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Krah v. County of Lincoln Maine

United States District Court, D. Maine

April 2, 2017

COUNTY OF LINCOLN, MAINE, et al., Defendants


          John H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge.

         In this employment discrimination action, the State of Maine, Office of the Attorney General (“AG's Office” or “State”), and District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau (together, the “State Defendants”) move to dismiss all of plaintiff Chastity Krah's claims against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to allege the exhaustion of administrative remedies with respect to the AG's Office and failure to state a claim against Rushlau for violation of the plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Motion To Dismiss of Defendants State of Maine, Office of the Attorney General, and Geoffrey Rushlau (“Motion”) (ECF No. 21) at 1; First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) (ECF No. 16) ¶¶ 39-53. For the reasons that follow, I recommend that the court grant the Motion in part, as to all claims against Rushlau, and otherwise deny it.

         I. Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Rule 12(b)(6)

         The Supreme Court has stated:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and internal punctuation omitted). This standard requires the pleading of “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court assumes the truth of all of the well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Román-Oliveras v. Puerto Rico Elec. Power Auth., 655 F.3d 43, 45 (1st Cir. 2011). Ordinarily, in weighing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a court may not consider any documents that are outside of the complaint, or not expressly incorporated therein, unless the motion is converted into one for summary judgment.” Alternative Energy, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 30, 33 (1st Cir. 2001). “There is, however, a narrow exception for documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the parties; for official public records; for documents central to plaintiffs' claim; or for documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         B. Plaintiff's Proffered Extra-Pleading Materials

         The plaintiff has appended nine exhibits to her opposing brief, see Exhs. 1-9 (ECF Nos. 30-1 to 30-9) to Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion To Dismiss Filed by Defendants State of Maine and Geoffrey Rushlau (“Opposition”) (ECF No. 30), only one of which the State Defendants appear to agree is properly considered in connection with this Motion: a copy of the March 23, 2015, Charge of Discrimination (“March 2015 Charge”) that the plaintiff filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission (“MHRC”) against the County of Lincoln, Maine, see Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion To Dismiss of Defendants State of Maine, Office of the Attorney General, and Geoffrey Rushlau (“Reply”) (ECF No. 32) at 3 n.1; March 2015 Charge, Exh. 1 (ECF No. 30-1) to Opposition.

         The State Defendants note that, in connection with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss in an employment discrimination case, Chatman v. Gentle Dental Ctr. of Waltham, 973 F.Supp. 228 (D. Mass. 1997), the court declined to consider facts pertaining to exhaustion of remedies that were alleged in the plaintiff's brief and in “papers accompanying the brief[.]” Reply at 3 (quoting Chatman, 973 F.Supp. at 236). They argue that the plaintiff's extra-pleading materials should meet the same fate. See id.

         However, Chatman sheds little light on the documents here at issue. Facts contained only in a party's brief by definition do not fall within the “narrow exception” described by the First Circuit, Alternative Energy, 267 F.3d at 33, and the Chatman court did not describe the nature of the “papers” accompanying the brief apart from the plaintiff's charge of discrimination, which the court did take into account on the basis that it was “a public record and is also referred to in the complaint[, ]” Chatman, 973 F.Supp. at 231 n.6, 236.

         In accordance with the Alternative Energy test, I determine that four exhibits besides Exhibit 1, which contains the March 2015 Charge, should be taken into account. The following exhibits are sufficiently referenced in the FAC, and their authenticity is not in dispute, see Alternative Energy, 267 F.3d at 33 (“When the complaint relies upon a document, whose authenticity is not challenged, such a document ‘merges into the pleadings' and the court may properly consider it under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.”):

1. Exhibit 6, a copy of a December 23, 2015, charge of discrimination that the plaintiff filed with the MHRC against the State of Maine (“December 2015 Charge”), see Exh. 6 (ECF No. 30-6) to Opposition, which, together with Exhibits 7 and 8, is referenced in FAC ¶ 38;
2. Exhibit 7, a copy of a letter dated December 23, 2015, from [plaintiff's counsel] James A. Clifford to Amy Sneirson, Esq., Executive Director of the MHRC (“Clifford Letter”), addressing the State's anticipated statute of limitations defense with respect to the December 2015 Charge, see Exh. 7 (ECF No. 30-7) to Opposition, which, together with Exhibits 6 and 8, is referenced in FAC ¶ 38;
3. Exhibit 8, a copy of a letter dated March 4, 2016, from Sneirson to Susan Herman, Deputy Attorney General, Linda McGill, Esq., and Clifford (“Sneirson Letter”), stating that the MHRC would treat the December 2015 Charge as an amendment to the existing complaint and would not dismiss it as untimely at that point, see Exh. 8 (ECF No. 30-8) to Opposition, which, together with Exhibits 6 and 7, is referenced in FAC ¶ 38; and
4. Exhibit 9, containing copies of two letters dated March 28, 2016, from Sneirson to the plaintiff, the first of which is a Notice of Right To Sue (“Right-To-Sue Letter”), see Exh. 9 (ECF No. 30-9) to Opposition, referenced in FAC ¶ 9.

         The remaining exhibits are neither referenced in the FAC, central to the plaintiff's claim, nor characterized by either side as official public records. Hence, they have not been considered.

         II. Factual Background

         The FAC sets forth the following relevant factual allegations.[1]

         The plaintiff was employed as a Victim Witness Advocate by Lincoln County between April 2008 and December 5, 2014. FAC ¶ 2. The AG's Office is a department of state government and employed defendants Rushlau and Andrew Wright. Id. ¶¶ 5, 7. Rushlau serves as the District Attorney for Prosecutorial District Number 6, comprising the counties of Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, and Waldo. Id. ¶ 6. He is an employee of the State of Maine (“State”) and serves under the general authority of 30-A M.R.S.A. § 256. Id. Wright served as an Assistant District Attorney between 2005 and July 2015. Id. ¶ 7. Until his separation from employment in July 2015, he was an employee of the State and served under the general authority of 30-A M.R.S.A. § 272. Id.

         While the plaintiff was employed by Lincoln County, she was at all material times working under the direction, supervision, and control of Rushlau and Wright. Id. ¶ 13. Wright supervised the plaintiff at the District Attorney's Office (“DA's Office”) in Wiscasset, Maine. Id. ¶¶ 12-13.

         In late 2012 and early 2013, the plaintiff had a brief relationship with an attorney from the Mid-Coast area. Id. ¶ 14. The plaintiff and this attorney were not involved in cases together. Id. During this time, people in the DA's Office, including Wright, knew that the plaintiff was “seeing” this attorney. Id. At no point did the County Administrator's Office or the DA's Office question or object to the relationship. Id.

         Wright began teasing the plaintiff about the relationship and made inappropriate comments around her co-workers. Id. ¶ 15. He texted the plaintiff while she was working and asked her if she was sleeping with that person. Id. The plaintiff refused to answer and asked him to stop. Id. Prior to the time the plaintiff's relationship with the attorney ended, Wright began making unwelcome sexual advances toward her and directed inappropriate sexually charged comments at her. Id. ¶ 16. Wright became ill in the fall of 2013 and stopped contacting the plaintiff, but resumed making sexually inappropriate comments to her when he recovered in the spring of 2014. Id. ¶ 17.

         In the spring of 2014, Wright pressured the plaintiff to engage in sexual acts with him in the workplace. Id. ¶¶ 18-22. The plaintiff believed that there was no one at the office in whom she could confide or felt she could trust. Id. ¶ 21. She felt humiliated and degraded and deeply regretted the sexual encounters with Wright. Id. She pleaded with Wright many times to stop, repeatedly asked him to leave her alone, and told him she had no interest in a romantic relationship. Id. ¶ 22. By the early summer of 2014, Wright relented after the plaintiff continued to ignore him. Id. ¶ 24. However, the plaintiff quickly noticed that he was treating her differently, and she felt uncomfortable because she perceived him to be quite angry with her. Id.

         One of the plaintiff's colleagues informed her that Wright had told her that the plaintiff was a liar and wrote other hurtful things about her in text messages to that colleague. Id. The colleague also told the plaintiff that Wright had repeated things ...

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