Muragara v. Moneygram Payment System International
ORDER granting 42 Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, by Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty on 1/04/2016.(slibi, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 15-cv-00939-MEH
JECKONIAS N. MURAGARA,
MONEYGRAM PAYMENT SYSTEM INTERNATIONAL,
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS
Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge.
Before the Court is Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint
(“Motion”) [filed November 25, 2015; docket #42]. The Motion is fully briefed, and oral argument
would not materially assist the Court in its adjudication. For the reasons that follow, the Court
grants the Motion.1
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initiated this action on May 5, 2015. Docket #1. His original
Complaint alleged that Defendant MoneyGram2 discriminated against him on the basis of race,
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and the Pilot Program to Implement the Direct
Assignment of Civil Cases to Full Time Magistrate Judges, the parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court to conduct all proceedings in this civil action. Docket #35.
Plaintiff’s lawsuit mistakenly blends the names of MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc.,
and its corporate parent, MoneyGram International, Inc. Defendant’s Motion lists the correct
name as MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc. See docket #42 at 1.
color, and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and retaliated against him for having filed a lawsuit nearly 15
years ago, in 2001. Docket #1. At this Court’s November 4, 2015 Scheduling Conference, Plaintiff
stated that he desired to amend his Complaint to seek only a sole claim of retaliation. See docket
#22. The Court thus ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint [see docket #34], which Plaintiff
did on November 11, 2015 [see docket #40].
Defendant filed its first Motion to Dismiss on October 27, 2015 [see docket #27], which the
Court dismissed as moot [see docket #41] based on the filing of Plaintiff’s operative Amended
Complaint [docket #40]. Defendant then filed the currently pending Motion on November 25, 2015
[docket #42]; Plaintiff filed his Response on December 5, 2015 [docket #47]3; and Defendant filed
its Reply on December 22, 2015 [docket #49]. The Amended Complaint seeks $280,000 in
compensatory and punitive damages. Docket #40 at 4.
Plaintiff alleges he was wrongfully discharged by MoneyGram after Plaintiff filed a lawsuit
in 2001 in which he accused the company of employment discrimination.4 Plaintiff alleges no other
Plaintiff’s Response [see docket #47] indicated he would also like the Court to consider
his previously filed response to the moot Motion to Dismiss [see docket #39]. The Court has
In 2001, Plaintiff brought a Title VII case for unlawful discrimination against
“Moneygram Travelers Express.” See Muragara v. Moneygram Travelers Express, 01-cv000980-WDM-BNB. In keeping with its ability to take judicial notice of other cases filed in this
court, see St. Louis Baptist Temple, Inc. v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 605 F.2d 1169, 1172 (10th
Cir. 1979), the Court notes that Plaintiff has also filed six other lawsuits here since 2001, all
alleging employment discrimination. See Muragara v. Rumsfeld, 01-cv-00522-WDM-CBS
(dismissing action for failure to state a claim); Muragara v. Health One, 02-cv-00217-WDMOES (dismissing claims with prejudice); Muragara v. Metro Taxi, Inc., 04-cv-00297-REB-BNB
(granting defendant’s motion to dismiss or for summary judgment); Muragara v. Prime Source,
06-cv-00655-WYD-MEH (granting motion to dismiss with prejudice); and Muragara v.
Mackenzie Place, 12-cv-00891-MSK-BNB (granting summary judgment in favor of defendant).
facts in the Amended Complaint. Thus, the Court also considers his original Complaint insomuch
as it relates to the retaliation claim only, in an effort to give this pro se Plaintiff the opportunity to
state a claim, taking all facts as true for the purpose of this Motion.4 Appended to his original
Complaint, Plaintiff provided his Charge of Discrimination filed with the Colorado Civil Rights
Division on August 27, 2014, in which he alleges that, “On or about June 24, 2014, I was discharged
from my job as a Compliance Agent in retaliation for having filed a lawsuit for discrimination
against the company in or about 2000. Within about a week of starting training for my Compliance
Agent job, I was informed that I was being discharged, but no reasons were given to me.” Docket
#1 at 9. Plaintiff thus alleges that Defendant has discriminated against him because of “retaliation.”
Id. at 2.
Defendant argues Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for retaliation and, as a result, that his
case should be dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). See generally docket #42.
Dismissal Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)
“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.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
Additionally, Plaintiff on the same day he filed his case before this Court, filed an almost
identical complaint against Accountemps, the temporary agency that was his actual employer
when he worked as a temporary employee for MoneyGram. See docket #42 at 9. That case, 15cv-00932-RBJ-NYW, was dismissed December 8, 2015, based on failure to state a cognizable
claim for discrimination or retaliation under Title VII. See Muragara v. Accountemps, 15-cv00932-RBJ-NYW, dockets ##29, 39.
Because the Complaint was superseded by the Amended Complaint, neither Defendant
nor the Court need consider assertions or documents provided only in the Complaint and not the
Amended Complaint. However, Defendant’s Motion relies on the original Complaint in an
attempt to garner material to discuss Plaintiff’s claims [see docket #42 at 3, n.2]; thus, the Court
considers Plaintiff’s Complaint as well as his Amended Complaint.
(2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Plausibility, in the
context of a motion to dismiss, means that the plaintiff pled facts which allow “the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Twombly requires
a two-prong analysis. First, a court must identify “the allegations in the complaint that are not
entitled to the assumption of truth,” that is, those allegations which are legal conclusions, bare
assertions, or merely conclusory. Id. at 679-80. Second, the Court must consider the factual
allegations “to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 681. If the
allegations state a plausible claim for relief, such claim survives the motion to dismiss. Id. at 680.
Plausibility refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that
they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs ‘have not nudged
their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.’” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d
1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008)).
“The nature and specificity of the allegations required to state a plausible claim will vary based on
context.” Kansas Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2011). Thus, while
the Rule 12(b)(6) standard does not require that a plaintiff establish a prima facie case in a
complaint, the elements of each alleged cause of action may help to determine whether the plaintiff
has set forth a plausible claim. Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1191 .
Treatment of a Pro Se Plaintiff’s Complaint
A federal court must construe a pro se plaintiff’s “pleadings liberally, applying a less
stringent standard than is applicable to pleadings filed by lawyers. [The] court, however, will not
supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff’s complaint or construct a legal theory
on plaintiff’s behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (quotations
and citations omitted). The Tenth Circuit interpreted this rule to mean, “if the court can reasonably
read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so despite
the plaintiff’s failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor
syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.” Hall v. Bellmon,
935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, this interpretation is qualified in that it is not “the
proper function of the district court to assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant.” Id.
Plaintiff asserts Defendant retaliated against him in 2014 for filing a lawsuit against
Defendant in 2001. See generally docket #40. Defendant contends that Plaintiff’s retaliation claim
should be dismissed for failure to state a plausible claim for relief under Rule 12(b)(6). See
generally docket #42.
The elements necessary to establish a prima facie case of retaliation claim under Title VII
are (1) the plaintiff’s protected opposition under Title VII, (2) an adverse employment action against
the plaintiff, and (3) a causal connection between the protected opposition and the adverse
employment action. Zokari v. Gates, 561 F.3d 1076, 1081 (10th Cir. 2009). Here, the only
reference to a retaliation claim made by the Plaintiff in the Amended Complaint is to state that he
“belongs to a protected class” and that he “suffered an adverse employment action by losing his
previous job because of the MoneyGram retaliation.” Docket #40 at 2. Even construing Plaintiff’s
filings liberally and looking to the original Complaint as well as the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff
states only in conclusory fashion that he was retaliated against “for having filed a lawsuit against
the company for discrimination in or about 2000.” Docket #1 at 9. Plaintiff also filled out the preprinted portion of the original Complaint form reflecting “retaliation” as the basis upon which the
Plaintiff claims he suffered discrimination. Id. at 2. Yet, there are no factual allegations supporting
the retaliation claim – not in the Amended Complaint, the original Complaint, or in any other
documents filed with the Court.
While Plaintiff fails to state the nature of his alleged protected activity, his filings with the
Court leave only two options: (1) a 15-year-old Colorado unemployment claim, on which he
prevailed; or (2) a 15-year-old federal lawsuit, which was dismissed with prejudice. Docket #1 at
3, 7. The Court agrees with Defendant that neither is sufficient to support Plaintiff’s retaliation
claim. With no facts to show causation between Plaintiff’s protected activity and alleged retaliation,
Plaintiff would have to rely on temporal proximity to prove his retaliation claim; however, a 15-year
gap between the protected activity and the alleged retaliation is far too long to prove the claim. See,
e.g., Antonio v. Sygma Network, Inc., 458 F.3d 1177, 1181-82 (10th Cir. 2006) (nine months was
too temporally remote to support inference of causation); Richmond v. ONEOK, Inc., 120 F.3d 205,
209 (10th Cir. 1997) (three-month period, standing alone, is insufficient to establish causation). The
Tenth Circuit has made clear that “[u]nless there is very close temporal proximity between the
protected activity and the retaliatory conduct, the plaintiff must offer additional evidence to establish
causation.” O’Neal v. Ferguson Constr. Co., 237 F.3d 1248, 1253 (10th Cir. 2001). Here, Plaintiff
has failed to show facts or temporal proximity to support his retaliation claim.
Plaintiff’s narrative assertions sprinkled liberally throughout his filings with the Court do
nothing to plausibly suggest entitlement to relief, instead providing only more bare assertions, such
as the following:
The Defendants can fool all of the people some of the time, and some
of the people all of the time, but the Defendants cannot fool Plaintiff
all the time by leaving him suffering damages for all economic losses
caused by Defendants’ conduct. Docket #1 at 2 (plural “defendants”
Plaintiff in this case is not looking for free ride money as every step
toward the goal of JUSTICE requires sacrifice, suffering, and
struggle. Id. at 3.
Plaintiff as all persons have certain natural, essential and inalienable
rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and
defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and
protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and
happiness. Docket #40 at 2.
Thus, under Iqbal and Twombly, Plaintiff has failed to state a viable claim for retaliation
under Title VII. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (“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.” (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556)).
Therefore, based on the foregoing and the entire record herein, this Court orders that
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint [filed November 25, 2015; docket
#42] is granted and the case is dismissed with prejudice.
Entered and dated at Denver, Colorado, this 4th day of January, 2016.
BY THE COURT:
Michael E. Hegarty
United States Magistrate Judge
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