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Cole v. Gestamp North America Inc.

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

April 26, 2019

TAMITRA COLE, Plaintiff,
GESTAMP NORTH AMERICA, INC., et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Tamitra Cole (“Cole”) brings this employment action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, naming Gestamp North America, Inc. (“Gestamp NA”), Gestamp Alabama, LLC (“Gestamp Alabama”), Will Smith (“Smith”), and Sonya B. Green (“Green”) as defendants. (Doc. 11). Cole, an African-American female, alleges that African American decision-makers discriminated against her on the basis of color by promoting another African-American female to a position Cole sought and terminating Cole's employment. (See id.). Defendants Gestamp NA and Gestamp Alabama (collectively “Gestamp Defendants”) have moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (Doc. 15). Defendants Smith and Green have each moved to dismiss. (Docs. 16 & 17). Cole filed a response in opposition to the motions. (Doc. 22). The Gestamp Defendants, Smith, and Green filed reply briefs. (Docs. 24, 25, & 26). After the undersigned notified the parties that the Gestamp Defendants' motion would be treated as a motion for summary judgment (doc. 30), Cole filed an additional response brief (doc. 31) and the Gestamp Defendants filed an additional reply (doc. 33). For the reasons outlined below, the Gestamp Defendant's motion (doc. 15) will be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and Smith and Green's motions (doc. 16 & 17) will be GRANTED.

         I. Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss - Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing 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 Atlantic 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). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 557).

         Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., 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 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 (citations and 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). The complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         B. Summary Judgment - Fed.R.Civ.P. 56

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Rule 56 “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who is required to “go beyond the pleadings” to establish there is a “genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The Court must construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, (1970); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-moving party's favor). Any factual disputes will be resolved in Plaintiff's favor when sufficient competent evidence supports Plaintiff's version of the disputed facts. See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275, 1276-78 (11th Cir. 2002) (a court is not required to resolve disputes in the non-moving party's favor when that party's version of the events is supported by insufficient evidence). However, “mere conclusions and unsupported factual allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald Mtn. Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 836 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Moreover, “[a] mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).

         II. Basic Summary Judgment Facts

         Sonya Green, Gestamp Alabama's current Human Resources Manager, provides a declaration stating that Cole was employed by Gestamp Alabama as a Human Resources Generalist from August 2016 until her termination on April 6, 2018, and that at no time was Cole employed by Gestamp NA. (Doc. 15-1 at 2, ¶3-5).[2]

         The Gestamp Defendants also provide a copy of Cole's EEOC Charge of Discrimination against “Gestamp, ” which she described as located at 7000 Jefferson Metro Parkway, McCalla, Alabama 35111. (Doc. 15-1 at 4-7). Cole filed the EEOC Charge on June 19, 2018, alleging color discrimination in violation of Title VII. (Id.). On January 10, 2019, Cole filed her complaint in this case naming Gestamp NA, Smith, and Green as defendants. (Doc. 1). After Gestamp NA moved to dismiss (doc. 6), Cole filed her First Amended Complaint, adding Gestamp Alabama as a defendant. (doc. 11).

         Cole's First Amended Complaint asserts a single cause of action for “Equal Rights Under Law” and is followed by allegations supporting both discrimination and retaliation claims without reference to which claims are asserted against which defendant. (Doc. 11).

         III. ...

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