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Gorbe v. City of Lathrup Village

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

May 11, 2018

MICHAEL GORBE, EDWARD SHARGABIAN, and TYRON RUCKER, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF LATHRUP VILLAGE, WILLIAM ARMSTRONG, and SCOTT MCKEE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF SHARGABIAN'S MOTION TO TOLL STATUTE AND ALLOW FOR HIS TITLE VII CLAIMS

          AVERN COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff Edward Shargabian (Shargabian) is a former police officer who worked for Defendants City of Lathrup Village (City), former police chief William Armstrong (Armstrong), and interim police chief Scott McKee (McKee) (collectively, Defendants). Shargabian is suing Defendants for age discrimination and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.

         A condition precedent to an ADEA and Title VII claim is the filing of a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days of termination. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); see also Lacroix v. Tennessee Dep't of Transportation, 2000 WL 1140764, *1-*2 (6th Cir. 2000) (finding that ADEA and Title VII plaintiff “had 300 days from notification of his termination in which to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC”) (citing Delaware State Coll. v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 259 (1980)). A plaintiff may file a civil action in federal court within 90 days of receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); see also Puckett v. Tennessee Eastman Co., 889 F.2d 1481, 1487 (6th Cir. 1989). The issues before the Court are whether Shargabian complied with these requirements when he filed an EEOC charge on January 11, 2018, and if not, whether his failure to comply may be excused on the basis of equitable tolling. For the reasons that follow, Shargabian's motion is GRANTED.

         II. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A.

         Shargabian says he has been subjected to harassment since March of 2016 because of his age. He also says he was terminated on February 10, 2017 because of his age and because he spoke out about departmental race and age discrimination against himself and co-plaintiffs Rucker and Gorbe, who are not parties to the instant motion. (Doc. 16). Defendants say Shargabian was terminated because he did not answer all questions on his Reserve Officer application. (Doc. 20).

         B.

         Shargabian filed a complaint on June 5, 2017. (Doc. 1). At that time, he was represented by attorney Karie H. Boylan (Boylan). The complaint stated that “Plaintiff Shargabian filed charges of discrimination and retaliation with the EEOC which Plaintiffs Gorbe and Rucker openly support.” (Id. at ¶ 39). However, no EEOC charge had been filed on Shargabian's behalf.

         Defendants answered on July 24, 2017, raising the following affirmative defenses: “Plaintiffs have failed to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing this action”; “Plaintiffs' Complaint may be barred, in whole or in part, by the applicable statute of limitations”; and “Plaintiffs failed to file a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days of the allegedly unlawful employment practices.” (Doc. 6, ¶¶ 3-5). Though the answer should have put Boylan on notice that no EEOC charge had been filed, she took no action.

         Boylan withdrew as counsel due to a conflict of interest, (Doc. 10, Pg. ID 52), and was terminated as of November 13, 2017. (Doc. 13, Pg. ID 57). Shargabian then hired his current attorney, Raymond Guzall III (Guzall). On January 3, 2018, Shargabian asked Boylan to send him the EEOC charge she had filed on his behalf so that he could show it to Guzall. Boylan informed him that she had not filed an EEOC charge.

         Shargabian filed an EEOC charge on January 11, 2018. To date, the record does not contain a right-to-sue letter or any other correspondence addressed to him from the EEOC. Shargabian filed the first amended complaint on January 12, 2018. (Doc. 16). On January 30, 2018, Defendants answered, asserting the same defenses they raised in their original answer. (Doc. 20). On January 19, 2018, Shargabian filed a motion to toll the statute of limitations for equitable reasons. (Doc. 19). Defendants responded, (Doc. 22), and Shargabian replied. (Doc. 25).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Both the 300-day filing requirement for an EEOC charge and the 90-day filing requirement for bringing suit in federal court are “more in the nature of a statute of limitations[, ]” Jackson v. Richards Med. Co., 961 F.2d 575, 578 (6th Cir. 1992), rather than jurisdictional prerequisites to filing suit. Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, ...


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