Grimes v. SUPERIOR HOME HEALTH CARE OF MIDDLE TN

Decision Date19 June 1996
Docket NumberNo. 3:94-1031.,3:94-1031.
Citation929 F. Supp. 1088
PartiesBeatrice Y. GRIMES, et al. v. SUPERIOR HOME HEALTH CARE OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE, INC., et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Tennessee

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Richard Hovey Dinkins, Ronald W. McNutt, Nashville, for plaintiffs.

John Parker Branham, William Taylor Ramsey, Nashville, Leesa A. Hinson, Nashville, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM

CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Title VI Claims (Docket No. 46) filed by Defendant Superior Home Health Care of Middle Tennessee, Inc. ("Superior") and a Motion to Dismiss and/or For Summary Judgment (Docket No. 55) filed by Defendants Alpha Medical, Inc., Frazier, and Rogers ("the Alpha Defendants"). For the reasons more fully set forth herein, Superior's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Title VI Claims (Docket No. 46) is GRANTED. The Alpha Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 55) is DENIED.

FACTS

Plaintiffs bring this action against Defendants for racial discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1981a, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d ("Title VI"), and 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"). Plaintiffs are former employees of Defendant Superior. Defendant Alpha Medical, Inc. ("Alpha") was, at all times pertinent herein, under contract with Superior to provide advice on hiring, promotions and other administrative matters to Superior.

TITLE VI CLAIMS

On a motion to dismiss, this Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, accepting all their factual allegations as true, and determine whether they can prove no set of facts that would entitle them to relief. Briggs v. Ohio Elections Commission, 61 F.3d 487, 493 (6th Cir.1995).

Plaintiffs assert, among other things, that Defendants' actions violate Title VI, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. Both Superior and the Alpha Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' Title VI claims.

Section 601 of Title VI provides:

No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

42 U.S.C. § 2000d. Thus, the general prohibition of Section 601 applies only if a defendant receives federal funds.1 See Mosley v. Clarksville Memorial Hospital, 574 F.Supp. 224, 236 (M.D.Tenn.1983).

Before 1988, courts extended the prohibitions of Section 601 only to the specific program or activity receiving the federal funds. See, e.g., Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Darrone, 465 U.S. 624, 634-36, 104 S.Ct. 1248, 1255, 79 L.Ed.2d 568 (1984); DeVargas v. Mason & Hanger-Silas Mason Co., Inc., 911 F.2d 1377, 1383 (10th Cir.1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1074, 111 S.Ct. 799, 112 L.Ed.2d 860 (1991). In other words, prior to 1988, the strictures of Title VI applied only to an institution's or government entity's specific programs that received federal funds. Hodges v. Public Bldg. Comm'n. of Chicago, 864 F.Supp. 1493, 1504 (N.D.Ill.1994).

The landscape of Title VI changed in 1988, however, when Congress enacted the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 ("the 1987 Act"), which overturned the program-specific interpretation of Consolidated Rail. Hodges, 864 F.Supp. at 1505; see also DeVargas, 911 F.2d at 1384. The 1987 Act expanded the concept of "program or activity" by adding to Title VI and other anti-discrimination statutes (such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) an explicit definition of that phrase. Stanley v. Darlington County School Dist., 879 F.Supp. 1341, 1365 (D.S.C.1995), rev'd in part on other grounds, 84 F.3d 707 (4th Cir.1996).

"The new definition specifies that entire entities receiving federal funds — whether governmental entities, school systems, or universities — must comply with Title VI, rather than just the particular program or activity that actually receives the funds." Id.; see also 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-4a (Supp.1996).

The 1987 Act "was intended to ensure that the various civil rights statutes `would apply to the entirety of any state or local institution that had a program or activity funded by the federal government.'" Hodges, 864 F.Supp. at 1505 (quoting Schroeder v. City of Chicago, 927 F.2d 957, 962 (7th Cir.1991)). Thus, the term "program or activity" was expanded to include all of the operations of the institution that conducted the program or activity. Id.2

The cases cited by Superior — Mosley v. Clarksville Memorial Hospital, 574 F.Supp. 224 (M.D.Tenn.1983); Trageser v. Libbie Rehabilitation Center, 590 F.2d 87 (4th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 947, 99 S.Ct. 2895, 61 L.Ed.2d 318 (1979); Flora v. Moore, 461 F.Supp. 1104 (N.D.Miss.1978), aff'd, 631 F.2d 730 (5th Cir.1980); and Doe v. St. Joseph's Hospital of Fort Wayne, 788 F.2d 411 (7th Cir.1986) — were all decided before the 1987 Act. Thus, they apply the more limited program-specific requirement upon plaintiffs and are not applicable here.3

Since the 1987 Act, the Ninth Circuit has held that there is no requirement that a plaintiff plead that he was an intended beneficiary of the federally-funded program in which defendants are alleged to have participated. Fobbs v. Holy Cross Health System Corp., 29 F.3d 1439, 1447 (9th Cir.1994), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 115 S.Ct. 936, 130 L.Ed.2d 881 (1995). "To state a claim for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, et seq., a plaintiff must allege that (1) the entity involved is engaging in racial discrimination; and (2) the entity involved is receiving federal assistance." Id. (citing Wrenn v. Kansas, 561 F.Supp. 1216, 1221 (D.C.Kan.1983)). "Although the plaintiff must prove intent at trial, it need not be pled in the complaint." Fobbs, 29 F.3d at 1447.

In this case, Plaintiffs have alleged that Defendants engaged in racial discrimination and that Defendants receive federal assistance. Therefore, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have stated a claim under Section 601 of Title VI, and Superior's Motion to Dismiss on this issue must be denied.

Superior argues another limitation, however. Section 604 of Title VI, which specifically addresses claims of employment discrimination, limits the general prohibitions of Section 601:

Nothing contained in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize action under this subchapter by any department or agency with respect to any employment practice of any employer, employment agency, or labor organization except where a primary objective of the Federal financial assistance is to provide employment.

42 U.S.C. § 2000d-3.

The plain language of Section 604, which is often referred to as the "primary objective limitation," clearly indicates its applicability is only to federal departments or agencies. Yet, many courts have interpreted Section 604 as limiting the rights of private actions as well. Mosley, 574 F.Supp. at 226; Association Against Discrimination v. City of Bridgeport, 647 F.2d 256, 276 (2d Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 988, 102 S.Ct. 1611, 71 L.Ed.2d 847 (1982); Trageser, 590 F.2d at 89; Doe, 788 F.2d at 419 n. 12; Carmi v. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, 620 F.2d 672, 674-75 (8th Cir.1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 892, 101 S.Ct. 249, 66 L.Ed.2d 117 (1980); Temengil v. Trust Territory of Pacific Islands, 881 F.2d 647, 653 (9th Cir.1989) (court completely omitted the language "by any department or agency" in quoting the statute), cert. denied, 496 U.S. 925, 110 S.Ct. 2617, 110 L.Ed.2d 638 (1990); Reynolds v. School Dist. No. 1, Denver, Colorado, 69 F.3d 1523, 1531-32 (10th Cir.1995); Moxley v. Vernot, 555 F.Supp. 554, 558 (S.D.Ohio 1982); Ward v. Massachusetts Bay Transp. Auth., 550 F.Supp. 1310, 1311 (D.Mass.1982); and Bhatt v. Uniontown Hospital, 1986 WL 30681 at *6 (W.D.Pa. 1986).

The United States Supreme Court, without expressly so holding, assumed that Section 604 applied to private rights of action in Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Darrone, 465 U.S. 624, 636-37, 104 S.Ct. 1248, 1256, 79 L.Ed.2d 568 (1984); see also North Haven Board of Education v. Bell, 456 U.S. 512, 528-30 n. 20, 102 S.Ct. 1912, 1922 n. 20, 72 L.Ed.2d 299 (1982) (Section 604 was added to indicate, or at least clarify, a limitation on the class of beneficiaries of Title VI); and Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara County, California, 480 U.S. 616, 626-27 n. 6, 107 S.Ct. 1442, 1449 n. 6, 94 L.Ed.2d 615 (1987) (Congress added Section 604 because of its concern that the receipt of any form of financial assistance might render an employer subject to the commands of Title VI rather than Title VII).4

On the other hand, a few courts have held that Section 604 does not limit private rights of action but applies solely to federal departments or agencies, as the statute itself states. Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers v. Langer, 546 F.Supp. 434, 436 (W.D.Pa.1982); LeStrange v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 687 F.2d 767, 770 (3d Cir.1982), aff'd, Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Darrone, 465 U.S. 624, 104 S.Ct. 1248, 79 L.Ed.2d 568 (1984);5 Jones v. MARTA, 681 F.2d 1376, 1379, n. 7 and 1382 (11th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1099, 104 S.Ct. 1591, 80 L.Ed.2d 123 (1984); and Hart v. County of Alameda, 485 F.Supp. 66, 72 (N.D.Cal.1979).

Despite the apparent majority of authority to the contrary, this Court is reluctant to disregard the plain language of Section 604 itself. As the Third Circuit noted: "The plain words of § 604 limit its application to departments or agencies. Given the statutory scheme of which Title VI is a part, it is not illogical to assume Congress intended precisely what it said and no more." LeStrange, 687 F.2d at 770.6

Nonetheless, the Court is persuaded that the Supreme Court has implied that the limitations of Section 604 apply to private rights of action. See, e.g., Consolidated Rail, 465 U.S. at 636-37, 104 S.Ct. at 1256; North Haven, 456 U.S. at 528-30 n. 20, 102 S.Ct. at 1922 n. 20; and Johnson,...

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