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Duffy v. Delaware State University

United States District Court, D. Delaware

December 21, 2017

MAHALA DUFFY, Plaintiff,

          Mahala Duffy, Dover, Delaware; Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Jennifer C. Bebko Jauffret, Esquire, and Lori Ann Brewington, Esquire, Richards, Layton & Finger, PA, Wilmington, Delaware, Counsel for Defendant.



         Plaintiff Mahala Duffy, who proceeds pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, filed this action alleging employment discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. Before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss. (D.I. 9). Briefing on the matter is complete.


         Plaintiff was employed by Defendant until her employment was terminated on September 28, 2015. (D.I. 2 at p.2). Plaintiff alleges discrimination occurred during her employment with Defendant by reason of sex and religion and that there was a hostile work environment and the termination of her employment. (Id. at 2-3).

         On July 30, 2015, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Delaware Department of Labor which was simultaneously dual-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.[1] (Id.). The EEOC mailed the notice of suit rights to Plaintiff on May 9, 2016. (Id. at p.4). The Complaint states that Plaintiff received a notice of right to sue letter on May 11, 2015.[2] (Id. at p.2). In Plaintiffs opposition to the motion to dismiss, she states that she received the notice of suit rights on May 12, 2016, via U.S. mail. (D.I. 11 at 2). Plaintiffs Complaint was signed on August 8, 2016, the envelope it was mailed in is postmarked August 10, 2016, and the complaint was received and filed by the Clerk of Court on August 12, 2016. On September 13, 2016, the Court issued a service order after screening the Complaint. (D.I. 5).

         Defendant moves for dismissal (D.I. 9) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5) and (6) on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff failed to file this action within ninety days of receipt of the EEOC's notice of suit rights as required by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); (2) equitable tolling is not applicable under the circumstances of this case; and (3) the Complaint and summons were not served on Defendant within ninety days as required by Fed. R. Civ. P 4(m). (See D.I. 10).


         In reviewing a motion filed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, her pleading is liberally construed and her complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94. A court may consider the pleadings, public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint, and documents incorporated into the complaint by reference. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion maybe granted only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the complainant, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).

         "Though 'detailed factual allegations' are not required, a complaint must do more than simply provide 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" Daw's v. Abington Mem'l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). I am "not required to credit bald assertions or legal conclusions improperly alleged in the complaint." In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc. Sec. Litig., 311 F.3d 198, 216 (3d Cir. 2002). A complaint may not be dismissed, however, "for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted." Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014).

         A complainant must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has "substantive plausibility." Id. at 347. That plausibility must be found on the face of the complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the [complainant] pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the [accused] is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.


         Defendant moves for dismissal and contends that more than ninety days passed from Plaintiff's receipt of the right to sue letter and the filing of the Complaint and, therefore, she is time-barred from raising her Title VII claims. Defendant further argues that Plaintiff's claims are not saved by equitable tolling. Plaintiff responds that the Complaint was timely filed, relying upon the August 10, 2016 postmark of the mailing and the three-day rule set forth in former Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(e) ...

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