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Yazzie v. County of Mohave

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 21, 2015

Vina Yazzie, Plaintiff,
v.
Mohave, County of, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES A. TEILLRORG SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. Background and Prior Orders

Previously, Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (Doc. 26). Part of Defendants’ motion argued that certain counts of the complaint (related to alleged disability discrimination) should be subject to judgment on the pleadings because Plaintiff failed to timely exhaust that theory with the EEOC. Plaintiff responded and argued that to the extent her exhaustion was untimely, she should be entitled to equitable tolling.

This Court converted (at Plaintiff’s request) the portion of the motion related to exhaustion of the disability theory to a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 68). In the conversion Order, the Court stated: “IT IS ORDERED that [the] pending Rule 12(c), Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings, is hereby converted to a Rule 56, Motion for Summary Judgement, as to the issue of exhaustion only.” (Id.).

This Court proceeded to rule on the remainder of the Rule 12(c) motion as follows:

IT IS ORDERED Defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 26) is granted in part as follows: Counts 10 and 11 against Defendant Mohave County are dismissed.[footnote omitted] The Motion is denied to the extent is seeks judgment on Counts 1-6 for failure to state a claim. The Motion remains under advisement regarding whether Plaintiff exhausted her disability discrimination claims with the EEOC (thus whether Counts 1-6 will be dismissed on this basis remains under advisement). Because Counts 7-9 were not the subject of the Motion [for] Judgment on the Pleadings, they are not dismissed. Counts 10 and 11 against Defendants Steve Latoski, Ramon Osuna, Kevin Stockbridge, and Warren Twitchel are also not dismissed.

Doc. 74 at 14.

Regarding Counts 1-6, which contain Plaintiff’s claims of disability discrimination, within the body of the Order at Doc. 74, the Court concluded that the August 14, 2014 charge with the EEOC was untimely based on Plaintiff’s date of termination. Doc. 74 at 7. The Court also concluded that Plaintiff had failed to established that her untimely August 14, 2014 charge with the EEOC should relate back to her timely April 2, 2014, charge with the EEOC. Doc. 74 at 5-7. Thus, for Plaintiff to be entitled to pursue Count 1-6, she must establish a basis for equitable tolling to excuse her untimely exhaustion with the EEOC.

II. Equitable Tolling

In responding under Rule 56, Plaintiff advanced two arguments for equitable tolling: 1) “Plaintiff’s mental state;” and, 2) “failure to understand EEOC filing process.” (Doc. 73 at 7-8).[1] “Equitable tolling” allows a deadline to file with an administrative agency to be tolled in some circumstances. See Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 393 (1982) (noting “that filing a timely charge of discrimination with the EEOC is not a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit in federal court, but a requirement that, like a statute of limitations, is subject to waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling.”).

A. Mental State

A deadline to file with an administrative agency may be tolled due to mental incompetence, provided certain criteria are met:

First, a plaintiff must show his mental impairment was an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ beyond his control by demonstrating the impairment was so severe that either (a) plaintiff was unable rationally or factually to personally understand the need to timely file, or (b) plaintiff’s mental state rendered him unable personally to prepare [a complaint] and effectuate its filing. Second, the plaintiff must show diligence in pursuing the claims to the extent he could understand them, but that the mental impairment made it impossible to meet the filing deadline under the totality of the circumstances. . . .

Johnson v. Lucent Technologies Inc., 653 F.3d 1000, 1010 (9th Cir. 2011), as amended (Aug. 19, 2011) (internal citations and quotations omitted); Bills v. Clark, ...


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