Linda J. Williams v. Sansone Group/DDR LLC et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs [sic] First Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted (ECF No. 25) is GRANTED. An appropriate Judgment will accompany this Memorandum and Order. 25 Signed by District Judge Jean C. Hamilton on 10/17/12. (CLA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
LINDA J. WILLIAMS,
ALPHA TERRACE DEVELOPMENT
CORP., et al.,
Case No. 4:12CV851 JCH
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ [sic] First
Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted (“Motion to
Dismiss”), filed on August 14, 2012. (ECF No. 25). This motion is fully briefed and ready for
Plaintiff Linda Williams is an African-American female who had been managing the Alpha
Terrace Apartments (“the Apartments”). (Amended Complaint, ECF No. 24, ¶ 1). Defendant Alpha
Terrace Development Corporation (“Alpha Terrace”) is a non-profit corporation which owned and
managed the Apartments and employed Plaintiff. (Id., ¶ 2). The Apartments are a low-income
government-subsidized apartment complex located in the inner city of St. Louis. (Id., ¶ 6).
Defendant Sansone Group/DDR LLC (“Sansone”) provided management services to governmentsubsidized housing facilities such as the Apartments. (Id., ¶ 3).
The facts in the Court’s background section are taken directly from Plaintiff’s Amended
Complaint (ECF No. 24). Defendants have not yet filed Answers to Plaintiff’s Amended
Plaintiff began her employment with the Apartments in 1981. (Id., ¶ 6). Plaintiff became
Property Manager of the Apartments in 1992. (Id.). Plaintiff was serving as the Property Manager
of the Apartments in 2004 when Alpha Terrace and Sansone entered into an agreement for Sansone
to assume the management of the Apartments. (Id.). Sansone began assuming the financial and
physical control of the Apartments in 2004. (Id., ¶ 7). In 2006, Alpha Terrace began the process of
seeking federal tax credits, which required obtaining certain certifications from tenants. (Id.).
In June 2007, Alpha Terrace and Sansone asked Plaintiff to attend a one-day seminar with
personnel from Sansone regarding the paperwork involved in seeking the federal tax credits. (Id.,
¶ 8). In May 2008, Plaintiff met with a tax credit compliance officer to discuss the forms required
for compliance with the federal tax credit program. (Id.).
In November 2008, Alpha Terrace board members and personnel from Sansone met with
Plaintiff to discuss the importance of certifying the tenants in order to be in compliance with the
federal tax credit program requirements. (Id., ¶ 9). Defendants subsequently denied Plaintiff the
additional full-time assistance she requested to prepare the necessary forms to meet the compliance
On January 9, 2009, Plaintiff was removed by Alpha Terrace and Sansone from her position
as Property Manager of the Apartments and advised that she was being transferred to St. Raymond’s,
another property managed by Sansone. (Id., ¶ 10). Plaintiff was told that her transfer would be for
two months, and that the Property Manager at St. Raymond’s would be transferred to the Apartments
during this time. (Id.). Plaintiff began working at St. Raymond’s on January 12, 2009. (Id., ¶ 11).
During January and February 2009, Plaintiff discovered the previous Property Manager at St.
Raymond’s had engaged in improper practices, including the following:
theft of tenant deposits;
admitting a tenant with whom Sansone personnel had a personal relationship;
failing to change unit locks with each change of tenancy;
copying the master key;
having units shown to tenants by a social worker rather than the Property Manager;
improper certification of tenants.
(Id., ¶ 12). Plaintiff brought these improprieties to the attention of her supervisor, but no corrective
action was taken. (Id., ¶ 13). Some time later Plaintiff learned that she was not scheduled to return
to the Apartments. (Id.). Plaintiff was subsequently blamed for St. Raymond’s negative state
inspection and for a $10,000 fine levied by the government for matters related to the Apartments.
(Id., ¶ 14). Plaintiff was also denied make-up work time. (Id.).
Plaintiff informed Alpha Terrace and Sansone that she questioned whether her replacement
at the Apartments was properly handling the paperwork necessary for the Apartments to receive
federal tax credits. (Id., ¶ 15). Plaintiff also informed Alpha Terrace and Sansone that she believed
that the behavior of her predecessor at St. Raymond’s violated federal and state policies and
procedures. (Id., ¶ 16).
In August 2009, Alpha Terrace and Sansone informed Plaintiff that they were planning to
terminate her employment. (Id., ¶ 17). Plaintiff’s last day of employment was December 4, 2009.
(Id., ¶ 18).
Plaintiff filed this action in this Court on May 11, 2012, on the basis of subject-matter
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff’s original Complaint contained four counts: Count I
alleged retaliation under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983; Count II alleged race discrimination under §
1981; Count III alleged race discrimination under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C.
§ 2000d-1); and Count IV alleged a “whistleblower cause of action” under Missouri law. Defendants
moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint, and the Court dismissed Counts I, II, and IV of Plaintiff’s
Complaint.2 The Court permitted Plaintiff to file an amended complaint, and Plaintiff filed her
Amended Complaint on August 10, 2012. Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint contains a single count for
race discrimination under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As indicated above, Defendants filed
their Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint on August 14, 2012.
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must view the allegations in the Complaint in the
light most favorable to Plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). A cause of action
should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless, from the face of the Complaint, it appears
beyond a reasonable doubt that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would
entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Jackson Sawmill Co., Inc. v.
United States, 580 F.2d 302, 306 (8th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 1070 (1979).
Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) serves to eliminate actions which are fatally flawed in their legal
premises and designed to fail, thereby sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and trial
activity. Stringer v. St. James R-1 Sch. Dist., 446 F.3d 799, 802 (8th Cir. 2006). As a practical
matter, such dismissal should be granted only in the unusual case in which a plaintiff includes
allegations that show on the face of the complaint there is some insuperable bar to relief. Schmedding
v. Tnemec Co., Inc., 187 F.3d 862, 864 (8th Cir. 1999); see also 5B CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT &
ARTHUR R. MILLER, FED. PRAC. & PROC. CIV. § 1357, at 565 (3d ed. 2004) (stating that “relatively
few complaints fail to meet this liberal standard and thereby become subject to dismissal” under Rule
Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed Count I in response to Defendants’ motions to dismiss.
Defendants argue Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint fails to state a cause of action under Title
VI because Defendants’ receipt of tax credits was not specifically intended to provide employment
as required by 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-3.
Title VI states that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or
national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 42 U.S.C. §
2000d. Section 2000d-3 provides that “[n]othing contained in this subchapter shall be construed to
authorize action under this subchapter by any department or agency with respect to any employment
practice of any employer, employment agency, or labor organization except where a primary objective
of the Federal financial assistance is to provide employment.” Thus, employment discrimination
claims under Title VI are limited to situations where federal assistance is designed to provide
employment. Valentine v. Smith, 654 F.2d 503, 512 (8th Cir. 1981); see also Nelson v. Special
Admin. Bd. of St. Louis Pub. Sch., No. 4:11CV904, 2012 WL 1994808, at *8 (E.D. Mo. June 4,
2012) (“...[A]s interpreted by the Eighth Circuit, the statute provides that a plaintiff may allege a Title
VI claim in the employment context only where the statutory grant of funds or the federally assisted
program at issue is specifically intended to provide employment.”).
Here, Plaintiff has failed to allege that the federal funds received by Defendants were designed
to provide employment. Even viewing the allegations in the Complaint in the light most favorable
to Plaintiff, it appears that the federal tax credits obtained by Defendants were intended to encourage
the development of housing options for low-income individuals. In the absence of allegations that
Defendants received federal funds for the “primary objective” of providing employment, Plaintiff has
not shown she is entitled to relief under Title VI. See Baugh v. Ozarks Area Cmty. Action Corp.,
No. 09-03177-CV-S-DGK, 2010 WL 1253718, at *5 (W.D. Mo. Mar. 31, 2010). Thus, Defendants’
Motion to Dismiss will be granted.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ [sic] First
Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted (ECF No. 25)
is GRANTED. An appropriate Judgment will accompany this Memorandum and Order.
Dated this 17th day of October, 2012.
/s/Jean C. Hamilton
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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