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Minnis v. City of Lewiston

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 28, 2014

STEVEN C. MINNIS, Plaintiff,


CANDY W. DALE, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are the Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 21) and Motion to Strike (Dkt. 28) filed by Defendant, the City of Lewiston, in connection with Plaintiff Steven C. Minnis's claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"). Both motions are before the undersigned pursuant to an order of reference entered by District Judge Edward J. Lodge on October 21, 2013. (Dkt. 29.) For reasons explained more fully below, the Court will recommend that summary judgment dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims be granted in favor of the City and that the motion to strike be denied as moot.


Plaintiff Steven C. Minnis is a former Division Chief in the Lewiston Fire Department. Minnis alleges that the City discriminated against him based on his race (Japanese and Caucasian) and his age (over 40 years). Specifically, Minnis claims the City violated federal law by: (1) subjecting Minnis to unusually harsh discipline for violations of the City's Internet/Email Policy in 2007; (2) terminating Minnis's employment in retaliation for Minnis's filing of an internal complaint against City Manager John Krauss in 2008; and (3) continuing to discriminate against Minnis by not rehiring him after the termination of his employment in 2009. (Compl., Dkt. 1.) Minnis also claims the City violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing under Idaho law by terminating his employment for impermissible reasons.

The City argues it is entitled to summary judgment on all of Minnis's claims. In particular, the City contends Minnis's federal claims are untimely and that Idaho law bars Minnis' implied covenant claim. In addition, the City moves to strike various materials Minnis included in his opposition to the City's motion for summary judgment. The Court heard oral argument on both motions on January 13, 2014, and these matters are ripe for review.


1. Motion for Summary Judgment

a. Standard for Summary Judgment

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure directs the Court to "grant summary judgment if the movant shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Critically, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Freecycle Sunnyvale v. Freecycle Network, 626 F.3d 509, 514 (9th Cir.2010) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of genuine issues of material fact. In re Oracle Corp. Secs. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir.2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). The moving party may carry this burden by introducing affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) or by simply pointing out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbanks v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir. 2000). Such a showing shifts the burden to the nonmoving party, who must produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in the nonmovant's favor. See id. The nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and show "by... affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file" that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

b. Undisputed Material Facts

The facts material to the City of Lewiston's Motion for Summary Judgment pertain to whether Minnis timely filed his Complaint, (Dkt. 1), and whether he complied with the Idaho Tort Claims Act before filing his state law claim against the City. Although the City also contests the timeliness of the administrative charges or complaints of discrimination Minnis filed with the Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the threshold issue is whether the Complaint was timely filed to preserve Minnis' rights under Title VII and the ADEA. Minnis pursues no claims under Idaho's antidiscrimination statute, Idaho Code Section 67-5901, et. seq., in his Complaint.

With regard to timeliness, there is no dispute that, following investigation of Minnis's administrative complaint by the IHRC, the EEOC adopted the IHRC's findings and mailed its Dismissal and Notice of Rights to Minnis's Lewiston post office box on March 15, 2012. (Hansen Aff. Ex. C, Dkt. 22-1 at 17.) This notice was mailed to the same post office box Minnis provided as his mailing address on the Charge of Discrimination he dual filed with the IHRC and EEOC. (Hansen Aff. Ex. A, Dkt. 22-1 at 1.) Upon request, counsel for Minnis received a copy of the Dismissal and Notice of Rights by fax from the EEOC on April 11, 2012. ( Id. at 16; Jensen Aff. ΒΆΒΆ 8-9, Dkt.24-6.) Minnis filed his Complaint on July 10, 2012-90 days after his counsel received the notice. (Dkt. 1.) There is no evidence in the record of whether or when Minnis personally, rather than through counsel, received the notice of suit rights from the EEOC.[1]

With regard to the Idaho Tort Claims Act, there is only one material fact. Minnis did not file a Notice of Tort Claim with the Lewiston City Clerk's Office before filing his claim against the City for breach of the implied ...

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