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Church v. Alabama Law Enforcement Agency

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

November 14, 2018

MARY CHURCH, Plaintiff,
v.
ALABAMA LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GRAY M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the court is the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint filed by Defendant Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (“ALEA”). Doc. 18. Plaintiff Mary Church filed suit against ALEA on May 25, 2018. Doc. 1. On July 12, 2018, Church filed an amended complaint asserting claims for gender discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation under Title VII. Doc. 16. ALEA moved to dismiss the claims, arguing that Church lacks standing, that her claims are time barred and fall outside the scope of her EEOC charge, and that her retaliation and failure to promote allegations fail to state a plausible claim for relief. Doc. 18. After careful consideration of the parties' filings and the relevant law, and for the reasons stated below, the court concludes that the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 18) is due to be DENIED.

         I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         The court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims in this lawsuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or that venue is proper in the Middle District of Alabama. The court finds adequate allegations to support both.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The following is a recitation of the facts as alleged in the Amended Complaint. In October 2017, ALEA hired Church, a white woman, as a State Patrol Officer. Doc. 16 at 3. Beginning in 2008, Church applied for several promotions for which she was qualified. Doc. 16 at 3. She did not receive any of the promotions and the positions often were filled by less qualified black men. Doc. 16 at 3. One of the positions, for Instructor at Selma Academy, was filled by Lucy Edwards, a less qualified black woman. Doc. 16 at 4. This prompted Church to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC in August 2016 complaining about ALEA's pattern of discriminatory promotions. Doc. 16 at 4. After receiving notice of her Charge of Discrimination, ALEA Chief Charles Ward met with Church and told her that he wanted to help her to get a promotion. Doc. 16 at 4.

         On May 22, 2017, ALEA posted an opening for the position of Corporal, and Church told Ward that she was interested in the job. Doc. 16 at 5. Church was qualified for the position, and she applied for and interviewed for it, but ALEA selected David Jones, a black man with lesser qualifications, to fill the position. Doc. 16 at 5. Church requested a meeting with Corporal Scott Duncan and Captain Devinner to discuss why she did not receive the position. Doc. 16 at 5-6. Devinner refused to answer her questions.

         On July 11, 2017, Church applied for a Motor Carrier Weight Corporal position. Doc. 16 at 6. She interviewed for the job with a four-person panel. Doc. 16 at 6. The panel asked whether she considered herself to be “high maintenance” and also asked when she would be eligible for retirement. Doc. 16 at 7. Three other applicants, all of whom were men, told Church they were not asked these questions. Doc. 16 at 7. Church then filed an internal complaint with ALEA explaining that she believed the interview questions were inappropriate, retaliatory, and discriminatory. Doc. 16 at 8. ALEA attorney Casey Bates and Personnel Director Stan Goolsby met with Church to discuss the interview. Doc. 16 at 8. Goolsby told Church that the Motor Carrier Weight Corporal position had not been filled because he wanted to investigate her internal complaint. Doc. 16 at 8. Goolsby could not provide Church with more information because he first wanted to find out the status of her EEOC complaint. Doc. 16 at 9. Goolsby and Bates asked whether she had retained an attorney. Church told them she had not retained an attorney and that she simply wanted to make ALEA aware of its existing problems. Doc. 16 at 9.

         On August 15, 2017, Church received a letter in the mail from Susanna Capps, the new Chief of ALEA, informing her that she had not been selected for the Motor Carrier Weight Corporal position. Doc. 16 at 9. Around August 24, 2017, Capps called Church's sergeant and complained that Church was not downloading her body camera footage often enough and that her enforcement statistics were low in comparison to her peers. Doc. 16 at 9. Church's supervisor, Scott Duncan, looked into the complaint and found the accusations to be unfounded. Doc. 16 at 9-10. Church's camera uploads were on track despite the fact that Church performed collateral job duties that frequently pulled her away from road enforcement and that other ALEA troopers did not have to perform. Doc. 16 at 10. And Church's enforcement statistics were equal to or above those of her peers. Doc. 16 at 10.

         Church has no major disciplinary reports in her employee file, and has had no discipline problems whatsoever in the past six or seven years. Doc. 16 at 3. She has met or exceeded the performance expectations for her job during each performance review period. Doc. 16 at 3. Nevertheless, ALEA selected less qualified male employees to fill each position for which Church applied. Doc. 16 at 15.

         A close reading of the pleadings reveals that only the Corporal and Motor Carrier Weight Corporal positions serve as the basis for Church's gender discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation claims. See Doc. 20 at 5-7. Though Church references other promotions in her complaint, her response to the motion to dismiss confirms that she seeks relief only in regards to the Corporal and Motor Weight Corporal positions, and that the references to other promotions serve merely to demonstrate ALEA's history of discrimination. Doc. 20 at 5-7.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) challenges the district court's subject matter jurisdiction and takes one of two forms: a facial attack or a factual attack. A facial attack challenges subject matter jurisdiction without disputing the facts alleged in the complaint. Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). When evaluating a facial attack, the court considers the allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true. Id. “Such protections do not attach when the district court's jurisdiction is based upon the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Eaton v. Dorchester Dev. Inc., 692 F.2d 727, 731-32 (11th Cir. 1982). A factual attack challenges the factual allegations underlying the assertion of subject matter jurisdiction. Lawrence, 919 F.2d at 1529. When evaluating a factual attack, there is no presumption in favor of the plaintiff and the court may weigh the evidence and consider “matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits.” Id. “Under a factual attack, the court may hear conflicting evidence and decide the factual issues that determine jurisdiction.” Kuhlman v. United States, 822 F.Supp.2d 1255, 1257 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (citing Colonial Pipeline Co. v. Collins, 921 F.2d 1237, 1243 (11th Cir. 1991)).

         Because the parties here do not contest the factual allegations underlying jurisdiction, ALEA asserts a facial attack. Standing is jurisdictional, so “a dismissal for lack of standing has the same effect as a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1).” Stalley ex rel. U.S. v. Orlando Reg'l Healthcare Sys., Inc., 524 F.3d 1229, 1232 (11th Cir. 2008). “A dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is not a judgment on the merits and is entered without prejudice.” Id.

         In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the 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). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is “plausible on its face” if “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). The complaint “requires 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. Factual allegations need not be detailed, but “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully- harmed-me accusation[s]” will not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Standing

         Under Article III of the Constitution, the jurisdiction of the federal courts is limited to “Cases” and “Controversies.” Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559 (1992). “[S]tanding is an essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy requirement.” Id. To establish standing, a plaintiff must show (1) that she suffered an injury in fact, (2) that there is a causal connection between the injury and the challenged action of the defendant, and (3) that the injury will likely be redressed by a favorable decision. Id. “At the pleading stage, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice, for on a motion to dismiss we ‘presum[e] that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim.'” Id. at 561 (citing Lujan v. Nat. Wildlife Fed., 497 U.S. 871, 889 (1990)). Simply proving standing does not mean that the plaintiff “must, or should, prevail on the cause of action.” Jenkins v. BellSouth Corp., 2006 WL 8436903, at *2 (N.D. Ala. Sept. 19, 2006) ...


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