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Baird v. Tech Providers, Inc

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

March 21, 2017

DIANA M. BAIRD, Plaintiff,
v.
TECH PROVIDERS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. # 6). Defendants' Motion is fully briefed. (Docs. # 14 and 15).

         I. Background

         Defendant Tech Providers, Inc. (“TPI”) is a staffing company that places personnel at various companies, including Southern Company Services. (Doc. # 1, ¶¶ 1, 9-10). Plaintiff, Diana M. Baird (“Plaintiff”), is a former employee of TPI.[1] (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 1, 9). On January 29, 2015, Plaintiff signed an Agreement Concerning Employment with TPI which contained a non-compete clause. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 15). The Agreement Concerning Employment with TPI states that “Company [TPI] hereby employs Employee as an employee and Employee hereby accepts such employment with Company.”[2] (Doc. # 6-1 at 2). As an employee of TPI, Plaintiff was placed at Southern Company Services on February 5, 2015. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 1, 28).

         In June 2016, after working for TPI at Southern Company Services for over 16 months, Baird resigned her employment with TPI. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 17). In July 2016, Plaintiff went to work for a different staffing company through which she was also placed at Southern Company Services. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 17).

         On July 15, 2016, Claude Estes of TPI e-mailed Plaintiff to inform her that TPI believed that she was in violation of the non-compete agreement with TPI. (Doc. # 1 at p. 5). Estes also informed Plaintiff that TPI planned to sue to enforce the non-compete agreement, including the provision in which she agreed to be responsible for TPI's costs and attorneys' fees in enforcing the agreement. (Doc. # 1 at p. 5). However, TPI offered Plaintiff the opportunity to come “back on board” with TPI if she so chose. (Doc. # 1 at p. 5). When Plaintiff refused the offer to return to work for TPI, on August 5, 2016, TPI filed suit in the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Alabama asserting a breach of contract claim based on the non-compete clause in the Agreement Concerning Employment. (See Tech Providers, Inc. v. Diana M. Baird, Circuit Court of Shelby County, Alabama Case No. CV-2016-900646.00, Doc. # 2).

         On September 6, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this action alleging that TPI and Estes violated the prohibition against forced labor found in 18 U.S.C. § 1589. (Doc. # 1).

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a 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). Having said that, 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 to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007).

         Under Twombly, a complaint must present plausible theories of liability and allege specific facts establishing each claim. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” the complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A plausible claim for relief requires “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         The Supreme Court has identified “two working principles” for a district court to use in applying the facial plausibility standard. First, in evaluating motions to dismiss, the court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded factual allegations; however, the court does not have to accept as true legal conclusions when they are “couched as [] factual allegation[s].” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. Second, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. Application of the facial plausibility standard involves two steps. Under one prong, the court must determine the scope and nature of the factual allegations that are well-pleaded and assume their veracity; and under the other prong, the court must proceed to determine the claim's plausibility given the well-pleaded facts. That task is context specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court based on its “judicial experience and common sense . . . to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Id.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff's Complaint asserts a single claim against Defendants. She contends that Defendants violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). 18 U.S.C. § 1589. Section 1589 makes it illegal to provide or obtain the labor or services of a person:

(1) by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint to that person or another person; (2) by means of serious harm or threats of serious harm to that person or another person; (3) by means of the abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process; or (4) by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if that person did not perform ...

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