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Tolliver v. Trinity Parish Foundation

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 30, 2015


M. Denise Tolliver, Camden, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

Margaret M. DiBianca and Scott A. Holt, Esquires, Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Counsel for Defendant.


LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.


Plaintiff M. Denise Tolliver ("Plaintiff") filed this employment discrimination action on August 8, 2014 against Defendants Trinity Parish Foundation ("Trinity Parish") and Delaware Futures, Inc. ("Delaware Futures"). (D.I. 1) She proceeds prose and has paid the filing fee. On October 7, 2014, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed Delaware Futures as a defendant. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Presently before the Court are Trinity Parish's motion to dismiss (D.I. 5) and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint (D.I. 9) and motion to seal (D.I. 15). For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Trinity Parish's motion to dismiss and will grant Plaintiff's motion to amend and motion to seal.


The original complaint alleges employment discrimination on the basis of race, age, and disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq. ("ADEA"), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701, et seq. ("Rehab Act"), when Plaintiff's employment was terminated on March 15, 2013. Plaintiff also alleges harassment when she was banned from the workplace as well as privacy invasion by disclosure of medical records. The original complaint alleges that Trinity Parish and Delaware Futures were joint employers.

Attached to the original complaint is a final determination and right to sue notice from the State of Delaware Department of Labor, Division of Industrial Affairs - Office of Anti-Discrim-ination, dated June 3, 2014. ( See D.I. 1) The right to sue notice contains the caption Tolliver v. Delaware Futures, Inc., DDOL No. TOL062013. ( See id. ) On April 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed a notice of suit rights issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), EEOC Charge No. 530-2015-00697. ( See D.I. 11) Trinity Episcopal Parish and its religious director, Patticia Downing, received a copy of the notice of suit rights. ( See id. )

In the meantime, Trinity Parish filed a motion to dismiss on October 6, 2014, opposed by Plaintiff. (D.I. 5, 7) Next, on January 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, opposed by Trinity Parish. (D.I. 9, 10) Trinity Parish moves to dismiss the original complaint on the grounds that: (1) the charge of discrimination attached as an exhibit names Delaware Futures as a respondent and not Trinity Parish; (2) Plaintiff did not file a charge of discrimination with respect to Trinity Parish and the time to so do has expired; and (3) as to Trinity Parish, Plaintiff failed to timely exhaust her administrative remedies with regard to the Title VII, ADEA, and Americans with Disability Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. ("ADA") claims.[1]

Plaintiff submitted a proposed amended complaint with her motion for leave to amend. (D.I. 9) The proposed amended complaint adds as a defendant Patricia Downing ("Downing"), a Trinity Parish board member, parish complex administrator, and Plaintiffs former supervisor. ( See D.I. 9, proposed amended complaint at ¶ 4) It alleges that Trinity Parish founded Delaware Futures in 1994 and exerted day-to-day authority over Delaware Future's operations and staff through at least 2013. ( See id. at ¶ 7) The proposed amended complaint contains the following counts: (1) Count I alleges race discrimination pursuant to Title VII and 19 Del. C. §§ 710 et seq.; (2) Count II raises a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (3) Count III alleges age discrimination pursuant to the ADEA and 19 Del. C. §§ 710 et seq.; (4) Count IV alleges retaliation; (5) Counts V and VI raise claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (6) Count VII alleges wrongful termination and breach of contract under Delaware law; (7) Count VIII alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress under Delaware law; (8) Count IX raises claims under the Delaware Whistleblower's Protection Act, 19 Del. C. §§ 1701, et seq., and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1514A; and (9) CountX alleges tortious interference with business relations in violation of Delaware law.


A. Legal Standards

Evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires the Court to accept as true all material allegations of the complaint. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1420 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, the Court may grant such a motion to dismiss only if, after "accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, and viewing them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, plaintiff is not entitled to relief." Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 481-82 (3d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that the allegations in the complaint are true (even ¶ doubtful in fact).'" Viaaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Cotp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible "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). At bottom, "[t]he complaint must state enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [each] necessary element" of a plaintiffs claim. Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch. Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The Court is not obligated to accept as true "bald assertions, " Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted), "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, " Schuylkill Energy Res., Inc. v. Pennsallvania Power & Light Co., 113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir. 1997), or allegations that are "self-evidently false, " Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 69 (3d Cir. 1996). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, her pleading is liberally construed and her Complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to ...

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