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Woodson v. Holiday Inn Express

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 30, 2018

CLARISSA WOODSON, Plaintiff,
v.
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE

          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Clarissa Woodson filed the Complaint, pro se, on March 6, 2017. She alleges that she was the victim of harassment and discrimination on the basis of her age and race while employed by Defendant Holiday Inn Express. She asserts that she filed a complaint with the EEOC prior to initiating this suit and received her right-to-sue letter on December 5, 2016. ECF 1, PgID 7. Through previous orders, the Court directed Woodson to provide a copy of the letter, ECF 5, 10. Woodson failed to do so and contended that she "was told [the letter] was provided in the documents written when [she] filed the case[.]" ECF 11, PgID 26. At that time, the lack of letter merely impeded Woodson's ability to serve Defendant, so the Court permitted service by the Marshals notwithstanding the letter's absence. ECF 12.

         After service, Defendant filed an answer and the Court set a scheduling conference. At the conference, the Court's staff informed Woodson that it still was not in receipt of her right to sue letter and Defendant disclosed that it intended to file a dispositive motion within the next month. Defendant subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) on February 28, 2018. Plaintiff failed to file a response and her time to do so has now lapsed. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(e)(1). The Court now takes up the motion.

         Plaintiff brings her claim under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.[1] Both acts require a claimant to timely file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC to recover. See Williams v. Michigan, 52 Fed.Appx. 723, 724 (6th Cir. 2002). Defendant argues that the Court should dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) because receipt of a right-to-sue letter "is a prerequisite to filing suit." ECF 25, PgID 93 (citing Puckett v. Tennessee Eastman Co., 889 F.2d 1481, 1488 (6th Cir. 1989)). Defendant is correct, but the Sixth Circuit has made clear that receipt of a right-to-sue letter is a condition precedent, rather than a jurisdictional requirement. To be clear: the Court did not and has not received a copy of the right-to-sue letter. But Plaintiff has pleaded that she received the letter, and on a date that would make her Complaint timely, so judgment on the pleadings for failure to provide the letter to date would be premature.

         DEFENDANT also makes the separate argument that the case should be dismissed because Plaintiff's claims fail to allege sufficient facts to support the claims. The Court will grant the motion on those grounds.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         When reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings brought pursuant to Rule 12(c), the Court must take all well-pleaded material allegations of the opposing party as true. Tucker v. Middleburg-Legacy Place, 539 F.3d 545, 549 (6th Cir. 2008). The motion is appropriately granted when no material issue of fact exists and the party making the motion is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. (citing JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, 510 F.3d 577, 581 (6th Cir. 2007)). Judgment on the pleadings may be appropriately granted when the facts alleged by the plaintiff fail to meet the specificity requirements of Rule 8(a). Tucker, 539 F.3d at 550.

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Title VII Claim

         Title VII claims like Plaintiff's are evaluated under the burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). Under the framework, a plaintiff must "initially establish a prima facie case of a racially hostile work environment based on coworkers' conduct" by making five showings:

(1) Plaintiff is a member of a protected class;
(2) Plaintiff was subjected to unwelcome racial harassment;
(3) The harassment complained of was based on race;
(4) The harassment unreasonably interfered with Plaintiff's work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or ...

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