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Braggs v. State

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 23, 2017

Christina Braggs, Plaintiff,
v.
State of Arizona, Defendant.

          ORDER

          MICHELLE H. BUMS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant State of Arizona's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11). Plaintiff has filed a Response (Doc. 16), and Defendant has filed a Reply (Doc. 17). After considering the arguments raised by the parties in their briefing, the Court now issues the following ruling.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of an alleged incident of sexual harassment that occurred on November 18, 2011, while Plaintiff was employed with the Arizona Department of Corrections. On February 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Doc. 11, Exh. A at 1.) At the time, Plaintiff listed her address as 25257 West Lynne Lane, Buckeye, Arizona (“Address One”). (Id., Exh. A at 1.) The EEOC's administrative proceedings lasted over three years. At some point during this time, Plaintiff moved to 3012 South 257th Drive, Buckeye, Arizona (“Address Two”). (Doc. 16, Exh. A at 1.) On September 5, 2014, the EEOC mailed Plaintiff a letter to Address Two, thus demonstrating that Plaintiff had informed the EEOC of her new address sometime prior to that date.

         Subsequently, on March 31, 2015, the EEOC mailed closure documentation to Plaintiff at Address One. (Doc. 11, Exh. B at 1.) The closure documentation informed both parties that no further efforts would be made by the EEOC and that Plaintiff's discrimination charge was being referred to the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) for litigation review. (Id..) On October 7, 2015, DOJ issued Plaintiff a right-to-sue letter and copied Defendant. (Doc. 11, Exh. C at 1.) The right-to-sue letter was sent to plaintiff at Address One and was returned unclaimed on December 15, 2015. (Doc. 11, Exhs. C-D at 1.) In November 2016, Plaintiff contacted DOJ to inquire why she never received her right-to-sue letter; thereafter, in December, 2016, DOJ resent the right-to-sue letter to Plaintiff at a P.O. box address. (Doc. 17, Exh. C at 1.) Plaintiff filed her Complaint on March 13, 2017.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Gilligan v. Jamco Dev. Corp., 108 F.3d 246, 248-49 (9th Cir. 1997). Thus, dismissal for insufficiency of a complaint is proper if the complaint fails to state a claim on its face. See Lucas v. Bechtel Corp., 633 F.2d 757, 759 (9th Cir. 1980). A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal for failure to state a claim can be based on either: (1) the lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts to support a cognizable legal claim. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990); Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984).

         In the context of a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a court generally does not consider evidence or documents beyond the complaint. See Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1990). However, courts may consider documents without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgement. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). Documents that may be considered include documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice. Id.

         In ruling on the motion, a court must accept all allegations of material fact as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754 (9th Cir. 1994). As for the factual allegations, the Supreme Court has explained that they “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the “issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether [she] is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) (emphasis added). Thus, “[w]hen a motion to dismiss is based on the running of the statute of limitations, it can be granted only if the assertions of the complaint, read with the required liberality, would not permit the plaintiff to prove that the statute was tolled.” Jablon v. Dean Witter & Co., 614 F.2d 677, 682 (9th Cir.1980).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Timely Filing and Equitable Tolling.

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Title VII action must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Specifically, Defendant contends that Plaintiff's complaint was untimely filed because it was filed fourteen months after the EEOC issued Plaintiff's original right-to-sue letter, and that therefore the Complaint should be dismissed.

         When the EEOC dismisses a claim, it is required to notify and inform the claimant that he or she has 90 days to bring a civil action. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). The 90-day requirement constitutes a statute of limitations, and if a claimant fails to file within the 90-day period, the action is barred. Scholar v. Pacific Bell, 963 F.2d 264, 266-67 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Edwards v. Occidental Chem. Corp., 892 F.2d 1442, 1445 (9th Cir. 1990)). The 90-day limitation period begins running when delivery of the right-to-sue notice was attempted at the address of record with the EEOC. Nelmida v. Shelly Eurocars, Inc., 112 F.3d 380, 384 (9thCir. 1997). The claimant is deemed to have received notice on the date of that attempted delivery. Id. at 384. The address of record is the most recent address provided. Id.

         The 90-day period is subject to the doctrine of equitable tolling. Id. at 384 (quoting Scholar, 963 F.2d at 266-67). “Equitable tolling is … to be applied only sparingly.” Nelmida, 112 F.3d at 384 (citing Irwin v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 96 (1990)). Courts “have been generally unforgiving … when a late filing is due to claimant's failure ‘to exercise due diligence in preserving his legal rights.'” Scholar, 963 F.2d at 268 (quoting Irwin, 498 U.S. at 96). Typically, equitable tolling applies when a claimant's failure to meet a legally-mandated deadline arose from circumstances beyond that claimant's control. See Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 151 (“One who fails to act diligently cannot invoke equitable principles to excuse that lack of diligence.”). Equitable tolling has been applied to cases where the statute of limitations “was not complied with because of defective pleadings … and when the EEOC's notice of the statutory period was ...


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