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Corder v. City of Bessemer

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

April 20, 2015

TERRI LYNN CRUCE CORDER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BESSEMER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

R. DAVID PROCTOR, District Judge.

This case is before the court on Defendant City of Bessemer's Motion for Partial Dismissal (Doc. 7), filed January 8, 2015. The Motion (Doc. 7) has been fully briefed. (Docs. 8, 13, 14). Defendant moves the court to dismiss certain of Plaintiff's claims based on the untimeliness of Plaintiff's EEOC filing and her inability to establish a causal link between her protected activity and her termination. Having considered the briefs and evidentiary submissions, the court concludes that Defendant's Motion (Doc. 7) is due to be granted.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

On April 7, 1997, Plaintiff Terri Lynn Cruce Corder was hired by Defendant City of Bessemer as a police officer. (Doc. 3, ¶ 12). Over sixteen years later, on April 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") discrimination and retaliation charge against Defendant. (Doc. 3-1, at 1). In her April 30, 2013 charge, Plaintiff reported that the date of the latest incident of discrimination occurred on April 10, 2013. ( Id. ). The EEOC issued Plaintiff her notice of her right-to-sue letter, titled "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" on September 3, 2014. (Doc. 3-2, at 1). Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this court on November 3, 2014. (Doc. 1). Thereafter, on December 11, 2014, she filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 3). Plaintiff asserts that Defendant has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5), as each pleading alleges various counts of discrimination and retaliation based on Plaintiff's race, gender, and disability. (Doc. 3 at 9-11).

Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), asserting that the Amended Complaint fails to state a claim. (Docs. 7, 8 at 2). With respect to certain of Plaintiff's claims occurring before November 1, 2012, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has not timely filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC (Doc. 8 at 2-4), and as a result, certain of Plaintiff's Title VII and ADA discrimination claims are time-barred. ( Id. at 2).

The court liberally construes Plaintiff's Amended Complaint as alleging the following relevant incidents, occurring outside the limitation period: (1) in May 2007, Plaintiff was ordered to submit to psychological testing (Doc. 3, ¶ 15); (2) in September 2011, Plaintiff received counseling regarding complaints from the Jefferson County District Attorney's office, but was allegedly threatened when she attempted to follow up on the complaints ( id. ¶ 20); (3) in or around April 2011 (and again in September 2012), Defendant denied Plaintiff workers compensation for an MRI and surgery on her knees ( id. ¶¶ 22-25, 39); (4) in May 2012, Defendant changed Plaintiff's schedule and placed her on administrative leave without pay after she (Plaintiff) was arrested on domestic violence charges ( id. ¶¶ 27-30); (5) in August 2012, Defendant suspended Plaintiff for misuse of the law enforcement software "LETS/ALACOP" ( id. ¶¶ 33-35); and (6) in September 2012, Defendant reassigned Plaintiff with a five percent decrease in pay ( id. ¶¶ 38-39). In addition, Defendant's Motion argues that, because Plaintiff cannot establish a causal connection between any protected activity and an adverse employment action, Plaintiff's retaliation claim also fails as a matter of law. (Doc. 7 at 4-6).

In Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, she argues that none of her claims are time barred because she was subjected to a hostile work environment. (Doc. 14 at 5). Plaintiff specifically identifies four events outlined in her Amended Complaint from which her retaliation claim allegedly stems. (Doc. 13, at 3-4; see also Doc. 3, ¶¶ 13, 14, 19, 34).

First, in 2003, Plaintiff filed a federal lawsuit against the City claiming sexual harassment. ( Id. ¶ 13; see also Doc. 13, at 3). Plaintiff acknowledges that her case was dismissed on September 7, 2005, upon the court's finding that Plaintiff's patrol assignment was not an adverse employment action that rose to a threshold level of substantiality. (Doc. 3, ¶ 12).

Second, Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge against Defendant alleging sexual harassment and retaliation by Sergeant Hank Edwards on February 13, 2007. ( Id. ¶ 14; see also Doc. 3-3, at 1). For the first time, Plaintiff's Response suggests that she filed an internal written complaint on October 16, 2006, and a follow-up letter in January 2007, but that both the internal complaint and letter were ignored. (Doc. 13 at 4). Plaintiff was issued a right-to-sue letter but never filed suit against Defendant. (Doc. 3, ¶ 14).

Third, Plaintiff alleges she filed another EEOC charge filed against Defendant's Police Department on May 25, 2011, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation by Captain Michael Roper and Lieutenant Darron Hunter. ( Id. ¶ 19; see also Doc. 3-4, at 1).

Finally, Plaintiff claims reprisal occurred in August 2012, when she was suspended for twenty days. (Doc. 13 at 4). In July 2012, after Plaintiff's daughter's boyfriend, Patrick Bradley, made a complaint, Plaintiff was investigated by Internal Affairs Lieutenant John Hayes for allegedly misusing the LETS/ALACOP law enforcement software. (Doc. 3, ¶¶ 26, 33). On August 21, 2012, Plaintiff received a twenty-day suspension for running Patrick Bradley's name during a 2010 investigation. Plaintiff was also required to make an appointment with employee assistance personnel. ( Id. ¶ 34). Plaintiff appealed her suspension to Jefferson County's Personnel Board. ( Id. ¶ 35).

Below, the court addresses Defendant's arguments that (1) certain of Plaintiff's claims are time-barred, and (2) because Plaintiff has failed to establish a causal connection between any protected activity and her termination, her retaliation claim also fails as a matter of law. ( Id. at 4-6).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Still, the complaint must include enough facts "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that contain nothing more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon "labels and conclusions" or "naked assertion[s]" without supporting factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion ...


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