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Keith v. Talladega City Board of Education

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

April 17, 2019

JANIE KEITH, Plaintiff,
v.
TALLADEGA CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court on “Defendant[] Talladega City Board of Education's Motion to Dismiss, ” filed on September 19, 2018. (Doc. 3). On August 16, 2018, Plaintiff Janie Keith filed this employment discrimination lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, pay discrimination, and quantum meruit. (Doc. 1). On October 15, 2018, Ms. Keith filed “Plaintiff's Objection to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.” (Doc. 9). On October 25, 2018, Talladega City Board of Education filed “Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Objection to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.” (Doc. 10). The motion is now ripe for review.

         I. Background

         The Board of Education hired Ms. Keith, an African-American female, as a physical education teacher on October 19, 1989. (Doc. 9 at 1). Ms. Keith initially coached varsity cheerleading at Talladega High School, volleyball at Zora Ellis Jr. High School, and 7th and 8th grade girls' basketball at Zora Ellis Jr. High School. Throughout her time working for the Board, Ms. Keith coached several other teams, as identified in the chart below.

Sport

Level

Year Began

Year Ended

Girls' basketball

Varsity

1997

2018

Junior varsity

2012

2018

Girls' volleyball

Varsity

2013

2017

Girls' softball

Junior varsity

2013

2017

Varsity

2013

2017

Junior varsity

2015

2016

         Ms. Keith alleges that she was paid for coaching varsity volleyball, but not junior varsity volleyball, for the academic years 2013 through 2016. Ms. Keith alleges that she was paid for coaching varsity softball, but not junior varsity softball, for academic years 2013-2014 and 2016-2017.

         Ms. Keith claims that in 2010, she was hired as Assistant Athletic Director. In this position, she would assist Charles Miller, a Caucasian male who the Board appointed as the Athletic Director for the academic years 2010 through 2013.[1]

         For the 2012-2013 academic year, the Board of Education appointed Ms. Keith as the Athletic Director for Talladega City Schools. She remained Athletic Director until the Board terminated her on September 2, 2016. She was never given an assistant during this time, and was allegedly paid less than Mr. Miller. Ms. Keith alleges that she was fired because she sought redress for the discrimination issues.

         On November 28, 2016, Ms. Keith filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Keith filed her complaint on August 18, 2018. (Doc. 1). Ms. Keith raises six counts in her complaint.

         Count One alleges gender discrimination under Title IX. Ms. Keith alleges that “Defendants' acts and failures to act perpetrated against Plaintiff amount to harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender. The harassment and discrimination was [sic] sufficiently severe and pervasive to create an abusive, and hostile educational environment for Plaintiff.” (Doc. 1 at 8). Ms. Keith contends that the discrimination affected her and the girls' sports programs in the school district.

         Count Two alleges gender discrimination under Title VII. Ms. Keith generally pled that the Board of Education “discriminated against the Plaintiff in violation of the rights secured to plaintiffs and the class by Title VII . . . .”[2] (Doc. 1 at 10). As a result of this alleged violation, “Plaintiff has suffered anguish, humiliation, distress, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life, thereby entitling her to compensatory damages.” (Id. at 11).

         Count Three alleges a hostile work environment under Title VII. Ms. Keith contends that “[t]he above-described unwelcome sex discrimination created an intimidating, oppressive, hostile and offensive work environment which interfered with Plaintiff's emotional and physical well-being.” (Doc. 1 at 12).

         Count Four alleges retaliation. Ms. Keith alleges that the Board terminated her because she made internal complaints regarding her alleged disparate treatment.

         Count Five alleges pay discrimination. Ms. Keith claims that she was paid “less than a similarly situated male employee performing the same or similar duties.” (Doc. 1 at 15). She also alleges that the Board required her to coach junior varsity softball and volleyball without pay during the 2013-2014 and 2016-2017 academic years, in addition to being paid less than Mr. Miller as Athletic Director and not having an Assistant Athletic Director.

         Count Six alleges quantum meruit. Ms. Keith claims that she provided services by coaching junior varsity girls' softball for academic years 2015-2016 and junior varsity girls' volleyball for academic years 2013-2016 without pay, and so she seeks payment for those services rendered.

         II. Standard of Review

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Generally, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide “‘a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). A plaintiff must provide the grounds of his entitlement, but Rule 8 generally does not require “detailed factual allegations.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47). It does, however, “demand[ ] more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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 or conclusions” or “naked assertions” without supporting factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557.

         The Supreme Court explained that “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting and explaining its decision in Twombly, 550 U.S. At 570). To be plausible on its face, the claim must contain enough facts that “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 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. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         The Supreme Court has identified “two working principles” for the district court to use in applying the facial plausibility standard. The first principle is that, in evaluating motions to dismiss, the court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded factual allegations; however, the court does not have to accept as true legal conclusions even when “couched as [] factual allegation[s]” or “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The second principle is that “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 679. Thus, under prong one, the court determines the factual allegations that are well-pleaded and assumes their veracity, and then proceeds, under prong two, to determine the claim's plausibility given the well-pleaded facts. That task is “context-specific” and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court ...


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