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Avila-Zavala v. Sexton

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

January 11, 2019

DONALD WAYNE SEXTON, et al., Defendants.



         Juan Diego Avila-Zavala brings this employment action against his former employers and several individuals, asserting claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”), and Alabama state law. Doc. 38. This action is currently before the court on Warrior Investment Co., Inc. (“Warrior”); Prospect Mining & Development Co., LLC (“Prospect”); Cordova Resources Management, Inc. (“Cordova”); and Ronald Bryant's motion to dismiss. Doc. 44.[1] The motion is fully briefed and ripe for review, docs. 44 and 45, and is due to be granted in part.


         Under 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, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” 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).

         Federal 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 . . . state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations omitted) (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). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts “the allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Hunt v. Aimco Props., L.P. 814 F.3d 1213, 1221 (11th Cir. 2016).


         Zavala worked in the Maxine-Pratt Mine, which was jointly operated by Alaco, LLC (“Alaco”) and the Prospect Mining Defendants. Doc. 38 at 6-8. While working at the mine, Zavala's supervisor, Donald Wayne Sexton, sexually harassed and assaulted him. Id. at 2, 9-10. On two occasions while Zavala was on a break, Sexton grabbed Zavala by the hips and made forceful pelvic thrusting motions against Zavala's body while restricting his movement. Id. at 9-10. Zavala reported the harassment and assaults, but the Prospect Mining Defendants and Alaco took no actions against Sexton. Id. at 2, 8-10. Instead, they discharged Zavala on November 2, 2016. Id. at 9, 11.

         Zavala filed charges of discrimination against the Maxine Pratt Mine and Alaco on November 14, 2016 and December 28, 2016, asserting that Sexton sexually harassed him in June 2016 and that discriminatory conduct occurred between June 13, 2016 and November 2, 2016. Docs. 22-1; 22-2. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a right to sue letter on January 11, 2017. Doc. 8 at 7. Zavala then filed this action eleven months later, asserting claims against Sexton, Alaco, David E. Parton, David Parton, Jr., Curtis Laws, Warrior, and Bryant for violations of Title VII and Alabama state law. Doc. 1. Because Title VII does not provide relief against individuals, see Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 772 (11th Cir. 1991), the court dismissed Zavala's Title VII claims against the individual defendants with prejudice. Docs. 14; 35. Thereafter, the court granted Zavala's motion to amend to add claims against Prospect and Cordova. Docs. 32 and 37.

         III. ANALYSIS

         In his Amended Complaint, Zavala asserts claims against the Prospect Mining Defendants for sex discrimination and sexual harassment under Title VII, race discrimination and retaliation under Section 1981, and for the torts of assault and battery, invasion of privacy, outrage, negligent hiring and retention, breach of implied contract, negligence and wantonness, and wrongful discharge. Doc. 38 at 11-22. Zavala also asserts negligence and wantonness claims against Bryant individually. Id. The Prospect Mining Defendants and Bryant have moved to dismiss all claims against them, arguing that Zavala failed to plead viable claims against them.

         A. Claims Against Bryant

         The Prospect Mining Defendants and Bryant argue in part that Zavala failed to plead sufficient facts to support his negligence and wantonness claims against Bryant. See doc. 44 at 6-9. To state a cognizable claim for negligence or wantonness, a plaintiff must allege facts showing that the defendant breached a duty he owed to the plaintiff. See e.g., Smith v. AmSouth Bank, Inc., 892 So.2d 905, 909 (Ala. 2004). Zavala's sole factual allegations against Bryant, the owner or President of Warrior, is that Bryant “was aware or should have been aware of the sexual harassment conduct by Sexton but did nothing about it.” Doc. 38 at 5, 7, 19. See also doc. 8 at 2. However, Zavala cited no authority recognizing a common law duty for an individual to address sexual harassment in the workplace, see doc. 45, and the court is aware of no such authority. Although the pleadings are insufficient, because the parties have completed discovery, the court will convert Bryant's motion to a motion for summary judgment, and will give Zavala until January 23, 2019 to present any evidence he believes supports his claims against Bryant. Bryant's response, if any, is due on January 31, 2019.

         B. Claims against the Prospect Mining Defendants

         1. Tit ...

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