United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss. (Doc. # 4). The motion to dismiss has been fully
briefed and is under submission. (Docs. # 9 & 10). After
careful review, and for the reasons explained below, the
court concludes that the Motion to Dismiss is due to be
granted in part and denied in part.
worked for several years as a program manager in the
Professional and Conference Services Division (the
“Division”) at the University of Alabama at
Tuscaloosa (the “University”). (See Doc.
# 1 at ¶ 15). She alleges that she suffered from severe
neural foraminal narrowing and compression of a spinal nerve,
which she controlled through exercise and use of a special
chair before 2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27).
2013, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Leroy Hurt, an
associate dean of professional development and conference
services, pressured her to hire a male candidate for an open
position and criticized her for questioning the male
candidate during his interview about his salary requirements.
(Id. at ¶ 18). Moreover, Hurt required
Plaintiff to undergo coaching after the interview.
(Id. at ¶ 19). In September 2013, Plaintiff
complained to the University's EEOC office about gender
discrimination because Hurt had hired the lesser-qualified
male candidate. (Id. at ¶ 21).
November 2013, Plaintiff alleges that Hurt refused to allow
her to terminate a subordinate for poor job performance.
(Id. at ¶ 22). She asserts that (1) Hurt's
refusal undermined her authority and (2) Hurt allowed a
non-disabled supervisor to terminate a subordinate for poor
job performance. (See Id. at ¶¶ 22-24).
Plaintiff further complains that Hurt ordered her to
relinquish planning and control of a conference to another
employee with no apparent disabilities. (Id. at
in April 2014, Plaintiff alleges that Hurt harassed her about
exercising in the University's gym during lunch.
(Id. at ¶ 28). Hurt allegedly directed her to
not change clothes at work and to shower before returning to
the office. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, other
employees were allowed to change clothes at the office.
(Id.). Plaintiff's back conditions worsened in
2014, and she underwent back surgery in December of that
year. (Id. at ¶ 29). Thereafter, she
experienced slurred speech, grasping problems, and drooling,
which progressively worsened. (Id. at ¶ 30). In
February 2015, Hurt complained about Plaintiff's autistic
son visiting her office between classes. (Id. at
¶ 33). In June 2015, Hurt allegedly directed Plaintiff
to relinquish all of her office furniture, including the
special chair she needed to alleviate her back condition.
(The Complaint does not specify whether Plaintiff lost her
ability to use the chair.) (Id. at ¶ 32). In
August 2015, Plaintiff complained to the University's
human resources department that Hurt had “undermined
her ability to complete a major project by permitting
[Plaintiff's] main support staff person to resign without
giving a full two (2)-week notice.” (Id. at
September 2015, Hurt issued Plaintiff a write-up that falsely
accused her of yelling at another employee. (Id. at
¶ 36). Plaintiff alleges that Hurt threatened to
pressure other employees to testify against her if she
contested the write-up. (Id.). Plaintiff complained
to a human resources employee about Hurt's
“retaliatory conduct.” (Id.). According
to the Complaint, Hurt permitted a male employee to yell at
female employees without any repercussions. (Id. at
¶ 37). In September 2015, Hurt also moved another
employee, Lisa Dunn, into Plaintiff's office.
(Id. at ¶ 38).
October 2015, Hurt demoted plaintiff from program manager to
sales manager. (Id. at ¶ 39). Plaintiff
complained to Defendants Craig Edelbrock and Hurt that she
would likely not succeed as a sales manager due to her
slurred speech, her limitations in moving her right leg, and
after-effects from her back surgery. (Id. at ¶
41). Plaintiff's slurred speech harmed her ability to
make telephone sales calls, and her lack of mobility impeded
her ability to conduct in-person sales calls. (Id.
at ¶ 45). According to Plaintiff, Hurt failed to inform
her of fundraising protocols, which impeded her fundraising
efforts. (Id. at ¶¶ 52-53). At one point
following her demotion, Hurt limited Plaintiff's
fundraising “to selling at exhibit booths and seeking
low-level sponsors under $10, 000, which were already being
handled in the Marketing Department.” (Id. at
¶ 54). Hurt later instructed Plaintiff to focus on
securing grants, rather than making sales. (Id. at
¶ 56). In August 2016, Plaintiff submitted a draft
proposal for a grant from the Department of Health and Human
Services, but Hurt decided to appoint another person to
handle that grant application. (Id. at ¶ 57).
Plaintiff began treatment for Parkinson's Disease in
December 2016 and was diagnosed with Parkinson's in
January 2017. (Id. at ¶ 59). Thereafter, she
informed Hurt of the diagnosis. (Id.).
Standard of Review
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.
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.
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
all of the 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.
Complaint, Plaintiff raises three counts against Defendant
Board of Trustees: (1) sex discrimination and harassment
claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; (2)
disability discrimination, harassment, and
failure-to-accommodate claims under Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act; and (3) retaliation claims under Title
VII and the Rehabilitation Act. Plaintiff asserts state-law
claims against Defendants Edelbrock and Hurt for negligence
and interference with contractual or business relations. The
court addresses the sufficiency of the allegations related to
each claim below, in turn.
Plaintiff's Complaint States Plausible Allegations of