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Coleman v. Morris-Shea Bridge Co. Inc.

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

January 3, 2019

LARRY COLEMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,


          L. Scott Coogler United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Larry Coleman (“Larry”), Chester Coleman (“Chester”), and Freddie Seltzer (“Freddie”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) bring this action against Defendants Morris-Shea Bridge Company, Inc. (“Morris-Shea”), Richard J. Shea, Jr. (“Dick Shea”), and Richard J. Shea, III (“Richard Shea”) (collectively “Defendants”), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). Before the Court is Morris-Shea and Dick Shea’s motion to dismiss. (Doc. 20.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, the motion is due to be denied.

         I. Background [1]

         Defendant Morris-Shea is a heavy construction contractor with a focus on deep foundation work related to bridges, highways, buildings, and similar foundation engineering. The company is managed and partially owned by Defendants Dick and Richard Shea who are Caucasian. Both Dick and Richard Shea are involved either directly or indirectly with all decisions regarding Morris-Shea employees. Plaintiffs Larry Coleman, Chester Coleman, and Freddie Seltzer are three brothers who are African-American. The brothers are age sixty, fifty-six, and fifty-two, respectively. Each brother was employed by Morris-Shea for at least twenty-five years. Larry worked in various positions at Morris-Shea, and his last position was that of superintendent. Chester and Freddie were construction crew members who worked on various projects for Morris-Shea throughout the years.

         On April 10, 2017, the three brothers were all working on a construction project at the home of Richard Shea in Mountain Brook, Alabama. Around lunch time, Freddie and Chester left the worksite to get a sandwich at a local restaurant. Larry did not leave the worksite during lunch because he had brought his lunch. Although it took Freddie and Chester less than thirty minutes to return, Dick Shea complained to Larry that his brothers were taking too long of a lunch break. When they returned to the worksite, Dick Shea told Larry to send Freddie and Chester home. The next morning, when Larry arrived at the worksite, another superintendent for Morris-Shea told him that Dick Shea wanted him to leave the worksite and go home.

         About two weeks later, Lee Dubberly, a different superintendent for Morris-Shea, called Larry and told him that he, Chester, and Freddie had all been terminated by Morris-Shea. Although no one at Morris-Shea would tell the brothers why they had been fired, when Larry asked human resources to complete a form necessary for him to receive food stamps, a human resource manager wrote “lack of work” as the reason for his termination. Since their termination, Morris-Shea has not recalled the Plaintiffs to work and has determined that they are not eligible for rehire. According to Plaintiffs, Morris-Shea has never terminated a white employee for taking more than thirty minutes at lunch. The construction workers hired to replace Plaintiffs are all white and are substantially younger than Plaintiffs.

         In May 2017, a month after they were terminated, Plaintiffs filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that Morris-Shea discriminated against them. Specifically, the EEOC charges claim that the brothers were harassed by fellow white employees and compensated less than similarly situated white employees due to their race. The EEOC charges also include allegations that the brothers were terminated due to age and race discrimination.

         II. Standard of Review

         In general, a pleading must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). However, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a complaint “must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ray v. Spirit Airlines, Inc., 836 F.3d 1340, 1347– 48 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “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). Stated another way, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1301 (11th Cir. 2010). A complaint that “succeeds in identifying facts that are suggestive enough to render [the necessary elements of a claim] plausible” will survive a motion to dismiss. Watts v. Fla. Int’l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1296 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, this Court first “identif[ies] pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. This Court then “assume[s] the[] veracity” of the complaint’s “well-pleaded factual allegations” and “determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. Review of the complaint is “a context-specific task that requires [this Court] to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. If the pleading “contain[s] enough information regarding the material elements of a cause of action to support recovery under some ‘viable legal theory,’” it satisfies the notice pleading standard. Am. Fed’n of Labor & Cong. of Indus. Orgs. v. City of Miami, 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683–84 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         “In general, if it considers materials outside of the complaint, a district court must convert the motion to dismiss into a summary judgment motion.” SFM Holdings, Ltd. v. Banc. of Am. Sec., LLC, 600 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2010). However, a “district court may consider an extrinsic document if it is (1) central to the plaintiff’s claim, and (2) its authenticity is not challenged.” See Id. (citing Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2005)). In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs refer to their EEOC charges and notice of right to sue letters. The EEOC charges are also referred to throughout the motion to dismiss. As the Court finds the EEOC charges central to the plaintiffs’ claims and their authenticity is not in dispute, the Court will take them into consideration in this Opinion.[2]

         III. Discussion

         Defendant Dick Shea seeks to dismiss the § 1981 claims brought against him in Counts Five, Six, Seven, Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen of the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim. Morris-Shea also seeks dismissal of certain allegations contained within Counts Two and Eight of the Amended Complaint, arguing that Plaintiff Larry Coleman failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to these allegations. Defendants also ask the Court to require the Plaintiffs to re-plead their claims, contending that the Amended Complaint is “needlessly long, unnecessarily repetitive, and frustrates Defendants’ ability to respond to material allegations against them.” (See Doc. 20 at 12.) The Court will address each argument in turn.

         A. 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981 ...

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