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Hawkins v. Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School

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

December 4, 2018

CORTNEY R. HAWKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
HOLY FAMILY CRISTO REY CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this employment discrimination case, Plaintiff Cortney R. Hawkins alleges that Defendant Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School (“Holy Family”) discriminated against her because of her race and gender, and retaliated against her for reporting student complaints to school administrators. Ms. Hawkins asserts claims against Holy Family under Title VII and Title VI for retaliation, race discrimination, and sex discrimination and § 1981 for race discrimination.

         This case is before the court on Holy Family's motion to dismiss Ms. Hawkins's second amended complaint (doc. 26), Ms. Hawkins's motion for leave to file a third amended complaint (doc. 34), and Ms. Hawkins's motion for leave to file a sur-reply (doc. 35). For the reasons explained below, and with the benefit of oral argument, the court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Holy Family's motion to dismiss, DENIES Ms. Hawkins's motion for leave to amend, and GRANTS Ms. Hawkins's motion for leave to file a sur-reply.

         I. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). 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.

         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)).

         B. Factual Background and Procedural History

         Construed in the light most favorable to Ms. Hawkins, the facts alleged in the second amended complaint are as follows. Ms. Hawkins is a 28-year old African-American female. (Doc. 23 at ¶ 7). From July 2016 until March 8, 2018, Ms. Hawkins taught 9th and 10th grade English and 11th and 12th grade African-American History at Holy Family. (Id. at ¶ 8). Holy Family Principal Cheryl Kuyk[1] and Holy Family President Father Jon Chalmers supervised Ms. Hawkins while she was employed by the school. (Id. at ¶ 9).

         Ms. Hawkins reported student complaints regarding inappropriate comments and disparate punishment of female students to her supervisors on three separate occasions. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 11, 13). In September 2017, an African-American female student approached Ms. Hawkins about “inappropriate comments and disparate treatment in disciplining female students versus male students.” (Doc. 23 at ¶ 10). Ms. Hawkins reported to Father Chalmers and Ms. Kuyk the student's concerns about the “perception of discriminative treatment of female students.” (Id. at ¶ 10).

         In November 2017, L.W., an African-American female student, and several other female students approached Ms. Hawkins and “reported their discontent with their Science teacher, Charles Prib[yl], [2] a Caucasian man, and the inappropriate comments he [made].” (Doc. 23 at ¶ 11). L.W. told Ms. Hawkins that she (L.W.) was uncomfortable around Mr. Pribyl. (Id. at ¶ 11). Ms. Hawkins reported L.W.'s concerns to Father Chalmers and Ms. Kuyk, and later, to the State of Alabama Department of Human Resources. (Id. at ¶¶ 11, 12).

         On January 4, 2018, a male student, K.D.M., told Ms. Hawkins that he too was uncomfortable with Mr. Pribyl. (Doc. 23 at ¶ 13). Ms. Hawkins reported K.D.M.'s concern to Father Chalmers and Ms. Kuyk. (Id.).

         On March 8, 2018, Holy Family terminated Ms. Hawkins's employment for wearing a hooded jacket in class in violation of the school's dress code for teachers. (Id. at ¶ 14). According to Ms. Hawkins, white teachers wore jackets or coats with hoods. (Doc. 23 at ¶14). The white teachers were not reprimanded or fired for dress code violations. (Id. at ¶ 24).

         Based on these allegations Ms. Hawkins sued Holy Family. Her second amended complaint asserts the following claims: Title VII and Title VI Retaliation (Count I); Race Discrimination (Count II); and Sex Discrimination (Count III). (Doc. 23). Holy Family filed a motion to dismiss Ms. Hawkins's second amended complaint. (Doc. 26). After the parties fully briefed the motion (see doc. 29; doc. 30), Ms. Hawkins filed a motion for leave to file a third amended complaint (doc. 34). On November 28, 2018, the court held a hearing on the motions.[3] After the hearing, Ms. Hawkins filed a motion for leave to file a sur-reply. (Doc. 35). Although briefing on Holy Family's motion to dismiss closed more than two months ago, the court reluctantly GRANTS Ms. Hawkins's motion to file a sur-reply.

         C. Discussion

         Holy Family moves to dismiss Ms. Hawkins's claims on both procedural and substantive grounds. (See Doc. 26; Doc. 30). Procedurally, Holy Family asks the court to dismiss Ms. Hawkins's second amended complaint because it is an improper shotgun pleading. (Doc. 26 at 13-15; Doc. 30 at 3-4). Also procedurally, Holy Family asks the court to dismiss Ms. Hawkins's Title VII retaliation, race discrimination, and sex discrimination claims as abandoned because Ms. Hawkins did not address these claims in her response brief. (Doc. 30 at 2). Substantively, Holy Family argues that Ms. Hawkins's factual allegations do not plausibly state claims for relief. (Doc. 26 at 5-13; Doc. 30 at 4-6). The court addresses each argument in turn.

         1. Shotgun Pleading

         The court may dismiss shotgun pleadings that violate either Rule 8(a)(2) or Rule 10(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1320 (11th Cir. 2015). Ms. Hawkins's second amended complaint is a shotgun pleading because it “contain[s] multiple counts where each count adopts the allegations of the preceding counts, causing each successive count to carry all that came before and the last count to be a combination of the entire complaint.” Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1321; see Doc. 23 at ¶¶ 15, 23, 27. Ms. Hawkins's second amended complaint also is a shotgun pleading because it does “not separate[e] into a different count each cause of action or claim for relief.” Weilan ...


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