Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Langkamp v. Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

June 29, 2017

RICK LANGKAMP and DARLA LANGKAMP, Plaintiffs,
v.
MAYES EMERGENCY SERVICES TRUST AUTHORITY, BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF MAYES COUNTY, and JOHN DOES 1-15, Board Members and Employees, Agents and Representatives of the Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CLAIRE V. EAGAN UNITHD STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Now before the Court are defendant Board of County Commissioners of Mayes County's (Mayes BCC) motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 46) and defendant Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority's (MESTA) motion to dismiss certain claims (Dkt. # 49).

         I.

         Plaintiffs Rick Langkamp and Darla Langkamp, a married couple, filed this action in the Northern District of Oklahoma against MESTA and John Does 1-15, alleged board members and employees, agents, and representatives of MESTA. Dkt. # 2. MESTA is a public trust, organized under Oklahoma law, that provides ambulance service for Mayes County, Oklahoma. Dkt. # 43 at 1, 4. Ms. Langkamp has worked for MESTA as a secretary since 2005. Id. at 4. From 2003 until June 14, 2016, Mr. Langkamp was the executive director of MESTA. Id.

         In 2014, Mr. Langkamp sued MESTA and several members of MESTA's board of trustees (MESTA Board) in the District Court of Mayes County, State of Oklahoma for defamation, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and negligence (Langkamp I). Dkt. # 13-1. On February 18, 2016, Mr. Langkamp dismissed with prejudice his claims against MESTA in Langkamp I. Dkt. # 13-3, at 1.

         On March 8, 2016, MESTA held a public board meeting, during which the board elected Trent Peper as chairman of the board. Dkt. # 43, at 4. Plaintiffs allege that when Mr. Peper was previously chairman he frequently called Ms. Langkamp and other female MESTA employees “demeaning” names such as “sweetie” and “honey.” Id. Plaintiffs also assert that Mr. Peper “inappropriately touched Ms. Langkamp's shoulders.” Id. Ms. Langkamp spoke during the public comment portion of the board meeting in which Mr. Peper was elected chairman. Id. at 5. Plaintiffs allege that Ms. Langkamp said, “I will not be putting up with that type of pet name calling that went on the last time this person was in this position.” Id. Plaintiffs assert that Ms. Langkamp told the board she had previously informed two MESTA attorneys about Mr. Peper's conduct and that nothing had changed. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiffs also assert that Ms. Langkamp concluded her comments by telling everyone at the meeting, “You are my witnesses and I will not be putting up with it again.” Id. at 6. Plaintiffs allege that at least one Mayes BCC commissioner was present at the meeting. Id. Plaintiffs allege that after the board meeting, several board members, including Mr. Peper, and MESTA's in-house counsel met in a hallway and had a “very loud conversation” that was overheard by another MESTA employee. Id. Plaintiffs assert that one of the board members said, “If [Ms. Langkamp] thinks I'm mean now, wait until I get on the other side of the board.” Id.

         On June 2, 2016, Mr. Langkamp submitted an intake questionnaire to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).[1] Id. at 9. On June 14, 2016, MESTA fired Mr. Langkamp. Id. at 10. On July 7, 2016, Mr. Langkamp signed his EEOC charge of discrimination, which asserted claims against MESTA for retaliation and discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (ADA). Dkt. # 54-12. Mr. Langkamp asserts that, around July 9, 2016, he informed the EEOC that the had been terminated and wished to add that information to his charge of discrimination. Dkt. # 43, at 11. After the EEOC allegedly told him he must file a subsequent charge of discrimination, Mr. Langkamp filed a second intake questionnaire on July 26, 2016. Id.

         On June 14, 2016, Mr. Langkamp brought a second suit against MESTA and several board members in the District Court of Mayes County, State of Oklahoma for claims arising out of MESTA's firing of Mr. Langkamp and the events leading up to his dismissal (Langkamp II). Dkt. # 13-4. On July 22, 2016, MESTA filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it for failure to state a claim. Dkt. # 24-1. On August 15, 2016, Mr. Langkamp filed an amended petition, alleging claims against MESTA for violation of his rights under the Oklahoma Constitution, breach of contract, and negligence. Dkt. # 13-5. On August 26, 2016, MESTA renewed its motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 24-3), which the state court granted on October 24, 2016. Dkt. # 13-6. On November 3, 2016, Mr. Langkamp moved for clarification, or alternatively for a new trial or rehearing, regarding the court's order. Dkt. # 18-4. The state court denied Mr. Langkamp's motion on November 22, 2016. Dkt. # 13-7. Mr. Langkamp received his right to sue letter from his July 7, 2016 charge of discrimination on September 19, 2016. Dkt. # 43, at 11. On October 30, 2016, he signed his second charge, which asserted claims against MESTA for retaliation in violation of Title VII and the ADA. Dkt. # 54-13.

         Plaintiffs filed suit in this Court on November 7, 2016. Dkt. # 2. In the original complaint, Ms. Langkamp alleged free speech retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, retaliation in violation of Title VII, and common law negligence; Mr. Langkamp alleged retaliation in violation of Title VII. Id. at 9-14. On December 28, 2016, MESTA filed a motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 13), arguing that plaintiffs' claims against it should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. On February 28, 2017, plaintiffs filed a motion to amend (Dkt. # 25), asking the Court for leave to amend their complaint so that Ms. Langkamp could assert Title VII retaliation and discrimination claims against Mayes BCC. Plaintiffs asserted that Ms. Langkamp had received her right to sue letter from the EEOC on February 15, 2017. See Dkt. # 25-1. On March 1, 2017, plaintiffs filed a motion to stay (Dkt. # 26), asking the Court to stay the case until resolution of Mr. Langkamp's then-pending charge of discrimination against Mayes BCC.

         On March 3, 2017, the Court entered an opinion and order (Dkt. # 31) ruling on MESTA's motion to dismiss, plaintiffs' motion to amend, and plaintiffs' motion to stay. The Court granted MESTA's motion to dismiss as to Ms. Langkamp's negligence claim because she failed to state a claim under Oklahoma law, and as to Mr. Langkamp's Title VII retaliation claim because it was barred by res judicata. Id. at 8-17. The Court denied MESTA's motion to dismiss as to Ms. Langkamp's retaliation claims under Title VII and § 1983. Id. at 6-8. The Court granted plaintiffs' motion to amend, finding that Ms. Langkamp could “amend her complaint to assert discrimination and retaliation claims against [Mayes BCC].” Id. at 17-18. The Court denied plaintiffs' motion to stay because it would cause undue delay of the litigation. Id. at 18.

         Ms. Langkamp filed an amended complaint (Dkt. # 32) asserting the same three claims as the original complaint and adding two claims: a Title VII retaliation claim against Mayes BCC and a claim under the Oklahoma Constitution against MESTA and Mayes BCC. Soon after the amended complaint was filed, plaintiffs filed a motion (Dkt. # 36) asking the Court to alter its opinion and order (Dkt. # 31). Plaintiffs asserted that Mr. Langkamp received a new right to sue letter from the EEOC on March 16, 2017[2] and asked the Court to amend its opinion and order so that Mr. Langkamp could assert Title VII and ADA claims covered by the new right to sue letter. Dkt. # 36, at 2. The Court granted the motion, but cautioned plaintiffs that they “may not alter or amend their amended complaint apart from adding claims covered by the new right to sue letter. Dkt. # 40, at 5.

         Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint (Dkt. # 43), in which Ms. Langkamp alleges claims against MESTA under § 1983, Title VII, and the Oklahoma Constitution and against Mayes BCC under Title VII and the Oklahoma Constitution. Mr. Langkamp alleges claims against Mayes BCC under the Oklahoma Constitution and against MESTA under Title VII, the ADA, § 1983, the Oklahoma Constitution, and common law negligence. Mayes BCC now moves to dismiss all claims against it, and MESTA moves to dismiss plaintiffs' claims under the Oklahoma Constitution and all Mr. Langkamp's claims against it. Dkt. ## 46, 49.

         II.

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), [3] a court must determine whether the claimant has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. A motion to dismiss is properly granted when a complaint provides no “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint must contain enough “facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” and the factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. (citations omitted). “Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 562. Although decided within an antitrust context, Twombly “expounded the pleading standard for all civil actions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 683 (2009). For the purpose of making the dismissal determination, a court must accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, even if doubtful in fact, and must construe the allegations in the light most favorable to a claimant. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Alvarado v. KOB-TV, L.L.C., 493 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2007); Moffett v. Halliburton Energy Servs., Inc., 291 F.3d 1227, 1231 (10th Cir. 2002). However, a court need not accept as true those allegations that are conclusory in nature. Erikson v. Pawnee Cnty. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs, 263 F.3d 1151, 1154-55 (10th Cir. 2001). “[C]onclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109-10 (10th Cir. 1991). Finally, “the 12(b)(6) standard does not require that [p]laintiff establish a prima facie case in her complaint, [but] the elements of each alleged cause of action help to determine whether [p]laintiff has set forth a plausible claim.” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1192 (10th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted).

         III.

         Plaintiffs' second amended complaint asserts eight claims: (1) plaintiffs allege that MESTA violated their First Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) Ms. Lankgamp alleges that MESTA retaliated against her in violation of Title VII; (3) Ms. Langkamp alleges that Mayes BCC retaliated against her in violation of Title VII; (4) plaintiffs allege that Mayes BCC and MESTA violated their due process and free speech rights under the Oklahoma Constitution; (5) Mr. Langkamp alleges MESTA retaliated against him in violation of Title VII; (6) Mr. Langkamp alleges that MESTA discriminated against him in violation of the ADA; (7) Mr. Langkamp alleges that MESTA retaliated against him in violation of the ADA; and (8) Mr. Langkamp alleges that MESTA negligently failed to provide him a safe workplace. Dkt. # 43. Defendants argue that all of plaintiffs' claims, except Ms. Langkamp's § 1983 and Title VII claims against MESTA, should be dismissed. Mr. Langkamp has withdrawn his claims against MESTA under § 1983 and the Oklahoma Constitution.[4] Dkt. # 54, at 18-19. The Court will address each remaining challenged claim in turn.

         A.

         Ms. Langkamp alleges a retaliation claim against Mayes BCC under Title VII. Dkt. # 43, at 18-19. Title VII prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for opposing any employment practice made unlawful under Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3; Stover v. Martinez, 382 F.3d 1064, 1070 (10th Cir. 2004). The statute defines “employer” as “a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such a person. . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. The parties do not dispute that MESTA is Ms. Langkamp's employer under Title VII and that MESTA and Mayes BCC are distinct legal entities, but Mayes BCC argues that Ms. Langkamp has failed to allege facts sufficient to show that it is also her employer under Title VII. See Dkt. # 46, at 3-5; Dkt. # 50, at 11.

         Ms. Langkamp argues that she has alleged sufficient facts to show that Mayes BCC is her employer under Title VII through the principals of agency and the theory of joint employers. The Tenth Circuit has explained that there are numerous tests for determining whether an entity is an employer under Title VII, and which test is most appropriate depends on the circumstances of the case. See Cink v. Grant Cnty., Okla., 635 F. App'x 470, 472-74 (10th Cir. 2015)[5]; Knitter v. Corvais Military Living, LLC, 758 F.3d 1214, 1226 (10th Cir. 2014); Bristol v. Bd. of Cnty. Com'rs of Cnty. of Clear Creek, 312 F.3d 1213, 1218 n.5 (10th Cir. 2002) (en banc).

         The agency test is used when “dealing with a subsidiary and its parent corporation, when the plaintiff seeks to pierce the corporate veil and hold the parent liable under a federal statute.” Bristol, 312 F.3d at 1218 n.5. For a parent to be liable under the agency theory, the plaintiff must establish that it “exercised a significant degree of control over the subsidiary's decision-making.” Frank v. United States, 3 F.3d 1357, 1362 n.2 (10th Cir. 1993). As an initial matter, it is unclear whether the agency test is even applicable to this case because Mayes BCC and MESTA are not a parent and subsidiary. MESTA was created as a public trust under Okla. Stat. tit. 60, § 176, with members of the MESTA Board as trustees, and Mayes County, acting by and through Mayes BCC, as beneficiary. Dkt. # 50-2. Members of the MESTA Board are appointed by individual commissioners of Mayes BCC and must be approved by a majority of the commissioners. Id. at 5. Apart from appointing the MESTA Board, the trust indenture does not grant Mayes BCC any other control over MESTA. Ms. Langkamp has provided no argument for why the agency test is appropriate to determine who is an employer in a trustee/beneficiary relationship, and instead cites a string of cases holding that an employer is generally liable for the actions of its employees under agency theory. These cases do nothing to support her argument that Mayes BCC, specifically, is her employer.

         The Court need not determine whether the agency test is applicable here because, even if it were, Ms. Langkamp has failed to allege facts showing that Mayes BCC exercised a significant amount of control over MESTA's decisionmaking. The second amended complaint is remarkably light on factual allegations regarding Mayes BCC. It alleges that at least one Mayes BCC commissioner was present at the March 8, 2016 MESTA board meeting where Ms. Langkamp spoke against Mr. Peper's alleged harassment and that Mayes BCC “ratified the acts of MESTA . . . by failing to take remedial action . . . [and/or] allowing such acts to occur.” Id. at 6, 19. The agency test is about control, and neither the fact that a Mayes BCC commissioner was present at the MESTA board meeting or that Mayes BCC failed to intervene show that Mayes BCC was controlling MESTA's decisionmaking. The second amended complaint also alleges that Mayes BCC “intentionally underpopulated” the MESTA Board “in order to abuse, discriminate, and retaliate against Ms. Langkamp and Mr. Langkamp.” Dkt. # 43, at 4. It is unclear how failing to appoint board members could harass plaintiffs, and neither the second amended complaint nor plaintiffs' response brief[6] have provided any plausible explanation. Thus, Ms. Langkamp has failed to allege facts establishing Mayes BCC as her employer under the agency test.

         Ms. Langkamp's second argument is based on the joint employer test, which the Tenth Circuit has stated “is the appropriate test to use when an employee of one entity seeks to hold another entity liable as an employer.” Knitter, 758 F.3d at 1226 (citing Bristol, 312 F.3d at 1218). Because Ms. Langkamp is an employee of MESTA, but is seeking to hold Mayes BCC liable as an employer as well, the joint employer test is appropriate. Under the joint employer test, independent entities are treated as joint employers if they “share or co-determine those matters governing the essential terms and conditions of employment.” Bristol, 312 F.3d at 1218 (quoting Virgo v. Riviera Beach Assoc., Ltd., 30 F.3d 1350, 1360 (11th Cir. 1994)). “In other words, courts look to whether both entities ‘exercise significant cont rol over the same employees.'” Id. (quoting Graves v. Lowery, 117 F.3d 723, 727 (3d. Cir. 1997)). While the agency test concerns Mayes BCC's control over MESTA, the joint employer test concerns Mayes BCC and MESTA's joint control over Ms. Langkamp. Plaintiffs make a conclusory allegation in their brief that Mayes BCC and MESTA “co-determined the essential terms and conditions of employment.” But even if that allegation were sufficient to establish Mayes BCC as a joint employer, plaintiffs must support their claims by sufficient factual allegations in their complaint. The second ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.