United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Bowman, proceeding pro se, asserts a hostile work environment
claim under Title VII against the City of Birmingham. The
court has for consideration the City's Motion to Dismiss,
doc. 3, which is fully briefed, docs. 7, 8, 10, and ripe for
review. For the reasons explained more fully below, as to the
portion of Bowman's complaint not barred by res judicata,
the City's motion is due to be denied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
“[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not
require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it
demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions” or
“a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action” are insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
“Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders
‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further
factual enhancement.'” Id. (citing
Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 557).
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially
plausible claim for relief “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. (citation omitted). The
complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.;
see also Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555
(“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately,
this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
because the Plaintiff is pro se, the court must construe the
complaint more liberally than it would pleadings drafted by
lawyers. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980).
“Pro se pleading are held to a less stringent
standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will,
therefore, be liberally construed.” Boxer X v.
Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006).
Bowman's second lawsuit against the City related to his
employment. See Bowman v. City of Birmingham, No.
17-CV-255-AKK (“Bowman I”). The vast
majority of the facts alleged in the current complaint repeat
the contentions made in Bowman I. See doc.
2. Thus, the court will only recount the allegations that are
new to this lawsuit.
October 2017, during a mediation hearing related to
Bowman I, the City falsely accused Bowman of using
his work email account for personal purposes and demanded
that Bowman resign and accept a settlement offer for $5, 000,
or face a disciplinary hearing and termination. Doc. 2 at 35.
After Bowman rejected the settlement offer, his supervisor
issued him a written reprimand for the email infraction.
Id. at 35-36. These actions led Bowman to file an
EEOC charge alleging a retaliatory hostile work environment.
Doc. 2 at 36-37. Allegedly, the City retaliated further by:
(1) temporarily assigning Bowman the responsibilities of a
maintenance manager without promoting him to that position,
(2) denying a request to work on a Saturday, and (3)
instructing him to work as a cashier during one event while
assigning management roles to less qualified employees.
Id. at 37-38. As a result, Bowman filed this
lawsuit, pleading a retaliatory hostile work environment
claim under Title VII.
City seeks to dismiss this lawsuit on the grounds that (1)
res judicata bars portions of Bowman's claim, (2) the
City's conduct during mediation is inadmissible to
support Bowman's claim, and (3) Bowman fails to state a
hostile work environment claim. Doc. 3. The court addresses
each argument in turn.
stated previously, this is Bowman's second lawsuit before
the undersigned. Given that the allegations here overlap
with Bowman I, the court begins its analysis with
the City's contention that the doctrine of res judicata
bars portions of Bowman's claim. This doctrine bars a
subsequent action if: “(1) the prior decision was
rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) there was
a final judgment on the merits; (3) the parties were
identical in both suits; and (4) the prior and present causes
of action are the same.” Davila v. Delta Air Lines,
Inc., 326 F.3d 1183, 1187 (11th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Jang v. United Techs. Corp., 206 F.3d 1147, 1149
(11th Cir. 2000)). The res judicata bar pertains not only to
the claims actually raised in the prior action, but also to
existing claims that were not raised. Trustmark Ins. Co.
v. ESLU, Inc., 299 F.3d 1265, 1271 (11th Cir. 2002). In
determining whether the prior and present causes of action
are the same, the court must decide whether the actions arise
“out of the same nucleus of operative fact, or [are]
based upon the same factual predicate.” In re Piper
Aircraft Corp., 244 F.3d 1289, 1297 (11th Cir. 2001)
(internal quotation marks omitted), cert. denied sub nom.
TDY Indus., Inc. v. Kaiser Aerospace & Elec. Corp.,
534 U.S. 827 (2001).
extent Bowman's new claim implicates conduct that
occurred prior to the filing of Bowman I, all four
res judicata factors apply. First, the court properly
exercised jurisdiction over Bowman I pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. See doc. 1 in
Bowman I. Second, the court dismissed Bowman
I on the merits, satisfying step two. See doc.
57 in Bowman I. Third, the parties are identical, as