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Baker v. Nucor Steel Birmingham Inc.

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

June 13, 2018

RONALD BAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
NUCOR STEEL BIRMINGHAM INC. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Ronald Baker sues Defendant Nucor Steel Birmingham, Inc., raising claims of (1) race discrimination and retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 2OOOe et seq.; and (2) race discrimination, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Doc. 1). He seeks a declaratory judgment, an injunction enjoining Nucor from engaging in race discrimination, and monetary damages. (Id. at 10-11). This case is before the court on Nucor's motion to dismiss the complaint or, alternatively, motion for more definite statement. (Doc. 3). Nucor contends that Mr. Baker failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for several of his claim, that he failed to state a claim, and that the statute of limitations bars parts of his claims.

         The court WILL DENY Nucor's motion to dismiss the complaint or, alternatively, for a more definite statement. The court WILL NOT DISMISS Mr. Baker's Title VII claim of retaliation, contained in Count One, because he exhausted his administrative remedies for that claim. The court WILL NOT DISMISS any of Mr. Baker's other claims because the complaint states a claim for race discrimination and Mr. Baker is not required to plead facts refuting Nucor's statute of limitations defense.

         I. BACKGROUND

         At the motion to dismiss stage, the court must accept as true the allegations in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Butler v. Sheriff of Palm Beach Cty., 685 F.3d 1261, 1265 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). But the court may also consider documents attached to a motion to dismiss if they are central to the complaint and the plaintiff does not challenge their authenticity. Harris v. Ivax Corp., 182 F.3d 799, 802 n.2 (11th Cir. 1999). In this case, Nucor attached the charge of discrimination that Mr. Baker filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), and Mr. Baker does not dispute the authenticity of that document, so the court will consider it in ruling on this motion to dismiss.

         Mr. Baker is an African American man who began working for Nucor on July 9, 2012. At that time, Nucor assigned him to the Melt Shop department at pay grade two. Mr. Baker does not state what position he now occupies within that department.[1]He does state that, at an unspecified time, Nucor also hired an unnamed Caucasian man "with similar or less experience, skill and/or qualification" at pay grade five, and within a year, Nucor promoted that man to a Shift Mechanic position at pay grade eight. Both grade five and grade eight pay more than pay grade two. Besides that unnamed man, Mr. Baker alleges that Nucor has hired other unidentified but similarly situated Caucasian employees at higher positions than him, and that Nucor has promoted those employees over him. He further alleges that Nucor provides Caucasian employees performing the same tasks as him training and mentoring that it did not provide to him, and that Nucor holds him to a higher standard than it holds his Caucasian coworkers. (Doc. 1 at 2, 4, 5-6).

         Specifically, Mr. Baker alleges that Nucor micromanages him; harasses him; disciplines him disproportionately; requires testing for pay raises from him that it does not require from similarly situated Caucasian employees; requires him and other African American employees to account for their work in a way Caucasian employees are not required to do; assigns him an unequal share of less desirable job duties, including physically demanding jobs; and assigns him undesirable night shifts. (Doc. 1 at 6-7).

         On March 28, 2016, Mr. Baker filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. (Doc. 3-2). The form asks for the complainant to identify whether the discrimination is based on, among other things, race, color, and retaliation. Mr. Baker checked the boxes for race and color, but did not check the box for retaliation. In the narrative, Mr. Baker stated that Nucor discriminated against him by disproportionately assigning him undesirable tasks and shifts; failing to promote him; and requiring skill testing from him that the company did not require from Caucasian employees.

         Mr. Baker alleges that, after he filed his charge with the EEOC, his supervisors have "constantly . . . watched and nitpicked" him. And as a result of the heightened scrutiny, he has received disciplinary write-ups that similarly situated Caucasian coworkers have not received in similar situations. (Doc. 1 at 7-8).

         On August 6, 2017, the EEOC issued Mr. Baker a notice of right to sue. (Doc. 1-1). Mr. Baker filed this lawsuit on November 3, 2017. (Doc. 1).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Nucor contends that Mr. Baker failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to some of his claims; that the complaint fails to state a claim because it is conclusory and vague; and that the statute of limitations bars parts of Mr. Baker's claims. (Doc. 3).

         1. Administrative Exhaustion

         Nucor contends that Plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust his Title VII claims of harassment and retaliation by filing a charge with the EEOC that raised those claims. (Doc. 3 at 15-17). Mr. Baker responds that his EEOC charge did not complain of retaliation because Nucor had not yet retaliated against him when he filed it. (Doc. 7 at 20). He does not ...


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