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Stewart v. Durham

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi.

February 9, 2017

ERICA N. STEWART PLAINTIFF
v.
TAROLD DURHAM; BELHAVEN UNIVERSITY DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Tarold Durham's motion to dismiss. Docket No. 27. The matter is fully briefed and ready for review.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         The factual allegations are drawn from the complaint and taken as true for present purposes.

         In November 2015, Erica Stewart interviewed for a job in the Online Admissions Department of Belhaven University. Tarold Durham, the director of Online Admissions, conducted the interview.

         Stewart says that at some point in her application process Durham made sexual advances toward her via social media and text messages. The advances culminated in Durham sending Stewart a text message containing a photo of an erect penis. Durham allegedly wanted sexual favors in exchange for a job offer.

         Stewart refused the advances. In January 2016, she learned that the vacancy was no longer available. She filed a claim with the EEOC, then commenced suit in this Court.

         In her complaint, Stewart alleges that Durham and Belhaven are liable for sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Title VII, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision. She takes special offense at this conduct having occurred at a Christian university.

         Durham's motion to dismiss contends that Stewart has failed to state a claim.

         II. Legal Standard

         When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and makes reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). To proceed, the complaint "must contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. at 677-78 (quotation marks and citation omitted). This requires "more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation, " but the complaint need not have "detailed factual allegations." Id. at 678 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The plaintiff's claims must also be plausible on their face, which means there is "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citation omitted).

         III. Discussion

         Stewart concedes that her Title VII claims against Durham fail because Durham was not an "employer" under the statute. What remains are her state-law claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

         "A claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress will not ordinarily lie for mere employment disputes." Lee v. Golden Triangle Planning & Dev. Dist, Inc.,797 So.2d 845, 851 (Miss. 2001) (citations omitted). "To justify a finding that this tort has occurred, the defendant's conduct must be wanton and wilful and it would evoke outrage or revulsion." Spee ...


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