Muhammad v. City of St. Louis, No. 4:18-CV-1757 RLW

CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri
PartiesAMIR MUHAMMAD, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF ST. LOUIS, Defendant.
Decision Date20 September 2019
Docket NumberNo. 4:18-CV-1757 RLW

CITY OF ST. LOUIS, Defendant.

No. 4:18-CV-1757 RLW


September 20, 2019


This matter is before the Court on Defendant City of St. Louis' ("Defendant") Partial Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 20). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.


Plaintiff Amir Muhammad ("Muhammad") is a former employee of the City of St. Louis's Department of Public Safety, Police Division. Muhammad was employed as a police officer until his retirement. In his First Amended Complaint, Muhammad alleges he was subjected to discrimination because of his race (black) and his religion (Muslim) during his employment as a police officer.

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On April 27, 2019, Muhammad dually-filed his charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights ("MCHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (ECF No. 16, ¶9). On May 31, 2018 the EEOC sent Muhammad a right to sue letter. (ECF No. 16-1). On June 19, 2018, the MCHR sent Muhammad a letter stating he had no right to sue on any allegations that occurred prior to October 29, 2016 because he did not timely file his complaint. (ECF No. 16-2). The MCHR advised, however, Muhammad had a right to sue for allegations occurring after October 29, 2016. (ECF No. 16-2).

Muhammad filed this lawsuit in state court on August 28, 2018. (ECF No. 2). Defendant removed this case to federal court on October 15, 2018. (ECF No. 1). On November 6, 2018, Muhammad filed his First Amended Complaint ("FAC"; ECF No. 16). Muhammad's FAC consists of six counts under the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), six counts under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), one count for race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. §1981 (Count XIII), and a final count challenging the constitutionality of the recently-enacted changes to the MHRA. Defendant asks this Court to dismiss Counts II, IV, V, VI, X, XI, and XII in their entirety for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and Count I-XII to the extend that the allegations are untimely.


To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., v. Twombly, 550 U.S 544, 570 (2007). A "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" will not suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability

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requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).


I. Counts I-VI under MHRA

In Counts I-VI of the Petition for Damages, Muhammad alleges race and religious discrimination (including claims for hostile work environment) under the MHRA.

An aggrieved party must file an administrative charge of discrimination within 180 days of an alleged unlawful employment practice under the MHRA. Holland v. Sam's Club, 487 F.3d 641, 643 (8th Cir.2007); Gillespie v. Charter Commc'ns, 31 F. Supp. 3d 1030, 1033 (E.D. Mo. 2014). Failure to do so will result in dismissal of the allegations related to the charge. See Holland, 487 F.3d at 644. Application of the MHRA's 180-day statute of limitations is subject to equitable exceptions, including the continuing violation doctrine. Rowe v. Hussmann Corp., 381 F.3d 775, 782 (8th Cir.2004) (citing Pollock v. Wetterau Food Distrib. Grp., 11 S.W.3d 754, 763 (Mo.Ct.App.1999)). When an employer is accused of a continuing violation, the plaintiff "must first demonstrate that at least one act occurred within the filing period and, second, must show that the harassment is a series of interrelated events, rather than isolated or sporadic acts of discrimination." Id. (internal citation omitted).

As previously discussed, Muhammad filed his Charge with the MCHR on April 27, 2017. Defendant argues that Muhammad's allegations in Counts I-VI that precede October 29, 2016 are time-barred.

In response, Muhammad contends that events preceding October 29, 2016 are not time-barred based upon the continuing violation doctrine. To take advantage of the continuing violation

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doctrine, a plaintiff must satisfy a two-part test: (i) demonstrate that at least one act occurred within the filing period; and (ii) show that the current claim of discrimination is part of a series of interrelated events, rather than isolated or sporadic acts of intentional discrimination. Tisch v. DST Sys., Inc., 368 S.W.3d 245, 252 (Mo. Ct. App. 2012) (citing Pollock v. Wetterau Food Distribution Group, 11 S.W.3d 754, 763 (Mo.App. E.D.1999)). If the plaintiff proves both, then "the 180-day filing period becomes irrelevant ... [and][h]e may then offer evidence of the entire continuing violation." Id.

Continuing violations consist of repeated conduct extending over a period of time. Tisch v. DST Sys., Inc., 368 S.W.3d 245, 254 (Mo. Ct. App. 2012) (citing Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 115, 122 S. Ct. 2061, 2073, 153 L. Ed. 2d 106 (2002). "One example is a hostile work environment claim." Tisch, 368 S.W.3d at 254. "A continuing violation is established when the plaintiff shows 'a series of closely-related, similar events that occurred within the same general time period and stemmed from the same source" that "continued into the limitations period.'" Tisch, 368 S.W.3d at 254 (citing Pollock v. Wetterau Food Distribution Group, 11 S.W.3d 754, 763 (Mo. Ct. App. 1999) ("As in most claims of hostile work environment harassment, the discriminatory acts were not always of a nature that could be identified individually as significant events; instead, the day-to-day harassment was primarily significant, both as a legal and as a practical matter, in its cumulative effect." (internal quotation omitted)); see also Plengemeier v. Thermadyne Indus., Inc., 409 S.W.3d 395, 401 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013) ("Under the continuing violation theory, a victim of discrimination may pursue a claim for an act occurring prior to the statutory period, if she can demonstrate the act is part of an ongoing practice or pattern of discrimination by her employer."). The Court holds, at this stage of the litigation, that Muhammad has sufficiently pleaded his causes of actions under the MHRA as continuing

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violations that are not time-barred. Specifically, several incidents provide cumulative support for Muhammad's continuing violation claim under the MHRA, even though they occurred before October 29, 2016:

• When Muhammad was transferred to District 5, his supervisors expressed "concerns" about Muhammad's religion (Muslim) (ECF No. 16, ¶¶15-17);

• A sergeant refused to use Muhammad's new name in March 2016 (ECF No. 16, ¶¶18-20);

• In March 2016, a superior officer discriminated against a black suspect by framing him and causing other subordinates to write a false report (ECF No. 16, ¶¶31-34); Muhammad reported this incident (ECF No. 16, ¶¶34-35);

• In April 2016, Muhammad had a conflict with a white female officer, who previously spat at another black officer and made an inappropriate comment about a black suspect (ECF No. 16, ¶¶36-40);

• On or around July 16, 2016, Muhammad was advised by Sgt. James Clark that Lt. Applegate was "not pleased" with Muhammad, despite Muhammad having not been disciplined in his 18 years of service (ECF No. 16, ¶¶44-45);

• In September 2016, Muhammad's requests for time off were denied, despite being within the force's policy (ECF No. 16, ¶46);

• In 2016 and 2017, Muhammad's requests for other officers to ride with him were denied, leaving him in danger (ECF No. 16, ¶47);

• In September 2016, Muhammad was harassed by white officers for not wearing a "mourning patch" after the shooting of Blake Snyder; white police officers accused


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