United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
SHARON LOVELACE BLACKBURN, District Judge.
This case is presently pending before the court on Defendant Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc.'s Motions to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for More Definite Statement and Motion to Strike. (Doc. 6.) Plaintiff, Charlie "Frankie" Butler, has sued defendant alleging race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981"). Upon consideration of the record, the submissions of the parties, the arguments of counsel, and the relevant law, the court is of the opinion that defendant's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 6), is meritorious but is due to be denied in order to give plaintiff an opportunity to replead; its Motion for More Definite Statement is due to be granted. Defendant's Motion to Strike will be denied.
I. MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD
Defendant has moved to dismiss plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 6 at 2.) The purpose of such motions, authorized by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, is to test the facial sufficiency of the plaintiff's statement of his claims for relief. Brooks v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Inc., 116 F.3d 1364, 1367 (11th Cir. 1997). Rule 12(b)(6) must be read together with Rule 8(a)(2), which "requires that a pleading contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1288 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, Rule 8 "does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The "plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. (citations and footnote omitted). The plaintiff need not prove his case but must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570 (emphasis added).
"When considering a motion to dismiss, all facts set forth in the plaintiff's complaint are to be accepted as true and the court limits its consideration to the pleadings and exhibits attached thereto.'" Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000) (quoting GSW, Inc. v. Long Cnty., 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993)). Further, all "reasonable inferences" are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. St. George v. Pinellas Cnty., 285 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2002). However, while the court must accept all factual allegations as true, it is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). "In considering a motion to dismiss, a court should eliminate any legal conclusions contained in the complaint, and then determine whether the factual allegations, which are assumed to be true, give rise to relief." Chapman v. U.S. Postal Serv., 442 F.Appx. 480, 482-83 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Am. Dental Ass'n, 605 F.3d at 1290).
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Charlie "Frankie" Butler ("plaintiff") is an African-American male currently working for Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. ("defendant") at the Vance, Alabama plant. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 1, 19.) Plaintiff has been an employee at defendant's Vance, Alabama plant from September 4, 2001 to the present. ( Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff initially worked as a Team Member, and in May 2005, was promoted to Team Leader of the sealer group in the paint shop, a position plaintiff continues to hold. ( Id. ) On September 28, 2012, plaintiff was issued a performance evaluation, which changed his promotion status from "ready" to "not ready." ( Id. ¶ 20.)
Other than the facts stated above, plaintiff's remaining "factual allegations" are conclusory statements without factual support. ( Id. ¶¶ 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.) For example, plaintiff alleges that defendant maintains a system-wide employment policy of racial discrimination through, among other actions, preventing African Americans from learning about job opportunities traditionally held by white employees, deterring African Americans from seeking promotions, subjecting African Americans to adverse terms and conditions of employment, segregating African Americans into unequal job positions, restricting African-American employees to jobs carrying lower compensation levels, refusing to implement policies that curb racial discrimination, refusing to post job vacancies where African-American employees can learn about them, pre-selecting white employees for those job vacancies, and assigning African Americans to inferior work hours. ( Id. ¶¶ 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 24, 25.) As discussed below, these conclusory statements do not provide defendant with any of the factual support necessary to allow defendant to fashion a proper response.
Plaintiff filed his Complaint on September 11, 2014, seeking to certify a class of past, present, and future African-American employees working at defendant's Vance, Alabama plant. ( Id. ¶¶ 10, 13.) Plaintiff alleges only one claim on behalf of himself and the putative class: race discrimination under Title VII and § 1981. ( Id. ¶ 2.) Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for More Definite Statement and Motion to Strike, (Doc. 6), on October 1, 2014.
Plaintiff's Complaint alleges violations of Title VII and § 1981. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment "against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e2(a)(1). Section 1981 protects the right "to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens." 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a). Where a plaintiff alleges race discrimination in violation of Title VII and § 1981, the same analysis applies to both claims. Stallworth v. Shuler, 777 F.2d 1431, 1433 (11th Cir. 1985). Because plaintiff must prove intentional discrimination under both claims, id., the court will not conduct a separate analysis for each claim.
Defendant's primary contention is that plaintiff's Complaint fails to comply with Rule 8(a)'s pleading requirements, as set out in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). (Doc. 6 at 2.) According to defendant, plaintiff's one-count Complaint contains a multitude of generalized, "inflammatory and completely unfounded" allegations of discrimination that amount to legal conclusions, which do not suffice to state a claim under Rule 8. ( Id. at 14.) It correctly asserts that the sparse factual content actually contained in the Complaint does not create any inference that defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct, and thus, plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed. ( Id. at 11.) However, defendant requests that, should the court permit plaintiff to replead his Complaint, the court strike plaintiff's scandalous and immaterial allegations of company-wide race discrimination before they cause reputational harm to the "Mercedes brand." ( Id. at 16.)
Plaintiff responds that he is not required to establish a prima facie case of discrimination in the Complaint because that is the purpose of discovery and that he need only "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' of the claim." (Doc. 11 at 5, 8; Bussey v. Macon Cnty. Greyhound Park, Inc., No. 3:10-CV-191-WKW, 2011 WL 1216296, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 31, 2011) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).) Regarding defendant's Motion to Strike, plaintiff claims not to know what "brand" defendant seeks to protect, and plaintiff contends that the ...