United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
H. Thompson United States District Judge.
Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of
Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), plaintiff LaToya Mace, a
former Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employee, challenges
her termination under the equal protection principles implied
in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. This case
is now before the court on defendant Martha Underwood’s
motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court has subject-matter
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question).
For the reasons below, Underwood’s motion will be
granted and this case dismissed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
survive 12(b)(6) dismissal, the complaint “must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id. In
reviewing the complaint, the court “must take the facts
alleged … as true and construe them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Resnick v. AvMed,
Inc., 693 F.3d 1317, 1321–22 (11th Cir. 2012).
was employed by the BOP from March 2002 to September 28,
2012. See Am. Compl. (doc. no. 14) at 2. On
September 3, 2012, Mace learned that a default judgment had
been awarded against her in the amount of $ 20,000. See
Id. at 2–3. On September 24, the BOP informed Mace
that she was ineligible to continue her employment because
the BOP had received a wage garnishment on the $ 20,000
judgment. See Id. Mace worked at the BOP for three
more days but was eventually refused access to the prison on
filed this suit against prison warden Martha Underwood in her
individual capacity under the theory of Bivens v. Six
Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403
U.S. 388 (1971), which allows, under certain circumstances, a
damages remedy against a federal agent who violates a
plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Mace seeks, among
other things, back pay, front pay, and reinstatement to her
position at the BOP. Underwood filed a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim. For the reasons below, that motion
will be granted.
plaintiff seeking a damages remedy under the Constitution
must first demonstrate that [her] constitutional rights have
been violated.” Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S.
228, 248 (1979). Because Mace’s constitutional rights
were not violated, the court need not consider whether it
should imply a Bivens cause of action on these
sole claim, styled as an equal protection claim under the
Fifth Amendment, is that she was terminated “in the
absence of any rational basis.” Am. Compl. (doc. no.
14) at 6. Mace does not claim that she is a member of a
protected class or that she was terminated on that basis.
Hers is a “class of one” equal protection claim
where Mace “alleges that she has been intentionally
treated differently from others similarly situated and that
there is no rational basis for the difference in
treatment.” Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528
U.S. 562, 564 (2000) (per curiam).
class-of-one equal protection claims are not cognizable in
the context of public employment. See Engquist v. Ore.
Dep’t of Agric., 553 U.S. 591, 609 (2008). As the
Supreme Court explained, “recognition of a class-of-one
theory of equal protection in the public employment
context__that is, a claim that the State treated an employee
differently from others for a bad reason, or for no reason at
all__is simply contrary to the concept of at-will
employment.” Id. at 606. The Eleventh Circuit
Court of Appeals had “little trouble” applying
Engquist to hold that government contractors are
also categorically barred from making class-of-one equal
protection claims. See Douglas Asphalt Co. v.
Qore, Inc., 541 F.3d 1269, 1274 (11th Cir. 2008).
and Douglas Asphalt require dismissal of
Mace’s complaint. Mace, who worked for the BOP, was
indisputably a government employee, and her sole claim is a
class-of-one equal protection claim challenging her
termination. Such a claim is not cognizable under Supreme
Court and Eleventh Circuit precedent.
she could bring such a claim, Mace’s threadbare
allegations that she was treated differently from unnamed,
similarly situated employees would not survive a motion to
dismiss. See Leib v. Hillsborough Cty. Pub. Transp.
Comm’n, 558 F.3d 1301, 1307 (11th Cir. 2009)
(holding that “complete lack of factual detail
regarding the ‘similarly situated’
requirement” required dismissal of class-of-one equal
Mace is categorically barred from bringing a class-of-one
equal protection claim to challenge her termination and, in
any event, her allegations are insufficient to ...