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Morris v. Chattanooga Housing Authority

August 1, 2007

MARRY MORRIS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CHATTANOOGA HOUSING AUTHORITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry S. Mattice, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge Mattice

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs assert claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634; and the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA"), Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-21-101 to 1004. Before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Establish Administrative Prerequisites (Court Doc. No. 27) and Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Morris' State Law Age Discrimination Claim (Court Doc. No. 41). Each seeks dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) of some, but not all, of Plaintiffs' claims. The Court will address each of Defendants' arguments in turn.

I. FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6) STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is to permit a defendant to test whether, as a matter of law, the plaintiff is entitled to relief even if everything alleged in the complaint is true. Mayer v. Mylod, 988 F.2d 635, 638 (6th Cir. 1993). A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Arrow v. Fed. Reserve Bank, 358 F.3d 392, 393 (6th Cir. 2004). The complaint must contain either "direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain a recovery . . . ." Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1988) (internal quotations and citations omitted). The Court must determine not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support his claims. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). In making this determination, the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff and accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations. Arrow, 358 F.3d at 393; Mixon v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir. 1999). The Court need not accept as true mere legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. Id.

A motion for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) can be made with respect to any or all claims asserted in a complaint. See Burzynski v. Cohen, 264 F.3d 611 (6th Cir. 2001) (upholding granting of a partial motion to dismiss).

II. FACTS

The events giving rise to each of Plaintiffs' claims occurred on April 18, 2005.

(See Court Doc. No. 39, Am. Compl. ¶ 25) Plaintiffs filed their original Complaint on December 12, 2005. (Court Doc. No. 1, Compl.) Plaintiffs each asserted causes of action for racial discrimination under Title VII and age discrimination under the ADEA. (See id.) Before filing their Complaint, Plaintiffs filed charges with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission ("THRC"). Plaintiff Morris included only allegations of racial discrimination in her THRC charge. (Court Doc. No. 27-2; Morris THRC Charge.) Plaintiffs Love and Smith included only allegations of age discrimination. (Court Doc. No. 27-3, Love THRC Charge; Court Doc. No. 27-4, Smith THRC Charge.) Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on February 5, 2007, in which they asserted, in addition to their federal causes of action, companion claims under the THRA. (See Am. Compl.)

III. ANALYSIS

A. Administrative Prerequisites

Defendants first argue that Plaintiffs failed to satisfy administrative prerequisites to their Title VII or ADEA claims. Specifically, Defendants contend that Plaintiff Morris's age discrimination claim under the ADEA, and Plaintiffs Love's and Smith's racial discrimination claim under Title VII should fail because Plaintiffs did not satisfy administrative prerequisites to these claims.

To maintain a Title VII or ADEA action, a plaintiff must establish that she has met her administrative prerequisites. See 29 U.S.C. § 626(d); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); Howlett v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 49 F.3d 189, 194 (6th Cir. 1993); Haithcock v. Frank, 958 F.2d 671, 675 (6th Cir. 1992); Puckett v. Tenn. Eastman Co., 889 F.2d 1481, 1486 (6th Cir. 1989). Tennessee is a "deferral state" for purposes of the federal discrimination statutes. Weigel v. Baptist Hosp. of E. Tenn., 302 F.3d 367, 375-76 (6th Cir. 2002); Jackson v. Richards Med. Co., 961 F.2d 575, 578-79 (6th Cir. 1992); see Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-101. As an administrative prerequisite, a Title VII or ADEA plaintiff in a deferral state must present a discrimination charge to the appropriate state administrative agency prior to initiating suit in federal court. Oscar Mayer & Co. v. Evans, 441 U.S. 750, 753-55 (1979); Howlett, 49 F.3d at 194. This administrative charge must be sufficiently specific. Unless the claimant explicitly files [her claim of discrimination in the charge] or the claim can reasonably be expected to grow out of the . . . charge," she has failed to meet her administrative prerequisite, and cannot file a cause of action based on the alleged discrimination. Abeita v. TransAm. Mailings, Inc., 159 F.3d 246, 254 (6th Cir. 1998) (interpreting Title VII).

In the instant case, the parties agree that Plaintiffs' THRC charges do not explicitly state the ADEA and Title VII claims at issue. Instead, Plaintiffs argue that these causes of action can be expected to grow out of the charges by way of the so-called "single filing rule." In order for the single filing rule to apply, a discrimination claim not explicitly stated in the administrative charge must be substantially related to a claim included in a properly filed charge, and the unstated claim must have arisen out of similar ...


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