Nelson v. Manac Trailers, USA
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 12 MOTION to Dismiss Case filed by Defendant Manac Trailers, USA motion is GRANTED..IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants Motion to Dismiss (#12) is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs claims for failure to promote and harassment are DISMISSED. Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 5/15/13. (MRS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
RODNEY LEE NELSON,
MANAC TRAILERS, USA,
MEMORANDUM and ORDER
Plaintiff filed his complaint pro se against his former employer, defendant Manac Trailers,
USA, alleging that defendant failed to promote, harassed, and discriminated against him in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. Defendant filed
this motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (#12). Plaintiff has
not responded, and the time for doing so has passed.
For purposes of the motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true plaintiff’s allegations.
Plaintiff was employed by defendant and resigned on November 16, 2011. He alleges that the
Plant Manager made a racist comment and that he was not offered a promotion. He also alleges
that he was involved as a fact witness in a sexual harassment investigation against that same
Manager and that, after his interview with Human Resources, he was harassed and received
unfavorable reviews. He believes the unfavorable reviews were retaliation for his involvement in
the investigation. He also states that he was temporarily moved to another, physically demanding
department as “cross-training,” but he believes that move was also retaliation.
Plaintiff submitted a Charge of Discrimination to the Missouri Commission on Human
Rights (“MCHR”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on December
6, 2011. His Charge of Discrimination states that (1) he transferred to a different department in
retaliation for his involvement as a fact witness in the sexual harassment investigation, (2) when
he went back to his former department, the Plant Manager requested that he be sent back to a
different department because the Manager “did not want [his] ‘black ass’ there,” and (3) around
that same time, the Plant Manager asked plaintiff’s supervisor to write plaintiff up for poor
performance. Plaintiff stated in his Charge that he believes he those acts were all in retaliation
for his involvement in the sexual harassment investigation and, with respect to the Plant
Manager’s comment, also due to his race.
Plaintiff filed his complaint on September 20, 2012 and an amended complaint on October
15, 2012. Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss.
Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test
the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as to eliminate those actions which are fatally flawed in
their legal premises and designed to fail, thereby sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary
pretrial and trial activity. Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). A complaint must be dismissed for failure to
state a claim if it does not plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 560 (2007) (abrogating the traditional “no set of
facts” standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). A petitioner need not
provide specific facts to support her allegations, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per
curiam), but “must include sufficient factual information to provide the grounds on which the
claim rests, and to raise a right to relief above a speculative level.” Schaaf v. Residential Funding
Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 & n.3).
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must view the allegations of the complaint in the
light most favorable to the petitioner. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232 (1974); Kottschade v. City
of Rochester, 319 F.3d 1038, 1040 (8th Cir. 2003). Although a complaint challenged by a Rule
12(b)(6) motion does not need detailed factual allegations, a petitioner must still provide the
grounds for relief, and neither “labels and conclusions” nor “a formulaic recitation of the elements
of a cause of action” will suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). “To
survive a motion to dismiss, a claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the factual content . .
. allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the respondent is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Cole v. Homier Dist. Co., Inc., 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). When determining the facial plausibility of a claim, the
Court must “accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039
(8th Cir. 2005)). Finally, where a court can infer from those factual allegations no more than a
“mere possibility of misconduct,” the complaint must be dismissed. Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.
“Exhaustion of administrative remedies is central to Title VII’s statutory scheme because
it provides the EEOC the first opportunity to investigate discriminatory practices and enables it to
perform its roles of obtaining voluntary compliance and promoting conciliatory efforts.” Shannon
v. Ford Motor Co., 72 F.3d 678, 684 (8th Cir. 1996) (quoting Williams v. Little Rock Mun. Water
Works, 21 F.3d 218, 222 (8th Cir. 1994)). To exhaust administrative remedies, “a Title VII
plaintiff must timely file [his] charges with the EEOC and receive, from the EEOC, a ‘right to
sue’ letter.” Shannon, 72 F.3d at 684 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b), (c), (e)). “The proper
exhaustion of administrative remedies gives the plaintiff a green light to bring [his]
employment-discrimination claim, along with allegations that are ‘like or reasonably related’ to
that claim, in federal court.” Id.
Plaintiff completed the Court’s form Employment Discrimination Complaint and checked
the boxes to indicate that defendant’s illegal conduct included retaliation, harassment, and failure
to promote (Am. Cmplt. ¶ 10). Defendant contends that plaintiff has not exhausted his
administrative remedies properly with respect to his claims for harassment or failure to promote
because he did not include them in his Charge of Discrimination. The Court will discuss each of
those claims separately.
Plaintiff’s Charge discusses that he was retaliated against, that he was written up for poor
performance, and that he was “moved to a different department in due to my race, Black.”
Although plaintiff’s checked a box to indicate he is making a claim for harassment, the narrative
portion of plaintiff’s Complaint refers to harassment only in the sense that, after he provided
information to Human Resources about the sexual harassment investigation, “all of the
harassment started.” He goes on to state that he received unfavorable write-ups after having
received good work evaluations, and he complains that he was moved to a more physically
demanding department. He indicates that the write-ups and the move were in retaliation.
It does not appear that plaintiff is making a hostile work environment claim. Rather, it
appears that plaintiff characterizes the alleged acts of retaliation as “harassment.” To the extent
plaintiff did intend to make a hostile work environment claim, however, this Court holds that he
cannot do so because he did not raise a hostile work environment claim in his Charge. See, e.g.,
Martin v. Trinity Marine Products, Inc., 1:11CV181SNLJ, 2012 WL 1620164, *3 (E.D. Mo. May
9, 2012) (dismissing harassment claim and observing that “[a]lthough there is no box on the
charge form labeled ‘harassment’ or ‘hostile work environment’ that he could have checked, there
is a box labeled ‘other,’ which plaintiff left blank.”). Plaintiff’s harassment claim will be
Failure to Promote
With respect to plaintiff’s failure to promote claim, the narrative portion of plaintiff’s
Complaint states that he was not offered an open group leadership position. That alleged “failure
to promote” was not mentioned at all in plaintiff’s Charge of Discrimination.
Plaintiff does appear to intend to bring a failure to promote claim in his complaint.
However, because plaintiff did not raise such a claim in his Charge, he has not exhausted his
administrative remedies as to that claim, and he may not now bring such a claim to this Court.
Although the Court is mindful that “courts should not use Title VII’s administrative procedures as
a trap for unwary pro se civil litigants...there is a difference between liberally reading a claim
which lacks specificity, and inventing, ex nihilo, a claim which simply was not made.” Shannon,
72 F.3d at 685 (internal quotation omitted). Here, plaintiff made no mention of the alleged failure
to promote in his Charge, nor is it even “like or reasonably related” to the claims made in his
Charge of Discrimination. Id. at 684. Thus, the failure to promote claim will be dismissed.
The Court will dismiss plaintiff’s claims for failure to promote and harassment. Plaintiff’s
retaliation claim remains.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (#12) is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff’s claims for failure to promote and
harassment are DISMISSED.
Dated this 15th
day of May, 2013.
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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