Henderson v. Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Divison Rehabilitation Services for the Blind
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER... IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment [Doc. # 55 ] is granted. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendant's alternative motion to stay proceedings [Doc. # 58 ] is denied as moot. A separate Judgment will accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by Magistrate Judge John M. Bodenhausen on 10/10/2019. (NEP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL
SERVICES, FAMILY SUPPORT DIVISION, )
REHABILITATION SERVICES FOR
Case No. 4:17 CV 2074 (JMB)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on defendant’s motion for summary judgment, pursuant to
Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P. Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition and the issues are fully briefed.1
The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
Plaintiff Carla Henderson, a legally-blind African American woman, alleges that defendant
Missouri Department of Social Services2 denied her a position as the manager of a vending facility
based on her race and disability. She further alleges that defendant failed to comply with the
outcome of an arbitration proceeding before the United States Department of Education pursuant
to which she was to be awarded a vending facility. She brings claims for impairment of her right
to contract in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I); disability discrimination in violation of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. (Count II), and the
Defendant has also filed a motion in the alternative, asking the Court to stay proceedings pending final
action before an arbitration panel.
The defendant is the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division, Rehabilitation
Services for the Blind.
Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 705 (Count III); deprivation of her civil rights in violation of 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV); retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-3, and the ADA (Count V); and a claim for declaratory judgment under the “Uniform
Arbitration Act” (Count VI).
Defendant moves for summary judgment, arguing that the
Arbitration Panel retains exclusive jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claims, that plaintiff’s claims in
Counts I and IV are barred by sovereign immunity; that her claims in Counts I through V are barred
by the Randolph-Sheppard Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 107 et seq.; that she has failed to state a claim for
relief under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act; and that declaratory relief is not available on review
of an arbitration award.3
The Randolph-Sheppard Act
Congress enacted the Randolph-Sheppard Act (RSA) in 1936 to provide employment
opportunities to individuals with vision impairments. 20 U.S.C. § 107(a). The RSA authorizes
licensed blind persons “to operate vending facilities on any Federal property,” id., and requires the
federal government and cooperating state licensing agencies to give priority to licensed blind
vendors in “the operation of [these] vending facilities,” § 107(b). Blind licensees operating
vending facilities on federal property earn a percentage of all income generated by vending
machines located on that property, even if those machines are not operated by program
participants. § 107d–3(a).
The RSA creates partnerships between the federal government and states that choose to
participate. Jones v. DeNotaris, 80 F. Supp. 3d 588, 590 (E.D. Pa. 2015). On the federal side, the
RSA assigns to the United States Secretary of Education rulemaking, information-gathering, and
Defendant argues that plaintiff’s claim in Count VI is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C.
§§ 1-16. As discussed below, the Court finds that arbitration awards under the RSA are reviewable under
the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706.
oversight responsibilities. Id. (citing § 107a(a)). The Department of Education “designate[s] the
State agency for the blind in each State . . . to issue licenses to blind persons” to operate vending
facilities on federal property. § 107a(a)(5). The state licensing agencies, in turn, both select the
locations for vending facilities and the operators of the facilities, “giv[ing] preference to blind
persons who are in need of employment.” § 107a(b)-(c).
The RSA provides a grievance procedure for “dissatisfied” blind vendors: state licensing
agencies participating in the program must agree “to provide to any blind licensee dissatisfied with
any action arising from the operation or administration of the vending facility program an
opportunity for a fair hearing.” § 107b(6). If the licensee remains dissatisfied after the hearing,
he or she may seek binding arbitration through the Department of Education. § 107d-1(a). “[T]he
decision of such panel shall be final and binding on the parties,” but is “subject to appeal and
review as a final agency action for purposes of” judicial review in accordance with the
Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 706. North Carolina Division of Services For
The Blind, v. U. S. Dep’t Of Educ., No. 1:17CV1058, 2019 WL 3997009, at *2 (M.D.N.C. Aug.
23, 2019); see also Jones, 80 F. Supp. 3d at 591 (“Although the RSA nowhere creates a private
cause of action,” judicial review of the panel’s decision is available through the APA). On review,
the Court “must uphold [an RSA arbitration panel] decision if it is supported by ‘substantial
evidence,’ and is not ‘arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance
with law.’” Id. (quoting Browder v. U.S. Dep’t of Educ., 238 F.3d 410 (4th Cir. 2000) (per
curiam)). “In determining whether final agency action, such as an RSA arbitration award, violates
[S]ection 706(2)(A) of the APA, [the Court] perform[s] only the limited, albeit important, task of
reviewing agency action to determine whether the agency conformed with controlling statutes, and
whether the agency has committed a clear error of judgment.” Id. (alterations in original; internal
quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff is a licensed vending manager and participant in the Blind Enterprise Program
(BEP), the licensing agency that administers the Randolph-Sheppard Act (RSA) for the State of
Missouri. On February 28, 2014, Larry Branson, the BEP manager, notified licensed managers of
an opening for a manager at a cafeteria/convenience store, identified as VF #2. Plaintiff submitted
a bid on March 5, 2014, and interviewed with the executive committee of the Blind Vendors of
Missouri on March 22, 2014. Branson also attended the interview. Christopher White, a legallyblind Caucasian man, was selected for the manager position at VF #2.
Plaintiff requested an administrative review, alleging that she was discriminated against on
the basis of race and gender and that the BEP failed to properly support her in the management of
her current facility, which affected her ability to compete for other facilities. The review
proceeding upheld the decision to select Mr. White for the VF #2 manger position. Plaintiff next
sought a fair hearing, which was conducted on June 27, 2014. The decision to select Mr. White
was again upheld. Plaintiff then exercised her right for an arbitration hearing from the United
States Department of Education.
A three-person arbitration panel held a hearing on August 9, 2016. In a decision issued on
October 13, 2016, the arbitration panel found that Branson made false disparaging statements
about plaintiff that resulted in her not being awarded VF #2 and that her bid was denied based on
The evidentiary record on summary judgment is comparatively small and the Court relies on the
decision of the U.S. Department of Education Arbitration Proceedings, issued on October 13, 2016, in
formulating the background statement. Henderson v. Missouri Department of Social Service Family
Support Division, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, No. R-S/15-02 [Doc. # 39-1].
racism and discrimination. The panel directed the RSB to award plaintiff “the next comparable
Level 4 facility with a history of generating profitable income that becomes available and mutually
agreed to by” plaintiff and the RSB. The arbitration panel also retained jurisdiction to consider
any issue arising from implementation of its award.
In April 2018, plaintiff asked to be awarded the contract for a Level 4 facility located at
Fort Leonard Wood pursuant to the arbitration award. See e-mail exchange [Doc. # 66-1]. James
Brinkmann, supervisor of the BEP, informed her that the contract would not be awarded to her
because the facility was not comparable to VF #2. Id. According to a spreadsheet prepared by
Mr. Brinkmann, VF #2 served approximately 200 meals a day, while the Fort Leonard Wood
facility averaged more than 28,000 meals a day. Similarly, VF #2 averaged 7 employees while
Fort Leonard Wood had 947 employees. Finally, VF #2’s gross income in 2017 was $837,000
while Fort Leonard Wood’s income for the same period was in excess of $35 million. [Doc. # 75].
Mr. Brinkmann states that between October 25, 2016, and April 19, 2019, ten Level 3 and
Level 4 facilities were offered to plaintiff. Plaintiff declined all ten facilities, including VF #2
which she was again offered on April 19, 2019. James Brinkmann Second Aff. ¶¶ 8-10 [Doc. #
In July 2017, plaintiff filed this action in which she reasserts the allegations she asserted
before the arbitration panel: that the BEP violated her civil rights and discriminated against her on
the basis of her disability and race by not selecting her for the opening at VF #2. In particular,
plaintiff alleges that she applied for VF #2, that Larry Branson made false statements about her to
the decisionmakers, and that a white male applicant was awarded VF #2. “Third Amended
Complaint”5 at ¶¶ 12-19 [Doc. # 39]. In this proceeding, plaintiff claims in Count I that defendant
The document is actually plaintiff’s second amended complaint.
“fail[ed] and refus[ed] to provide [her] with essentially the same opportunity to make contracts for
employment as her white, male, able-bodied counterparts,” in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. ¶ 34.
Similarly, she claims in Count IV that that defendant “fail[ed] and refus[ed] to provide [her] with
a fair and unadulterated application process for a state-run employment program in which [she]
was qualified to participate” on the basis of her race and disability, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §
1983. ¶ 48. In Counts II and III, she claims that she was denied participation in and excluded
from a program providing benefits for the disabled in violation of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act.
¶¶ 39, 44. In Count V, brought under Title VII and the ADA, plaintiff claims that she was denied
the VF #2 and Fort Leonard Wood facilities in retaliation for an earlier grievance she filed against
Branson. ¶¶ 52-57. For Counts I through V, plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages
and an order enjoining future acts of discrimination. In Count VI, entitled “Declaratory Judgment
— Uniform Arbitration Act,” plaintiff asks the Court to “issue an Order that the award by the
Arbitration Panel is confirmed in all respects.”
In her opposition to defendant’s summary
judgment motion, plaintiff clarifies that she brings this claim pursuant to the Federal Arbitration
Act, 9 U.S.C. § 9. [Doc. # 66].
Summary judgment is appropriate where “there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Under Rule
56, a party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue
exists as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A dispute
is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party,” and a fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
Once the moving party discharges this burden, the non-moving party must set forth specific
facts demonstrating that there is a dispute as to a genuine issue of material fact, not the “mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247. The non-moving party
may not rest upon mere allegations or denials in the pleadings. Id. at 256. “Factual disputes that
are irrelevant or unnecessary” will not preclude summary judgment. Id. at 248. The Court must
construe all facts and evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, must refrain from
making credibility determinations and weighing the evidence, and must draw all legitimate
inferences in favor of the non-movant. Id. at 255.
“Final Agency Action”
The APA provides for judicial review of (1) an agency action “made reviewable by statute”
and (2) a “final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in a court.” 5 U.S.C. §
704. Defendant argues that there is no “final agency action” within the meaning of the APA
because the arbitration panel retained jurisdiction to review issues arising from implementation of
its award. Defendant relies on Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 177–78 (1997), in which the
Supreme Court held that two conditions must be satisfied for an agency action to be final. “First,
the action must mark the consummation of the agency’s decisionmaking process—it must not be
of a merely tentative or interlocutory nature. And second, the action must be one by which rights
or obligations have been determined, or from which legal consequences will flow.” Id. The
Bennett analysis does not apply in this case, however, because the RSA expressly provides for
judicial review of an arbitration decision. 20 U.S.C. § 107d-2 (arbitration decisions are “subject
to appeal and review as a final agency action for purposes of” the APA) (emphasis added); see
also Sauer v. United States Dep’t of Educ., 668 F.3d 644, 650 (9th Cir. 2012) (“An arbitration
decision under the [RSA] is ‘subject to appeal and review as a final agency action’ under the
standards set forth in the [APA].” (quoting 20 U.S.C. § 107d-2(a)); SourceAmerica v. United
States Dep’t of Educ., No. 1:17-CV-893, 2018 WL 1453242, at *5 (E.D. Va. Mar. 23, 2018) (“The
language stating that panel decisions are reviewable as final agency actions strongly suggests that
Congress contemplated judicial review of RSA arbitration panel decisions.”). Thus, to the extent
that the decision of the arbitration panel is properly before the Court, the express statutory language
of the RSA makes that decision reviewable under the APA.
Defendant is an agency of the State of Missouri and argues that plaintiff’s claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1981 and § 1983 are barred by sovereign immunity. Plaintiff has not refuted this
“Sovereign immunity is the privilege of the sovereign not to be sued without its consent.”
Church v. Missouri, 913 F.3d 736, 742 (8th Cir. 2019) (quoting Virginia Office for Prot. &
Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S. 247, 253 (2011)). Missouri’s state sovereign immunity applies
unless “it is waived or a statutory or recognized common law exception, such as consent, is
applicable.” Id. (quoting Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Dist. v. City of Bellefontaine Neighbors,
476 S.W.3d 913, 914 (Mo. banc 2016)); see also Div. of Employment Sec., Missouri v. Bd. of
Police Commissioners, 864 F.3d 974, 980 (8th Cir. 2017) (“In Missouri, sovereign immunity is
the rule rather than the exception.”). Courts “give effect” to a state’s waiver of sovereign immunity
“only where stated by the most express language or by such overwhelming implication from the
text as [will] leave no room for any other reasonable construction.” Church, 913 F.3d at 743.
Missouri’s immunity from suit has not been waived for the purposes of claims under § 1981 and
§ 1983. See Rodgers v. Univ. of Missouri Bd. of Curators, 56 F. Supp. 3d 1037, 1050 (E.D. Mo.
2014) (“Congress has not overridden the States’ immunity with respect to the plaintiff’s claims
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 [and] 1983.”) Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff’s
claims in Counts I and IV.
Plaintiff’s Claims under the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and Title VII
Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to discrimination and retaliation in violation of the
ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Title VII. Her pleadings are vague with respect to the exact
violation she contends defendant has committed and thus the Court has had to look to the substance
of her allegations, rather than the form, to determine the nature of her claims.6 It is clear to the
Court that plaintiff’s allegations arise from her dissatisfaction with BEP’s decisionmaking in the
awarding of facilities to licensed vendors. Defendant argues that her ADA, Title VII, and
Rehabilitation Act claims fail because all claims arising from a vendor’s dissatisfaction with the
BEP’s implementation of the RSA must be addressed through the RSA’s remedial scheme.
Plaintiff argues that the administrative process set forth in the RSA is optional. She quotes
(without citation) the following language:
Any blind licensee who is dissatisfied with any action arising from the operation or
administration of the vending facility program may submit to a State licensing
agency a request for a full evidentiary hearing, which shall be provided by such
agency in accordance with section 107b(6) of this title. If such blind licensee is
dissatisfied with any action taken or decision rendered as a result of such hearing,
he may file a complaint with the Secretary who shall convene a panel to arbitrate
the dispute pursuant to section 107d-2 of this title, and the decision of such panel
shall be final and binding on the parties except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
In Count II, plaintiff alleges that she was “deni[ed] and exclu[ded] from a program benefit for the benefit
of a non-disabled individual with lesser qualifications” in violation of the ADA. ¶ 39. It is not clear,
however, whether she is claiming discrimination in employment under subchapter 1, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111
et seq., or in access to public services, programs, or activities under subchapter 2, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 et
seq. In Count III, plaintiff alleges that she was “denied and excluded from a program which provides an
opportunity for employment for specifically disabled individuals who are blind” in violation of the
Rehabilitation Act. ¶ 44. In Count V, brought under Title VII and the ADA, plaintiff alleges that she was
denied the VF #2 and Fort Leonard Wood facilities in retaliation for an earlier grievance she filed against
Branson. ¶¶ 52-57. The Title VII provision plaintiff cites, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a), pertains to retaliation
in the employment context.
20 U.S.C. § 107d-1(a) (emphasis added).
Contrary to plaintiff’s position, courts have determined that arbitration under the RSA is a
mandatory administrative prerequisite for aggrieved vendors seeking judicial relief. Kansas by &
through Kansas Dep’t for Children & Families v. SourceAmerica, 874 F.3d 1226, 1243 (10th Cir.
2017). The RSA’s arbitration provisions “create a comprehensive scheme for the administration
of disputes arising from violations of the RSA.” Kentucky, Educ. Cabinet, Dep't for the Blind v.
United States, 424 F.3d 1222, 1228 (Fed. Cir. 2005). “In the absence of a clear indication to the
contrary, Congress’s creation of a comprehensive remedial scheme is a strong indication that the
scheme prescribed by statute was intended to be exclusive.” Id. (citing United States v. Babcock,
250 U.S. 328, 331 (1919) (“[W]here a statute creates a right and provides a special remedy, that
remedy is exclusive.”)); see also Comm. of Blind Vendors of D.C. v. D.C., 28 F.3d 130, 135 (D.C.
Cir. 1994) (“[T]he text of the Act manifests Congress’s intent that aggrieved vendors pursue their
administrative remedies before resorting to Article III adjudication).
Here, of course, plaintiff did pursue her administrative remedies under the RSA with
respect to the awarding of the VF #2 facility through both the fair hearing and arbitration stages.
What is more, she prevailed at arbitration. In opposition to summary judgment, she argues
generally that she experienced additional discrimination that is not subject to the RSA. Plaintiff’s
Opposition at 3 (while plaintiff “initially avail[ed] herself of the process to address the vending
assignment issue,” she “found that she was further violated because of her race and disability.”).
[Doc. # 66]. Plaintiff does not identify any specific discriminatory conduct that occurred after the
arbitration award in support of her assertion, however. To the extent that plaintiff relies on
defendant’s refusal to award her the Fort Leonard Wood facility in satisfaction of the arbitration,
that claim fails. The unrefuted evidence establishes that the Fort Leonard facility was not available
under the arbitration award because it was not comparable to the VF #2 facility and thus its denial
alone cannot serve as evidence of actionable discrimination.
Plaintiff also cites deposition testimony from James Brinkmann regarding the assignment
of other facilities to sighted individuals. Brinkman Dep. at 64-67. Any claim based on these
assignments fails, however, because she did not exhaust her RSA remedies. Furthermore, she
made no allegations regarding these assignments in her complaint and she cannot now hope to
defeat a properly supported summary judgment motion by introducing new allegations.
Plaintiff argues generally that she has remedies for discrimination in her employment under
Title VII, the ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act, that are separate from any cause of action under
the RSA. It is not clear to the Court that her relationship with the BEP as a licensed vendor
qualifies as an employment relationship. Assuming that the parties’ relationship can be so
characterized, however, the antidiscrimination statutes plaintiff cites require employees to file a
charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Missouri
Human Rights Commission before filing suit, a step plaintiff has not undertaken here. 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-5(e)(1), (f)(1) (Title VII); 42 U.S.C. § 12117 (making Title VII provisions applicable to
ADA); 29 U.S.C. § 794a (making Title VII provisions applicable to Rehabilitation Act).
Defendant will be granted summary judgment on Counts II, III, and V of plaintiff’s
Plaintiff’s Arbitration Claim
In Count VI, plaintiff asks the Court to affirm the award by the arbitration panel, citing the
Uniform Arbitration Act. She clarifies in her opposition to summary judgment that she intends to
bring this claim under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 9. She also states, however, that she
“is not seeking review of the award. She is seeking enforcement due to the fact that the defendant
has failed to comply with the award in over two years.” [Doc. # 66 at 6]; see also id. at 5 (“The
time for review of the Arbitration Award has long since expired.”).
Such “obdurate and
recalcitrant behavior” deserves strong consideration for an award of attorney’s fees, she asserts.
Id. at 6. The arbitration panel itself rejected plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees, finding that it
was not authorized to award such fees. [Doc. # 39-1 at 25 (citing Wisconsin v. U.S. Dep’t of
Educ., 667 F. Supp. 2d 1007, (W.D. Wisc. 2009) for proposition that “the America Rule governs
and all parties must pay their own [attorney’s] fees.”)
As noted above, arbitration decisions under the RSA are “subject to appeal and review as
a final agency action under the standards set forth in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).”
Sauer, 668 F.3d at 650 (quoting 20 U.S.C. § 107d-2(a) ); see also Comm. of Blind Vendors v.
District of Columbia, 28 F.3d 130, 131-32 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (“The arbitration panel’s decision is
binding and subject to judicial review as final agency action under the Administrative Procedure
Act (APA).”); Fillinger v. Cleveland Soc. For Blind, 591 F.2d 378, 380 (6th Cir. 1979) (“The ‘final
agency action’ on which § 107d-2 of the Randolph-Sheppard Act premises judicial review is, by
the terms of the statute, to be construed under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).”); Jones,
80 F. Supp. 3d at 599 (“[T]he procedures specified delimit the breadth of the very right of action—
judicial review, pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, of the decision of the Secretary of
Education’s arbitration panel.”); Wisconsin Dep’t of Workforce Dev., Div. of Vocational Rehab.
v. U.S. Dep’t of Educ., 667 F. Supp. 2d 1007, 1015–16 (W.D. Wis. 2009) (“An arbitral award
under the Randolph-Sheppard Act is reviewed as a final agency action of the United States
Department of Education under the standards set forth in the Administrative Procedures Act.”);
Smith v. Rhode Island State Servs. for Blind & Visually Handicapped, 581 F. Supp. 566, 572-73
(D.R.I. 1984) ( “[T]he arbitration award is subject to review as a final agency action in pursuance
of the applicable provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act.”). The Court has not found any
authority to support the proposition that the arbitration award can be reviewed under the Federal
Arbitration Act, as plaintiff requests, rather than the APA. See Maryland State Dep’t of Educ.
Div. of Rehab. Servs. v. United States Dep’t of Educ. Rehab. Servs. Admin., No. CV CCB-171383, 2018 WL 4604305, at *7 (D. Md. Sept. 25, 2018) (rejecting request to review decision of
RSA arbitration panel under FAA).
Because plaintiff seeks a form of relief to which she is not entitled, the Court will grant
defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim in Count VI.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant’s motion for summary judgment [Doc. # 55]
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendant’s alternative motion to stay proceedings
[Doc. # 58] is denied as moot.
A separate Judgment will accompany this Memorandum and Order.
/s/ John M. Bodenhausen
JOHN M. BODENHAUSEN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Dated this 10th day of October, 2019.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?