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Taylor v. Council On Quality and Leadership

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

April 25, 2019

SHERRY L. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,


          TU M. PHAM United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the court[1] is defendant Council on Quality and Leadership's (“CQL”) Motion to Dismiss, filed on February 13, 2019. (ECF No. 19.) Pro se plaintiff Sherry Taylor responded on February 26, 2019 (ECF No. 23), and CQL replied on March 11, 2019 (ECF No. 26). For the following reasons, it is recommended that CQL's motion be granted.


         Taylor brings this sex discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliation case against CQL under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112-12117. (ECF No. 1.) Taylor, a 55-year-old African-American female, was hired by CQL to work as a Quality Enhancement Specialist in September 2015. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2.) On September 18, 2015, Taylor, who was presumably only working part-time for CQL, applied for a full-time Quality Enhancement Specialist position. (ECF No. 19-2 at 2.) Subsequently, Taylor learned that CQL apparently filled the full-time Quality Enhancement Specialist position with Katherine Dunbar, a white female. (Id.) Taylor filed an EEOC Charge of Discrimination on February 17, 2016 (the “February 2016 Charge”), in which she alleged that CQL chose not to promote her because of her age and race. (Id.)

         While that EEOC investigation was still pending, Taylor filed a Chapter 13 voluntary petition for bankruptcy on January 12, 2017. (ECF No. 19-2 at 62.) Question 33 of the Schedule A/B Form, which was attached to Taylor's bankruptcy petition, asked whether Taylor had any “[c]laims against third parties, whether or not you have filed a lawsuit.” (Id. at 21.) Accidents, employment disputes, insurance claims, and rights to sue were listed as examples of potential claims. (Id.) Even though Taylor's February 2016 Charge remained pending, Taylor answered “no” to Question 33. (Id.) On March 17, 2017, Taylor requested that the EEOC dismiss her February 2016 Charge. (ECF No. 19-2 at 4.) In her request for dismissal, Taylor asserted that “[s]ince filing the charge of February 2016, CQL . . . worked with me to help me feel like a valued member of the organization.” (Id.) On March 20, 2017, the EEOC dismissed the charge. (Id. at 6.) The bankruptcy court confirmed Taylor's Chapter 13 repayment plan on May 12, 2017. (Id. at 69.)

         The present lawsuit is not based upon the allegations Taylor made in the dismissed February 2016 Charge. Rather, Taylor's lawsuit relates to allegations made in a second EEOC charge, which she filed on July 3, 2017 (the “July 2017 Charge”). (ECF No. 1-1 at 2.) In the July 2017 Charge, and now in this lawsuit, Taylor alleges that CQL 1) retaliated against her after she filed the February 2016 Charge;[2] 2) denied her accommodations for a disability on May 21, 2017, and between May 23-26, 2017; and 3) terminated her employment on June 30, 2017, because of her race, disability, and in retaliation for engaging in protected activity. (Id.) Even after filing the July 2017 Charge, Taylor did not amend her Schedule A/B Form to include the employment dispute described in the July 2017 Charge as a potential asset. Taylor's bankruptcy action was dismissed on December 7, 2017, for failing to make the payments required by the repayment plan. (ECF No. 19-2 at 75.) In the present motion, CQL argues that because Taylor failed to disclose the employment dispute to the bankruptcy court, she is judicially estopped from bringing this lawsuit. (ECF No. 19-1.)


         A. Legal Standards Applicable to CQL's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion

         Because CQL relies on matters outside the pleadings in its Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must first decide whether to convert CQL's motion into a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56. “If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). However, “[a] court that is ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion may consider materials in addition to the complaint if such materials are public records or are otherwise appropriate for the taking of judicial notice.” New England Health Care Emps. Pension Fund v. Ernst & Young, LLP, 336 F.3d 495, 501 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Byrd v. Nat'l Health Corp., No. 3:18-cv-123, 2019 WL 403964, at *2 (E.D. Tenn. Jan. 31, 2019) (“[W]ithout converting the [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion into one for summary judgment, [a court may] consider ‘matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to the complaint,' as well as any other matters that are otherwise appropriate for the taking of judicial notice.” (quoting Amini v. Oberlin Coll., 259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir. 2001))).

         In its motion, CQL relies “on the pleadings and docket entries before this Court, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Bankruptcy Court.” (ECF No. 19-1 at 3 n.1.) A court may take judicial notice of these public records. See Kovac v. Superior Dairy, Inc., 930 F.Supp.2d 857, 862-63 (N.D. Ohio 2013) (“EEOC charges and related documents, including right to sue letters, are public records of which the Court may take judicial notice in ruling on a motion to dismiss without having to convert the motion into one for summary judgment.”); see also Hamlin v. Baptist Mem'l Hosp., No. 2:09-cv-2615, 2011 WL 902351, at *2 n.1 (W.D. Tenn. Jan. 27, 2011), adopted by, 2011 WL 901028 (W.D. Tenn. Mar. 14, 2011) (“Although the parties have attached filings from Plaintiff's bankruptcy proceeding as exhibits for consideration in this Motion, the Court may take judicial notice of these documents and consider them without converting Defendant's Motion into a motion for summary judgment[.]”). Therefore, the court will not convert CQL's Rule 12(b)(6) motion into a Rule 56 summary judgment motion.

         B. Taylor is Judicially Estopped From Bringing This Lawsuit

         “A district court may dismiss an action on the basis of judicial estoppel under either Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 56.” Curry v. Aerotek, Inc., No. 2:11-cv-2913, 2013 WL 3146812, at *5 (W.D. Tenn. June 18, 2013). “The doctrine of judicial estoppel ‘generally prevents a party from prevailing in one phase of a case on an argument and then relying on a contradictory argument to prevail in another phase.'” White v. Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc., 617 F.3d 472, 476 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 749 (2001)). “Judicial estoppel ‘bars a party from (1) asserting a position that is contrary to one that the party has asserted under oath in a prior proceeding, where (2) the prior court adopted the contrary position either as a preliminary matter or as part of a final disposition.'” Newman v. Univ. of Dayton, 751 Fed.Appx. 809, 813 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting White, 617 F.3d at 476).

         The Sixth Circuit has “explicitly held that judicial estoppel may bar employment-related claims where the plaintiff has failed to disclose as an asset in a bankruptcy proceeding either the existence of such a claim or income derived from the employment relationship at issue.”[3] Id. at 814. “[J]udicial estoppel will bar a claim when (1) a party ‘assumed a position that was contrary to the one that she asserted under oath in the bankruptcy proceedings,' (2) ‘the bankruptcy court adopted the contrary position either as a preliminary matter or as part of a final disposition,' and (3) the omission ‘did not result from mistake or inadvertence.'”[4] Davis v. Fiat Chrysler Autos. U.S., LLC, 747 Fed.Appx. 309, 313 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting White, 617 F.3d at 476).

         1. Taylor Assumed a Position Contrary to the one she Asserted ...

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