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Evans v. Staples, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 22, 2019

MARJORIE Y. EVANS, Plaintiff,
v.
STAPLES, INC. and JESSICA DAGG, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOCKET NO. 19)

          TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Marjorie Y. Evans (“Plaintiff”) brought this action against Staples Contract & Commercial LLC (“Staples”) and Jessica Dagg (“Ms. Dagg”) (collectively “Defendants”) asserting that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B and Title VII.[1] Defendants moved to dismiss all claims for insufficient service of process and, alternatively, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Docket No. 19). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         The factual background is taken from Plaintiff's Complaint, the attached documents, and relevant public records. Foley v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 772 F.3d 63, 68 (1st Cir. 2014) (citations omitted).

         On April 13, 2015, Kforce Professional Staffing (“Kforce”) placed Plaintiff in a temporary assignment with Staples to assist Ms. Dagg's project team with clean-up of procurement databases. According to Plaintiff, this assignment was meant to end in August 2015. Plaintiff was initially interviewed for the position over the phone by Ms. Dagg. When she began her employment, and Ms. Dagg learned Plaintiff's race, Plaintiff was placed at a “countertop space” to work with the only other person of color in the office even though there were several cubicles available. She was assured this was only a temporary arraignment, but it did not change. For the duration of her employment, Plaintiff was largely ignored. Ms. Dagg did not respond to her emails which contained inquiries about the position and its responsibilities. In addition, Ms. Dagg did not assign Plaintiff any work. On May 22, 2015, Ms. Dagg terminated Plaintiff's contract, purportedly due to her lack of technical skills. Plaintiff believes these reasons were pretextual and that she was in fact treated differently and fired because of her race.

         Plaintiff brought her claim to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”) which found lack of probable cause. (Docket No. 1-1 at 65-67). Plaintiff appealed, and the finding of lack of probable cause was affirmed. Id. at 69. On March 16, 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission adopted the findings of the MCAD and issued a right-to-sue letter. Id. at 70. Plaintiff alleges the MCAD either ignored or did not receive information that she provided to support her claims.

         Legal Standard

         1. 12(b)(5)

         Rule 12(b)(5) empowers courts to dismiss a complaint for insufficient service of process. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5). Rule 4(m) governs the timing of service. It provides in relevant part:

If a defendant is not served within 90 days after the complaint is filed, the court- on motion or on its own after notice to the plaintiff-must dismiss the action without prejudice against that defendant or order that service be made within a specified time. But if the plaintiff shows good cause for the failure, the court must extend the time for service for an appropriate period.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m).

         When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of process under Rule 12(b)(5), the plaintiff has “the burden of proving proper service.” Lopez v. Municipality of Dorado, 979 F.2d 885, 887 (1st Cir. 1992). When it has been established that service was not timely, the Court “must determine whether the plaintiff has met its burden of establishing ‘good cause' for the untimely service.” United States v. Tobins, 483 F.Supp.2d 68, 77 (D. Mass. 2007) (citations omitted). The “court must extend the time for service of process if there is good cause shown for the delay.” Riverdale Mills Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Transp. Fed. Aviation Admin., 225 F.R.D. 393, 395 (D. Mass. 2005). “The mere fact that a plaintiff is pro se, however, is not automatically enough to constitute good cause for purposes of Rule 4(m).” Ayele v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 2018 WL 6001021, at *3 (D. Mass. Nov. 15, 2018). In addition, “if there is no good cause, the court has the discretion to dismiss without prejudice or to extend the time period.” Tobins, 483 F.Supp.2d at 77 (quoting In re Sheehan, 253 F.3d 507, 512 (9th Cir. 2001)).

         2. 12(b)(6)

         A defendant may move to dismiss, based solely on the complaint, for the plaintiff's “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege “a plausible entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 559, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). Although detailed factual allegations are not necessary to survive a motion to dismiss, the standard “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. “The relevant inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of ...


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