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McWhorter v. Nucor Steel Birmingham Inc.

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

January 11, 2018




         This case is before the court on the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. #15) filed by Defendant Nucor Steel Birmingham Inc. (“Nucor”). The parties have fully briefed the Motion to Dismiss. (Docs. #15, 17, 18). For the reasons explained below, the Motion to Dismiss (Docs. #15) is due to be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant Nucor intentionally retaliated against him for opposing Nucor's discriminatory practices in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). (Doc. #9 at 3-4). Plaintiff alleges that, as a part of its hiring process, Nucor requires applicants to undergo a “psychological evaluation, ” where a psychologist asks applicants questions about their age, marital status, children, parents, and family life. (Id. at ¶6). Plaintiff claims that the psychologist subsequently shares this information with Nucor employees involved in the hiring process. (Id.).

         Plaintiff claims that he was concerned that Defendant was using psychological evaluations to circumvent federal laws protecting personal information from disclosure during the application process. (Id. at ¶¶6-9). Approximately twenty days prior to his termination, Plaintiff alleges that he raised his concerns about the psychological evaluations with Controller Susan Grahs[2] (“Grahs”) and other unnamed supervisors at Nucor. (Id. at ¶5). On July 13, 2015, Plaintiff notified the EEOC of his concerns regarding Defendant's hiring process. (Id. at ¶10). Plaintiff alleges that he notified Nucor that he had contacted the EEOC. (Id. at ¶11).

         On July 15, 2015, Grahs gave Plaintiff a “coaching for the month end” document, which detailed work areas where Plaintiff needed to improve his performance. (Id. at ¶12). Plaintiff claims that, prior to receiving this coaching document, he had never been provided with any formal negative feedback from Nucor and had only received “exceed expectations” evaluations from Grahs. (Id. at ¶13(b)). The coaching document stated that Plaintiff had until the end of the next month to improve his performance in the identified areas; however, Plaintiff was terminated sixteen days later, on July 31, 2015. (Id. at ¶13(c)).

         On January 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC against Defendant, alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII.[3] (Doc. #15-1). Plaintiff filed a complaint against Nucor in Jefferson County Circuit Court on May 16, 2017. (Doc. #1-1). On June 15, 2017, Nucor removed the case to federal court. (Doc. #1). On July 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, which dropped Plaintiff's (1) claim of retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), (2) state law fraud claim, and (3) state law claim of outrage and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[4] (Compare Doc. #1-1 with Doc. #9). Nucor moved to dismiss this action on July 17, 2017. (Doc. #15).

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon “labels and conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “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 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). Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” the complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A plausible claim for relief requires “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         In considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “1) eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Kivisto v. Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, PLC, 413 F. App'x 136, 138 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Am. Dental Ass'n. v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010)). That task is context specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court based on its “judicial experience and common sense . . . to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. If the court determines that well-pleaded facts, accepted as true, do not state a claim that is plausible, the claims are due to be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         III. Discussion

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint should be dismissed for two principal reasons: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his requisite administrative remedies prior to filing suit and (2) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint fails to state a plausible claim. (Docs. #15, 18). These two arguments are considered, in turn.

         A. Plaintiff's Retaliation Claims under the ADA and ADEA are Outside theScope of ...

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