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Guyton v. Watts

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

March 31, 2017

JAMES E. GUYTON, Plaintiff,
DR. RAY L. WATTS, President, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on the motions to dismiss filed by the defendants, Dr. Ray Watts, President of the University of Alabama at Birmingham ("Dr. Watts") (Doc. 6), and The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama[2] ("the Board"). (Doc. 15). For the reasons that follow, Dr. Watts will be dismissed, and all claims against the Board, with the exception of Plaintiff's Title VII claims, will be dismissed as well.


         James Guyton ("Plaintiff") filed his initial complaint on July 1, 2016, naming only Dr. Watts as a defendant. (Doc. 1). Dr. Watts moved to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 6). In his motion to dismiss, Dr. Watts argues he is immune from suit under the ADEA because individuals may not be sued for violations of that statute (Doc. 6 at ¶¶ 12-13) and he is immune from any § 1983 claim because, under the Eleventh Amendment, state officials sued for damages in their official capacity are immune from suit in federal court (Doc. 6 at ¶¶ 19-20) (citing Jackson v. Ga. Dep't. of Transportation, 16 F.3d 1573, 1575 (11th Cir. 1994). Dr. Watts further asserts the complaint is due to be dismissed for failure to state a claim because it is a shotgun pleading and it fails to allege facts which permit an inference Dr. Watts is liable under any theory of recovery.

         Plaintiff did not respond to the substance of Dr. Watts's motion to dismiss; instead, he filed an amended complaint (the "Complaint"). (Doc. 11). Plaintiff amended his claims to specify that he seeks to sue for violations of Title VII, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, "by and through 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment." (Id. at 1-2). Plaintiff also named UAB as a defendant. (Id.). The Board, stating that it was incorrectly named, moved to dismiss on its own behalf. (Doc. 15).

         Plaintiff alleges the following regarding his employment and termination. Plaintiff is an African-American male at least forty years old. (Doc. 11 at 3). He was employed in the Facilities Planning, Design, and Construction Division of the University of Alabama at Birmingham from August 1998 until his termination in July 2013. (Id. at 3, 4). Plaintiff was approved for personal leave from August 31, 2011 until September 2, 2011. (Id. at 4).

         On or about August 30, 2011, Plaintiff received an email from Jim James, Assistant Vice President of Facilities Planning, Design, and Construction, informing him he could not take off the days that had previously been approved because James was concerned about Plaintiff being gone from the office right before a project bid. (Id. at 5). Plaintiff informed James he had arranged to manage the work remotely by email and phone, which was typical when he or other employees took leave. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges the other employees who were approved for this kind of arrangement were all white. (Id.). Plaintiff also pointed out he had already spent money in anticipation of his leave time and could not change his plans. (Id.).

         On or about September 27, 2011, Plaintiff was notified he was being reprimanded and placed on probation. (Id.). Afterward, James reduced Plaintiff's work assignments and gave them to a white female instead. (Id. at 5-6). Based on the decreased workload, James gave Plaintiff negative evaluations which affected Plaintiff's performance rating and compensation. (Id. at 6).

         On or about March 1, 2012, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Id.; see also Doc. 1-1). Sometime during June 2013, the Executive Director of Facilities Administration, Tyrone Quatules, questioned Plaintiff about a recently completed construction project which Plaintiff oversaw. (Doc. 11 at 6). After some weeks of communication regarding the project, Plaintiff was terminated on July 30, 2013. (Id.). On or about January 13, 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge of retaliation with the EEOC. (Id.; see also Doc. 1-1).

         Plaintiff asserts five causes of action against Dr. Watts and the Board pursuant to: 42 U.S.C. §2000e ("Title VII"); 29 U.S.C. § 621 (the "ADEA"); and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 by and through 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 11 at 6-9). Count One asserts a claim of race discrimination in violation of Title VII and § 1981. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18). Count Two asserts a claim of gender discrimination in violation of Title VII and § 1981. (Id. at 19-20). Count Three asserts a claim of age discrimination in violation of the ADEA and § 1981. (Id. at 21-22). Count Four asserts a claim of retaliation for engaging in protected activities in violation of Title VII, the ADEA, and § 1981. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24). Count Five asserts a claim of a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII, the ADEA, and § 1981. (Id. at ¶¶ 25-26).


         Motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) are asserted on either facial or factual grounds. Carmichael v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Svcs., Inc. 572 F.3d 1271, 1279 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Morrison v. Amway Corp., 323 F.3d 920, 925 n.5 (11th Cir. 2003)). Facial challenges are based solely on the allegations in the complaint, and as with a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the complaint's allegations as true. Id.

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the factual allegations set forth in the complaint as true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1, (2002); see also Lotierzo v. Woman's World Med. Ctr., Inc., 278 F.3d 1180, 1182 (11th Cir. 2002). In addition, all reasonable inferences should be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Omar ex. rel. Cannon v. Lindsey, 334 F.3d 1246, 1247 (11th Cir. 2003) (per curiam).

         Nonetheless, the plaintiff must still meet some minimal pleading requirements. Jackson v. Bellsouth Telecomm., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262-63 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). Indeed, while "[s]pecific facts are not necessary[, ]" the complaint should " 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Further, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to 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 ...

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