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Perrigo v. Unified School District No. 500

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 2, 2014

DONALD E. PERRIGO, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 500 and SYLVIA PARRA Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Donald E. Perrigo, Jr. ("Plaintiff") seeks monetary damages, including costs and fees involved in litigating this case, from his employer, Unified School District 500 ("Defendant School District") and his school principal, Dr. Sylvia Parra ("Defendant Parra") for alleged discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), [1] the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), [2] and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA").[3] Plaintiff also alleges harassment and retaliation. Defendants now move to dismiss each of Plaintiff's claims. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

At all times relevant to his Complaint, Plaintiff was a biology teacher at J.C. Harmon High School ("Harmon") in Kansas City, Kansas. On September 4, 2012, he approached two members of Harmon's staff with an "official complaint" letter that highlighted his issues concerning: (1) a recent change of classrooms, (2) classroom safety, (3) parking, and (4) gender discrimination. On September 21, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging discrimination on the basis of sex, age, and disability. Plaintiff also alleged retaliation in reaction to his filing of a previous charge of discrimination against Defendants. Based on its investigation, the EEOC concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to go forward. On April 9, 2013, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue pursuant to Plaintiff's request. On May 3, 2013, also at Plaintiff's request, the EEOC revoked this Right to Sue letter and re-opened its investigation into Plaintiff's claims.[4]

Without awaiting further action from the EEOC, on July 19, 2013, Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas alleging discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability, and retaliation.[5] Plaintiff also alleged harassment. Nearly one month later, on August 14, 2013, Plaintiff received a Dismissal of Notice of Rights and Notice of Suit Rights from the EEOC that stated that the EEOC was "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishe[d] violations of statutes."[6] Defendants School District and Parra each seek to dismiss Plaintiff's claims on the following grounds: (1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to Plaintiff's failure to properly exhaust all administrative remedies, and (2) a failure to plead sufficient facts that, if true, could state viable claims against either Defendant. Defendant School District also alleges this Court's lack of personal jurisdiction due to Plaintiff's failure to properly serve the Summons and Complaint. Defendant Parra additionally alleges that: (1) Plaintiff's claims against her are in an official, not individual, capacity and are duplicative of those against Defendant School District; and (2) should this Court find that she has been properly sued in her individual capacity, she is entitled to qualified immunity.

II. Legal Standard

Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant may move for dismissal of any claim for which the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[7] Upon such motion, the court must decide "whether the complaint contains enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"[8] A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff pleads facts sufficient for the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct.[9] The plausibility standard reflects the requirement in Rule 8 that pleadings provide defendants with fair notice of the nature of the claims as well as the grounds upon which each claim rests.[10] Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, but need not afford such a presumption to legal conclusions.[11] Viewing the complaint in this manner, the court must decide whether the plaintiff's allegations give rise to more than speculative possibilities.[12] If the allegations in the complaint are "so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'"[13]

III. Analysis

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

1. Title VII and ADA Claims

Both Defendants allege that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Title VII and ADA claims due to Plaintiff's failure to exhaust all available administrative remedies. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.[14] Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to move for the dismissal of any claim when the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.[15] A federal court cannot obtain jurisdiction over a suit brought under Title VII or the ADA unless the plaintiff first exhausts administrative remedies for each discrete discriminatory and retaliatory act.[16] If the plaintiff does not attempt to obtain administrative relief by first filing a complaint with the EEOC, the court's jurisdiction is limited to issues that are reasonably expected to arise from the claims filed with the EEOC.[17] The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to allege sufficient facts that he or she exhausted the applicable administrative remedies.[18] Both Title VII and the ADA require that a plaintiff obtain a right to sue letter from the EEOC prior to filing suit.[19]

Here, Plaintiff did indeed file his claims with the EEOC for violations of Title VII and the ADA prior to filing his Complaint in this Court. However, at the time Plaintiff filed his Complaint, he had not yet received his Notice of Right to Sue letter from the EEOC. Plaintiff originally received this letter on April 9, 2013, in response to his September 21, 2012, charge of discrimination. On May 3, 2013, however, at Plaintiff's request, the EEOC revoked this Notice. Because a right to sue letter is a prerequisite to suit for both Title VII and ADA claims, [20] Plaintiff has failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies with respect to his Title VII and ADA claims. As such, these claims must be dismissed.

Furthermore, Plaintiff's Complaint contains an allegation of race discrimination in violation of Title VII, as well as a claim of harassment, both of which were absent from his EEOC filing. Plaintiff therefore failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies with respect to these two claims and, as such, these claims must be dismissed.

The Court pauses here to take note of Plaintiff's pro se status. As a general rule, a court must take additional precautions before ruling on a dispositive motion against a pro se litigant.[21] "A pro se litigant's pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."[22] However, "a plaintiff's pro se status does not relieve him from complying with this court's procedural requirements."[23] Therefore, based on Plaintiff's procedural failures, Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Title VII claims of gender and race ...


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