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Coleman v. Correct Care Solutions

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 28, 2014

RUTH C. COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, Medical Dept.; Douglas County Correction, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN M. GERRARD, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on remand from the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals for consideration of whether Plaintiff Ruth Coleman has stated a plausible race-discrimination claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. See Coleman v. Correct Care Solutions, 559 F.App'x 601 (8th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (holding that Coleman adequately raised a race-discrimination claim by attaching EEOC complaint containing race-discrimination allegations to her pleadings). For the reasons discussed below, the court finds that Coleman's pro se filings, taken together, state a plausible race-discrimination claim.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Summary of Complaint and Pre-Service Screening

Coleman filed her Complaint on March 12, 2013, alleging two former coworkers, Valarie Jass and Brenda Tacke, engaged in discriminatory conduct against her. (Filing No. 1.) Coleman is black, and she was 67 years old at the time she filed her Complaint. ( See Filing No. 9 at CM/ECF p. 5, charge of discrimination filed with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission.)

Coleman explained in her Complaint that, prior to the events leading to her filing this action, she fractured her foot and later developed severe pain in her hips. Coleman's injury resulted in her being late for work because she had to sit on ice packs each morning and take pain pills. Coleman always called the office to inform staff she would be 20 minutes late. Coleman alleged Jass "never said a word for months regarding [Coleman] being tardy." ( Id. at CM/ECF p. 3.)

In October 2010, Jass asked Coleman into her office for a meeting. Tacke was also present. During this meeting, Jass yelled at Coleman "about [her] tardiness and days missed." ( Id. at CM/ECF p. 4.) Jass allegedly made the following statements during her meeting with Coleman: (1) "That's why half the population are in jail now, for taking drugs!"; (2) "[Ma]ybe you can't even perform your duties on drugs."; and

(3) "Maybe you are too old [to] be working for this company anyway." ( Id. at CM/ECF p. 4.) Following the meeting, a coworker was consoling Coleman when Jass screamed at her to get to work and stop gossiping. Moments later, Jass asked Coleman to gather her belongings and leave the building. Coleman asked if she was fired, and Jass responded that she was not. ( Id. ) Coleman decided to retire in December 2010, though she had planned on working an additional one or two years. ( Id. at CM/ECF pp. 6-7.)

As relief, Coleman asked for Tacke "to be brought to court under oath and tell the truth. This being Valarie Jass made age discrimination remark to me!" ( Id. at CM/ECF p. 5.) Coleman also asked to be compensated by Correct Care Solutions because the incident with Jass forced her to retire. ( Id. )

In the portion of the civil complaint form asking for information pertaining to the court's jurisdiction, Coleman wrote: "I believe Valarie Jass is a racist, reason -two other employees she harassed till they quit (one in tears) were Black." ( Id. at CM/ECF p. 9.) It is worth noting that Coleman did not allege she is black in either her Complaint or Amended Complaint. This fact was not apparent until Coleman filed her charge of discrimination on October 18, 2013. ( See Filing No. 9.)

The court conducted a pre-service screening of Coleman's Complaint on August 8, 2013. ( See Filing No. 6.) The court construed the Complaint to raise only a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634. See Coleman, 559 F.App'x at 602. The court determined it could not tell whether Coleman had exhausted her administrative remedies or whether her claim was timely filed. Accordingly, the court ordered Coleman to either "file a copy of her right-to-sue notice" from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or "amend her complaint to allege that she filed suit within 90 days of her receipt of the right-to-sue notice." (Filing No. 6 at CM/ECF pp. 3-4.)

B. Summary of Amended Complaint and Show-Cause Order

Coleman filed an Amended Complaint on August 20, 2013, in which she substituted Correct Care Solutions as the defendant. (Filing No. 7.) Coleman generally repeated the allegations contained in her Complaint regarding her meeting with Jass, and Jass' subsequent request that Coleman leave the building. Coleman reiterated that she had been discriminated against on the basis of age.

On October 11, 2013, the court ordered Coleman to "show either that she filed suit within 90 days of receipt of a right-to-sue notice [from the EEOC], or that equitable or exceptional circumstances exist that warrant ...


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