 24, 2017, Lumiere's HR Manager, Carla Shelby, requested to speak with plaintiff. Shelby asked plaintiff why she had reported Lumiere to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Plaintiff explained she had complained to Payne in April 2017, but nothing was done about Gurguis's behavior. Gurguis remained employed at Lumiere following plaintiff's meeting with Shelby.

         Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges the following counts: sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) (“Title VII”) against defendant Lumiere (Count I); race discrimination in violation of Title VII against defendant Lumiere (Count II); retaliation in violation of Title VII against Lumiere (Count III); gender discrimination in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act, § 213.055 Mo. Rev. Stat. (“MHRA”) against Lumiere and Gurguis (Count IV); race discrimination in violation of the MHRA against Lumiere and Gurguis (Count V); and retaliation in violation of the MHRA against Lumiere and Gurguis (Count VI). Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

         In his motion to dismiss, Gurguis seeks to dismiss plaintiff's gender discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation claims under the MHRA (Counts IV, V, and VI), which would effectively dismiss him as a defendant in this lawsuit. Gurguis argues plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies because she did not check the boxes for “color” and “retaliation” on her EEOC Charge of Discrimination form (the “charge”). Gurguis also takes issue with the fact that plaintiff did not name him as a respondent in the charge, preventing him from defending himself during the EEOC proceedings. Gurguis additionally argues the claims alleged against him must be dismissed because they are time barred under the MHRA.

         Similarly, in its motion to dismiss, Lumiere seeks to dismiss plaintiff's gender discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation claims under both the MHRA and Title VII (Counts II, III, IV and V) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Lumiere also argues plaintiff's claims under the MHRA must be dismissed because they are time barred.[1]

         II. Discussion

         A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         1. Color Discrimination: Counts II and V

         Defendants Lumiere and Gurguis argue in their respective motions to dismiss that plaintiff's asserted claims of “skin color discrimination” included within her Title VII race discrimination claim (Count II) and her MHRA race discrimination claim (Count V) should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Defendants cite to the charge plaintiff filed with the EEOC, in which she ...


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