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Taylor v. Lear Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

December 8, 2017

SHELIA R. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
LEAR CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.



         In this employment discrimination action by plaintiff Shelia R. Taylor (“Taylor”) against defendants International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, and Local Union 129 (collectively, “UAW”), and Lear Corporation (“Lear”), UAW moves to strike Lear's first amended complaint (“amended complaint”), and all three defendants move under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, the court denies UAW's motion to strike, grants UAW's motion to dismiss, grants in part and denies in part Lear's motion to dismiss, and grants Taylor leave to replead.


         Taylor is employed by Lear at its Arlington, Texas facility, and is a member of the UAW.[1] UAW and Lear are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”).

         On December 4, 2015 Taylor filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in which she alleged that she was denied overtime in retaliation for her April 16, 2015 complaint of race and sex discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. On April 5, 2016 the EEOC dismissed Taylor's charge and issued a Notice of Right to Sue. On June 14, 2016 Taylor sued Lear and UAW in Case No. 3:16-CV-1583-L (Lindsay, J.), alleging claims under Title VII, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1985. On October 7, 2016 Judge Lindsay dismissed Taylor's lawsuit without prejudice because of her failure to comply with a court order. Taylor then filed the instant lawsuit on December 1, 2016. On June 13, 2017 the court granted Taylor's motion for leave to amend her complaint, and ordered her to file her amended complaint within 28 days of the court's order. Taylor filed her amended complaint on July 17, 2017.

         In the amended complaint, Taylor appears to allege claims for hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VII; discrete discrimination under the FLSA; “Negligent Training, Negligent Hiring, ” which “creat[ed] a hostile work environment in its workforce . . . [that was] ‘severe and pervasive' and in violation of Title VII, ” Am. Compl. ¶ 25; and violation of § 301 of the LMRA. UAW moves to strike Taylor's amended complaint on the ground that it is untimely, [2] and UAW and Lear each move to dismiss Taylor's amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Taylor opposes the motions.


         “In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court evaluates the sufficiency of plaintiff['s] amended complaint by accepting all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Bramlett v. Med. Protective Co. of Fort Wayne, Ind., 855 F.Supp.2d 615, 618 (N.D. Tex. 2012) (Fitzwater, C.J.) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted) (quoting In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007)). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “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). “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); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]”). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘shown-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (brackets omitted) (quoting Rule 8(a)(2)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678 (citation omitted).

         To obtain a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal based on an affirmative defense, the “successful affirmative defense [must] appear[] clearly on the face of the pleadings.” Cochran v. Astrue, 2011 WL 5604024, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 17, 2011) (Fitzwater, C.J.) (quoting Sivertson v. Clinton, 2011 WL 4100958, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 14, 2011) (Fitzwater, C.J.)). In other words, defendants are not entitled to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) based on an affirmative defense unless Taylor “has pleaded [her]self out of court by admitting to all of the elements of the defense.” Id. (quoting Sivertson, 2011 WL 4100958, at *3).


         The court begins with Taylor's claims for hostile work environment and retaliation brought under Title VII.[3]


         UAW and Lear move to dismiss Taylor's Title VII claims on the grounds that she has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies and that any claims arising from the December 4, 2015 EEOC charge are time-barred.


         “It is well settled that courts may not entertain claims brought under Title VII as to which an aggrieved party has not first exhausted [her] administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.” Kretchmer v. Eveden, Inc., 2009 WL 854719, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 31, 2009) (Fitzwater, C.J.) (citing Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378-79 (5th Cir. 2002) (“Employment discrimination plaintiffs must exhaust administrative remedies before pursuing claims in federal court. Exhaustion occurs when the plaintiff files a timely charge with the EEOC and receives a statutory notice of right to sue.”), aff'd, 374 Fed.Appx. 493 (5th Cir. 2010). “This requirement serves the dual purposes of affording the EEOC and the employer an opportunity to settle the dispute through conciliation, and giving the employer some warning as to the conduct about which the employee is aggrieved.” Hayes v. MBNA Tech., Inc., 2004 WL 1283965, at *3 (N.D. Tex. June 9, 2004) (Fitzwater, J.) (citing Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 44 (1974); Sanchez v. Standard Brands, Inc., 431 F.2d 455, 466 (5th Cir. 1970)).

         Because this court treats exhaustion of administrative remedies in a Title VII case as an affirmative defense, see Clemmer v. Irving Independent School District, 2015 WL 1757358, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 17, 2015) (Fitzwater, J.), aff'd on other grounds, No. 16-10493 (5th Cir. May 19, 2017) (per curiam), defendants are not entitled to dismissal of Taylor's Title VII claims on this basis unless it appears from the face of the complaint that Taylor has not exhausted her administrative remedies. Id. The amended complaint[4] does not mention the filing of any charge with the EEOC or the receipt of a right to sue letter. Accordingly, with respect to her Title VII claims, the court cannot conclude that Taylor has pleaded herself out of court based on a failure to exhaust her administrative remedies. See id.[5]


         The court next considers defendants' argument that Taylor's Title VII claims are time-barred. In deferral states such as Texas, an aggrieved party must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days after the alleged unlawful practice occurred. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). If the EEOC dismisses this charge, it must “notify the person aggrieved and within ninety days after the giving of such notice a civil action may be brought against the respondent named in the charge.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). A plaintiff has ninety days from the date she receives this notice from the EEOC, i.e., a right-to-sue letter, to file a lawsuit. Duron v. Albertson's LLC, 560 F.3d 288, 290 (5th Cir. 2009) (per curiam) (“A plaintiff alleging employment discrimination must file a civil action no more than ninety days after she receives statutory notice of her right to sue from the EEOC.”). The requirement that a plaintiff file a lawsuit within this ninety-day period is “strictly construed.” Taylor, 296 F.3d at 379. “Although filing of an EEOC charge is not a jurisdictional prerequisite, it ‘is a precondition to filing suit in district court.'” Taylor, 296 F.3d at 379 (citation omitted).

         Taylor attached as an exhibit to her complaint[6] a copy of the EEOC's notice of right to sue letter, which is dated April 5, 2016.[7] She filed this lawsuit on December 1, 2016, which is 240 days after the EEOC mailed Taylor her right to sue letter. To the extent Taylor intends to argue that the 90-day filing period was tolled while her case was pending before Judge Lindsay, [8] the Fifth Circuit has held in a per curiam opinion that the 90-day period for a Title VII claim is not tolled by the filing of a lawsuit that is later dismissed without prejudice for want of prosecution. Price v. Digital Equip. Corp., 846 F.2d 1026, 1027 (5th Cir. 1988) (per curiam). But even assuming arguendo that the 90-day window was tolled during the 115 days[9] that Taylor's suit was pending before Judge Lindsay, Taylor still did not file this lawsuit within the 90-day window.[10]

         Accordingly, to the extent Taylor intends to rely on her December 4, 2015 charge of discrimination and the EEOC's April 5, 2016 notice of right to sue to establish that she exhausted her administrative remedies with respect to her Title VII claims against Lear, the court grants Lear's motion to dismiss.[11]


         UAW contends that Taylor's Title VII claims alleged against it-to the extent that Taylor intended to plead these claims against UAW-should be dismissed because Taylor has not pleaded that UAW (as opposed to Lear) is her employer and has not plausibly alleged a prima facie case of retaliation.[12]


         Beginning with Taylor's hostile work environment claim, the court concludes that this claim is asserted only against Lear, not UAW. Although in the amended complaint Taylor alleges in support of her hostile work environment claim that “Defendants [are] employer[s] within the meaning of Title VII, ” Am. Compl. ¶ 9 (emphasis added), and refers to the CBA as the “contract govern[ing] the interaction of the employer and that of its unionized employees, ” id. ¶ 11, her hostile work environment allegations appear to be directed only at her actual employer, Lear:

[t]he managerial team of the defendant uninhibited unobjectionable and racial animus was repletely demonstrated, by the untamed verbal abuse of Mark Pedito the Mark Mc Sparren Quality Manager Plant who repeatedly failed to admonish the hostile action of the open and unbroken demoralizing culture posture such hostile assaults. This unchecked hostile tenor continued from September 2015 at each 5S efficiency meeting and on or about October 2016. Moreover, on several other instances during her shift the supervisor, knowingly and intentionally refused Ms. Taylor, who maintain seniority, to participate in any overtime scheduling, while openly threaten terms and condition of Ms. Taylor regarding her present position.

Id. ¶ 12. In support of her hostile work environment claim, Taylor has not plausibly alleged that UAW was her employer or that UAW subjected her to a hostile work environment. Accordingly, to the extent Taylor intends to assert her Title VII hostile work environment claim against UAW, the court grants UAW's motion to dismiss this claim.


         The court turns next to Taylor's retaliation claim. In deciding UAW's motion, the court assumes arguendo that Taylor has exhausted her administrative remedies against UAW and that she can bring this claim against a union that does not employ her. Even with these assumptions, Taylor's Title VII retaliation claim against UAW is subject ...

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