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EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION v. BAY RIDGE TOYOTA

July 15, 2004.

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
BAY RIDGE TOYOTA, INC. Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: I. LEO GLASSER, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

This motion to strike several of defendant's affirmative defenses arises out of a lawsuit brought by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC," "the Commission," or "plaintiff"), against Bay Ridge Toyota, Inc. ("Bay Ridge Toyota" or "defendant"), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1) ("Title VII"). For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

  In 2000, Maria Andujar ("Andujar"), a former employee of Bay Ridge Toyota, filed a charge of discrimination with EEOC against defendant, alleging sexual harassment by one of defendant's managers. (Pl. Mem. Ex. 2, Complaint ¶ 7.) After an investigation, EEOC determined that there was reasonable cause to find that Andujar had been sexually harassed. (Id.) In January 2001, EEOC, Andujar, and defendant entered into a pre-litigation Conciliation Agreement ("Conciliation Agreement") that resolved the charge of discrimination. (See Pl. Mem. Ex. 1, Conciliation Agreement.) The Conciliation Agreement is captioned "In the Matter of EEOC and Charging Party: Maria Andujar . . . [and] Respondent: Bay Ridge Toyota." (Id. at 1.) Pursuant to the Conciliation Agreement, defendant agreed to, inter alia, cease discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII, train employees and management on federal laws prohibiting discrimination, and provide EEOC with proof of the training. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.) By entering into the Conciliation Agreement, defendant did not "admit any wrongdoing or violation of law in regard to the claims raised by Charging Parties." (Id. ¶ 2.) Although the Conciliation Agreement states that its terms "shall not be made public by [EEOC], its officers or employees," (Id. ¶ 20), it explicitly provides that it "may be specially enforced in court and may be used as evidence in a later proceeding in which any of the parties allege a breach of this Agreement" (Id. ¶ 21).

  On April 16, 2002, Gladys Evdaev ("Evdaev"), another former employee of Bay Ridge Toyota, filed a charge with EEOC against defendant, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation by the same manager named in Andujar's charge. (Compl. ¶ 8.) EEOC determined that there was reasonable cause to find that defendant had sexually harassed Evdaev and that defendant had failed to comply with the terms of the Andujar Conciliation Agreement. (Id.) EEOC attempted conciliation on the Evdaev charge, which defendant declined. (Id.) In 2003, defendant and Evdaev entered into a private settlement of her charge. (See Carey Affirm. Ex. A.)

  On November 14, 2003, EEOC filed this lawsuit against defendant, alleging that, based on the Evdaev charge, defendant had breached the terms of the Andujar Conciliation Agreement. (See Compl.) The complaint seeks permanent injunctive relief compelling defendant to correct unlawful employment actions that violate Title VII (Id. at A-B.), and to order defendants to institute policies providing equal employment opportunities for women. (Id. at C-D.) The complaint further asks the Court to compel defendant's specific performance of the Andujar Conciliation Agreement.

  Defendant's Answer contains a number of affirmative defenses and counterclaims, including the following: EEOC lacks standing and statutory authority to enforce the Conciliation Agreement; this case does not arise under Title VII; this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction; plaintiff is barred by the doctrine of unclean hands; and EEOC has no authority to bring this lawsuit based on the Evdaev charge of discrimination because she and defendant entered into a private settlement. (See Pl. Mem. Ex. 3, Answer.) Plaintiff has now moved this Court to strike as legally insufficient paragraph one of defendant's Answer and the first, second, third, fifth, sixth, ninth, thirteenth, fifteenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth separate defenses.

  DISCUSSION

  I. Legal Standard

  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) allows the court upon a proper motion or its own initiative to "order stricken from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." In particular, "a defense should be struck when it is clearly irrelevant and frivolous and its removal from the case would avoid wasting unnecessary time and money litigating the invalid defense." SEC v. Electronics Warehouse, Inc., 689 F. Supp. 53, 73 (D. Conn. 1988), aff'd, 891 F.2d 457 (2d Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 496 U.S. 942 (1990) (citations omitted). Resolution of a Rule 12(f) motion is left to the district court's discretion. Fiore v. McDonald's Corp., 1996 WL 331090, at *12 (E.D.N.Y. June 12, 1996) (Glasser, J.). The Second Circuit, however, has warned that courts should exercise this discretion with caution: A motion to strike an affirmative defense under Rule 12(f), Fed.R.Civ.P. for legal insufficiency is not favored and will not be granted unless it appears to a certainty that plaintiffs would succeed despite any state of the facts which could be proved in support of the defense. Moreover, even when the facts are not disputed, several courts have noted that a motion to strike for insufficiency was never intended to furnish an opportunity for the determination of disputed and substantial questions of law. This is particularly so when, as here, there has been no significant discovery.

 Salcer v. Envicon Equities Corp., 744 F.2d 935, 939 (2d Cir. 1984), vacated on other grounds, 478 U.S. 1015 (1986) (district court erred in striking affirmative defenses where further facts were needed to resolve the issue in the case); Lennon v. Seaman, 63 F. Supp.2d 428, 446 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (motions to strike "are not favored and will not be granted unless it is clear that the allegations in question can have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the litigation").

  "The general policy is that the pleadings should be treated liberally, and that a party should have the opportunity to support his contentions at trial." Bennett v. Spoor Behrins Campbell & Young, Inc., 124 F.R.D. 562, 563 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). Therefore, in order to prevail on a motion to strike a defense for legal insufficiency, a plaintiff must show that (1) there is no question of fact which might allow the defense to succeed; (2) there is no question of law which might allow the defense to succeed; and (3) the plaintiff would be prejudiced by inclusion of the defense. SEC v. McCaskey, 56 F. Supp.2d 323, 326 (S.D.N.Y. 1999).

  II. Subject Matter Jurisdiction over Enforcement of EEOC Title VII Conciliation Agreement

  Because a motion to strike a defense pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 12(f) requires the Court to determine whether there are any disputed questions of law or fact that would allow the defense to succeed, it is necessary to examine the statutory framework governing Title VII conciliation agreements. As explained by the court in Eatmon v. Bristol Steel & Iron Works, Inc., 769 F.2d 1503, 1509 (11th Cir. 1985):
Typically, an employee who believes he has been discriminated against by his employer and wants to do something about it must file charges with the EEOC. When a charge against an employer is filed, the Commission is required to . . . investigate the charge. . . . If the EEOC determines there is reasonable cause, it must initially attempt to eliminate the alleged unlawful employment practice through conciliation and persuasion. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b). Should the EEOC not secure an acceptable conciliation agreement from the employer within thirty days after the charge is filed, it may bring a Title VII action against the employer in a United States District Court. Id. § 2000e-5(f)(1).
In the case of Maria Andujar, EEOC was successful in securing a conciliation agreement (see Pl. Mem. Ex. 1, Conciliation Agreement), a "voluntary contract[] containing terms upon which the employer, the employee, and the EEOC ...

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