United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
DAVID SCOTT VIDRINE ET AL.
EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH COMMUNICATIONS DISTRICT ET AL.
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, JUDGE
the Court is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7)
filed by Defendant East Baton Rouge Parish Communications
District ("EBRPCD"). Plaintiffs filed a response.
(Doc. 9) For the reasons stated herein, the Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. 7) is DENIED.
are all current or former Emergency Communications Officers
allegedly employed by the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East
Baton Rouge Department of Emergency Medical Services
("EMS") and EBRPCD. (Doc. 1-1 at p. 5) Plaintiffs
allege that while working for EMS and EBRPCD, they were
subjected to harassment, a hostile work environment, and
disparate treatment on account of their gender. (Doc. 20-1 at
p. 3) They allege that Stacy Simmons ("Simmons"),
Plaintiffs' supervisor, (1) did not speak to male
employees; (2) made sexist statements; and (3) let female
employees take extended lunch breaks, smoke breaks, and to
leave the workplace to handle personal business without
charging them for leave time. (Id. at PP. 3, 16)
Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge against EMS. (Doc. 6-1) On
April 3, 2018, Plaintiffs filed suit in the 19th
Judicial District alleging gender discrimination under Title
VII and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law
("LEDL"). (Doc. 1-1 at p. 5). Defendants removed
the case to federal court on May 9, 2018. (Doc. 1) EBRPCD now
seeks the dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims.
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a
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."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 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 BellAtl. 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."
Id. 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, a
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.
Title VII Claims
asserts that Plaintiffs' Title VII claims should be
dismissed because Plaintiffs failed to file an EEOC charge
against it. (Doc. 7-1 at p. 9). Plaintiffs' EEOC charges
named EMS, but not EBRPCD. (Doc. 6-1). The United States
Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held that
"[A] party not named in an EEOC charge may not be sued
under Title VII." E.E.O.C. v. Simbaki, Ltd.,
767 F.3d 475, 481 (5th Cir. 2014). An exception to this rule
is if an "identity of interests" exists between the
omitted party and the party named in the charge. Way v.
Mueller Brass Co., 840 F.2d 303, 307 (5th Cir. 1988). An
identity of interests exists when the parties are so closely
related in their business operations or other activities that
an action against one provides notice of litigation to the
other. Jacobsen v. Osborne, 133 F.3d 315, 320 (5th
Cir. 1998) (quoting Kirk v. Cronvich, 629 F.2d 404,
408 (5th Cir. 1980)). Plaintiffs assert that an identity of
interests existed between EBRPCD and EMS. (Doc. 9 at p. 3)
disputes this and points to Hill v. East Baton Rouge
Parish Dept. of Emergency Med. Serv., where the
Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit held that
EBRPCD is a separate and autonomous legal entity, not just a
mere subdivision of EMS. Hillv. East Baton Rouge Parish
Dept. of Emergency Med. Serv., 925 So.2d 17 (La.App. 1
Cir. 12/22/05). However, courts look to more than solely an
entity's legal status to determine whether an identity of
interests exists. The Fifth Circuit has examined four factors
in deciding whether there is a clear identity of interests:
"(1) whether the role of the unnamed party could through
reasonable effort by the complainant be ascertained at the
time of the filing of the EEOC complaint; (2) whether under
the circumstances, the interests of a named [party] are so
similar as the unnamed party's that for the purpose of
obtaining voluntary conciliation and compliance, it would be
unnecessary to include the unnamed party in the EEOC
proceeding; (3) whether its absence from the EEOC proceedings
resulted in actual prejudice to the interests of the unnamed
party; (4) whether the unnamed party has in some way
represented to the complainant that its relationship with the
complainant is to be through the named party. Hartz v.
Adm'rs of the Tulane Educ. Fund., 275 Fed.Appx. 281,
286 (5th Cir.2008).
the Hart factors, Plaintiffs have asserted that an
identity of interests may exist between EBRPCD and EMS.
First, EBRPCD's role in this matter could plausibly have
been ascertained from the facts in the EEOC charges. Although
the charges only explicitly name EMS, EBRPCD appears to be a
division of EMS, even if it is a legally autonomous
entity. Furthermore, the charges specifically name
Simmons, Plaintiffs' supervisor and the Chief of
Communications, as someone who engaged in discriminatory
practices. (Doc. 6-1). Simmons was allegedly Plaintiffs'
supervisory official at EBRPCD. (Doc. 20-1 at p. 5; Doc.
6-1). Discrimination claims against the government entity
which EBRPCD belongs to and against EBRPCD's
communications supervisor would give EBRPCD ample notice of
its potential role in the litigation as another potential
defendant. With respect to the second Hartz factor,
Plaintiffs have properly alleged that interests of EMS and
EBRPCD may be similar for the purposes of conciliation.
Plaintiffs claim that there were simultaneously in the employ
of EMS and EBRPCD, and thus the two entities may have similar
interests in the litigation. (Doc. 20-1 at p. 2). Third,
nothing in the complaint indicates that EBRPCD has been
prejudiced by its absence from the EEOC proceedings. Finally,
although there is no indication that EBRPCD represented to
Plaintiffs that they should communicate with it through EMS,
this alone is insufficient to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims.
As such, the Court must allow discovery to proceed on the
issue of whether an identity of interests existed between EMS
and the Communications District. EBRPCD is not entitled to
the dismissal of Plaintiffs' Title VII claims.