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Coates v. Edgewood Management Corp.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 29, 2017

JUANITA COATES, Plaintiff,
v.
EDGEWOOD MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Juanita Coates has brought this action against defendant Edgewood Management Corporation ("Edgewood"), [1] alleging that Edgewood discriminated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA") when it paid her a lower wage than her male co-workers. Compl. ¶¶4, 7, 9. Edgewood has moved to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the grounds that plaintiffs claims are untimely under the applicable statutes of limitations. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 6] ("Def.'s Mot."); Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 6-1] ("Def.'s Mem.").

         Because plaintiff did not file this lawsuit in a timely fashion as required by Title VII and the DCHRA, defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was employed by defendant as a Maintenance Technician II from July 10, 2013 through October 21, 2015. Compl. ¶ 3. Plaintiffs starting rate of pay was $13.00 per hour, and by the time her employment ended, "she was making $13.33 per hour." Id. Plaintiff claims that she "came to know during her course of work that with her certificates and expertise the only reason she earned the rate she did was because of her gender, " and that if "she had been male" her rate of pay "would have been $22 an hour." Id. ¶ 4. She alleges that she "made several attempts to bring up the wage discrepancy, " in "both verbal and written demands, " but that management did not address the problem. Id. ¶¶ 5-6. Instead, defendant "refused to pay any part of the amount due and owing" to her. Id. ¶ 6.

         Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") regarding "this gender based discrimination, " but on January 30, 2015, plaintiffs claim was denied. Compl. ¶ 7. On December 13, 2016, plaintiff filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Ex. 1 to Notice of Removal [Dkt. #1-1], seeking damages totaling $107, 200. Compl. at 2. On January 31, 2017, defendant removed the action to federal court. Notice of Removal. On February 7, 2017, defendant moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), contending that plaintiffs claims are untimely. Def.'s Mot. Plaintiff opposed the motion on March 13, 2017, arguing that the Court should toll the applicable statutes of limitations under the doctrine of equitable estoppel. Mem. of P. & A. in Opp. of Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 7] ("PL's Opp."). Defendant filed its reply on March 22, 2017. Reply Br. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 9] ("Def.'s Reply").

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "To survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] 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), quotingBell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated the two principles underlying its decision in Twombly: "First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions, " and "[s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 678-79.

         A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "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. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id., quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. A pleading must offer more than "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, " id., quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id., citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court is bound to construe a complaint liberally in the plaintiffs favor, and it should grant the plaintiff "the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Nevertheless, the Court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept plaintiff s legal conclusions. See id.; see also Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). In ruling upon a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court may ordinarily consider only "the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint, and matters about which the Court may take judicial notice." Gustave-Schmidt v. Chao, 226 F.Supp.2d 191, 196 (D.D.C. 2002), citing EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch, 117 F.3d 621, 624-25 (D.C. Cir. 1997).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Plaintiffs Title VII claim is time-barred, so the Court will grant defendant's motion to dismiss this claim.

         Title VII creates a cause of action for individuals who have been subjected to various types of employment discrimination. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. Before bringing a lawsuit, the complainant is required to file a charge with the EEOC. See, e.g., Payne v. Salazar, 619 F.3d 56, 65 (D.C. Cir. 2010) ("Title VII '[c]omplainants must timely exhaust the[ir] administrative remedies before bringing their claims to court.'") (alteration in original), quoting Bowden v. United States, 106 F.3d 433, 437 (D.C. Cir. 1997).

Whenever a charge is filed by or on behalf of a person claiming to be aggrieved, . . . [the EEOC] shall make an investigation thereof. . . If the Commission determines after such investigation that there is not reasonable cause to believe that the charge is true, it shall dismiss the charge and promptly ...

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