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Chedjieu v. Arkansas Natural Resource Commission

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

December 12, 2019



          James M. Moody Jr. United States District Judge

         Plaintiff was an engineer for Defendant Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (“ANRC”) from May 2015 until he was terminated on June 18, 2018. Plaintiff claims that he was terminated based on his race, national origin, age, disability, and in retaliation for filing a charge with the EEOC for hostile work environment and discrimination. Pending is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, acting pro se, objects to the motion. In the alternative, Plaintiff asks the Court to dismiss his complaint without prejudice.

         I. Standard of Review

         “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 508, n. 1, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989) (“Rule 12(b)(6) does not countenance ... dismissals based on a judge's disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations”); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974) (a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears “that a recovery is very remote and unlikely”)).

         Although “[g]reat precision is not required of the pleadings, ” the complaint should state how, when, and where the cause of action occurred. Gregory v. Dillard's Inc., 494 F.3d 694, 710 (8th Cir. 2007). “So, when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should . . . be exposed at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at 1966 (internal citations omitted). “[A] plaintiff must assert facts that affirmatively and plausibly suggest that the pleader has the right he claims ..., rather than facts that are merely consistent with such a right. While a plaintiff need not set forth detailed factual allegations or specific facts that describe the evidence to be presented, the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to provide the grounds on which the claim rests.” Blomker v. Jewell, 831 F.3d 1051, 1056 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Gregory v. Dillard's, Inc., 565 F.3d 464, 473 (8th Cir. 2009)).

         I. Analysis

         A. Exhaustion

         In the motion to dismiss, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because he has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by obtaining a right to sue letter from the United States Attorney General. In addition to receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, an employee who works for a governmental agency is required to obtain a right to sue letter from the United States Attorney General. However, it is now settled law that this requirement, while statutory, is not jurisdictional and is subject to equitable waiver or tolling. English v. Ware Cty. Dep't of Family & Children Servs., Div. of the Georgia Dep't of Human Res., 546 F.Supp. 689, 692 (S.D. Ga. 1982). Under the facts of this case, the Court finds that the requirement should be waived, and Plaintiff allowed to proceed. See Woods v. State of Mo. Dep't of Mental Health, Kansas City Reg'l Diagnostic Ctr., 581 F.Supp. 437, 443 (W.D. Mo. 1984).

         B. Race and National Origin

         Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, filed a form complaint. On the form, Plaintiff states that he is attaching addenda, along with his EEOC filings, as statements of fact supporting the claims in his complaint. Plaintiff attached 45 pages of documentation, including letters, emails, doctor's notes, employment evaluations, and his own written narrative to his complaint. In his narrative, Plaintiff states:

Initially, my manager/supervisor was Trevor Timberlake. We worked very well together as evidenced by the performance evaluation. I was given- above standard with high scores. See addendum 3. Mr. Timberlake re-located, and Mr. Bill Ruck took over as Supervisor in November 2017. From the very beginning, unfortunately, I noticed an indifference towards me, I perceived because of my race, Black and national origin, Cameroon and age. . . .

(ECF No. 2 at p. 7). Plaintiff alleges that on December 21, 2017 Ruck interrupted him “in a rude, hurried manner, pointing his finger at me saying: ‘You are not a manager here, you have to learn how to speak English.'” (ECF No. 2 at p. 8). There are no other references to race or national origin included in the complaint.

         While Plaintiff alleges that Ruck made a discriminatory comment regarding his national origin, this comment is not evidence of direct discrimination and is not enough to withstand a motion to dismiss. “Direct evidence is evidence that establishes ‘a specific link between the [alleged] discriminatory animus and the challenged decision, sufficient to support a finding by a reasonable fact finder that an illegitimate criterion actually motivated the employer's decision.'” Tarasenko v. Univ. of Arkansas, 63 F.Supp.3d 910, 919-20 (E.D. Ark. 2014) (quoting Twymon v. Wells Fargo & Co., 462 F.3d 925, 933 (8th Cir. 2006)). “[S]tray remarks in the workplace, ” “statements by nondecisionmakers, ” or “statements by decisionmakers unrelated to the decisional process itself” are not direct evidence of discrimination. Id. (quoting Browning v. President Riverboat Casino-Missouri, Inc., 139 F.3d 631, 635 (8th Cir. 1998)).

         After review of the material attached to the complaint, the Court finds that Plaintiff's race and national origin claims are conclusory. His allegations fall short of the pleading standards of ...

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