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Ledbetter v. International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers

United States District Court, D. Kansas

September 25, 2019



          Daniel D. Crabtree, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Rebecca Ledbetter filed this employment discrimination action against International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (“IAMAW”) and District 70 IAM Machinist Union (“District 70”). In her First Amended Complaint, plaintiff asserts sex discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e–2000e-17, against both defendants. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 14). Plaintiff responded (Doc. 16) and defendants replied (Doc. 18). For the reasons explained below, the court grants in part and denies in part defendants’ motion.

         I. Factual Background

         The following facts come from plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint (Doc. 11) and are viewed in the light most favorable to her. S.E.C. v. Shields, 744 F.3d 633, 640 (10th Cir. 2014) (stating “[w]e accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the [plaintiff]” (quoting Burnett v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 706 F.3d 1231, 1235 (10th Cir. 2013)).

         Since 2008, plaintiff worked for defendants as an elected business representative in Wichita, Kansas. She was appointed as Assistant Directing Business Representative in 2012. Plaintiff alleges supervisor Mark Blondin sexually harassed her in February 2014. After reporting the incident, Mr. Blondin tried to terminate her employment. Tom Bugginbarger, District 70 president, prevented this outcome. Also, Mr. Blondin also made disparaging comments about plaintiff.

         In November 2015, IAMAW took over operation of District 70, and hired Tony Blevins to oversee operations. About two months later, in January 2016, Mr. Bugginbarger retired. Mr. Blevins suspended plaintiff’s employment in February 2016. Plaintiff alleges she was suspended because she had reported sexual harassment. In April 2016, defendants filed formal charges against plaintiff, alleging she had violated the union’s constitution and bylaws. In August 2016, Mr. Blevins permanently removed plaintiff from her union position at District 70. Plaintiff continued to pay her monthly union dues to defendants.

         After her removal, District 70 did not offer plaintiff a new position. Plaintiff alleges District 70 always has re-employed male union members locally. On December 27, 2016, plaintiff filed discrimination charges against District 70 with both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and Kansas Human Rights Commission (“KHRC”) (the “December Charge”). Plaintiff amended her December Charge on January 12, 2017. In her amended December Charge, plaintiff alleged District 70 had discriminated against her because of her age and her sex. Doc. 11-2 at 1. Plaintiff’s amended December Charge also alleged that she was terminated by District 70 and not re-employed with another aerospace company “as similarly situated terminated males have been.” Id. Plaintiff did not name IAMAW in her amended December Charge.

         District 70 removed plaintiff from union membership on January 20, 2017. Plaintiff alleges that District 70 allowed unemployed male members to keep their membership. Plaintiff filed her second discrimination charge against District 70 with both the EEOC and KHRC on February 15, 2017 (the “February Charge”). In the February Charge, plaintiff asserts that she filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, District 70 removed her from union membership, and “male non-employees [were] allowed to keep their membership.” Doc. 11-3 at 1. Plaintiff checked the “sex” and “retaliation” boxes on her February Charge. Id. Plaintiff did not name IAMAW in her February Charge. The EEOC issued a right to sue letter to plaintiff on July 18, 2018 for the February Charge.

         Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint asserts two claims against defendants: (1) sex discrimination violating Title VII, and (2) retaliation violating Title VII. In their motion, defendants assert that plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies against defendant IAMAW, some of her claims are time barred, and none of her claims states a plausible cause of action. Defendants thus ask the court to dismiss plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). For reasons discussed below, the court grants defendants’ motion in part and denies it in all other respects.

         II. Legal Standard

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Although this Rule “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ’” it demands more than “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action’” which, as the Supreme Court explained, “‘will not do.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Under this standard, ‘the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.’” Carter v. United States, 667 F.Supp.2d 1259, 1262 (D. Kan. 2009) (quoting Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007)). Although the court must assume that the complaint’s factual allegations are true, it is “‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.’” Id. at 1263 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “‘Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice’” to state a claim for relief. Bixler v. Foster, 596 F.3d 751, 756 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court may consider “not only the complaint itself, but also attached exhibits and documents incorporated into the complaint by reference.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009) (first citing Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); then citing TMJ Implants, Inc. v. Aetna, Inc., 498 F.3d 1175, 1180 (10th Cir. 2007); then citing Indus. Constructors Corp. v. United States Bureau of Reclamation, 15 F.3d 963, 964–65 (10th Cir. 1994)). A court “‘may consider documents referred to in the complaint if the documents are central to the plaintiff’s claim and the parties do not dispute the documents’ authenticity.’” Id. (quoting Alvarado v. KOB–TV, L.L.C., 493 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2007)).

         III. Analysis

         Defendants ask the court to dismiss plaintiff’s claims for three reasons. First, defendants argue plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies against defendant IAMAW. Second, defendants assert, some of plaintiff’s claims are time barred. Finally, defendants argue, plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint fails to state plausible claims ...

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