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Little v. CRSA

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

August 9, 2017

SYBIL LITTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
CRSA, a corporation, RICKEY NORRIS, and JASON PATRICK, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          CHARLES S. COODY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Sybil Little (“Little”), an employee of defendant CRSA, brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq, alleging that she was subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment by defendant Rickey Norris (“Norris”). She further contends that when she complained to defendant Jason Patrick (“Patrick”), Patrick sexually harassed her, perpetuating the hostile work environment. Finally, she alleges state law claims of negligent and wanton supervision and retention, and outrage. Little seeks compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees. After the defendants filed motions to dismiss (docs. # 9, 12 & 15), the court ordered the plaintiff to file an amended complaint that sufficiently established a factual basis for her claims. See Doc. # 28. On May 24, 2017, the plaintiff filed her amended complaint, and on June 2, 2017, the defendants filed motions to dismiss the amended complaint (docs. # 30, 32 & 34). The plaintiff has filed responses in opposition to the defendants' motions. See Docs. # 37, 38 & 39.

         The court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question) and the jurisdictional grant contained in 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3). It has supplemental jurisdiction of the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) and M.D. Ala. LR 73.1, the parties have consented to the United States Magistrate Judge conducting all proceedings in this case and ordering the entry of final judgment.

         After careful review of the motions to dismiss, and the briefs filed in support of and in opposition to the motions, the court concludes that the motions to dismiss are due to be granted.[1]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept well-pled facts as true, but the court is not required to accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009) (“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions”). In evaluating the sufficiency of a plaintiff's pleadings, the court must indulge reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor, “but we are not required to draw plaintiff's inference.” Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005). Similarly, “unwarranted deductions of fact” in a complaint are not admitted as true for the purpose of testing the sufficiency of plaintiff's allegations. Id.. See also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681 (stating conclusory allegations are “not entitled to be assumed true”).

         While a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), it must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); Sinatrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1268 (11th Cir. 2009).

We take the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff[]. Rivell v. Private Health Care Sys., Inc.., 520 F.3d 1308, 1309 (11th Cir. 2008). We are not, however, required to accept the labels and legal conclusions in the complaint as true. Sinatrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1261 (11th Cir. 2009); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S., 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (stating that a complaint “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do”). Dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper if the factual allegations are not “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. “A complaint may be dismissed if the facts as pled do not state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Sinaltrainal, 578 F.3d at 1260 (citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561-62, 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1968-69, 1974). “Stated differently, the factual allegations in the complaint must ‘possess enough heft' to set forth ‘a plausible entitlement to relief.'” Fin. Sec. Assurance, Inc. v. Stephens, Inc., 500 F.3d 1276, 1282 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly. 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. at 1966-67).

Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010).

         A complaint states a facially plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556U.S. at 678. “[A] plaintiff's obligations to provide the ‘grounds' of h[er] ‘entitle[ment] 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 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). See also Fin. Sec. Assur., Inc. v. Stephens, Inc. 500 F.3d 1276, 1282 (11th Cir. 2007).

         III. Facts[2]

         Little has been employed by CRSA at Fort Rucker, Alabama since 2006. According to her amended complaint, defendant Norris “made sexually derogatory comments” towards her including statements that “she had a cute ass, ” and “looked good in her jeans.” (Doc. # 29 at 3, ¶10). Norris also asked Little to wear dresses so he could “look up her dress.” (Id.). Little points to one specific incident on July 13, 2016 of Norris telling her “she should wear heels to work not dress flat shoes as it would get men's attention.” (Id. at 4, ¶ 12). Little asserts that on numerous occasions she told Norris that his comments were unwelcome and asked him to stop. (Id. at 5, ¶ 14). According to Little, he did not but she alleges no other specific instances involving Norris. (Id.)

         On March 11, 2015, Little complained to Patrick about Norris' sexual harassment, and according to Little, Patrick told her he would “tell Norris to leave her alone.”[3] (Id. at ¶ 15). Little alleges that sometime later that day, Patrick asked her for sex. (Id. at 5-7, ¶ 17).

         On October 7, 2016, Little filed a charge of sex discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging sexual harassment by Norris beginning on May 1, 2016 and continuing until July 7, 2016.[4] (Doc. # 38, Ex. A). She filed this action on March 2, 2017.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Sexual Harassment Hostile Work Environment Claim

         Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in a variety of employment practices. See Walker v. NationsBank of Florida, N.A., 53 F.3d 1548, 1555 (11th Cir. 1995).[5] It is well-settled that an employer may be liable under Title VII for subjecting an employee to ...


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