United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Rebecca Johnson filed this action against Defendant
Montgomery County Community Punishment and Corrections
Authority (“MCCPCA”), Defendant Paul Brown
(“Brown”), and former Defendant Montgomery County
Commission (“MCC”) on June 8, 2018, alleging
liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for race discrimination
and for unlawful retaliation, each in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981. Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's
claims on July 18, 2018, and in response Plaintiff amended
her complaint effective September 13, 2018, abandoning her
claims to the extent alleged against the MCC and abandoning
her claim of race discrimination in its entirety.
through her amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the
MCCPCA is her employer and that Defendant Brown is her
immediate supervisor. Plaintiff further alleges that in the
course of her employment by the MCCPCA she has been subjected
to unlawful race discrimination, and that she has opposed
such unlawful discrimination by engaging in protected
conduct. Plaintiff additionally alleges that in retaliation
for her protected opposition to race discrimination in the
workplace, the MCCPCA and Defendant Brown subjected her to
discipline and to other adverse employment actions. Arising
out of the foregoing, through two separate claims Plaintiff
alleges the liability of the MCCPCA and of Defendant Brown in
his individual capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
unlawful retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
Plaintiff seeks award of noneconomic money damages for
emotional distress in unspecified amounts, of economic
damages for lost wages plus prejudgment interest in
unspecified amounts, and of her attorney fees and costs, as
well as award of punitive damages against Defendant Brown
only. This court has federal-question jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331(a).
before the court is Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. 36) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint
(Doc. 35) for failure to state a claim. The undersigned has
considered the Defendants' motion and all of the
pleadings on file. For the reasons that follow, the
undersigned finds that the Defendants' motion is due to
be granted in part as to a portion of Plaintiff's Section
1981 claim against the MCCPCA as set forth below, and
survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Federal Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must
contain more than a “formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action;” specifically, it must
contain factual allegations sufficient to “raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To
raise a right to relief above the speculative level,
“[t]he pleading must contain something more . . . than
. . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion
[of] a legally cognizable right of action.”
Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-36 (3d ed. 2004);
see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Instead, the plaintiff must plead
affirmative factual content, as opposed to any merely
conclusory recitation that the elements of a claim have been
satisfied, 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 (2009). In consequence, for a complaint to survive a
motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory factual allegations and
reasonable inferences therefrom must be at least plausibly
suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.
See Simpson v. Sanderson Farms, Inc., 744 F.3d 702,
708 (11th Cir. 2014); Rivell v. Private Health Care Sys.,
Inc., 520 F.3d 1308, 1310 (11th Cir. 2008).
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may generally
consider only allegations contained in the pleadings,
exhibits attached to or incorporated by reference into the
complaint, and matters properly subject to judicial notice.
See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights,
Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); Horsley v.
Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002). In
considering a motion to dismiss, this court accepts all of
the allegations in the complaint as true and construes them
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Duke v.
Cleland, 5 F.3d 1399, 1402 (11th Cir. 1993). Moreover,
the court “presume[s] that general allegations embrace
those specific facts that are necessary to support the
claim.” Nat'l Org. for Women v. Scheidler,
510 U.S. 249, 256 (1994) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)). The court need not,
however, presume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the
form of factual allegations. See Tellabs, 551 U.S.
Johnson is an African American woman and a resident of
Montgomery County, Alabama. Defendant MCCPCA is a public
corporation of the State of Alabama and has at all material
times been Plaintiff Johnson's employer. Defendant Brown
has at all material times served as the MCCPCA's
Executive Director and Appointing Authority, and as Plaintiff
Johnson's immediate supervisor in that capacity.
Material Allegations of Plaintiff's Amended
has been employed by the MCCPCA in an unspecified capacity
since May 6, 2003. See Doc. 35, ¶¶ 7, 31.
At all material times, Defendant Brown was Plaintiff's
immediate supervisor. See id., ¶¶ 9, 33.
During the course of Plaintiff's employment by the
MCCPCA, Defendant Brown subjected Plaintiff to racially
discriminatory conduct, including, among other unspecified
acts, placing a banana and a toy monkey in her office in 2011
and refusing to allow her to be certified with or to use her
duty weapon in June 2016. See id., ¶¶ 10,
34. In response and opposition to such conduct, Plaintiff
filed charges of race discrimination with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in
2011 and again in June 2017. See id., ¶¶
11, 35. Defendant Brown was aware of both EEOC filings.
See id., ¶¶ 12, 36. The EEOC issued a
Notice of Right to Sue in connection with Plaintiff's
June 2017 filing on August 6, 2017. See id.,
¶¶ 13, 37.
September 22, 2017, Defendant Brown issued Plaintiff a
written reprimand regarding an incident, unidentified in
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, that had occurred more
than a year previously. See id., ¶¶ 14,
38. Plaintiff responded by advising Defendant Brown that she
believed the reprimand both to be pretextual and to
constitute unlawful retaliation in response to her EEOC
filings, and that she would continue filing further such
charges until the discriminatory and retaliatory conduct
ended. See id., ¶¶ 15, 39. On November 7,
2017, Defendant Brown placed Plaintiff on administrative
leave and recommended the termination of her employment,
specifically citing as grounds for such disciplinary action
Plaintiff's conduct in filing EEOC charges and in
indicating her intention to file further such charges in the
future. See id., ¶¶ 16-17, 40-41.
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is silent as to this point,
it appears that Plaintiff administratively challenged the
imposed and recommended discipline of November 2017. On
January 4, 2018, an Administrative Law Judge determined that
the discipline should be rescinded. See Id.
¶¶ 18, 42. Notwithstanding the foregoing, on
January 10, 2018, Defendant Brown suspended Plaintiff's
employment without pay for a 28-day period, again expressly
citing as grounds for such disciplinary action
Plaintiff's conduct in filing EEOC charges and in
indicating her intention to file further such charges.
See id., ¶¶ 19, 22, 43, 46. Defendant
Brown's decision to suspend Plaintiff's employment
was not subject to administrative review, see id.,
¶¶ 21, 45, and it is Plaintiff's position that,
as MCCPCA's Executive Director and Appointing Authority,
Defendant Brown was a final policymaker for the MCCPCA,
see id., ¶¶ 25, 49.
noted, arising out of the foregoing, Plaintiff alleges the
liability of the MCCPCA and of Defendant Brown in his
individual capacity under Section 1983 for unlawful
retaliation in violation of Section 1981, in two separate