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Kucuk v. Central Washington University

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

March 30, 2018

SELIM UMIT KUCUK, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTRAL WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          JAMES L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is Defendant Central Washington University's (“CWU”) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss pro se Plaintiff Selim Umit Kucuk's amended complaint. (2d MTD (Dkt. # 20); see also FAC (Dkt. # 19).) Dr. Kucuk opposes the motion. (Resp. (Dkt. # 21).) The court has reviewed the motion, all submissions filed in support of and opposition to the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1] the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part CWU's motion. The court also DENIES Dr. Kukuk leave to amend his amended complaint.

         II. BACKGROUND[2]

         Dr. Kucuk is Turkish-American and a naturalized citizen of the United States. (FAC ¶¶ 11, 18.) He is a former CWU employee who worked as a full-time faculty member from 2009-2011. (Id. ¶ 18.) Dr. Kucuk received his doctoral degree from Hacettepe University in Turkey in 2001. (Id. ¶ 19.) In the spring of 2011, Dr. Kucuk applied for a “Tenure-Track Assistant Professor of Marketing faculty position, ” but CWU denied his application. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 23.) Both the Dean and Department Chair of CWU's College of Business informed Dr. Kucuk that CWU denied his application because his doctoral degree was not from an Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (“AACSB”)-accredited university. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) CWU lists a terminal degree from an AACSB-accredited university as a minimum requirement for all tenure-track faculty. (Id. ¶ 26, Ex. II at 1-2.) This requirement has been in place for 10 to 12 years. (Id., Ex. II at 2.) CWU hired Terry Wilson, an American-born Caucasian, for the 2015 tenure-track position. (Id. ¶ 27.)

         In April 2011, Dr. Kucuk appealed CWU's decision to deny his application to CWU's Ombudsman. (Id. ¶ 30.) CWU's Office for Equal Opportunity (“OEE”) conducted an investigation and concluded that the “decisions made during the 2011 search for a tenure-track faculty member in Marketing were fair.” (Id. Ex. VII at 3.) In evaluating Dr. Kucuk's complaint, the Director of the OEE also stated that “CWU has had a terminal degree from an AACSB-accredited institution as a minimum qualification for tenure-track faculty in all cases.” (Id. Ex. VII at 1.) He also stated that “this minimum qualification[] has been in place” for 10-12 years. (Id., Ex. VII at 2.)

         Later in 2011, CWU did not renew Dr. Kucuk's full-time lecturer contract, and he has not worked at CWU since that time. (Id. ¶ 55.) In 2011, Dr. Kucuk filed a discrimination claim against CWU with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Compl. (Dkt. # 3) at 7-8.) The EEOC closed his 2011 complaint in 2013. (See Id. at 8.)

         In 2015, Dr. Kucuk applied for a vacant “Tenure-Track Assistant/Associate Professor of Marketing position” at CWU's satellite campus in Des Moines, Washington. (Id. ¶ 33.) CWU again declined to hire Dr. Kucuk, citing the AACSB-accreditation requirement as its reason. (Id. ¶ 35.) In 2015, Dr. Kucuk filed another discrimination claim against CWU with the EEOC. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 36.) His 2015 charge led to the current action, which he timely filed in this court on August 21, 2017 (see IFP App. (Dkt. # 1); Compl.), after the EEOC issued his May 24, 2017, “right to sue” letter (see FAC ¶ 16; Compl. at 9, Ex. 10 at 2); see also 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1).

         Dr. Kucuk alleges that, despite CWU's claim that it does not hire candidates for tenure-track Assistant/Associate Professor positions in Marketing without a doctoral degree from an AACSB-accredited institution, CWU hires candidates who are of “American descent” without such degrees for similar positions. (Id. ¶ 28.) As an example, Dr. Kucuk alleges that CWU hired Ronald D. Elkins, who is “an American born Caucasian, ” for an Assistant Professor position despite the fact that he does not have a doctoral degree from an AACSB-accredited institution. (Id. ¶ 29.) Dr. Kucuk also alleges that at CWU's campus in Ellensburg, Washington, “there is no faculty within the Accounting [D]epartment that is [an] international person and/or [of] minority descent.” (Id. ¶ 37.) He further alleges that “only 15% of the faculty within the Economics [D]epartment is international, ” “20% of the faculty within the Finance and Supply Chain Management are international, ” and “95% of Management (and 100% of Marketing faculty) is made up of American born citizens.” (Id.) The court takes judicial notice of the fact that CWU's College of Business consists of four departments: (1) Accounting, (2) Economics, (3) Finance & Supply Chain, and (4) Management & Marketing. See http://www.cwu.edu/business/ (last visited Mar. 27, 2018).[3]

         In his original complaint, Dr. Kucuk alleged three claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including: (1) discriminatory treatment, (2) disparate impact, and (3) retaliation. (See generally Compl.) On October 4, 2017, CWU filed a motion to dismiss Dr. Kucuk's complaint. (1st MTD (Dkt. # 7).) On November 30, 2017, the court granted CWU's motion and dismissed Dr. Kucuk's complaint but with leave to amend his disparate impact and retaliation claims. (11/30/17 Order (Dkt. # 17).) On December 18, 2017, Dr. Kucuk filed an amended complaint (see FAC), which CWU moves to dismiss Dr. Kucuk's amended complaint (see 2d MTD). The court now considers CWU's motion.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, a complaint must include “more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In other words, a complaint must have sufficient factual allegations to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Under Rule 12(b)(6), dismissal can be based on “the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Livid Holdings Ltd. v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc., 416 F.3d 940, 946 (9th Cir. 2005). The court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Wyler Summit P'ship, 135 F.3d at 661. The court also liberally construes a pro se litigant's complaint. See Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (“A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). However, “pro se litigants in the ordinary civil case should not be treated more favorably than parties with ...


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