United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
CHRIS L. LOFTON, Plaintiff,
FTS INTERNATIONAL MANUFACTURING, LLC, Defendant.
L. RUSSELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
motions sit before the Court. In one, Defendant asks the
Court to dismiss Plaintiff's claims on timeliness
grounds. Doc. 20. In the other, Plaintiff moves to strike
several of Defendant's affirmative defenses. Doc. 23.
Upon review, the Court will GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART
the Motion to Dismiss and GRANT the Motion to Strike.
a racial discrimination case that Plaintiff Chris Lofton
brings against his former employer, FTS International
Manufacturing, LLC (“FTS”), for hostile work
environment, retaliation, and termination. In short, Mr.
Lofton, an African American, alleges that he was repeatedly
the victim of racially charged remarks and deprived of
opportunities for advancement despite his numerous complaints
racially charged remarks and discriminatory actions allegedly
commenced shortly after FTS hired Mr. Lofton for the daytime
shift in October 2011. One of Mr. Lofton's coworkers,
Victor Martinez began directing racial jokes and offensive
language towards Mr. Lofton. This initial span of allegedly
discriminatory treatment could not have lasted long; FTC
terminated Mr. Lofton sometime in his first month. That
decision, however, was allegedly reversed after Mr. Lofton
complained to his district manager about Martinez's
racial discrimination. When FTC restored Mr. Lofton's
employment, it transferred him to the nightshift, away from
forward to January 2014. One of Mr. Lofton's white
coworkers, Nathan Shively, ascends to supervisor and
transfers Martinez to the nightshift. But according to Mr.
Lofton, Martinez's transfer, and its accompanying deluge
of derogatory remarks, not only affected Mr. Lofton. Other
employees, apparently following Martinez's lead, began
using racial slurs towards Mr. Lofton. Mr. Lofton allegedly
enjoyed a brief respite from his coworkers' behavior when
he began working in the oil field in late 2014. Yet by
February 2015 Mr. Lofton was back working the nightshift as a
“mechanic” with Martinez. The racial slurs
apparently continued in February and March 2015 despite Mr.
Lofton's repeated complaints to his new supervisor, Rudy
Garcia, and Garcia's assurance that he would address the
problem. Mr. Lofton alleges Garcia never did so, even after
Garcia allegedly witnessed another employee use a racial slur
Lofton then requested a transfer back to the oil field.
Management denied his request even though allegedly less
qualified white employees were working in the field. This was
apparently somewhat emblematic of Mr. Lofton's time at
FTS; he argues that the company never offered him the same
training opportunities it offered to its white employees.
on April 7, 2015, FTS terminated Mr. Lofton after one of his
Hispanic coworkers allegedly reported him for sleeping on the
job. To no avail, Mr. Lofton explained to FTS management that
he had been sleeping in the locker room on the instructions
of Garcia, who had apparently told him to nap at work rather
than go home sick.
Lofton filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on
October 29, 2015. After the EEOC issued Mr. Lofton a right to
sue letter on December 5, 2016, he brought claims for hostile
work environment, retaliation, and termination under the
Oklahoma Antidiscrimination Act (OADA), Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. FTS has
moved to dismiss Mr. Lofton's OADA and Title VII claims.
The Court addresses these claims before deciding whether to
grant Mr. Lofton's Motion to Strike.
Motion to Dismiss
presses three reasons why Mr. Lofton's OADA and Title VII
claims must be dismissed: Mr. Lofton failed to (1) exhaust
administrative remedies, (2) comply with the statute of
limitations, and (3) plead his allegations with the requisite
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must
contain a ‘short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009).
“The pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not
require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it
demands more than an unadorned,
Id. at 678 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). There must be
“sufficient factual matter, [which if] accepted as true
. . . state[s] a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A plausible claim is one
that “pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. If the
allegations “do not support a legal claim for relief,
” then “as a matter of law” they must be
dismissed. Baker v. Publishers Clearing House, 413
F.App'x 85, 87 (10th Cir. 2011).
above standard assumes that the Court should analyze Mr.
Lofton's Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to
state a claim, as FTC asks. At least as it relates to whether
Mr. Lofton pled instances of discrimination with specificity,
the Court will analyze that issue under 12(b)(6). But as for
the matter of whether Mr. Lofton exhausted his administrative
remedies by timely filing a charge of discrimination with the
EEOC, it is not perfectly clear that the Court should treat
FTC's Motion as one under Rule 12(b)(6).
confusion stems from ongoing debate in this Circuit about
whether exhausting administrative remedies with the EEOC is a
jurisdictional requirement analyzed under 12(b)(1) or merely
a condition precedent for filing suit decided under Rule
12(b)(6). See Jones v. Standard Consulting, Standard
Testing & Eng'g Co., No. CIV-16-1020-R, 2017 WL
1148685, at *1 (W.D. Okla. Mar. 24, 2017) (Russell, J.)
(“The Tenth Circuit's position on whether
exhaustion is jurisdictional or merely a condition precedent
has been in a state of evolution in recent years.”);
Jones v. Needham, 856 F.3d 1284, 1289 (10th Cir.
2017) (noting the confusion but clarifying that the Tenth
Circuit's “recent cases suggest that exhaustion in
this context might be better characterized as a
claims-processing obligation”). One district court has
distinguished challenges asserting a claimant failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies by timely filing
an EEOC charge from challenges arguing a claimant did not
file a charge at all. See Tolbert v. Ean Servs.,
LLC, 2016 WL 796096, at *3 (N.D. Okla. Feb. 26, 2016)
(“Under Title VII, the filing of an EEOC charge is a
jurisdictional requirement, analyzed under Rule 12(b)(1),
whereas the timely filing of EEOC charge is a condition
precedent to suit, analyzed under Rule 12(b)(6).”).
event, the distinction does not drive the Court's
decision in this case. “Whether the exhaustion
requirement is characterized as jurisdictional is important
only when the defendant has waived or forfeited the
issue.” Hung Thai Pham v. James, 630
F.App'x 735, 738 (10th Cir. 2015). Because FTS
plainly raises the issue in its Answer, it has not waived the
Lofton brings his state law claims under the OADA, Okla.
Stat. tit. 25, § 1302(A). That provision grants a right
of action to individuals discriminated against by their
employers for “discharg[ing] or otherwise . . .
discriminat[ing] against an individual with respect to [their
employment] because of, ” race, among other things.
Unfortunately for Mr. Lofton, the OADA, specifically §
1502, requires claimants, in order for their petitions to be
timely, to “file a complaint with the Oklahoma Human
Rights Commission (OHRC) within 180 days after the alleged
discriminatory practice occurs.” Forcum v. Via
Christi Health Sys., Inc., 137 P.3d 1250, 1253
(Okla.Civ.App. 2006). This he did not do. FTC's last
discriminatory action-terminating him-took place on April 7,
2015. The OADA gave ...