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Dahir v. UPS Mail Innovations, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 18, 2017

Abdullahi Dahir and Abdifatah Hassan, Plaintiffs,
v.
UPS Mail Innovations, Inc., and Doherty Staffing Solutions, Inc., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings. For the following reasons, Defendant UPS Mail Innovations, Inc.'s Motion is granted and Defendant Doherty Staffing Solutions, Inc.'s Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Abdullahi Dahir and Abdifatah Hassan were employees of Doherty, a temporary employment agency. In May and June of 2014, Doherty assigned them to work for UPS at its facility in Mendota Heights. For purposes of the events giving rise to this lawsuit, Dahir began work on June 22, 2014, although he had worked at the facility multiple times before that date. (2d Am. Compl. (Docket No. 63) ¶ 15.) Hassan started on May 12, 2014. (Id.) Plaintiffs are Muslim, and at the beginning of their time with UPS they were allowed to pray during the workday. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiffs also allege that “Defendant UPS was Plaintiffs' co-employer.” (Id. ¶¶ 2, 4.)

         In May 2014, UPS named a new operations manager for the Mendota Heights facility, Scott Klein. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiffs contend that Klein was hostile to Muslims and that he “instructed Doherty employee Mark Richsmann to do the same.” (Id.) Plaintiffs do not explain who Richsmann is or what role he had at the UPS facility. At an unspecified date in June 2014, Klein and Richsmann allegedly “eliminated the ability for workers to choose their break times and said prayers would not be allowed outside fixed breaks.” (Id. ¶ 20.) On June 14, 2014, after the new break policy was announced, Klein held a meeting with all employees. (Id. ¶ 21.) A Muslim employee raised the issue of the required Muslim prayers; Klein then asked all Muslim employees to raise their hands if they needed to pray. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that they raised their hands, but according to their own allegations, Dahir was not working at UPS at the time of the meeting. After the employees raised their hands, Klein said that “he wanted to replace all of the employees who had raised their hands.” (Id.) Plaintiffs continued to pray after this meeting. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         Three days later, two Muslim employees who asked to pray were fired. (Id. ¶ 23.) Other Muslim employees started to leave, but Richsmann allowed prayer breaks that day. (Id.) On June 25, Richsmann told Plaintiffs that if they wanted to pray, they should go home. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiffs contend that this constituted firing them from their jobs. (Id. ¶ 24.)

         On June 26, Plaintiffs met with Doherty manager Bridget Gogolin and asked to be able to pray and to continue working at UPS. (Id. ¶ 26.) The Second Amended Complaint does not describe the outcome of this meeting, or whether Plaintiffs returned to UPS or did other work for Doherty thereafter.

         Plaintiffs, with the assistance of present counsel, filed a religious discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2015, which was cross-filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Plaintiffs amended that charge in May 2015 to include an allegation that they suffered retaliation. (Erickson Decl. (Docket No. 31) Exs. 2, 3.) The EEOC dismissed the charge and issued Plaintiffs right-to-sue letters. (Am. Compl. ¶ 28.) The MDHR issued right-to-sue letters for UPS after Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, but as of the filing of this Motion had not issued any right-to-sue letters as to Doherty. (Id. ¶ 30.) At the motion hearing, counsel made reference to MDHR letters issuing as of early November. Those letters are not in the record before the Court.

         The Second Amended Complaint raises six counts. Count 1 contends that UPS and Doherty failed to accommodate Plaintiffs' religious beliefs in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Count 2 asserts discrimination based on religion in violation of the MHRA. Count 3 raises a religious-accommodation claim under Title VII, and Count 4 raises religious discrimination under Title VII. Count 5 claims retaliation in violation of the MHRA, and Count 6 claims retaliation under Title VII.

         DISCUSSION

         The Court evaluates a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) using the same standards as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Ginsburg v. InBev NV/SA, 623 F.3d 1229, 1233 n.3 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Thus, the Court must assume the facts in the Complaint to be true and construe all reasonable inferences from those facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). The Court need not accept as true wholly conclusory allegations, Hanten v. Sch. Dist. of Riverview Gardens, 183 F.3d 799, 805 (8th Cir. 1999), or legal conclusions that the plaintiff draws from the facts pled. Westcott v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990).

         But a complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). Although a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” it must contain facts with enough specificity “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” will not pass muster under Twombly. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This standard “calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the claim].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         Defendants seek dismissal of the Second Amended Complaint on several grounds. With respect to Counts 5 and 6, they note that Plaintiffs' initial discrimination charge did not raise retaliation as an element of the charge. Plaintiffs amended their charge several weeks after filing it, and although Plaintiffs' amended charge checked the “retaliation/reprisal” box, Plaintiffs did not add any facts regarding the alleged retaliation. Defendants ask that Counts 5 and 6 be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

         In the alternative, Defendants argue that the retaliation claims fail to state a claim on which relief can be granted because requesting an accommodation is not protected activity. Defendants also argue that the retaliation claims are time-barred because they were not added to Plaintiffs' ...


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