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Gouldburn v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

March 30, 2018

SANDRA GOULDBLUM PLAINTIFF
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          Kristine G. Baker United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss the complaint filed by plaintiff Sandra Gouldblum[1](Dkt. No. 6). Defendants Arkansas Department of Human Services (“DHS”), Cindy Gillespie, in her official capacity as director of DHS, Steven Little, individually and in his official capacity as director of finance of DHS, filed the motion to dismiss. On May 15, 2017, Ms. Gouldburn filed a response to the motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 10). For the reasons explained below, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         At this stage of the litigation, the Court takes the facts as alleged in the complaint as true. Ms. Gouldburn is a “black and Hispanic female” who is from the country of Panama (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 9). Ms. Gouldburn alleges that she was treated differently from her similarly situated white co-workers and that she was retaliated against after she asserted her rights. Ms. Gouldburn filed a timely charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of her national origin, retaliated against, and denied equal pay (Dkt. No. 6-1, at 1). She asserted continuing action discrimination and retaliation (Id.). The EEOC issued her a right to sue letter (Dkt. No. 1, at 9).

         Ms. Gouldburn filed her complaint with this Court on December 30, 2016 (Dkt. No. 1). In her complaint, Ms. Gouldburn makes the following claims: (1) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her national origin; (2) in violation of Title VII, defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her race;[2] (3) in violation of Title VII, defendants retaliated against her; (4) in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her race; (5) in violation of § 1981, defendants retaliated against her; (6) in violation of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act (“ACRA”), Ark. Code Ann. § 16-123-101 et seq., defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her national origin[3]; (7) in violation of the ACRA, Mr. Little, in his individual capacity, retaliated against her (Dkt. No. 1, at 5-6). Per Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), defendants have moved to dismiss Ms. Gouldburn's claims.

         Defendants argue that their motion to dismiss should be granted because: (1) Ms. Gouldburn failed to state allegations sufficient to meet notice pleading requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2); (2) the Title VII and ACRA discrimination and retaliation claims against Mr. Little in his individual capacity are barred; (3) Ms. Gouldburn's claims for racial discrimination are barred because these claims were not administratively exhausted; (4) Ms. Gouldburn's discrimination claims under § 1983 and ACRA against DHS and the individual defendants in their official capacities are barred by sovereign immunity; (5) qualified immunity bars any claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Mr. Little in his individual capacity.

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Specific facts are not required; the complaint simply must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The complaint must include enough factual information to provide the grounds on which the claim rests and to raise a right to relief above a speculative level. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56; Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008). When ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, “a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56.

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court generally must ignore materials outside the pleadings, but it may consider matters of public and administrative record referenced in the complaint, as well as materials that are “necessarily embraced by the pleadings.” Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999). The court may also consider documents referred to in a complaint and central to a plaintiff's claim without converting the filing to a motion for summary judgment. See Nixon v. Coeur D'Alene Tribe, 164 F.3d 1102, 1107 (8th Cir. 1999).

         III. Analysis

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court dismisses Ms. Gouldburn's §§ 1981, 1983, and ACRA claims against DHS. The Court also dismisses Ms. Gouldburn's §§ 1981, 1983, and ACRA claims for money damages against Ms. Gillespie and Mr. Little in their official capacities. The Title VII claims against Mr. Little in his individual capacity are dismissed. The ACRA discrimination claim against Mr. Little in his individual capacity is dismissed. Ms. Gouldburn's remaining claims survive.

         Defendants attach to their motion to dismiss Ms. Gouldburn's EEOC charge (Dkt. No. 6-1). The Court has considered the charge in evaluating the sufficiency of Ms. Gouldburn's complaint and the merits of defendants' motion to dismiss.

         A. Sufficiency Of The Complaint

         The Court has reviewed all of the claims and allegations made in Ms. Gouldburn's complaint and accompanying documents (Dkt. Nos. 1, 6-1). The Court finds that she has made allegations sufficient to put defendants on notice of the claims against them. Specifically, in regard to retaliation, in her seven-page, single spaced, typed EEOC charge, she includes a subheading regarding retaliation and a narrative supporting that claim; the narrative includes dates of alleged protected conduct and discriminatory acts she maintains followed her complaints. She alleges hostile work environment harassment, among ...


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