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Goss v. Stream Global Services, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

March 19, 2015

MARIO GOSS, Plaintiff,


MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.

In this employment discrimination lawsuit brought pro se, the plaintiff-employee alleges, inter alia, that his former employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq ., by subjecting him to a hostile work environment as a result of a single racist joke being told on his first day of training. The plaintiff-employee further alleges that the hostile work environment resulted in his constructive discharge. The employer has moved to dismiss all counts for failure to state a claim.


A. Factual Background

"When ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). Thus, the factual background presented here is based on Goss's allegations in his Complaint.

Goss worked for Stream Global Services, Inc. ("Stream") from December 3, 2012, to May 6, 2013. Goss is African-American of "Alkebulan national origin."[1] Complaint at 2. On his first day of work, December 3, 2012, during a training class, Heather Bronkhorst, a Stream manager or supervisor, walked in and stated: "What do you call four black people driving off a cliff?' The punchline My friends.'" Complaint at 3. Goss found the joke unwelcome. He was "afraid, confused and frustrated" by it and "[t]his created an instant extreme hostile and intolerable work environment." Complaint at 3. Bronkhorst's motivation for the joke was Goss's race, color, and national origin. Goss later found "out I had the option to Constructive Discharge which I did in honor of the law." Complaint at 3. Thus, as a result of the joke, "on 5/6/13 I was constructively discharged by myself." Complaint at 7.

B. Procedural Background

Goss subsequently filed a timely pro se Complaint alleging he was subjected to a hostile work environment because of his race, color, and national origin, resulting in his constructive discharge and breach of contract, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq ., 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Goss seeks back pay, 60 years of front pay, and $18 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Stream has filed a motion to dismiss all of Goss's claims, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim. Goss filed a response in opposition to Stream's motion to dismiss. Stream filed a reply to Goss's response.


A. Standards For A Motion To Dismiss

Stream seeks dismissal of all claims against it pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which authorizes a pre-answer motion to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). As the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained,

We review de novo the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss, accepting as true all factual allegations in the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Palmer v. Ill. Farmers Ins. Co., 666 F.3d 1081, 1083 (8th Cir. 2012); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). "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, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

Richter v. Advance Auto Parts, Inc., 686 F.3d 847, 850 (8th Cir. 2012); accord Freitas v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 703 F.3d 436, 438 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Richter, 686 F.3d at 850); Whitney v. Guys, Inc., 700 F.3d 1118, 1128 (8th Cir. 2012) (stating the same standards).

Courts consider "plausibility" under this Twom-bal standard[2] by "draw[ing] on [their own] judicial experience and common sense.'" Whitney, 700 F.3d at 1128 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Also, courts must "review the plausibility of the plaintiff's claim as a whole, not the plausibility of each individual allegation.'" Id. (quoting Zoltek Corp. v. Structural Polymer Grp., 592 F.3d 893, 896 n.4 (8th Cir. 2010)). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused, at the pleading stage, "to incorporate some general and formal level of evidentiary proof into the plausibility' requirement of Iqbal and Twombly ." Id . Nevertheless, the question "is not whether [the pleader] might at some later stage be able to prove [facts alleged]; the question is whether [it] has adequately asserted facts (as contrasted with naked legal conclusions) to support [its] claims." Id . at 1129. Thus,

[w]hile this court must "accept as true all facts pleaded by the non-moving party and grant all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the non-moving party, " United States v. Any & All Radio Station Transmission Equip ., 207 F.3d 458, 462 (8th Cir. 2000), "[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (quoting [ Bell Atl. Corp. v.] Twombly, 550 U.S. [544, ] 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 [(2007)]).

Gallagher v. City of Clayton, 699 F.3d 1013, 1016 (8th Cir. 2012); Whitney, 700 F.3d at 1128 (stating the same standards).

In assessing "plausibility, " as required under the Twom-bal standard, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that courts "consider[ ] only the materials that are necessarily embraced by the pleadings and exhibits attached to the complaint, '" Whitney, 700 F.3d at 1128 (quoting Mattes v. ABC Plastics, Inc., 323 F.3d 695, 697 n.4 (8th Cir. 2003)), and "materials that are part of the public record or do not contradict the complaint.'" Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Lab., Inc., 688 F.3d 928, 931 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999), and citing Illig v. Union Elec. Co., 652 F.3d 971, 976 (8th Cir. 2011)). A more complete list of the matters outside of the pleadings that the court may consider, without converting a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss into a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 12(d), includes "matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, ...

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