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Vernon v. Central Alabama Community College

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

July 31, 2018

S. MARIE VERNON, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTRAL ALABAMA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case is before the court on Defendants Central Alabama Community College (“CACC”) and Dr. Susan Burrow's partial motion to dismiss Plaintiff S. Marie Vernon's complaint. (Doc. 5). The parties have fully briefed the motion. (Docs. 5, 9, 10). For the reasons explained below, the court GRANTS the motion but gives Ms. Vernon an opportunity to replead her hostile work environment claim against CACC.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Standard

         To the extent that the Defendants argue that Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity bars Ms. Vernon's claims, the court construes the Defendants' motion as one for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). See McClendon v. Ga. Dep't. of Community Health, 261 F.3d 1252, 1256 (11th Cir. 2001) (“Because the Eleventh Amendment represents a constitutional limitation on the federal judicial power established in Article III, . . ., federal courts lack jurisdiction to entertain suits that are barred by the Eleventh Amendment.”) (internal citation omitted).

         Rule 12(b)(1) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A defendant may present either a facial or a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction. Morrison v. Amway Corp., 323 F.3d 920, 924 (11th Cir. 2003). If it is apparent from the face of the complaint that the plaintiff has pled facts that confer subject matter jurisdiction under a statute, then a court must deny a defendant's 12(b)(1) motion. Houston v. Marod Supermarkets, Inc., 733 F.3d 1323, 1335 (11th Cir. 2013). In conducting a facial analysis, a court must take the allegations of the complaint as true. Houston, 733 F.3d at 1335. In contrast, when a defendant mounts a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, a district court may consider extrinsic evidence and weigh the facts to determine whether it may exercise jurisdiction. Houston, 733 F.3d at 1336.

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         To the extent that the Defendants argue that Ms. Vernon's factual allegations fail to state a claim for relief, the court construes the motion as one for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, 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). “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). A plausible claim for relief requires “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. A complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, but a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         When resolving a motion to dismiss, the court must “accept[] the allegations in the complaint as true and constru[e] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Miljkovic v. Shafritz & Dinkin, P.A., 791 F.3d 1291, 1297 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Hill v. White, 321 F.3d 1334, 1335 (11th Cir. 2003) (per curiam)). Although the court must accept well-pleaded facts as true, the court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND BACKGROUND

         Ms. Vernon is over the age of forty. (Doc. 1, ¶ 8). CACC hired Ms. Vernon on January 2, 2014 as the school's Director of Accounting. (Doc. 1, ¶ 12). CACC originally assigned Ms. Vernon to the Alexander City campus. CACC later assigned Ms. Vernon to the Childersburg campus. (Doc. 1, ¶ 12).

         Ms. Vernon “performed all duties of Director of Accounting fully and completely.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 13). Ms. Vernon alleges that she “supervised a staff which had been employed by Defendant CACC for which the Plaintiff received no support or assistance as male employees and younger employees who were in positions similarly situated to Plaintiff were given.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 14). According to Ms. Vernon, CACC permitted her staff “to engage in hostile and antagonistic practices for which the Plaintiff received no support in disciplining her staff by Defendant CACC and [CACC's Interim President] Defendant Burrow.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 15). CACC evaluated Ms. Vernon's job performance on three occasions within a period of less than two years, but CACC did not evaluate younger male employees on a yearly basis. (Doc. 1, ¶ 17). By letter dated July 6, 2016, Dr. Burrow terminated Ms. Vernon's employment, and CACC replaced her with a younger male employee. (Doc. 1, ¶ 18).

         Based on these facts, Ms. Vernon asserts the following claims against the Defendants: (1) Title VII gender discrimination; (2) ADEA age discrimination; (3) Title VII and ADEA hostile work environment; (4) Title ...


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