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Stamper v. Duval County School Board

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

July 18, 2017

TYQUISHA M. STAMPER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DUVAL COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 3:13-cv-00079-BJD-JRK

          Before ED CARNES, Chief Judge, WILLIAM PRYOR, Circuit Judge, and MOORE, [*] District Judge.

          WILLIAM PRYOR, Circuit Judge:

         This appeal requires us to decide whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission revived an employee's claim of discrimination- otherwise barred by the statute of limitations-when it vacated a two-year-old dismissal of the employee's administrative charge and the Department of Justice issued the employee a new notice of the right to sue her employer. If the Commission cannot, we must also decide whether the employee's mental health condition equitably tolled the limitations period for her claim of discrimination. In 2007, Tyquisha Stamper filed with the Commission a charge of race and disability discrimination against her employer, the Duval County School Board, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2, 12112. In 2009, the Commission dismissed Stamper's charge and provided her notice of her right to sue the Board within 90 days, but Stamper failed to file suit within that period. In 2011, she filed a request for reconsideration with the Commission, which then vacated the dismissal of her first charge. The Department of Justice later granted Stamper's request for a new notice of her right to sue about the same allegations of discrimination, and she filed suit within 90 days of the second notice. But the district court dismissed Stamper's complaint as untimely because she failed to file it within 90 days of receiving the first notice of her right to sue and failed to establish that she was entitled to equitable tolling of the limitations period. Because the Commission lacked the authority to issue the second notice of the right to sue and Stamper failed to establish she was entitled to equitable tolling, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2007, Stamper filed with the Commission a charge of race and disability discrimination against the Board. On February 26, 2009, the Commission dismissed her charge because it could not "conclude that the information obtained [in its investigation] establishe[d] violations of the statutes." The Commission also provided Stamper notice that she could file a lawsuit against the Board based on the conduct alleged in her charge within 90 days of her receipt of the notice. Stamper failed to file suit within that period.

         More than two years later, on July 19, 2011, Stamper filed a request for reconsideration with the Commission. On December 15, 2011, the Commission sent Stamper a "Notice of Revocation" that "vacate[d] th[e] dismissal [of Stamper's first charge] and revoke[d] the letter terminating processing of th[at] charge." The Commission stated that it issued the notice under a regulation that permits the Commission to reconsider a decision to dismiss a charge. See 29 C.F.R. § 1601.19(b).

         Stamper then filed a second charge against the Board based on the same allegations in her first charge, and she requested another notice of her right to sue, which the Department of Justice sent her on November 5, 2012. The Department of Justice, instead of the Commission, issued the second notice of Stamper's right to sue based on a regulation that requires that the Attorney General issue the notice of the right to sue when a party files a charge against a government, governmental agency, or political subdivision and requests a notice of the right to sue. See 29 C.F.R. § 1601.28(d)(2). Whether the Commission or the Department of Justice issued the second notice of the right to sue makes no difference in this appeal.

         On January 18, 2013, Stamper filed a pro se complaint against the Board that alleged that it had discriminated against her on the basis of race and disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, id. § 12111, et seq., and caused her to develop catatonic schizophrenia. The Board moved to dismiss the complaint as untimely because Stamper failed to sue within 90 days of receiving the first notice of her right to sue. The district court agreed that Stamper's complaint was untimely, but denied the motion to dismiss without prejudice to permit limited discovery about whether equitable tolling was warranted. After discovery, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Board. It found that Stamper could have pursued her lawsuit within the original 90-day period, and even if she could not have done so, she failed to justify her more than three-year delay in filing suit.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "This Court reviews de novo summary judgment rulings and draws all inferences and reviews all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Craig v. Floyd Cty., 643 F.3d 1306, 1309 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Moton v. Cowart, 631 F.3d 1337, 1341 (11th Cir. 2011)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         We divide our discussion in two parts. First, we explain that Stamper's complaint is untimely because the second notice of her right to sue-issued after her original limitations period expired-failed to revive the limitations period. Second, we explain that Stamper failed to establish that she is entitled to equitable tolling based on her psychiatric condition.

         A. Stamper's ...


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