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Scaffidi v. New Orleans Mission, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 20, 2019

STEVEN SCAFFIDI
v.
NEW ORLEANS MISSION, INC.

         SECTION: “B” (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

         Before the Court are Defendant New Orleans Mission, Inc.'s (“NO Mission”) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted (Rec. Doc. 7) and Plaintiff Steven Scaffidi's (“Scaffidi”) Response in Opposition (Rec. Doc. 15). For the reasons stated below, IT IS ORDERED that NO Mission's Motion to Dismiss is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, after specified discovery, to reurge in the context of a summary judgment motion.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This is an employment discrimination case is which Plaintiff Steven Scaffidi alleges religious discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation. See Rec. Doc. 1. Scaffidi is of Catholic faith. See Rec. Doc. 15 at 1. From December 2015 to March 2017, he was employed as Director of Media, Marketing, and Development by Defendant NO Mission, Inc. See Rec. Doc. 7-1 at 1. NO Mission is a private Christian faith-based charitable non-profit Louisiana corporation. See id. at 6. It was established to minister homeless and economically disadvantaged citizens. See id. at 6-7.

         NO Mission claims that it terminated Scaffidi because there were theological differences between Scaffidi's Catholic beliefs and NO Mission's Evangelical beliefs. See id. at 2. Scaffidi claims that, throughout his employment, he was subjected to an unprecedented display of repeated, egregious, and unwelcomed harassment from NO Mission's management. See Rec. Doc. 15 at 1-3. It seems that the core problem was that Scaffidi disobeyed the request of NO Mission's senior management to refrain from promoting his Catholic based documentary, The Sojourners.[1] See Rec. Doc. 7-1 at 12. The content of the documentary is contradictory to NO Mission's Evangelic statement of faith and scriptural interpretation. See id. at 13.

         On April 20, 2018, Scaffidi filed his complaint. See Rec. Doc. 1. On June 29, 2018, NO Mission filed its motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Rec. Doc. 7. Plaintiff filed his response in opposition. See Rec. Doc. 15. NO Mission did not seek leave to file a reply.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff's complaint “must contain ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Varela v. Gonzalez, 773 F.3d 704, 707 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In other words, a plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 556 U.S. at 556).

         When deciding whether a plaintiff has met his or her burden, a court “accept[s] all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and interpret[s] the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, but ‘[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements' cannot establish facial plausibility.” Snow Ingredients, Inc. v. SnoWizard, Inc., 833 F.3d 512, 520 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (some internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Plaintiff must “nudge[] [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         The Court must, in most instances, limit itself to the plaintiff's complaint, including its attachments. See O'Neal v. Cargill, Inc., 178 F.Supp.3d 408, 413 (E.D. La. 2016). If a motion to dismiss presents exhibits outside of the pleadings that are not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as a motion for summary judgment. See id.

         Scaffidi alleged sufficient facts in his Complaint.[2] Scaffidi only attached the EECO Determination letter to his Complaint. See Rec. Doc. 15 at 11. NO Mission refences three other sources to support its motion to dismiss: its Articles of Incorporation and Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation; its website; and its response to LWC. See Rec. Doc. 7. At most, two of the three sources may be considered by the Court as part of NO Mission's Motion to Dismiss. See Tucker v. Waffle House, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52991 *1, *9 (E.D. La. 2013)(stating that public records and some EEOC documents can be considered without converting a motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment). However, this Court will not, at this juncture, convert this motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment.

         In addition to pointing the Court to documents beyond the four corners of Scaffidi's complaint, NO Mission asks this Court to dismiss Scaffidi's claims on grounds that have yet to be established. Specifically, NO Mission self-proclaims that it is a bona fide religious organization and therefore protected as a matter of law by 42 U.S.C. §2000e-1(a), the religious organization exemption, from Scaffidi's claims of religious harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. See id.

         Title VII makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or terminate any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual, because of the individual's religion. See 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(a)(1). Title VII also makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an employee because the employee has opposed an unlawful employment practice. See 42 U.S.C. §2000e-3(a).

         Title VII contains exemptions applicable to religious organizations. See 42 U.S.C. ยง2000e-1(a). ...


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