Evans v. Ford Motor Company et al
ORDER entered by Judge Nanette Laughrey denying motion to remand, Doc. 8 , and granting motion to dismiss, Doc. 6 . (Sreeprakash, Netra)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MONIQUE D. EVANS,
FORD MOTOR COMPANY and
Pending before the Court are a motion by Defendants Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) and
Frank Rogers to dismiss (Doc. 6) and a motion by Plaintiff to remand (Doc. 8). For the reasons
set forth below, the motion to remand is denied and the motion to dismiss is granted.
Ms. Evans is a former employee of Ford.
According to her petition, Mr. Rogers
terminated her employment with Ford effective November 14, 2015 because of her pregnancy.
On January 25, 2016, after Ms. Evans complained to union representatives that the termination
was discriminatory, Mr. Rogers offered to reinstate her under the following conditions: she
would remain on probation for twelve months and would forfeit all backpay and future bonuses.
When Ms. Evans asked to discuss the offer with a union representative, Mr. Rogers rescinded the
offer to reinstate her.
On February 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed pro se a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging discrimination on the basis of sex.
At the motion to dismiss stage, all of Plaintiff’s allegations are accepted as true and construed
in the light most favorable to her. See Stodghill v. Wellston Sch. Dist., 512 F.3d 472, 476 (8th
explained that, after she took maternity leave due to pregnancy complications, Ford terminated
her effective November 14, 2015. She stated, “[O]n or about January 23, 2016, I was told by my
union representative that I could have my job back with conditions. I had to agree to 12 months’
probation and forfeit all my bonuses.” She expressed the belief that she was “discharged and
denied [her] bonuses” because of her pregnancy. The charge was dated and time-stamped
February 9, 2016, more than two weeks after Mr. Rogers made and then revoked the conditional
offer of reinstatement.
On June 16, 2016, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (the “MCHR”) issued to
Ms. Evans a Notice of Right to Sue (the “First RTS Notice”), notifying her that it had decided to
terminate all proceedings related to the First Charge. The notice specified in bold, capitalized
letters, “IF YOU DO NOT FILE A CIVIL ACTION IN STATE CIRCUIT COURT
RELATING TO THE MATTERS ASSERTED IN YOUR COMPLAINT WITHIN 90
DAYS OF THE DATE OF THIS NOTICE, YOUR RIGHT TO SUE IS LOST.” The notice
also explained that “[n]o person may file or reinstate a complaint with the MCHR after the
issuance of a notice under this section relating to the same practice or act.”
Plaintiff did not file suit within 90 days of the First RTS Notice.
On July 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second Charge of Discrimination with the MCHR. The
second charge named Mr. Rogers, in addition to Ford, as a respondent and complained not only
of sex discrimination, but also of retaliation for Ms. Evans’ prior complaints about sex
discrimination. The second charge purported to address “new discriminatory incidents,” but like
the first charge, described Ms. Evans’ termination on November 14, 2017, her January 23, 2016
conversation with a union representative, and Ford’s January 2016 offer to reinstate Ms. Evans
on the conditions that she submit to probation for twelve months and waive her rights to backpay
and future bonuses.
On February 27, 2017, the MCHR issued Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue (the “Second
RTS Notice”) in connection with her second charge.
On May 8, 2016 (70 days after the Second RTS Notice was issued), Ms. Evans filed her
Petition against both Ford and Rogers in Clay County Circuit Court.
On June 16, 2017, Defendants removed this action from state court on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, asserting that Ms. Evans joined Mr. Rogers, a
fellow Missouri citizen, solely to defeat federal diversity jurisdiction. Ms. Evans moved to
remand this action to state court. Ford moved to dismiss the complaint.
a) Motion to Remand
Ms. Evans insists that defendant Rogers’ Missouri citizenship precludes diversity
jurisdiction and requires remanding the proceedings to state court. However, as discussed below,
Ms. Evans’ claims against both defendants fail as a matter of law. As such, her joinder of Mr.
Rogers is fraudulent and does not deprive the Court of jurisdiction. See Anderson v. Home Ins.
Co., 724 F.2d 82, 82 (8th Cir. 1983) (“Joinder designed solely to deprive federal courts of
jurisdiction is fraudulent and will not prevent removal. Fraudulent joinder exists if, on the face
of plaintiff’s state court pleadings, no cause of action lies against the resident defendant.”)
b) Motion to Dismiss
Section 213.111.1 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri requires one alleging unlawful
discriminatory practices in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (the “MHRA”) to file
suit within ninety days of the issuance of a right-to-sue notice from the MCHR. See Mo. Rev.
Stat. § 213.111.1. (“Any action brought in court under this section shall be filed within ninety
days from the date of the commission’s notification letter to the individual . . . .”). The statute
also precludes filing or reinstating with the MCHR after the issuance of a right-to-sue notice a
complaint “relating to the same practice or act.” Id.
Ms. Evans concedes that she failed to file suit within 90 days of receiving her First RTS
Notice. However, she argues that the time period for her to commence an action began to run on
February 27, 2017, when she received the Second RTS Notice. Ms. Evans insists that this action
is timely because she filed suit within 90 days of that date.
Defendants argue that the Second RTS Notice did not re-start the clock for Ms. Evans’
lawsuit because the charge upon which that notice was based related to the same acts that were
identified in the first charge and addressed in the First RTS Notice. Ms. Evans contends that the
second charge concerned a “separate discriminatory incident.” She emphasizes that the second
charge, unlike the first charge, named Mr. Rogers as an additional respondent and also alleged
that unlawful retaliatory intent was a factor in her termination.
The Court concludes that the second charge relates to the same practices and acts
described in the first charge. Both charges discuss the same acts: Ms. Evans’ termination, her
January 23, 2016 meeting with a union representative, and Ford’s conditional offer of
reinstatement. Compare first charge, Doc. 1-3 (“I was discharged on or about November 14,
2015 because I failed to respond to the letter.”) with second charge, Doc. 1-2 at 14 (“On or about
November 14, 2015, I was terminated for the stated reason that I failed to respond to the ‘quit
letter.’”); compare first charge, Doc 1-3 with second charge, Doc. 1-2 at 14 (both describing
January 23, 2016 conversation with union representative); compare first charge, Doc. 1-3 (“I was
told by my union representative that I could have my job back with conditions. I had to agree to
12 months’ probation and forfeit all my bonuses.”) with second charge, Doc. 1-2 at 14 (“On or
about January 25, 2016 . . . Mr. Rogers told me that I could have my job back if I agreed to be on
a 12-month probationary period and forfeited all future bonuses and back pay.”). Although the
second charge presents a new legal theory for adverse employment actions of which Ms. Evans
had already complained, the facts remain the same. The fact that Ms. Evans described learning
of the conditional offer of reinstatement from different people in each of the charges is
immaterial. The underlying act—Ford’s offer to reinstate Ms. Evans if she agreed to 12 months’
probation and to forgo her backpay and future bonuses—was the same. There were no “new” or
“separate” discriminatory incidents in the second charge.
Because the second charge related to the same acts described in the first charge, the
second charge was unauthorized under Section 213.111 and therefore can have no effect in this
Ms. Evans argues that the Second RTS Notice was valid and operative because the
MCHR issued it; the MCHR must have concluded implicitly that it had jurisdiction and authority
to issue the notice. But the Second RTS Notice, unlike the First RTS Notice, expressly states in
bold print that “determinations of jurisdiction ha[d] not been completed.” Doc. 1-2 at 17.
In any event, the MCHR does not have the authority to assume jurisdiction over a second
complaint concerning incidents with respect to which the MCHR has already issued a right-tosue notice. Section 213.111 requires the MCHR to “terminate all proceedings relating to” a
charge after the issuance of a right-to-sue notice, and prohibits any person from reinstating a
complaint after issuance of the notice. § 213.111.1. The statute also specifies that MCHR “may
not at any other time or for any other reason issue a letter indicating a complainant’s right to
bring a civil action.” Id. The MCHR cannot assume powers greater than those vested in it by
statute. See Farrow v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., 407 S.W.3d 579, 588 (Mo. en banc 2013) (“As a
creature of statute, an administrative agency’s authority is limited to that given it by the
legislature.”). Thus, MCHR’s issuance of the Second RTS Notice does not save Ms. Evans’
Nonetheless, Ms. Evans urges the Court to be “very forgiving” in interpreting the
MHRA’s procedural requirements. She notes that the Supreme Court of Missouri has held that a
plaintiff need not timely file an MCHR charge in order to file suit subsequently under the
MHRA. See Farrow, 407 S.W.3d at 588. However, Farrow dealt with the timeliness of filings
with the MCHR; the decision turned on the fact that Section 213.111 does not require a
plaintiff’s MCHR filing to be timely. In contrast, Section 213.111 expressly requires a plaintiff
to bring suit within 90 days of a right-to-sue notice, as the court in Farrow recognized. See id. at
591 (noting that filing suit “within ninety days of the issuance of the right to sue letter” is among
the “only requirements imposed by Section 213.111” to file suit under the MHRA).
Thus, the plain language of Section 213.111 compels the conclusion that the Second RTS
Notice did not have the power to re-start the clock for Ms. Evans’ claims. Her failure to file suit
within 90 days of the First RTS Notice renders this action untimely as to both defendants. The
action therefore must be dismissed.
For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s motion to remand is denied and Defendants’
motion to dismiss is granted.
/s/ Nanette K. Laughrey
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY
United States District Judge
Dated: September 18, 2017
Jefferson City, Missouri
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