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Arrington v. Alabama Power Co.

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

September 29, 2017

ALABAMA POWER COMPANY and its parent company SOUTHERN COMPANY, Defendants.


          John E. Ott, Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Lucille Yvette Arrington, acting pro se, initially sued Alabama Power Company and The Southern Company (collectively, the “Defendants”) for alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”). (Doc. 1). The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss her complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 14). The Court granted their motion, but Arrington was permitted to file an amended complaint. In her amended complaint, she advances the two previous claims and adds a third claim entitled “Work Place Hazard.” (Doc. 31 at 18-19). Defendant Alabama Power Company has again filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 33). Arrington opposes the motion. (Doc. 35). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Defendant's motion to dismiss.


         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a motion to dismiss an action on the ground that the allegations in the complaint fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On such a motion, the “‘issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.'” Little v. City of North Miami, 805 F.2d 962, 965 (11th Cir. 1986) (quoting Scheur v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). In considering a motion to dismiss, the court assumes the factual allegations in the complaint are true and gives the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable factual inferences. Hazewood v. Foundation Financial Group, LLC, 551 F.3d 1223, 1224 (11th Cir. 2008) (per curiam).

         Rule 12(b)(6) is read in light of Rule 8(a)(2), which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement 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 (citations, brackets, and internal quotation marks omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Id. Thus, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, '” i.e., its “factual content . . . allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).


         Arrington is a former employee of Alabama Power. In her “Introduction” to the amended complaint, Arrington explains that she filed her case of discrimination and retaliation after her initial transfer “to a position in a location with a history of racial bias.” (Doc. 31 at 2). She also states that she “applied for more than 8 positions internally and numerous positions externally and was unsuccessful at every attempt for over 2 years.” (Id.)

         Arrington's allegations remain confusing and hard to follow. She alleges that the retaliation began in October 2013 when she was employed as a Supervisor in Alabama Power's Metro Central Business office and reported to her supervisor, Scott Cotney, that another employee possessed pornographic materials in the workplace that made other African-American employees uncomfortable. According to Arrington, the offending employee was “closely connected” to Cotney. (Id.)

         A. Transfer to the Columbiana Office

         Cotney informed Arrington in November 2013 that she was being given a promotion and a transfer to an Alabama Power office in Columbiana, Alabama. When Arrington asked if the move was retaliatory, Cotney explained that the promotion was in light of her good performance and that it would allow her to be a Manager in charge of an office. (Id. at 2-3). Cotney allegedly told her, “Don't you go there and ruin it.” (Id. 3).

         At the Columbiana office, Arrington was in charge of older white females. Arrington claims these employees were insubordinate, with one particular employee reporting Arrington to Cotney in January 2014, and yelling at her in front of customers and talking about her behind her back in February 2014. (Id. 3-4). Arrington told her supervisors that she felt “violated” by the foregoing conduct but had to “maintain professionalism and a team spirit.” (Id. at 4). In March, when Arrington's white supervisors were questioning her, they told her she needed to “start sewing and knitting with them (the other employees)” and stated that she (Arrington) responded the way would have in the circumstances. (Id.)

         About this same time, Arrington learned from Tim Bowen that some of her duties were being changed and she would no longer be involved in community outreach. (Id.) She stated this was done despite the fact that other white supervisors had been out in the community for the last twenty years. (Id.) Arrington also noted that she received accolades when she spoke at a Kiwanis Club luncheon during that time. (Id. at 5).

         B. Arrington's Mother's Illness

         On May 27, 2014, Arrington informed her supervisors and employees that her mother was being hospitalized, and that she would be working on reports from the hospital. (Id.) On May 28-29, 2014, Arrington notified her supervisors that she would not be in for work because her mother's condition was worsening. (Id.) Her mother passed away on May 30, 2014. Around June 2, 2014, her supervisors delivered a large tray of chicken for her family.[1] (Id.) Arrington's “white supervisor” emailed her on June 5, 2014, asking about the reports she said she would work on. (Id.) Arrington stated that she did not complete the reports because she did not anticipate her mother's condition worsening. Arrington claims that her supervisors did not attend her mother's funeral despite a “long standing tradition” of supervisors attending the funerals of the immediate family members of those who report to them. (Id.) On June 7, 2014, Arrington's father almost died at her mother's funeral and was hospitalized. As a result of this, Arrington did not return to work until June 16, 2014. (Id.)

         On June 17, 2014, Arrington's supervisors told her that they understood her situation, but that “business must go on” in reference to the reports she did not complete. (Id.) It is unclear from the amended complaint, but Arrington seems to allege that she was not allowed to follow a company policy concerning checking cash trays until the white female “assigned” was present. (Id. at 6). Arrington allegedly followed correct procedure and complained to the Division Vice President because she did not feel her immediate supervisor could solve the issue. She was told to discuss the issue with Ashley Robinett, the area manager, first. (Id.) Arrington told Robinett “she felt there was a racial bias towards her and there was an attempt to make [her] look like an under performer.” (Id.) Robinett denied that there was anything to do with race. (Id.) Sometime later, Arrington was kept out of a meeting in Columbiana between Robinett and the remaining all white staff. (Id.)

         In June 2014, Arrington also delivered four reviews to her white employees and gave two of the employees a “Needs Improvement” rating. On June 30, 2014, Tim Bowen refused to give Arrington a recommendation for another job because he had “not seen anything good” from her in Columbiana. (Doc. 31 at 7).

         Arrington was “required” to attend the funeral of a white female employee's father in July 2014 despite the emotional despair of it being close to her mother's death, and Arrington claims the white employee was given over 30 days off and that white supervisors and managers ensured others worked on the employee's reports while she was gone. Arrington does not say in the complaint whether she opposed going to the funeral, or if Alabama Power threatened to punish her for failing to attend. (Id. at 7).

         In August 2014, Arrington was given a rating of “Needs Improvement, ” which Alabama Power defines as “[i]nconsistently achieves expected performance level, ” despite there being “no documented support.” (Id. at 7). Bowen told her that “performance ratings are subjective.” (Id.)

         C.Work Place Hazard”

         In January 2014, Arrington reported headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath and required medical attention. (Id. at 3). She went to see her doctor about every four to six weeks. (Id.) In August 2014, the Vice President of one of the divisions stopped by the office and stated that it smelled like mildew and needed to be checked. (Id. at 7). Arrington responded that she had been reporting it since February and the only change was a ...

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