United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Wall brings this action against the City of Oneonta for
retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.
(“ADA”). Doc. 1. Oneonta has moved to dismiss the
complaint, doc. 6, and the motion is fully briefed, docs. 7,
14, and 19, and ripe for review. For the reasons stated more
fully below, the motion is due to be granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
“[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not
require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it
demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions” or
“a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action” are insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
“Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders
‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further
factual enhancement.'” Id. (citing
Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 557).
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially
plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The
complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.;
see also Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555
(“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately,
this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
employed Wall from November 1997 through July 17, 2014. Doc.
1 at 3. On December 2, 2014, Wall filed a charge of
discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission alleging disability discrimination and
retaliation. Id. The parties ultimately resolved
this charge by settlement. Id.
Oneonta retaliated against Wall for filing this EEOC charge
by engaging in the following conduct: (1) July 2015-deviating
from city zoning regulations to allow rental manufactured
homes to occupy the lot next to Wall's property, causing
his property to decrease in value, id. at 4-5; (2)
December 7, 2015-discharging Wall's spouse, Geneva Wall,
from her position as Director of Finance, id. at 5;
(3) December 16, 2015-the city manager filed a criminal
complaint for harassment against Wall, which resulted in
Wall's arrest, id.; and (4) February 2016-filing
a breach of contract action against Wall for violating the
terms of the settlement agreement, id. at 5-6.
result of these allegedly retaliatory acts, on March 25,
2016, Wall filed a second EEOC charge alleging retaliation.
Id. at 2. Wall filed this lawsuit after obtaining a
right to sue letter. Id. at 2-3.
has moved to dismiss, arguing primarily that Wall cannot
establish the necessary elements of his prima facie
case. Doc. 7. To establish a prima facie case of
retaliation under the ADA, Wall must plausibly allege (1)
statutorily protected activity; (2) an adverse action; and
(3) a causal link between the protected expression and the
adverse action. Stewart v. Happy Herman's
Cheshire Bridge, Inc., 117 F.3d 1278, 1287
(11th Cir. 1997). Oneonta contends that Wall cannot show
causation because of the lack of temporal proximity between
the first EEOC charge, which Wall filed on December 14, 2014,
and the alleged incidents of retaliation, which occurred
seven to fourteen months later. Doc. 7 at 6-9.
here, based on the complaint, Wall's retaliation claim
rests solely on circumstantial evidence. More specifically,
he contends that Oneonta took the four actions specified in
his complaint in retaliation to his EEOC charge. The first
alleged retaliatory incident, the zoning variance, occurred
in July 2015, seven months after Wall filed his first EEOC
charge. Doc. 7 at 7. The last alleged retaliatory incident,
the breach of contract suit, occurred over a year after the
first EEOC charge. Id. At issue here is whether,
based on these allegations, Wall can prove causation.
contends that he has established causation by showing a
“pattern of antagonism” on Oneonta's part
through the four incidents of alleged retaliation outlined in
his complaint. Doc. 15 at 8-10. This contention is unavailing
because “[i]n the absence of close temporal proximity,
a plaintiff may establish causation by showing that her
employer knew of a protected activity, and that a series of
adverse employment actions commenced shortly
thereafter.” Entrekin v. City of Panama City
Florida, 376 F. App'x 987, 996 (11th Cir. 2010)
(citing Wideman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 141 F.3d
1453, 1457 (11th Cir. 1998)) (emphasis added). As the
Eleventh Circuit has held, “[t]he burden of causation
can be met by showing close temporal proximity between the
statutorily protected activity and the adverse employment
action. But mere temporal proximity, without more, must be
‘very close.' A three to four month disparity
between the statutorily protected expression and the adverse
employment action is not enough.” Thomas v. Cooper
Lighting, Inc., 506 F.3d 1361, 1364 (11th Cir. 2007)
(internal citations omitted). See also Walker v.
Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of Air Force, 518 F. App'x
626, 628 (11th Cir. 2013); Brown v. Alabama Dep't of
Transp., 597 F.3d 1160, 1182 (11th Cir. 2010);
Higdon v. Jackson, 393 F.3d 1211, 1221 (11th Cir.
2004). Unfortunately for Wall, under this circuit's
precedent, alleged retaliatory acts occurring over six months
after protected activity, as is the case here, cannot prove
causation as part of a series of adverse employment actions.
See Baroudi v. Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of Veterans
Affairs, 616 F. App'x 899, 903 (11th Cir. 2015).
Therefore, because Wall alleges no other facts showing
causation, his complaint is due to be dismissed.