United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
employment discrimination action, plaintiff Richard Bragg
contends that the Huntsville City Board of Education
discriminated against him because of his age. Mr. Bragg
asserts an Age Discrimination in Employment Act or ADEA claim
against the Board.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Board asks
the Court to dismiss Mr. Bragg's ADEA claim. (Doc. 22).
Having considered the parties' written submissions (Docs.
22, 28) and with the benefit of oral argument, the Court
finds that Mr. Bragg's amended complaint states a claim
for age discrimination. Therefore, the Court denies the
Board's motion to dismiss.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint
for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint against the
“liberal pleading standards set forth by Rule
8(a)(2).” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). “Generally, to survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)]
motion to dismiss and meet the requirement of Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a)(2), a complaint need not contain
‘detailed factual allegations, ' but rather
‘only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Maledy v. City of
Enterprise, 2012 WL 1028176, *1 (M.D. Ala. March 2012)
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555, 570 (2007)). “Specific facts are not necessary;
the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice
of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.'” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a district
court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and
construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. See Brophy v. Jiangbo Pharms. Inc., 781
F.3d 1296, 1301 (11th Cir. 2015).
Bragg worked for the Board as a physical education
teacher's aide from 1996 until January 2015. (Doc. 21,
¶¶ 4, 10). Mr. Bragg alleges that his work
environment changed after he turned 60 years old in January
2014. (Doc. 21, ¶ 12). Between January 2014 and August
2014, Mr. Bragg received three written reprimands based on
student complaints that “mischaracterize[d] [Mr.
Bragg's] conduct as various forms of child abuse”
or “sexualized conduct.” (Doc. 21, ¶
According to Mr. Bragg, then superintendent of Huntsville
City Schools, Dr. Casey Wardynski, instructed Mr. Bragg's
supervisor to solicit the student complaints that formed the
basis of the reprimands. (Doc. 21, ¶ 13).
Bragg contends that in early February 2014, his supervisor
gathered “a series of complaints from students
concerning inappropriate touching of students.” (Doc.
21, ¶ 13). After issuing a written reprimand to Mr.
Bragg and investigating the allegations, Mr. Bragg's
supervisor wrote a letter to Dr. Wardynski explaining that
she found no basis for the allegations. (Doc. 21, ¶ 13).
After he received the supervisor's report, Dr. Wardynski
continued to “target” Mr. Bragg. (Doc. 21, ¶
April 2014, Mr. Bragg's supervisor issued another
reprimand alleging that Mr. Bragg inappropriately touched a
student. (Doc. 21, ¶ 14). In response, Mr. Bragg
informed his supervisor that he used restraint training that
he received from the Board to stop a fight between two
students. (Doc. 21, ¶ 14). The supervisor accused Mr.
Bragg of lying about his encounter with the student. (Doc.
21, ¶ 14).
August 2014, Mr. Bragg received another written reprimand.
This report accused Mr. Bragg of intentionally injuring a
child by picking the child up by her neck and “rub[ing]
[his] groin area on [the student's] back.” (Doc.
21, ¶ 15). Mr. Bragg told his supervisor that he wrapped
his arms around the child to hug her but did not lift her up
by her neck. (Doc. 21, ¶ 15). In response to additional
questioning from his supervisor and another Board employee,
Mr. Bragg explained that “none of his actions were
memorable” and “he wasn't sure” of the
details. (Doc. 21, ¶ 15). Mr. Bragg contends that his
supervisor encouraged one of his (Mr. Bragg's) co-workers
to substantiate the allegations against him by providing
false information about the incident. (Doc. 21, ¶ 15).
September 2014, Dr. Wardynski recommended that the Board
terminate Mr. Bragg's employment with the school system.
(Doc. 21, ¶ 16). Mr. Bragg received a letter from the
Board that advised him of the superintendent's
recommendation. The letter explained the nature of the
allegations which formed the basis of the written reprimands.
(Doc. 21, ¶ 17). With respect to the August 2014
incident, the letter informed Mr. Bragg that video evidence
showed that he lifted the student by her neck. (Doc. 21,
¶ 17). The letter explained that Mr. Bragg could
challenge Dr. Wardynski's termination recommendation by
requesting a hearing and stated that if Mr. Bragg did not
request a hearing, then the Board would approve the
termination. (Doc. 21, ¶ 16). Mr. Bragg requested a
hearing. (Doc. 21, ¶ 18).
September 2014, Dr. Wardynski removed Mr. Bragg from the
school in which he worked and prohibited him from coaching.
(Doc. 21, ¶ 19). Dr. Wardynski reassigned Mr. Bragg to a
manual labor position in the school district's warehouse.
(Doc. 21, ¶ 19). On September 26, 2014, after Dr.
Wardynski reassigned Mr. Bragg but before Mr. Bragg's
hearing, Dr. Wardynski spoke to a television news station
about the allegations against Mr. Bragg. (Doc. 21, ¶
October 2014, the Board reported to the Madison County
Department of Human Resources the incidents that formed the
basis of the reprimands against Mr. Bragg. (Doc. 21, ¶
22). According to Mr. Bragg, Dr. Wardynski provided to DHR an
altered copy of the video of the April 2014 ...