United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
E. DOWDELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the Defendants' Combined Motion to Dismiss
(the “Motion”) (Doc. 7). For the reasons
discussed herein, the Court finds that the Motion should be
granted in part and denied in part.
is an African American female who worked for Defendant
Eastern Oklahoma Radiation Therapy Associates
(“EORTA”), from April 2006 to January 2014.
Plaintiff was hired as a Chief Radiation Therapist. In May
2009, plaintiff hired defendant Darren Crabtree (“Mr.
Crabtree”) to be a Staff Therapist with EORTA.
Plaintiff was responsible for training Mr. Crabtree.
Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Crabtree verbally accosted her.
Plaintiff raised the issue with the owner of EORTA, but no
actions were taken to address Mr. Crabtree's conduct. In
2009, Plaintiff was demoted to the position of Staff
Therapist. In 2011, Mr. Crabtree separated from EORTA. He was
rehired in 2013 as the Director of Operations. In January
2014, Mr. Crabtree discharged plaintiff due to decreasing
patient volume and finances. Plaintiff asserts she was
performing her job functions satisfactorily at the time she
was discharged. Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Crabtree replaced
plaintiff with someone less qualified and less experienced
than her. Neither Mr. Crabtree nor plaintiff's
replacement are African American.
timely filed her complaint with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The EEOC's
investigation found probable cause of violations surrounding
plaintiff's termination. On April 2, 2015, the EEOC asked
EORTA to conciliate the matter, but these efforts failed. The
EEOC then issued a “Notice of Right to Sue
(Conciliation Failure)” letter to plaintiff on June 18,
2015. Plaintiff retained counsel and filed suit against EORTA
in Tulsa County District Court on September 11, 2015. On
February 8, 2016, counsel for plaintiff informed plaintiff
that it was severing the attorney-client relationship and
advised plaintiff to find substitute counsel or proceed
retained present counsel and dismissed her state court case
without prejudice on March 7, 2016. Plaintiff filed this
lawsuit on March 18, 2016, alleging race discrimination in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981. EORTA and Mr. Crabtree (collectively, “the
defendants”) seek dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), asserting that the Complaint was not timely filed
and that it fails to state a plausible claim upon which
relief can be granted. Defendant EORTA also requests
attorney's fees and costs incurred in seeking the
dismissal of plaintiff's Title VII claim.
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal motion, the court must
determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which
relief may be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require “a short
and plain statement of the claim to show that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The
complaint must provide “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). The standard does
“not require a heightened fact pleading of specifics,
but only 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. at 555-56, 570
(citations omitted). The Twombly pleading standard
is applicable to all civil actions. See Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009). For the purpose of
making the dismissal determination, a court must accept all
the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as
true, even if doubtful, and must construe the allegations in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Alvarado v. KOB-TV,
L.L.C., 493 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2007).
Plaintiff's Title VII Claim
EORTA argues that plaintiff's title VII claim should be
dismissed because it was not filed within ninety days after
the EEOC issued the right to sue letter. (Doc. 7 at 4).
Specifically, the EEOC issued the right to sue letter on June
18, 2015. (Doc. 2, ¶ 29). Plaintiff filed her Title VII
claim 274 days later, on March 18, 2016. Plaintiff responds
that the Court should exercise its discretion and find that
equitable tolling is proper under the circumstances, namely
because plaintiff's state court petition was defective.
(Doc. 11 at 4-5).
plaintiff is required to bring her Title VII claim within
ninety days from the issuance of an EEOC right to sue letter.
See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). A motion to
dismiss for failure to file a Title VII action within the
90-day period should be considered under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). See Barrett v. Rumsfeld, 158 F. App'x
89, 91 (10th Cir. 2005) (unpublished) (citing Anjelino v.
N.Y. Times Co., 200 F.3d 73, 87 (3d Cir. 1999)).
“Compliance with the filing requirements of Title VII
is not a jurisdictional prerequisite, rather it is a
condition precedent to suit that functions like a statute of
limitations and is subject to waiver, estoppel, and equitable
tolling.” Id. (quoting Million v.
Frank, 47 F.3d 385, 389 (10th Cir. 1995)). The Tenth
Circuit “has generally recognized equitable tolling of
Title VII periods of limitation only if circumstances
‘rise to the level of active deception which might
invoke the powers of equity to toll the limitations
period.”' Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952,
957 (10th Cir. 2002) (quoting Cottrell v. Newspaper
Agency Corp., 590 F.2d 836, 838-39 (10th Cir. 1979)).
The Supreme Court has “noted that ‘federal courts
have typically extended equitable relief only sparingly,
'” and that it has been allowed
in situations where the claimant has actively pursued [her]
judicial remedies by filing a defective pleading during the
statutory period, or where the complainant has been induced
or tricked by his adversary's misconduct into allowing
the filing deadline to pass. We have generally been much less
forgiving in receiving late filings ...