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Ayesh v. Butler County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 9, 2019

SARA N. AYESH, Plaintiff,
v.
BUTLER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ERIC F. MELGREN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Sara N. Ayesh brings suit against Defendants Butler County Sheriff's Office and Butler County Jail. She asserts claims of sexual harassment and retaliation. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss contending that neither Butler County Sheriff's Office nor Butler County Jail are entities that can be sued and thus the case should be dismissed (Doc. 8). In response, Plaintiff has filed two Motions to Amend the Complaint, requesting leave to substitute the proper party (Docs. 10, 13). Plaintiff's second motion renders her first motion moot. Therefore, the Court will only consider the second motion in this Order.

         In this motion, Plaintiff seeks to amend her Complaint to add the proper party, the Board of County Commissioners of Butler County, Kansas (“the Board”). Defendants argue that Plaintiff cannot do so because the Board was not named in her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charge and thus the Court lacks jurisdiction. In addition, Defendants assert that the statute of limitations has run because the amendment cannot relate back to her original Complaint. For the reasons stated in detail below, the Court denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as moot, and grants Plaintiff's second Motion to Amend her Complaint. Thus, the case continues with the properly named party.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         Plaintiff was hired in September 2016 as a part-time detention deputy with the Butler County Sheriff's Office. Her job duties included processing inmates, maintaining jail security, serving meals, transporting inmates, receiving and processing inmates into and out of custody, searching inmates, maintaining records, and other clerical duties. One of Plaintiff's supervisors was Captain Erik Ramsey.

         On or about July 14, 2017, Plaintiff started receiving text messages from Ramsey. These messages were regular, continuous, and became sexually inappropriate. Plaintiff felt compelled to respond to the text messages because Ramsey was her supervisor. The texting continued from August 2017 through March 2018, and many text messages were sexually oriented.

         At work, Ramsey's office was near the restroom. When Plaintiff went to the restroom, she walked by his office. When she walked by, Ramsey made comments about her appearance and clothing.

         During an internal investigation, Plaintiff advised the Human Resources Department about Ramsey's conduct. She showed them screen shots of the messages. Instead of investigating, Plaintiff was summoned to the office on May 15, 2018, and told that she would need to take a polygraph test. Plaintiff refused and left her employment.

         On July 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. She named the Butler County Sheriff's Office and Butler County Jail as the employer who discriminated against her. On April 19, 2019, she received a right-to-sue letter. She filed suit in this Court on July 16, 2019. Plaintiff contends that she was constructively discharged and retaliated against for making a complaint about Ramsey's conduct of sexual harassment. She brings claims for quid quo pro sexual harassment and retaliation.

         Defendants have now filed a Motion to Dismiss. They contend that Plaintiff fails to state claim because Butler County Sheriff's Office and Butler County Jail are entities that cannot be sued. Plaintiff seeks leave to amend her Complaint to name the Board as Defendant.

         II. Analysis

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         1. 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.[2]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.' ”[3] 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.[4] The plausibility standard reflects the requirement in Rule 8 that pleadings provide defendants with fair notice of the nature of claims as well the grounds on which each claim rests.[5]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.[6] Viewing the complaint in this manner, the Court must decide whether the plaintiff's allegations give rise to more than speculative possibilities.[7] 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.' ”[8]

         2. Discussion

         As an initial matter, Defendants contend that they bring their Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 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 was previously the law in this circuit, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held in 2018 that the failure to exhaust administrative remedies is not a jurisdictional bar to a plaintiff's lawsuit.[9] Instead, the failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense that a defendant may raise in a motion to dismiss.[10] Thus, the Court will only consider Defendants' arguments under Rule 12(b)(6) standards.

         The sheriff's department is an agency of the county.[11] “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.”[12] There is no statute permitting suit against the sheriff's office.[13]Thus, the Butler County Sheriff's Office is not amenable to suit and must be dismissed. In addition, the Butler County Jail is a subordinate government agency, and there is no statute giving it the capacity to sue or to be sued.[14] Thus, these two Defendants are improper parties and must be dismissed. This finding, however, does not end the matter because Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend Complaint to name the Board as Defendant.

         B. Motion to Amend Complaint

         1. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), once a responsive pleading has been filed, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.”[15] Rule 15(a)(2) provides that courts should “freely give leave when justice so requires.”[16]A court, however, may refuse to grant leave to amend based upon “a showing of undue delay, undue prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment.”[17] The party that asserts futility has the burden in establishing the amendment's futility.[18] With regard to futility, the court must analyze the proposed amendment as though it was before the court on a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).[19]

         2. ...


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