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King-Brown v. Alabama High School Athletic Association

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

January 30, 2018




         This case is before the Court on Defendant Alabama High School Athletic Association's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 8). The motion, which has been fully briefed and is ripe for resolution, has been referred to the undersigned for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and S.D. Ala. CivLR 72(a)(2)(S). Upon consideration of all matters presented, the undersigned RECOMMENDS, for the reasons stated herein, that Defendant Alabama High School Athletic Association's Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.

         I. Background Facts

         Plaintiff Fannie King-Brown, proceeding pro se, commenced this action on May 22, 2017, against the Alabama High School Athletic Association (hereinafter “AHSAA”) and Mobile County Public Schools (hereinafter “MCPS”). (Doc. 1). Ms. King-Brown contends that Defendants have subjected her to employment discrimination on the basis of her gender and race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Equal Pay Act. (Id. at 1). According to Ms. King-Brown, MCPS unlawfully terminated her from her position as coach of the Murphy High School girls' basketball team, although her male comparators were not terminated or removed from their positions for similar infractions. She further alleges that lesser qualified male comparators received promotions that were denied to her and that they received better compensation than her. Additionally, Ms. King-Brown asserts that AHSAA, in its role as the governing body for athletics and programs for public schools in the state of Alabama, acceded to, and ratified, MCPS's wrongful and discriminatory treatment of her and failed to investigate her complaints or provide accommodations, as required by applicable law.

         Defendant AHSAA filed the instant motion seeking the dismissal of Ms. King-Brown's complaint. (Doc. 8). Specifically, AHSAA contends that Ms. King-Brown's complaint should be dismissed as a matter of law because she was never employed by AHSAA. (Id. at 2). In support of its position, AHSAA attached to its motion a copy of the charge that Ms. King-Brown filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Doc. 8-2). In the charge, Ms. King-Brown avers that she was hired by MCPSS and terminated by William Smith, the principal of Murphy High School. (Id.).

         In her response in opposition to AHSAA's motion (doc. 13), Ms. King-Brown acknowledges that she was not employed by AHSAA, but argues that AHSAA can still be held liable under Title VII even in the absence of an employment relationship. (Id. at 1). She does not address her Equal Pay Act claim in her response.

         II. Standard of Review

         As a preliminary matter, the undersigned observes that when considering a pro se litigant's allegations, a court gives them a liberal construction, holding the litigant to a more lenient standard than those of an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 595-96, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972). However, a court does not have “license . . . to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain an action.” GJR Investments v. County of Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998), overruled on other grounds by Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 709 (11th Cir. 2010) (relying on Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)). In addition, a pro se litigant “is subject to the relevant law and rules of court including the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Moon v. Newsome, 863 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 863 (1989).

         A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. “When considering a motion to dismiss, all facts set forth in the plaintiff's complaint ‘are to be accepted as true and the court limits its consideration to the pleadings and exhibits attached thereto.'” Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000) (quoting GSW, Inc. v. Long County, 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993)). All “reasonable inferences” are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. St. George v. Pinellas County, 285 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2002). However, the court is not required to accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (noting that “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”).

         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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 157 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated that although Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed factual allegations, it does demand “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint must state a plausible claim for relief, which occurs “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. The mere possibility the defendant acted unlawfully is insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. The well-pled allegations must nudge the claim “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         Typically, a court reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is limited to the four corners of the complaint. See Bickley v. Caremark RX, Inc., 461 F.3d 1325, 1329 n. 7 (11th Cir. 2006). If, however, the complaint refers to documents that are central to the case, those documents may be considered part of the pleadings. See Jordan v. Miami-Dade County, 439 F.Supp.2d 1237, 1240 (S.D. Fla. 2006). Similarly, courts may consider any document attached to a motion to dismiss without treating the motion as one for summary judgment so long as the plaintiff has referred to the document in its complaint, the document is “central” to the claims, and the authenticity of the document is unchallenged. See Bickley, 461 F.3d at 1329 n. 7; Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2005) ((citing Harris v. Ivax Corp., 182 F.3d 799, 802 n. 2 (11th Cir. 1999)).

         In the context of employment discrimination cases, courts routinely consider the EEOC charge when reviewing a motion to dismiss. Chestnut v. Ethan Allen Retail, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135346 at *3, 2013 WL 5290123 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 20, 2013); Nixon v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 180129, 2013 WL 6815719 (M.D. Ga. Dec. 24, 2013). While Ms. King-Brown did not file a copy of her EEOC charge in this case, and did not reference the charge in her complaint, the Court finds that the charge is central to her case given that a plaintiff must timely file a charge with the EEOC in order to proceed on a claim under Title VII. See Wilkerson v. Grinnell Corp., 270 F.3d 1314, 1317 (llth Cir. 2001). Further, she has not challenged the authenticity of the charge. Therefore, the Court may consider the EEOC charge submitted by AHSAA without converting its motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1]

         III. Analysis

         As noted, Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claim on the basis that it did not employ Ms. King-Brown and, thus, cannot be held liable for her claims ...

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