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Thomas v. Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 4, 2015

Markeith C. Thomas, Plaintiff,
v.
Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc. d/b/a Hennepin County Medical Center, Defendant.

Stephen M. Thompson, Esq., Friederichs & Thompson, PA, Bloomington, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

Martin D. Munic, Esq., Hennepin County Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On January 5, 2015, the undersigned United States District Judge heard oral argument on Defendant Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc.'s d/b/a Hennepin County Medical Center ("HCMC") Motion to Dismiss [Docket No. 22]. Plaintiff Markeith Thomas ("Thomas") opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below, HCMS's motion is denied.

II. BACKGROUND

Thomas, a Black American, commenced this action pro se on June 9, 2014, alleging workplace discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et. seq., occurring between August 18, 2011 and November 5, 2013. Compl. [Docket No. 1] ¶¶ 3, 5, 8, 9. Thomas alleges he was subjected to a hostile work environment as a Protection Officer at HCMC. Id . ¶ 3. Thomas additionally alleges he experienced sexual harassment, retaliation and disparate treatment, which resulted in diagnosed anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Id.

The pro se complaint sets forward seven paragraphs of factual basis for his claims. Id . ¶ 10. Five of the paragraphs identify instances of potentially actionable conduct occasioned by HCMC employees to other HCMC employees or visitors that Thomas witnessed, but not to Thomas himself. Id . The remaining two paragraphs do allege conduct that Thomas experienced firsthand. Id . Specifically, Thomas alleges he "[w]itnessed Jacob Barker talk down to black minority patients. Including myself" and "[w]as sexually harassed in August 2011 by Officer Gregg Hanson who was later promoted to supervisor."[1] Id.

On June 12, 2014, Magistrate Judge Graham referred the matter to the Federal Bar Association's Pro Se Project [Docket No. 4]. Over a month later, on July 15, 2014, and still acting pro se, Thomas filed an Amended Complaint [Docket No. 8] ("First Amended Complaint"). The First Amended Complaint restates his claims on the same form Thomas used previously; however, the First Amended Complaint replaces the previously attached documents with a series of new documents. Roughly three weeks after HCMC filed an Answer [Docket No. 10], attorney Tammy P. Friederichs filed a Notice of Appearance on behalf of Plaintiff Thomas [Docket No. 13]. Pursuant to a Stipulation [Docket No. 18], another Amended Complaint [Docket No. 21] ("Second Amended Complaint") was filed on October 27, 2014. The Second Amended Complaint was drafted by Thomas' attorney.

The Second Amended Complaint alleges discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and reprisal under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act ("MHRA"). Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19-35. It is alleged that when Thomas began working for HCMC as a Protection Officer on January 5, 2009, he was subjected to race discrimination and was treated differently than Caucasian Protection Officers. Id . ¶¶ 11, 13. The discrimination included derogatory racial comments and slurs that targeted and ridiculed Blacks. Id . ¶ 14. In retaliation for opposing and reporting the discrimination-which included formal complaints, grievances and a charge with the EEOC-Thomas alleges he was subjected to adverse working conditions that created a hostile work environment resulting in forced medical leaves of absences. Id . ¶¶ 15, 16.

In the Spring of 2014, Thomas' request for a reasonable accommodation was approved and Thomas began working as a Food Service Worker on April 7, 2014. Compl. attach. 1 at 26. Shortly thereafter, on June 23, 2014, Thomas tendered a notice of resignation, effective July 7, 2014. Munic Aff. [Docket No. 25] Ex. C. Thomas alleges his resignation was involuntary and amounts to constructive termination. This suit followed.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard of Review

Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party may move to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the pleadings are construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and the facts alleged in the complaint must be taken as true. Hamm v. Groose, 15 F.3d 110, 112 (8th Cir. 1994); Ossman v. Diana Corp., 825 F.Supp. 870, 879-80 (D. Minn. 1993). Any ...


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