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Scruggs v. Water Works Board of City of Birmingham

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

October 20, 2014

CHRISTOPHER G. SCRUGGS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE WATER WORKS BOARD OF THE CITY OF BIRMINGHAM, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM M. ACKER, Jr., District Judge.

This action comes before the court on a motion to dismiss filed by defendant The Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham ("the Board") on August 26, 2014 (Doc. 6), seeking dismissal of plaintiff Christopher Scruggs's action as stated in the original complaint, and on a motion to dismiss filed by the Board on September 29, 2014 (Doc. 13), seeking dismissal of the action as stated in Scruggs's amended complaint. This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons stated below, the Board's original motion to dismiss will be denied as moot, and its second motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND[1]

Scruggs, a black man, began work for the Board in October 2005, as a Utility Worker. (Doc. 12 at 3, ¶¶ 7, 10). In April 2011, he filed an internal written complaint against Reginald Nall, one of his supervisors, alleging threats of adverse employment action. (Doc. 12 at 4, ¶ 13). In September 2011, he filed a written complaint against Melvin Cloud, another supervisor, alleging a hostile work environment due to harassment and threats. (Doc. 12 at 4, ¶ 14). In July 2013, Scruggs filed two such complaints against a white coworker, Adam Pruden, alleging misconduct, a refusal to work, and violations of the employer's code of conduct. (Doc. 12 at 4, ¶¶ 15-16).

On November 30, 2013, Scruggs and Dewey Blackston, a white coworker, were dispatched to make a repair at the home of Heather Lewis. (Doc. 12 at 4, ¶ 17). Three days later, the Board was contacted by Lewis's father, who complained that Scruggs had charged Lewis for the repair and immediately accepted payment in the amount of $250 (Doc. 12 at 4, ¶ 18), even though the customer was not responsible for the cost (Doc. 7-1). Scruggs denied the allegations. (Doc. 12 at 5, ¶ 19). Blackston provided a statement regarding the incident, though he withdrew it and provided another statement because "his first statement included false information and omitted pertinent details." (Doc. 12 at 5, ¶ 20).

The Board placed Scruggs on paid administrative leave on December 16, 2013. He was fired three days later. (Doc. 12 at 7, ¶¶ 23, 24). Blackston, on the other hand, was suspended for five days. (Doc. 12 at 6, ¶ 28). Scruggs filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on December 27. (Doc. 7-1). On the EEOC form, he checked the boxes to allege discrimination based on race and age, but not retaliation. His allegations appear as follows:

I am Black. I am also in the protected age group. I was hired to work for the above named employer on October 25, 2005, as a Utility Worker I. Prior to my discharge I was classified as a Utility Worker II. On November 30, 2013, Dewey Blackston, a similarly situated younger White employee, and I were dispatched to a customers' residence on an emergency service call. The repair required was not on the customer's property; therefore, the City of Birmingham was responsible for the cost of the repair. On December 2, 2013, I was informed by the Superintendent Mike Arrington that I was being accused of using organization time and equipment for unauthorized or personal purposes. Specifically, Mr. Arrington informed me that the customer reported that she paid me for the cost of the repair, which I deny. On December 16, 2013, I was placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of an investigation. On December 26, 2013, I received a letter which was dated December 19, 2013, informing me that the decision was made to terminate my employment. Upon information and belief Mr. Blackston was not placed on administrative leave or subjected to the investigative process. Mr. Blackston also remains employed.
I believe that I have been subjected to discrimination because of my race Black in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. I also believe that I have been subjected to discrimination because of my age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended.

(Doc. 7-1). Scruggs appealed his termination to the Board on January 7, 2014, but the Board upheld his termination and denied him reinstatement on January 22, 2014. (Doc. 12 at 6, ¶ 26).

Scruggs received a Notice of Rights from the EEOC and timely commenced this action on July 10, 2014. (Doc. 12 at 6, ¶ 26). In his original complaint, he asserted claims for race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. (Doc. 1). The Board filed its first motion to dismiss on August 26. (Doc. 6). In response, Scruggs sought and was granted leave to amend his complaint (Docs. 10, 11), which he did on September 15 (Doc. 12).

In the amended complaint, Scruggs again asserts claims for race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, as well as under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. He claims that the Board treated him differently than similarly situated white employees "with respect to the terms and conditions of his employment, including but not limited to scrutiny, discipline, termination, and denial of reinstatement." (Doc. 12 at 7, ¶ 32). Scruggs alleges that race was a "substantial or motivating factor" in the disparate treatment. (Doc. 12 at 7, ¶ 34). He lists Dewey Blackston, Jed Rowan, and Adam Pruden as comparators. (Doc. 12 at 7, ¶ 33). Scruggs also claims that he was subjected to a hostile work environment based on his race and that he was subjected to retaliation after reporting his supervisors' and Pruden's conduct to Human Resources and after filing his EEOC charge. (Doc. 12 at 7-8, ¶ 39-43). The Board again moved to dismiss the action on September 29, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 13).

DISCUSSION

A. The Original Complaint and Motion to Dismiss

The Board moved to dismiss the original complaint on August 26, 2014, to which Scruggs responded by requesting and receiving leave to amend; he filed his amended complaint on September 15. "As a general matter, [a]n amended pleading supersedes the former pleading; the original pleading is abandoned by the amendment, and is no longer a part of the pleader's averments against his adversary.'" Pintando v. Miami-Dade Hous. Agency, 501 F.3d 1241, 1243 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Dresdner Bank AG v. M/V Olympia Voyager, 463 F.3d 1210, 1215 (11th Cir. 2006)). Because Scruggs's claims in his original complaint are now abandoned or superseded, the Board's first motion to dismiss will be denied as moot. See Washington v. Potter, No. 1:09-CV-1774-JOF-RGV, 2010 WL 2635647 (N.D.Ga. Apr. 16, ...


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