Brooks v. Charter Communications (DE), LLC et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER... IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants' motion (Doc. No. 22 ) to dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The motion is granted with respect to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Steven Creameans and Judy Hecksel under the ADA; with respect to Plaintiff's claims of a pattern and practice claims; and with respect to Plaintiff's claims under the MHRA against Defendant Judy Hecksel. The motion is denied in other regards. Signed by District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig on 1/24/2017. (NEB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS (DE),
LLC; STEVE CREAMEANS; and JUDY
Case No. 4:16CV01496 AGF
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This disability discrimination action, brought under the Missouri Human Rights
Act (“MHRA”), Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.010, et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., is before the Court on Defendants’ motion to
dismiss several claims for failure to state a claim. For the reasons set forth below, the
motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff alleges in his amended complaint that he began working for Defendant
Charter Communications (DE), LLC (“Charter”) in 2006. In July 2014, when he was a
National Quality Manager with Charter in St. Louis, Missouri, he had a stroke and took
four weeks leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). In August 2014,
he had a heart attack and took two weeks FMLA leave. On August 29, 2014, Charter
offered him a position as a Direct Sales Representative in Texas. Plaintiff accepted the
position on September 2, 2014. Plaintiff alleges that pursuant to Charter’s instructions,
he resigned from his other position on (Wednesday) September 3, 2014, by letter which
he gave to Defendant Steve Creameans, his immediate supervisor. In the resignation
letter, Plaintiff stated that his doctor advised him he needed to decrease stress, and so he
was leaving his position as National Quality Manager, a highly stressful job.
Plaintiff further alleges that he had planned to work the rest of the week, but
Creameans called him and told him not to bother coming to work. Plaintiff alleges that
(at some point) he informed Creameans of his intention to take another position with
Charter. He also alleges that he (Plaintiff) was told that the human resources
representative in Texas spoke to Defendant Judy Hecksel, the human resources
representative in St. Louis, about Plaintiff’s medical condition.
In a letter to Plaintiff dated September 12, 2014, Charter stated that it was
memorializing a phone conversation of the previous day that the Texas offer was
rescinded. The letter stated that the rescission was based on Plaintiff’s “lack of
forthrightness” and “bewildering resignation” of his employment prior to the offered job
transfer, and his failure to notify his supervisor of his intention to take another Charter
position. On February 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed an administrative charge of disability
discrimination, reciting the above facts. He filed the present action on September 21,
2016, against Charter, Creameans, and Hecksel. He claims that he was terminated based
on his disability and/or perceived disability in violation of the MHRA (Count I) and the
ADA (Count II). In Count I, he includes allegations of failure to accommodate, disparate
treatment due to his disability and/or perceived disability, and a pattern and practice of
Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s claims under the MHRA for failure to
accommodate, disparate terms and conditions of employment besides his termination, and
pattern and practice of discrimination must be dismissed because they were not included
in the administrative charge, a copy of which Defendants attach to their motion to
dismiss. Moreover, according to Defendants, Plaintiff has failed to allege facts that
would support the above three claims, and has failed to allege facts from which it could
be inferred that the individual Defendants are liable for the termination.
Defendants next argue that all the MHRA claims are subject to dismissal because
the alleged discrimination took place in Texas, and the MHRA cannot be applied
extraterritorially. Lastly, Defendants argue that the ADA claims against Creameans and
Hecksel must be dismissed because the ADA does not permit individual liability.
Plaintiff responds that his MHRA claims of failure to accommodate, disparate
terms and conditions of employment, and pattern and practice discrimination are directly
related to his claims of disability discrimination described in the administrative charge.
He also argues that the defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies can only
properly be raised by a motion for summary judgment because it requires an examination
of the administrative charge, a matter outside the pleadings. He maintains that the
allegations in the complaint support the claim that Defendants failed to accommodate his
need to reduce stress levels. He also argues that his allegations with respect to
Creameans and Hecksel are sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.
With respect to Defendants’ argument that the alleged discriminatory conduct took
place in Texas, Plaintiff counters that “the majority, if not all, of the alleged
discriminatory conduct” occurred in Missouri and while he was still employed by Charter
in Missouri, and that he alleged facts against “Charter and its employees who were
working in Missouri during the time of the discriminatory actions taking place.” (Doc.
No. 26 at 11.) Plaintiff concedes that he cannot state an ADA claim against Creameans
To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, 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 (2009) (citation omitted).
The court must accept the complaint’s factual allegations as true and construe them in the
plaintiff’s favor, but it is not required to accept the legal conclusions the complaint draws
from the facts alleged. Id. at 678. “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.” Id.; see also McDonough v. Anoka Cty.,
799 F.3d 931, 945 (8th Cir. 2015).
Plaintiff’s argument that the Court cannot consider the administrative charge on a
motion to dismiss is without merit. The charge is a matter of public record and
referenced in Plaintiff’s own complaint. See, e.g., Blakley v. Schlumberger Tech. Corp.,
648 F.3d 921, 931 (8th Cir. 2011) (holding in an employment discrimination case that a
court may consider, on a motion to dismiss, the administrative charge attached as an
exhibit in support of the defendant’s motion to dismiss, because the charge is a public
record); Faibisch v. Univ. of Minn., 304 F.3d 797, 803 (8th Cir. 2002) (same).
The Court agrees with Defendants that here, the administrative charge, even
giving it an expansive reading, does not satisfy the exhaustion requirement for Plaintiff’s
pattern and practice claim. See Young v. Time Warner Cable Capital, L.P., 443 F. Supp.
2d 1109, 1123 (W.D. Mo. 2006) (dismissing a pattern and practice claim where
administrative charge did not include such a claim). The Court concludes, however, that
the administrative charge, and the allegations in the amended complaint itself, support the
claims, not only that Plaintiff’s termination constituted disability discrimination under the
MHRA and ADA, but also that the rescission of the job offer in Texas constituted a
failure to accommodate Plaintiff’s disability, in violation of those statutes.
The MHRA makes it an unlawful employment practice for an “employer” to
discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.055.
The MHRA defines “employer” to include “any person directly acting in the interest of
an employer.” Id. § 213.010(7). A supervisory employee falls within the meaning of
“employer” under the MHRA. Hill v. Ford Motor Co., 277 S.W.3d 659, 669 (Mo. 2009).
However, “Missouri cases have only allowed for individual liability under the MHRA
when the individuals directly oversaw or were actively involved in the discriminatory
conduct.” Reed v. McDonald’s Corp., 363 S.W.3d 134, 139-40 (Mo. Ct. App. 2012).
Here the Court agrees with Defendants that the complaint falls short of alleging
facts from which it could be plausibly inferred that Hecksel directly oversaw or was
actively involved in the decision to terminate Plaintiff. The only factual allegation that
relates to Hesckel is that Plaintiff was told (by an unspecified person) that the human
resources representative in Texas spoke to Hecksel about Plaintiff’s medical condition.
He does not allege, for example, that Hesckel was the head of human resources, or that
she generally was involved in termination decisions. But the Court concludes that
Creameans’ alleged conduct – namely, telling Plaintiff not to bother to come to work
after Plaintiff submitted the resignation letter – is sufficient to create a reasonable
inference that Creameans directly oversaw or was actively involved in the termination
The Court rejects Defendants’ argument that the alleged discrimination took place
in Texas. Thus, Plaintiff’s claims against Charter and Creameans that they terminated
him in violation of the MHRA remain viable. As Plaintiff now concedes, there is no
individual liability under the ADA. See, e.g., Baldwin v. Owens, No. 4:14CV1662 RWS,
2014 WL 5090820, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 9, 2014). Charter has not moved for dismissal
of the ADA claim against it.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants’ motion (Doc. No. 22) to dismiss is
GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The motion is granted with respect to
Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Steven Creameans and Judy Hecksel under the
ADA; with respect to Plaintiff’s claims of a pattern and practice claims; and with respect
to Plaintiff’s claims under the MHRA against Defendant Judy Hecksel. The motion is
denied in other regards.
AUDREY G. FLEISSIG
UNITED STATES DISTRCIT JUDGE
Dated this 24th day of January, 2017
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