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Raulerson v. New South Express, LLC

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

April 27, 2018

DEREK RAULERSON
v.
NEW SOUTH EXPRESS, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a civil action filed by the Plaintiff, Derek Raulerson, against Elwood Staffing Services, Inc. (“Elwood”) and New South Express, LLC. (“NSE”), his former joint employers. (Doc. 6). The Plaintiff alleges that after he complained about the Defendants' alleged discrimination against his co-employees, the Defendants retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e through 2000e-17 (“Title VII”).

         The case comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion To Dismiss, filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (the “Motion”). (Doc. 11). For the reasons stated herein, the Motion will be GRANTED, but the Plaintiff will be given leave to amend.

         I. STANDARD

         Generally, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). However, to survive a motion to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (“Twombly”).

         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) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (“Iqbal”). That is, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation and footnote omitted). 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 or conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557 (citation omitted).

         Once a claim has been stated adequately, however, “it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563 (citation omitted). Further, when ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must “take the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Glover v. Liggett Group, Inc., 459 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir. 2006)).

         II. FACTS ALLEGED IN THE COMPLAINT

         The Amended Complaint alleges:

8. Defendant Elwood . . . is in the business of supplying staffing services to clients[, ] such as NSE[, ] on a contract basis. Elwood places contingent workers in staffing positions with client companies while employing numerous contract employees to manage its staffing operations.
9. Defendant NSE . . . is in the business of operating a logistics and distribution center that serves the Honda manufacturing plant in Lincoln, Alabama (hereinafter “Honda”). NSE contracted with Elwood to provide temporary employees and other staffing services.
10. Derek Raulerson was a staffing services manager hired by Elwood to work for Elwood and NSE. Derek began his employment on or about July 28, 2014. Raulerson was a joint employee of Elwood and NSE. Working on-site at NSE, Derek's job was to hire and manage Elwood's temporary employees assigned to work for NSE who, in turn, assigned those employees to work at Honda. Derek's performance was supervised by both Elwood and NSE employees.
11. Consistently throughout his employment with Elwood and NSE, Derek was asked to hire or fire employees for discriminatory reasons. On several occasions, Derek was told to create working conditions for pregnant persons[, ] [conditions which] were not required of others[, ] in an attempt to force said persons to quit. Derek was also forced to re-assign disabled persons who were otherwise fit to perform the work at Honda simply due to the fact that NSE didn't [sic] want to send “people like that” to Honda.
12. Derek strenuously objected to NSE and Elwood's demands and complained repeatedly of these discriminatory practices to Elwood, NSE, and ultimately to Honda Logistics of North America. Derek was told that an investigation was undertaken by Honda, but he was never informed as to the findings of any such investigation.
13. After Derek opposed and complained about the unlawful discrimination taking place at Elwood and NSE, he was retaliated against, harassed, and ultimately fired. Derek's supervisor at Elwood told him that he was being fired not because he did not perform his job well, but because NSE did not approve of his complaints about [its] discriminatory employment practices and “wanted him gone.” Derek had never previously been disciplined by Elwood or NSE; in fact, he had received only excellent performance reviews during his employment with the Defendant companies.
14. Derek communicated to Elwood that he was due a monetary bonus earned from work he had performed prior to his termination as well as a monetary sum for unused vacation days per Elwood's customary practices for other employees. The sum of both payments was approximately $4, 200. Derek has yet to receive payment for either amount due in retaliation against his complaining about the Defendants' unlawful discrimination.

(Doc. 6 at 2-4, ¶¶8-14).

         Count One, the only count in the Amended Complaint, states that the Plaintiff's retaliation claim is brought “pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” (Doc. 6 at 4, ¶16). The Amended Complaint alleges that the Plaintiff “repeatedly complained of the said discriminatory practices, ” and “[a]fter learning of Plaintiff[']s report of discrimination to Honda, the Defendants retaliated against, harassed, and ultimately fired the Plaintiff.” (Doc. 6 at 4, ¶¶19, 20).

         III. ALLEGATIONS IN THE EEOC CHARGES[1]

         On September 23, 2016, the Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination against Elwood with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”). (Doc. 11-1). In that charge, the Plaintiff checked the box marked “Retaliation, ” and stated:

I am a worker hired by the above named employer [on] July 28, 2014, as an onsite manager. I performed my job on a satisfactory level. I submitted a complaint to New South Express'[s] Vice-President of Operations after a disabled candidate for employment was discriminated against by the Sr. Human Resource Representative on February 11, 2016. In April 2016, the New South Express Vice-President of Operations transferred out of his position. On June 9, 2016, I was discharged and told the New South Express Sr. Human Resource Representative no longer wanted me on the premises.
I believe I was retaliated against due to submitting a complaint on behalf of a disabled candidate in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

(Doc. 11-1 at 2). The charge is signed and verified by the Plaintiff.

         On September 23, 2016, the Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination against NSE with the EEOC. (Doc. 11-2). In that charge, the Plaintiff also checked the box marked “Retaliation, ” and included the identical factual statement from his other charge. That charge also is signed and verified by the Plaintiff.

         IV. EEOC INTAKE QUESTIONNAIRE[2]

         Before he filed the charges set out above, the Plaintiff completed an “Intake Questionnaire” with the EEOC. (Doc. 16-2). In that document the Plaintiff checked the box for “Retaliation, ” and stated that he believed that he was discriminated against when, on June 9, 2016, he was discharged. (Doc. 16-2 at 3). The Plaintiff listed Stephanie Burton as a witness to his retaliation and wrote that “[s]he can confirm I was retaliated against for reporting a potential EEOC and OSHA claim against Elwood's client NSE.” (Doc. 16-2 at 5). The Plaintiff also listed Alan Balmer as a witness to the retaliation against him and wrote that he “can confirm NSE Senior Manager's displeasure with me reporting the EEOC charge.” (Doc. 16-2 at 5).

         In a statement attached to the questionnaire, the Plaintiff wrote:

I was a staffing services manager for Elwood Staffing (Elwood). I was assigned at New South Express (NSE) and my job was to hire employees through Elwood that worked for NSE. Elwood and NSE were my joint employers. I was supervised by both Elwood and NSE employees. NSE directed the hiring and firing of Elwood employees assigned at NSE. NSE is the logistics arm for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama. So, my job involved hiring employees who worked for NSE at Honda Manufacturing in Lincoln, AL.
Consistently and pervasively during my employment I was asked to hire or fire employees for discriminatory reasons. I was told to create working conditions for pregnant persons[, ] [which] were not required of others[, ] in an attempt to force them to quit. I was forced to re-assign disabled persons who were otherwise fit to perform the work at Honda Manufacturing just because NSE didn't [sic] want to send “people like that” to Honda. I complained repeatedly to Elwood, NSE[, ] and ultimately to Honda Logistics of North America. In February 2016[, ] I lodged a serious ...

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