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Obinyan v. Prime Therapeutics LLC

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

October 31, 2019

OKOEGUALE OBINYAN, Plaintiff,
v.
PRIME THERAPEUTICS LLC, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SIDNEY A. FITZWATER SENIOR JUDGE

         Plaintiff Okoeguale Obinyan (“Obinyan”) sues defendant Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy Holdings, LLC (“WSPH”)[1] for race and national origin discrimination and retaliation. WSPH moves to dismiss. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the motion but grants Obinyan leave to replead.

         I

         This is a pro se action by plaintiff Obinyan, seeking to recover on claims of race and national origin discrimination and retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Obinyan is a former employee of Prime Therapeutics LLC (“Prime”). Obinyan brought this lawsuit against Prime, WSPH, Walgreens, Robert Half International Inc. (“Robert Half”), Penelope Boyd-Gear (“Boyd-Gear”), and Mark Mason (“Mason”). The court has dismissed Obinyan's claims against all defendants other than WSPH.[2]

         WSPH now moves to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), contending that because Obinyan has not filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) a charge of discrimination against WSPH, he has failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies as required by Title VII; that Obinyan cannot, as a matter of law or fact, establish a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation against WSPH because, as Obinyan acknowledges in his complaint, WSPH was not his employer; and that even if Obinyan's claims could be properly asserted against WSPH, his allegations that he was excluded from meetings, denied overtime, and laid off after complaining of an allegedly “dubious” report do not amount to adverse employment actions or protected activity for purposes of his disparate treatment and retaliation claims. Obinyan opposes WSPH's motion.

         II

         In deciding WSPH's Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court evaluates the sufficiency of Obinyan's complaint by “accept[ing] ‘all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.'” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dall. Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004)). To survive a motion to dismiss, Obinyan must allege 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.; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545 (“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 ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Rule 8(a)(2)). Furthermore, under Rule 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Although “the pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, '” it demands more than “labels and conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). And “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Because Obinyan is proceeding pro se, the court construes the allegations of the complaint liberally. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980) (per curiam); SEC v. AMX, Int'l, Inc., 7 F.3d 71, 75 (5th Cir. 1993) (per curiam).

         III

         WSPH moves to dismiss on the ground that Obinyan did not exhaust his administrative remedies because he did not file an EEOC charge of discrimination against WSPH.

         A

         “It is well settled that courts may not entertain claims brought under Title VII as to which an aggrieved party has not first exhausted his 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 exhaustion of administrative remedies in a Title VII case is an affirmative defense, [3] defendants are not entitled to dismissal of Obinyan's Title VII claims on this basis unless it appears from the face of the complaint that Obinyan has not exhausted his administrative remedies. Id.

         B

         In his EEOC charge of discrimination, which Obinyan attaches to his complaint, [4] he does not list WSPH as his employer. As a general rule, “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) (quoting Way v. Mueller Brass Co., 840 F.2d 303, 307 (5th Cir. 1988)). But “[a] party not named in an EEOC charge may still face suit if there [is] sufficient identity-of-interest between the named and the unnamed party, ”[5] Chandra v. Bowhead Science & Technology, LLC, 2017 WL 2729967, at *7 (N.D. Tex. June 26, 2017) (Boyle, J.) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Simbaki, 767 F.3d at 482), or if the “unnamed party has been provided with adequate notice of the charge, under circumstances where the party has been given the opportunity to participate in conciliation proceedings aimed at voluntary compliance, ” Simbaki, 767 F.3d at 483 (quoting Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union No. 130, U.A., 657 F.2d 890, 905 (7th Cir. 1981)).

         Obinyan only lists Prime as his employer in his charge of discrimination. In response to WSPH's motion to dismiss, however, he asserts that “he became an employee of AllianceRx Walgreens Prime after March 31, 2017, Walgreens Boots Alliance and pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics LLC closed a transaction to form a combined central specialty pharmacy and mail services company, AllianceRx Walgreens Prime.” P. Br. 3. Assuming arguendo that, in referring to “AllianceRX Walgreens Prime, ” Obinyan intended to refer to WSPH, it appears that Obinyan is arguing that as a result of some sort of merger, Prime and WSPH became a combined entity during his period of employment. Setting aside Obinyan's failure to plead these alleged facts, [6] the court cannot conclude, based solely on the face of the complaint, that WSPH and Prime either do not have an ...


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