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Boe v. Heart Clinic of Hammond, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

December 1, 2017




         Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss the Claims Asserted by Aline M. Thibodeaux (Doc. 10) filed by Defendant, Heart Clinic of Hammond, LLC. Defendant seeks to dismiss the claims brought by Plaintiff Thibodeaux ("Plaintiff) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Defendant does not seek to dismiss any claims brought by Plaintiff Mary Boe. Plaintiff filed an Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 11). Defendant then filed a Reply Brief to the Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 16). In response, Plaintiff filed a Sur-Reply Memorandum in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 17). The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Oral argument is not necessary. For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and damages arising from her termination from the Heart Clinic of Hammond, LLC. ("HCH"). (Doc. 1). In her complaint, she alleges that she was sexually harassed and discriminated against based on her disabilities, a "breast lump" and major depression. (Id.). Plaintiff asserts claims for a hostile work environment, disability discrimination, and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131 ("ADA"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e ("Title VII"), and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, La. Rev. Stat. § 23:301 ("LEDL"). (Id.).

         In 2011, Plaintiff began her employment with Defendant as the Chief Operating Officer. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 10). During the fall of 2015, Plaintiff claims that she established "a record of disability involving a significant breast lump" and had already been subjected to numerous sexual advances by Dr. Ghiath M. Mikdadi, owner/manager of HCH. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-20). On December 23, 2015, Plaintiff planned to have surgery related to the "breast lump." (Id. at ¶ 21). During this time, Dr. Mikdadi allegedly made sexual advances towards Plaintiff and conveyed to her that her job would go smoother if she cooperated with his advances. (Id. at ¶¶ 22-24). As a result of the alleged harassment, Plaintiff suffered from major depression. (Id. at ¶¶ 25-27). On or about December 23, 2015, Plaintiff sought medical leave for her depression. (Id. at ¶ 27). Plaintiff asserts that during her leave of absence, Dr. Mikdadi used Melissa Bennett, "the Marketing Reprehensive (sic), " to continue to harass her so that she would return to work immediately. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 29-32). On February 20, 2016, Plaintiff reportedly told Bennett that she would be released to return to work within the next couple of weeks. (Id. at ¶ 34). On March 3, 2016, [1] Plaintiff was terminated "without any reasonable stated non-discriminatory reason just days before [she was to] return to work." (Id. at ¶ 35).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Doc. 10-2). Plaintiff claims to have faxed her EEOC charge on March 3, 2017. (Doc. 11 at p. 3; Doc. 11-1). The EEOC stamped Plaintiffs EEOC charge "RECEIVED" on March 10, 2017, at 10:18 AM. (Doc. 10-2). Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on April 6, 2017, after being mailed a "Notice of Right to Sue (Issued on Request)" from the EEOC on March 20, 2017. (Doc. 16-1).


         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8, which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule 8(a)(2), "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 679.

         "[F]acial plausibility" exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Hence, the complaint need not set out "detailed factual allegations, " but something "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" is required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. When conducting its inquiry, the Court "accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and views those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Bustos v. Martini Club Inc., 599 F.3d 458, 461 (5th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks omitted).


         In support of its motion, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs Title VII, ADA, and state law LEDL claims are time-barred because they are based on Plaintiffs date of termination, which occurred more than 300-days prior to the filing of the EEOC charge. (Doc. 10-1). Particularly, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff was terminated on March 3, 2016, but she filed her EEOC charge on March 10, 2017-more than one year from the last allegedly discriminatory act. (Id. at p. 2). In opposition, Plaintiff disputes that her federal and state law claims are time-barred. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that failure to file a timely EEOC charge is an affirmative defense and adjudication of this motion is premature. (Doc. 11 at p. 3). Further, Plaintiff argues that she timely filed her EEOC charge when she faxed it on March 3, 2017. (Id.).

         A discrimination charge is considered "filed" for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 on the date the EEOC receives the charge, not the date the charge is signed or mailed. See Taylor v. Gen. Telephone Co. of the Sw., 759 F.2d 437, 441-42 (5th Cir. 1985) (emphasis added); Minnis v. Bd. of Sup'rs of La. State Univ. & Agric. & Mech. Coll., 55 F.Supp.3d 864, 873-74 (M.D. La. 2014), aff'd, 620 Fed.Appx. 215 (5th Cir. 2015). Here, the date stamp on Plaintiffs EEOC charge indicates that it was received by the EEOC on March 10, 2017.[2] (Doc. 10-2). Plaintiff asserts that she faxed her EEOC charge on March 3, 2017, and thus that is when her discrimination charge was "filed.[3] However, the EEOC New Orleans Field Office stamped Plaintiffs EEOC charge "RECEIVED" on March 10th. (Doc. 10-2). Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to show that her EEOC charge was "received" on March 3, 2017. The Court finds that because neither the "date signed" nor the "date mailed" can be the date the charge is considered "filed, " logically it seems that the date faxed equally cannot be considered. Thus, for purposes of this motion, the Court will accept the date stamped as the date "filed." See Lavigne v. Cajun Deep Founds., LLC, 32 F.Supp.3d 718, 730 (M.D. La. 2014), aff'd, 654 Fed.Appx. 640 (5th Cir. 2016) (in which the Court concluded that "the date stamp on the Original Charge indicate[d] that it was received by the EEOC on [the date it was stamped]").

         A. Untimely Title VII and ADA Claims

         To file suit under the ADA and Title VII, a plaintiff must file a charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC or state administrative agency within 300 days of the occurrence of the alleged discriminatory conduct. Taylor v. United Parcel Serv., Inc.,554 F.3d 510, 521 (5th Cir. 2008). "This Circuit has long required plaintiffs to exhaust their administrative remedies before bringing suit under Title VII." Price v. Choctaw Glove & Safety Co., Inc.,459 F.3d 595, 598 (5th Cir. 2006); see also Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc.,296 F.3d 376, 378-79 (5th Cir. 2002). "Exhaustion [of administrative remedies] occurs when the plaintiff files a timely charge with the EEOC and receives a statutory notice of right to sue." Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d at 379; Dao v. Auchan Hypermarket,96 F.3d 787, 788-89 (5th Cir. 1996). For a charge to be timely, "[a]n individual claiming discrimination in violation of Title VII must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days 'after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.'" WC & M Enters., Inc., 496 F.3d at 398 ...

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