United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
Scott Coogler United States District Judge.
Veroneca Caver (“Caver”) brings suit against Help
at Home alleging racial discrimination and unlawful
retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., as amended by the
Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 USC § 1981, 42 USC §
1981a, and 42 USC § 1988. Before the Court is Defendant,
Help at Home LLC (“Help at Home's”), Motion
to Dismiss. (Doc. 18.) Plaintiff has timely filed her opposition.
(Doc. 22.)The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for
review. For the reasons stated below, Help at Home's
motion (doc. 18) is due to be denied.
alleges that Defendants Statewide Healthcare Services LLC
d/b/a Oxford HealthCare (“Oxford”) and Help at
Home LLC (“Help at Home”) were her employers.
According to the complaint, Help at Home and Oxford's
company website indicates that the two entities are
“sister” companies that provide home health care
for individuals. Caver has worked for Oxford and Help at Home
as a Staffing Coordinator from 1999 to 2017.
working for Oxford and Help at Home Caver received payroll
statements that contained Help at Home's logo. However,
Caver's paychecks came from an account owned by Oxford.
Caver also received performance appraisals and pay change
forms that had the logos of both Help at Home and Oxford.
Other internal forms, including internal billing paperwork
also bore both logos. Caver's work email correspondence
was conducted through an email system that had the following
domain name: “helpathome.com.”
was ultimately informed of her termination by Joel Davis
(“Davis”). Davis's email signature is also
hosted at the “helpathome.com” domain name and
his signature lists him as Chief Operating Officer/ General
Counsel for Help at Home LLC/ Oxford Health Care. Although
Caver's EEOC charges named Oxford as her employer,
Defendants' position statement to the EEOC was submitted
by Davis and utilized Help at Home's letterhead.
Standard of Review
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,
1291 (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
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)).
Home has moved to be dismissed from this action pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) because it claims that Caver has not
alleged sufficient facts to indicate that it was her employer
for the purposes of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
Whether a defendant is an “employer” is a
threshold matter under Title VII, and a defendant's
failure to qualify as an “employer” deprives the
court of jurisdiction over them. Lyes v. City of Riviera
Beach, Fla., 166 F.3d 1332, 1341 (11th Cir. 1999) (en
banc). Title VII defines “employer” as “a
person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has
fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of
twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding
calendar year, and any agent of such a person . . . .”
42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b). The Eleventh Circuit construes the term
“employer” liberally. See Virgo v. Rivera
Beach Assocs., 30 F.3d 1350, 1360 (11th Cir. 1994). The
applicable standard surrounding the question of who,
precisely, qualifies as an employer under Title VII is stated
in the Eleventh Circuit case of Peppers v. Cobb County,
Georgia as follows:
[I]n order to decide whether an entity is a qualified
employer, we have asked this basic question: “who (or
which entity) is in control of the fundamental aspects of the
employment relationship that gave rise to the
claim.” Lyes v. City of Riviera Beach, 166
F.3d 1332, 1345 (11th Cir. 1999) (en banc). An examination of
this question requires consideration of the totality of the
employment relationship. Welch v. Laney, 57 F.3d
1004, 1011 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing Wirtz v. Lone Star
Steel Co., 405 F.2d 668, 669-70 (5th Cir. 1968)). Among
the basic factors we consider are these: (1) how much control
the alleged employer exerted on the employee, and (2) whether
the alleged employer had the power to hire, fire, or modify
the terms and conditions of the employee's employment.
Welch, 57 F.3d at 1011; Llampallas, 163
F.3d at 1243.
835 F.3d 1289, 1297 (11th Cir. 2016).
Home's argument that it is not Caver's employer
ultimately depends both upon factual determinations that
cannot be made at this time and evidentiary materials that
the Court may not consider at this juncture. Although
Caver's EEOC charge names Oxford as her employer,
Caver's failure to name Help at Home is not necessarily
fatal. See Virgo v. Riviera Beach Assoc's Ltd.,30 F.3d 1350, 1358-59 (11th Cir. 2007). Additionally, Caver
has alleged facts that plausibly indicate that Help at Home
was involved in or controlled aspects of her employment
including her pay and termination as its name and letterhead
are alleged to have been utilized on internal records that
Caver submitted, Caver's paychecks, and even Caver's
termination email. See E.E.O.C. v. Dolphin Cruise Line,
Inc., 945 F.Supp. 1550, 1553-54 (S.D. Fla. 1996)
(finding the following to be strong indicia of interrelated