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Shields v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 6, 2017

MIA M. SHIELDS Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant.

          ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Craig B. Shaffer United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter comes before the court on Defendant United States Postal Service's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (doc. #48), filed on September 11, 2017. The Postal Service argues that Ms. Shield's Third Amended Complaint must be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for relief under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1). Ms. Shields filed a Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (doc. #49) on September 13, 2017, and then a Motion to Oppose the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Third Amended Complaint (doc. #51) on September 20, 2017. The Postal Service declined to file a reply brief on September 19, 2017. The pending motion is fully briefed and ready for decision.

         The parties consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(a) and D.C.COLO.LCivR 40.1(c) on December 12, 2016. This case was formally referred to this magistrate judge on February 13, 2017. The court has reviewed Defendant's brief and Plaintiff's multiple responses.[1] I have also carefully considered the entire court file and the case law cited by the parties. For the following reasons, I conclude that Ms. Shields' claim under the Equal Pay Act is barred by the statute of limitations and must be denied.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Ms. Shields commenced this action on October 11, 2016 with the filing of her original Complaint (doc. #1). That pleading asserted claims under the Family Medical Leave Act (29 U.S.C. § 2601-54), the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12111 et seq.), and the Rehabilitation Act 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.) against the United States Postal Service and the Office of Workers Compensation Program (OWCP). Plaintiff's Complaint sought her return to the Postal Service with reasonable accommodations, the payment of back pay pursuant to the FMLA, and compensation from the OWCP for her occupational disease/injury. On October 26, 2016, Ms. Shields filed a First Amended Complaint (doc. #8) which asserted claims for wrongful termination and FMLA discrimination against the Postal Service.

         On April 18, 2017, Ms. Shields filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint (doc. #39) for the purpose of adding claims for age and wage discrimination because a member of management called her “old and slow moving on numerous occasions in front of co-workers” and because the Postal Service refused to sign paperwork requesting her “pay rate and employment verification.” Ms. Shields also indicated that she wished to add a claim for “race discrimination because if [she] was a Caucasion (sic) employee [she] would have received those benefits.” Unfortunately, Ms. Shields did not comply with Local Rule 15.1(b), D.C.COLO.LCivR 15.1(b), by attaching a proposed second amended complaint to her motion. On April 28, 2017, this court denied Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint, but allowed Ms. Shields to file a new motion to amend with an attached proposed amended complaint by June 2, 2017.

         On June 1, 2017, Ms. Shields filed an EPA Equal Pay Act Complaint (doc. #41). This Second Amended Complaint Complaint sought to assert a claim under the Equal Pay Act based upon the Postal Service's failure to properly pay Ms. Shields what employees of the opposite sex were receiving and “to collect back wages due to employees as a result of such unlawful payments.” On June 14, 2017, the Postal Service filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State A Claim (doc. #43). Ms. Shields filed an Opposition to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (doc. #44) on June 16, 2017. This court dismissed Ms. Shields' Second Amended Complaint on August 18, 2017, after concluding that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint presented “a somewhat contradictory non-chronological narrative that is randomly interspersed with conclusions and accusations toward parties not part of this case.” Although the court gave Plaintiff one more chance to file a third amended complaint, Ms. Shields was told that she did not have an unlimited right to amend her pleadings or allege new claims.

         Ms. Shields filed her Third Amended Complaint Equal Pay Act Violation (doc. #47) on August 29, 2107. This pleading alleges that the Postal Service violated 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1) of the Equal Pay Act by compensating Ms. Shields at a rate of pay substantially lower than the rates of pay offered to the opposite sex.[2] The Postal Service again moves to dismiss this lawsuit, arguing that the Third Amended Complaint still fails to allege facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”

         ANALYSIS

         Rule 12(b)(6) states that a court may dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must “accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations . . . and view these allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Casanova v. Ulibarri, 595 F.3d 1120, 1124 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009)). However, a plaintiff may not rely on mere labels or conclusions, “and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         To withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. As the Tenth Circuit explained in Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007), “the mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.” “The burden is on the plaintiff to frame ‘a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' that he or she is entitled to relief.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint must set forth sufficient facts to elevate a claim above the level of mere speculation. Id. “Nevertheless, the standard remains a liberal one, Shields' one claim under the Equal Pay Act.

         and ‘a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of these facts is improbable and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Jordan v. Cooley, No. 13-cv-01650-REB-MJW, 2014 WL 923279, at *1 (D. Colo. March 10, 2014) (quoting Dias v. City and County of Denver, 567 F.3d 1169, 1178 (10th Cir. 2009)).

         While pro se pleadings should be "construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal proceedings drafted by lawyers, " Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991), a pro se plaintiff is still required to provide a simple and concise statement of her claims and the specific conduct that gives rise to each asserted claim. This court cannot be a pro se litigant's advocate. Id. Just as importantly, the court may not assume that a plaintiff can prove facts that have not been alleged, or that a defendant has violated laws in ways that a plaintiff has not asserted. Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

         A complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim for relief if the allegations in the complaint show that relief is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007). Cf. Brooks v. City of Winston-Salem, 85 F.3d 178, 181 (4th Cir. 1996) (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357, at 352 (1990), “‘[a] complaint showing that the statute of limitations has run on the claim is the ...


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