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Moore v. Baker

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

June 18, 2018

KATHY J. MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
JIMMY H. BAKER, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          DAVID A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Kathy J. Moore, sues Wallace Community College Selma, its president, the Chancellor of Alabama Community College System, the Board of Trustees of Alabama Community College System, and the Board of Trustees' president and members, alleging retaliation and discrimination in employment based on gender and age. (Doc. 1). Before the court is Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted (Doc. 28), Defendants' Motion to Transfer Venue to the Southern District of Alabama (Doc. 29), and Defendants Ron Fantroy and Susan Foy's Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Transfer (Doc. 41). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. (Doc. 44). Defendants replied. (Docs. 48, 49). For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the motions to transfer venue be granted and this case be transferred to the Selma Division of the Southern District of Alabama. Given this recommendation, it is further recommended that the Defendants' motions to dismiss be held in abeyance to be decided by the transferee court and terminated in this Court.

         I. JURISDICTION

         Subject matter jurisdiction is conferred by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343; 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), § 626(b); and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3) as to Plaintiff's causes of action. Defendants contest jurisdiction and venue, alleging the Southern District of Alabama is the more appropriate forum. On February 23, 2018, the above-styled matter was referred to the undersigned for review by United States District Judge Myron H. Thompson. (Doc. 30); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Rule 72, Fed. R. Civ. P.; United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667 (1980); Jeffrey S. v. State Bd. of Educ. of State of Ga., 896 F.2d 507 (11th Cir. 1990).

         II. BACKGROUND AND FACTS

         Plaintiff alleges she was involuntarily transferred/demoted on the basis of gender and age from the position of Director of Student Support Services for Wallace Community College Selma (WCCS) to Adult Education Counselor/Student Success Coach. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 41-43).

         Plaintiff filed this action in the Middle District of Alabama. (Doc. 1). She alleges venue is proper on the basis of 28 U.S.C. §1391(b) because this action is brought within the State where the unlawful employment practice was committed under 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5(f)(3). Plaintiff is a citizen of Dallas County, Alabama. (Doc. 1, ¶ 5). Dallas County is in the Southern District of Alabama, which is where Defendants request the case be transferred. WCCS, where Plaintiff works, is located in Dallas County, Alabama. Id., ¶ 17. Plaintiff sues James Mitchell, individually and in his capacity as president of WCCS; he is alleged to be a resident of Dallas County. Id., ¶ 18. Herbert Thomas, Plaintiff's alleged comparator, works at WCCS which is located in the Selma Division of the Southern District of Alabama. (Doc. 29 at 3).

         Plaintiff sues the Board of Trustees of the Alabama Community College System (“ACCS Board”), which is a department of Alabama state government, headquartered in Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama. (Doc. 1, ¶ 7). The ACCS Board members-Governor Kay Ivey, Al Thompson, Ron Fantroy, Susan Foy, Frank Caldwell, Crystal Brown, Milton A. David, Chuck Smith, and Blake McAnally-are alleged to be citizens of the following counties: Montgomery, Baldwin, Conecuh, Tallapoosa, Walker, Morgan, Jefferson, and Marengo.[1] Id., ¶¶ 8-16. Jimmy Baker, who is sued in his official capacity as the Chancellor of the ACCS, resides in Montgomery County. Id., ¶ 6.

         In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges her employers, WCCS and the ACCS Board, discriminated against her in violation of Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) by intentionally paying her less than a similarly-situated, less-qualified, younger male (Herbert Thomas). Id., ¶¶ 70-87, 97-105. She additionally claims WCCS and the ACCS Board retaliated against her for protesting gender and age discrimination. Id., ¶¶ 106-18. She sues WCCS President Mitchell, ACCS Chancellor Baker, and the Trustee Defendants for civil rights violations, alleging violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as remedied through 42 U.S.C.§ 1983, by intentionally paying her less as Director of Student Support Services than a similarly-situated male employee in the same position. Id., ¶¶ 88-96.

         Plaintiff alleges she was hired as the Director of Student Support Services (SSS) in August 2006 in a temporary appointment. Id., ¶ 40. She was made full-time in that position in approximately June 2007 and continued to hold the SSS Director position until August 31, 2015. Id. At that time, WCCS President Mitchell reassigned her to a new position as an Adult Education Counselor/Student Success Coach effective October 1, 2015. Id., ¶ 41. She alleges the reassignment/transfer was a demotion because she no longer was a supervisor, no longer had decision-making authority, and no longer was responsible for creating and administering a budget. Id., ¶ 42. She filed her initial charge of discrimination with the EEOC on February 19, 2016. Id., ¶ 43.

         In December 2016, Mitchell and WCCS hired Herbert Thomas as SSS Director. Id., ¶ 47. Plaintiff alleges that Thomas is male, substantially younger than her, and less qualified for the position, and yet he was paid nearly thirty percent more than she was for performing the same duties. Id., ¶¶ 48-49. She asserts she was more qualified than Thomas for the SSS Director position. Id., ¶ 65. Plaintiff filed her second EEOC charge of discrimination on March 25, 2017. Id., ¶ 69. She filed this lawsuit in January 2018. (Doc. 1).

         Defendants have moved to dismiss the claims against them based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies, untimeliness, failure to state a claim, and Eleventh Amendment immunity. (Docs. 28, 41). Additionally, Defendants seek to have venue transferred to the Selma Division of the Southern District of Alabama because the facts, as alleged by Plaintiff, demonstrate the alleged unlawful employment practices occurred there, the decision-maker Mitchell and alleged comparator Thomas are both in the Southern District of Alabama, and the relevant employment records are maintained and administered at WCCS which is in the Southern District of Alabama. (Docs. 29, 41).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD -- VENUE

         Venue in a Title VII case is governed by U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3), [2] which allows a Title VII plaintiff to file an action in “any judicial district in the State” of Alabama. 42 U.S.C. § ...


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