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McClain v. State of Alabama Department of Human Resources

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

January 23, 2019

RUKIYA P. McCLAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF ALABAMA DEPARMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case is before the court on Defendants‘ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff‘s Complaint. (Doc. # 6). Plaintiff has responded (Doc. # 11), and the Motion is ripe for decision.[1] After careful review, and for the reasons explained below, the court concludes that Defendants‘ Motion to Dismiss is due to be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Rukiya P. McClain, claims that Defendants discriminated against her based on her race and sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (Doc. # 1). She also raises a retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). (Id.). In support of these claims, Plaintiff alleges the following facts in her Complaint.

         Plaintiff, an African-American female, was employed as a Child Welfare Worker for over thirteen years with Defendant Jefferson County Department of Human Resources (hereinafter “Jefferson County DHR”). (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 10). Plaintiff asserts that although she performed her job competently throughout her employment, Defendant routinely treated her differently than her “white and/or male and/or younger counterparts.” (Id. at ¶ 12).

         Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that on July 8, 2015 at 3:36 a.m., her co-worker, Chrislyn Pepper, received a call through the crisis stabilization unit of DHR. (Id. at ¶ 13). Pepper then transferred the call to Plaintiff, who was on call for the night shift. (Id. at ¶ 14). Together, they questioned the “Reporter” (that is, the person making the report) and determined that his information did not amount to a “neglect or endangerment call.” (Id. at ¶¶ 15, 18). Plaintiff claims that they investigated the background of the mother and child in question, but did not detect any history or association with the Reporter. (Id. at ¶ 24). She further contends that at the time of this call, DHR had no policy or procedure that required its employees to perform a search for a history on a Reporter. (Id. at ¶ 22). Plaintiff claims that pursuant to DHR policy, she and Pepper did not investigate the Reporter‘s history because they had no reason to believe there was any allegation against him relating to the abuse or neglect of a child. (Id. at ¶ 23).

         On July 15, 2015, Plaintiff met with the Assistant Director and Program Manager at Jefferson County DHR. (Id. at ¶ 25). During that meeting, they allegedly informed Plaintiff that she would be receiving a “Charge Letter”for disciplinary action based on her response to the July 8, 2015 call. (Id.). Thereafter, Defendants held an administrative hearing on August 12, 2015 that resulted in Plaintiff‘s termination on October 2, 2015. (Id. at ¶¶ 26, 27; Doc. # 1-1). According to Plaintiff, Defendants‘ justification for her termination was that she failed to perform her job according to DHR Rules and the Rules of the State Personnel Board. (Id.).

         Additionally, Plaintiff claims that Pepper was disparately treated-i.e., not disciplined for her handling of the same call. (Id. at ¶ 33). Instead, Plaintiff submits that Pepper was promoted to supervisor on or about September 16, 2015, just weeks before Plaintiff‘s termination. (Id. at ¶ 34). Plaintiff alleges that Pepper was treated more leniently because she is “apparently a bi-racial female and her age is believed to be less than 40, her nationality is unknown…her color/complexion is light, and she has no known prior protected activity.” (Id. at 4). Plaintiff also avers that her “white and/or male and/or younger colleagues”who failed to adequately perform their jobs by contributing to “child injuries and or deaths”were not similarly punished or terminated. (Id. at ¶ 32).

         On February 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination against Defendants with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC-). (Doc. # 1-1). Plaintiff‘s EEOC charge asserts that she was subjected to (1) discrimination based on race, sex, color, age, and national origin and (2) retaliation for engaging in protected activity. (Id.). She indicated that the alleged discrimination began on August 12, 2015 (the date of her administrative hearing). (Id.). The court notes that February 18, 2016 is within 180 days of the alleged unlawful employment practices.

         On July 12, 2018, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a Dismissal and Notice of Rights. (Doc. # 1-2). Although Plaintiff does not indicate when she received this letter, Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure creates a presumption that receipt occurs three days after the mailing date. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(d). Because three days after the mailing date was Sunday, July 15, 2018, Plaintiff is presumed to have received the Dismissal and Notice of Rights on Monday, July 16, 2018. Plaintiff filed her Complaint initiating this action on October 14, 2018. (Doc. # 1). The court notes that this date is within ninety (90) days of July 16, 2018, the date Plaintiff is presumed to have received the letter.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). However, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action”do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon “labels and conclusions”or “naked assertion[s]”without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. International Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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). Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '”the complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”Id. 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.

         In considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “1) eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'”Kivisto v. Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, PLC, 413 F. App‘x 136, 138 (11th Cir. 2011) (unpublished) (quoting Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010)). That task is context specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court based on its “judicial experience and common sense . . . to infer more than the mere possibility of ...


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