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Steele v. City of Topeka

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 29, 2014

EXZETTA Y. STEELE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF TOPEKA, KANSAS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Exzetta Y. Steele ("Plaintiff") seeks monetary damages from her employer, City of Topeka, Kansas ("Defendant"), for alleged employment discrimination. This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 4). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff's complaint sets forth the following facts. Plaintiff, an African-American female, was employed by Defendant's Public Works Utilities and Transportation Division ("PWUTD") as an Infrastructure Support Manager/Street Rehabilitation and Maintenance Manager from approximately November 27, 2010, to April 29, 2011.

Plaintiff alleges that, while employed as a PWUTD manager, she was subjected to intentional disparate treatment in the terms and conditions of her employment that were materially different than similarly situated Caucasian and Hispanic-American male employees. Plaintiff claims that she was excluded from work-related meetings, planning sessions, and lunches. Plaintiff further alleges that the PWUTD working environment became racist, sexist, and hostile. Pursuant to Defendant's policy on workplace discrimination, Plaintiff notified her supervisor as well as Defendant's Human Resources Department regarding the disparate conditions and perceived discrimination. Plaintiff alleges that no investigation was initiated as a result of her internal complaints. Plaintiff resigned from her position with the PWUTD on or around April 18, 2011. Subsequent to this resignation, Plaintiff accepted a non-management position as an Accounting Specialist II in Defendant's Fire Department. Plaintiff alleges that this position caused her to suffer a reduction in pay, benefits, and status.

Plaintiff filed this Complaint against Defendant on February 28, 2014, alleging employment discrimination and constructive discharge. Defendant now seeks to dismiss Plaintiff's claims in their entirety.

II. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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.[1] 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.'"[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] Viewing the complaint in this manner, the court must decide whether the plaintiff's allegations give rise to more than speculative possibilities.[6] 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.'"[7]

III. Analysis

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant engaged in employment discrimination which ultimately led to her constructive discharge by: (1) perpetuating the disparate treatment associated with her being a female and African-American employee, (2) perpetuating a hostile working environment replete with racial and sexual discrimination, and (3) failing to investigate her reports of this disparate and discriminatory treatment.[8]

In response, Defendant argues that: (1) Plaintiff's Complaint generally lacks sufficient factual allegations, and (2) Plaintiff's claim is legally deficient in that her alleged constructive discharge is insufficient to establish an adverse employment action. Defendant's arguments are without merit.[9]

Plaintiff Pleaded Sufficient Factual Allegations to Support her Federal Claims

Plaintiff's federal claims arise out of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which states:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer - (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of ...

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