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Ailin v. Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 21, 2019

RACHEL AILIN, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Rachel Ailin brings suit against the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office (the “Sheriff's Office”) and the Board of County Commissioners of the County of Leavenworth, Kansas (the “Board”). She asserts claims of sex discrimination and retaliation. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8) contending that the Sheriff's Office is an entity that cannot be sued. In addition, Defendants assert that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the Board because the Board was not included in Plaintiff's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) Charge. For the reasons stated in detail below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

         I. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss brought under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain factual allegations that, assumed to be true, “raise a right to relief above the speculative level”[1] and must include “enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.”[2]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.”[3] The plausibility standard does not require a showing of probability that “a defendant has acted unlawfully, ” but requires more than “a sheer possibility.”[4] “[M]ere ‘labels and conclusions,' and ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' will not suffice; a plaintiff must offer specific factual allegations to support each claim.”[5] Finally, the Court must accept the nonmoving party's factual allegations as true and may not dismiss on the ground that it appears unlikely the allegations can be proven.[6]

         The Supreme Court has explained the analysis as a two-step process. For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, the Court “must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, [but is] ‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'”[7] Thus, the Court must first determine if the allegations are factual and entitled to an assumption of truth, or merely legal conclusions that are not entitled to an assumption of truth.[8] Second, the Court must determine whether the factual allegations, when assumed true, “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.”[9] “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.”[10]

         II. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Rachel Ailin was hired as a sheriff's deputy in 2013. Throughout her employment, she was qualified for her position. Plaintiff also performed her work satisfactorily.

         Plaintiff worked with Tyler Reavis, another sheriff's deputy at the Sheriff's Office. Throughout Plaintiff's employment, several employees of the Sheriff's Office, including but not limited to Reavis, participated in a work environment that included sexually-charged jokes that were humiliating and demeaning towards women. Reavis made sexually-charged comments about female staff members, including Plaintiff, as well as female inmates. Plaintiff had sexually-charged encounters with male employees, including being backed into a corner, being shushed by a supervisor for offering a different opinion than her husband's, and witnessing a male employee call a female inmate “a bitch.”

         In January 2018, Reavis approached Plaintiff at work wanting to discuss the extent of their relationship. Plaintiff stated that she did not want to talk about it at work. Reavis came to her house that evening, and Plaintiff said that she wanted to be friends. Reavis allegedly cornered her and sexually assaulted her. The following day at work, Reavis cornered Plaintiff and attempted to kiss her.

         In March 2018, Plaintiff told her supervisor of the unwanted sexual activity. Plaintiff's supervisor, Brandon Masoner, immediately reported the information to the Leavenworth County Sheriff, Andy Dedeke. A criminal investigation was opened. Reavis was suspended for two months.

         In May 2018, Reavis returned to work and was put on a different shift than Plaintiff, but Plaintiff still had to see him. When Plaintiff inquired into the status of the investigation, she received no answers. At the end of May 2018, Plaintiff was informed that the prosecutor declined to press criminal charges against Reavis. Plaintiff was also informed that Reavis would not be fired due to “employment laws” but that he had been warned to stay away from Plaintiff.

         In June, Plaintiff had frequent panic attacks. She requested another meeting with Sheriff Dedeke. He agreed to transfer Plaintiff but rescinded the offer two weeks later without explanation. Instead, he offered her a different position as a “civilian” that included a pay cut. Plaintiff rejected the position and contends that she was constructively discharged on July 13, 2018.

         On or about November 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC and KHRC. In this charge, she named the Sheriff's Office and Reavis as the entity and/or person who discriminated against her. She received a Dismissal and Notice of Rights, dated April 16, 2019.

         On July 8, 2019, she filed suit in this Court, naming the Sheriff's Office and the Board as Defendants. Plaintiff brings claims of sex discrimination and retaliation. Defendants have now filed a Motion to Dismiss. They assert that the Sheriff's Office is not an entity that can be sued. In addition, they assert that the Court should dismiss the Board because the Board was not named in Plaintiff's EEOC Charge.

         III. Discussion

         As an initial matter, Defendants contend that they bring their Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Defendants state that the exhaustion of administrative remedies is a jurisdictional prerequisite to filing a Title VII action in federal court. Although this used to be the law in this circuit, that is no longer the case. In 2018, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the failure to exhaust administrative remedies is not a jurisdictional bar to a plaintiff's Title VII lawsuit.[11] Instead, the failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense that a defendant may raise in a motion to dismiss.[12] Thus, the Court will only consider Defendants' arguments under 12(b)(6) standards.

         Defendants first assert that the Sheriff's Office should be dismissed because it is not amenable to suit. The sheriff's department is an agency of the county.[13] “Kansas courts have consistently held that subordinate government agencies do not have the capacity to sue or be sued in the absence of statutory authorization.”[14] There is no statute permitting suit against a sheriff's office.[15] Thus, the Sheriff's Office is not amenable to suit and must be dismissed.

         As to the Board, Defendants concede that it is an appropriately-named Defendant. But, they contend, the Court should dismiss Defendant Board because it was not named in Plaintiff's EEOC charge.[16] In this case, the Sheriff's Office is the party named in the EEOC charge, and the Board is named as Defendant in this Court.[17] Of importance, a suit against a sheriff's office is one against the county because the sheriff's office does not have the capacity to be sued.[18] A sheriff's department acts as an agent for the county, and the sheriff's department is an office through ...

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