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Ray v. The Dufresne Spencer Group, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

January 10, 2018




         Defendants The Dufresne Spencer Group, LLC d/b/a Ashley Furniture Home Store and Jeff Rogers (“Defendants”) have moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's Title VII claims and request that the Court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims and dismiss the Complaint in its entirety. Docket 26. Defendants claim that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies and is therefore barred from pursuing her claims in this court. Docket 27. Because both parties have consented to a magistrate judge conducting all the proceedings in this case as provided in 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the undersigned has the authority to issue this opinion. Docket 14. After due consideration, the Court is ready to rule.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Tina Ray (“Plaintiff”) filed her Complaint against Defendants on April 10, 2017. Docket 1. Plaintiff's Complaint seeks damages for Defendants' alleged violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Docket 1. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges four separate causes of action identified as follows: (1) hostile work environment; (2) assault and battery; (3) quid pro quo; and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id.

         Prior to filing her Complaint, on November 4, 2016, Plaintiff submitted an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Intake Questionnaire outlining the alleged discrimination against Defendants and providing a detailed narrative account of “willful sexual harassment (sex discrimination) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Docket 28-1 at 17-23. Both the intake questionnaire and the narrative account bear Plaintiff's handwritten signature. Id. at 20, 22. In Plaintiff's summary, she states “I am seeking damages, back pay, all benefits owed, reinstatement, or in the alternative, front pay.” Id. at 22. On November 10, 2016, the EEOC notified Defendants that an employment discrimination charge had been filed against them and advised that “a perfected charge (EEOC Form 5) will be sent to you once it has been received from the Charging Party.” Id. at 10-11.

         In correspondence dated December 8, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notified Plaintiff that “the document that you submitted to us [i.e. the intake questionnaire] constitutes a charge of employment discrimination” and that Plaintiff's employer had been notified that she “filed a charge.” Id. at 8. The December 8, 2016 letter requests that Plaintiff sign the Charge of Discrimination form attached and explains that the signed form must be received “before we initiate an investigation.” Id. The letter clarifies that “for purposes of meeting the deadline for filing a charge, the date of your original signed document will be retained as the original filing date.” Id. Plaintiff states that she did not receive this letter until after the EEOC dismissed her case on January 11, 2017.[1] Docket 30-1 at 1.

         On January 11, 2017, the EEOC sent Plaintiff a Dismissal and Notice of Rights informing Plaintiff that its file on her charge was being closed for “failure to cooperate.” Docket 28-1 at 1. The notice states:

This will be the only notice of dismissal and of your right to sue that we will send you. You may file a lawsuit against the respondent(s) under federal law based on this charge in federal or state court. Your lawsuit must be filed WITHIN 90 DAYS of your receipt of this notice; or your right to sue based on this charge will be lost.”

Id. Consequently, on April 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this action. Docket 1.

         Plaintiff states that upon receiving the Dismissal and Notice of Rights, she requested reconsideration which was denied in correspondence dated June 26, 2017. Docket 31 at 4; 30-5 at 1. This correspondence states “you have the right to file a complaint in court based on your charge of discrimination. You must file your complaint in court within 90 days of the date on which you received the Dismissal and Notice of Rights.” Docket 30-5 at 1.

         After Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment alleging that Plaintiff is barred from filing suit because she failed to perfect her Charge of Discrimination, Plaintiff submitted the signed Charge of Discrimination on September 7, 2017. Docket 30-6.

         Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a party is entitled to summary judgment “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 325. Under Rule 56(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the burden then shifts to the non-movant to go beyond the pleadings and “by ... affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. That burden is not discharged by mere allegations or denials. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         While all legitimate factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. Before finding that no genuine issue for trial exists, the court must first be ...

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