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Langkamp v. Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

February 2, 2018




         Now before the Court is defendant Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority's (MESTA) motion to partially dismiss plaintiff Darla Langkamp's third amended complaint (Dkt. # 74).


         In her third amended complaint (Dkt. # 71), plaintiff alleges the following: since March 2005, MESTA has employed her as an administrative assistant. Id. at 3. During a March 8, 2016 MESTA board meeting, Trent Peper was reelected as chairman. Id. During his previous tenure, Peper frequently harassed plaintiff and other female MESTA employees, including referring to plaintiff as “sweetie, ” “honey” (and other “affectionate nicknames”) and touching plaintiff's shoulders. Id. Plaintiff reported this behavior to MESTA supervisors and MESTA legal counsel, but Peper did not desist. Id. at 3-4. Accordingly, during the March 8, 2016 meeting, plaintiff stated to the board that she will “not be putting up with that type of pet name calling that went on the last time [Peper] was in this position.” Id. at 4. She further stated that she twice spoke with MESTA legal counsel “about Peper's conduct and that nothing has happened;” and she concluded her comments to the board by announcing to all persons present, “[y]ou are my witnesses and I will not be putting up with it again.” Id.

         Immediately following this meeting, MESTA counsel and two MESTA board members convened in the hallway, and one of the board members was overheard stating, “[i]f plaintiff thinks I'm mean now, wait until I get on the other side of the board, ” and, “ [w]hat is [plaintiff] going to do? Hand out more Bibles?” Id. Tate Caudle, a MESTA supervisor, overheard this meeting and transcribed it. Id. After plaintiff “made her intention” in March 2016 to pursue relief with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Mr. Langkamp (plaintiff's husband) and Caudle were “systematically and repeatedly retaliated against by MESTA's board.” Id. On June 14, 2016, MESTA terminated Mr. Langkamp's employment. Id. at 6.

         After Mr. Langkamp's termination, MESTA appointed Steve Van Horn as executive director, and he,

. . . . began to systematically strip [plaintiff] of her job duties she had for years, including, without limitation: preparing new hire packets; assisting in scheduling employee drug testing; organizing MESTA employee files; coordinating employee uniform allowances; obtaining MESTA office supplies; performing MESTA Chaplain functions; acting as MESTA liason with billing companies; and working with insurance companies and attorneys to obtain reports and information for billing.

Id. Additionally, Van Horn: in 2016, denied plaintiff a scheduled pay raise; changed plaintiff's job title from “administrative assistant” to “secretary;” questioned whether plaintiff was actually doing the work and going to the medical appointments that she said she was; and, with Alva Martin (former Mayes Board of County Commissioner), was witnessed rifling through plaintiff's desk (and afterwards, numerous items were missing and information was deleted from her computer). Id. at 7-8. Plaintiff also alleges that MESTA changed the locks of the facility and neither told her nor gave her a key; she was excluded from MESTA social events (including arranged catered luncheons and a work anniversary party for Van Horn); and, in January 2017, Peper-deliberately in plaintiff's presence-engaged in inappropriate contact with another MESTA female employee (and plaintiff reported this behavior to the MESTA board). On July 11, 2017, plaintiff resigned her employment with MESTA. Id. at 8.

         On September 20, 2017, plaintiff filed her third amended complaint (Dkt. # 71). It alleges free speech violation and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (count one), and retaliation and unlawful termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (count two). Id. at 8-12. Regarding her claim for unlawful termination, although plaintiff resigned her position with MESTA, she alleges that she was constructively discharged. Id. at 10. Plaintiff's third amended complaint seeks both compensatory and punitive damages. Id.

         Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiff's claim for constructive discharge. Dkt. # 74, at 7.[1] In addition, defendant moves to dismiss plaintiff's request for punitive damages. Id. In her response brief, plaintiff has voluntarily withdrawn this request, and defendant's motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 74) is therefore granted as to it. Dkt. # 76, at 5.


         In considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), 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).


         Defendant argues that plaintiff fails to state a claim for constructive discharge because many of her allegations are “vague, general and conclusory, ” and her specific allegations are either too remote in time from her resignation to infer a retaliatory motive, or simply do not make plausible that her working conditions at MESTA were so intolerable that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign. Dkt. # 74, at 17, 20, 23.[2] Plaintiff responds that she has sufficiently pled a claim for constructive discharge because she has pled facts showing that-after her complaint of sexual harassment at the March 8, ...

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