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Reese v. Weidplas North America, LLC

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

December 5, 2019

SYLVIA REESE, Plaintiff,


          Susan Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pro se Plaintiff Sylvia Reese initiated this civil rights action against her employer, Defendant Weidplas North America, LLC, alleging Weidplas' liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) for race discrimination and/or for retaliation. Doc. 1. The court granted Plaintiff's application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, [1]ordering the clerk to defer service of process on Defendant until further order of the court, pending review of Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Doc. 9 at 2.

         Upon its review of Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1), the court ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. Doc. 10 at 7. The court indicated that

[t]he amended complaint shall comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and shall (i) clearly state which causes of action [Plaintiff] intends to state against the defendant, and (ii) for each cause of action alleged, set forth all of the material facts giving rise to the cause of action clearly and concisely, without omitting any of the necessary facts as discussed in this order.


         Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on September 11, 2019. Doc. 11. Upon its review of the amended complaint, the court finds that Plaintiff's amended complaint is due to be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). In relevant part, § 1915(e) provides that “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . is frivolous or malicious [or] . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Although the court construes pro se pleadings liberally, see Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003), pro se litigants must nonetheless follow the procedural rules, and the court is not required to rewrite a deficient pleading. See GJR Invests., Inc. v. County of Escambia, 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998), overruled on other grounds by Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 710 (11th Cir. 2010) (relying on Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)). “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) standards govern [a court's] review of dismissals under section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)[.]” Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Jones v. Brown, 649 Fed.Appx. 889, 890 (11th Cir. 2016) (citing Mitchell, supra) (“We review the district court's dismissal for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) de novo, applying the same standards that govern Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).”). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court

must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting all of the plaintiff's well-pleaded facts as true. Am. United Life Ins. Co. v. Martinez, 480 F.3d 1043, 1057 (11th Cir. 2007). Pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys. Powell v. Lennon, 914 F.2d 1459, 1463 (11th Cir. 1990). However, in order to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff's complaint must contain facts sufficient to support a plausible claim to relief. [Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678].

Id. Additionally, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires that a plaintiff file a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “[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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Therefore, even if liberally construed, Plaintiff's amended complaint (Doc. 11), must minimally satisfy Rule 8 to survive review under § 1915(e). Furthermore, an amended complaint entirely supersedes all prior complaints. See Pintando v. Miami-Dade Housing Agency, 501 F.3d 1241, 1243 (11th Cir. 2007); Fritz v. Standard Life Ins. Co., 676 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 1982) (finding that under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint). Once a complaint is amended, the only issues before the court are those raised in the amended document, and the plaintiff may not rely upon or incorporate by reference her prior pleadings. This court has reviewed Plaintiff's amended complaint (Doc. 11) and supporting exhibits (Docs. 11-1-11-4) in light of the foregoing principles.

         1. Title VII Race Discrimination

         First, Plaintiff expressly alleges Defendant's liability under Title VII for race discrimination. Doc. 11 ¶¶ 1, 3. It is unlawful under Title VII for a covered employer to discriminate against any individual in connection with the terms and conditions of employment because of that individual's membership in a protected class such as race. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). An employer is covered for Title VII purposes if the employer employed 15 or more employees on each work day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b). Plaintiff's allegation that Defendant “Weidplas employs 50 or more employees” (Doc. 11 ¶ 4) and the EEOC charge[2] stating that Defendant employs “101-200” employees (Doc. 11-1 at 9), are sufficient to support the conclusion that Defendant is a covered employer for Title VII purposes.

         To state a prima facie race discrimination claim under Title VII, a plaintiff must allege that (i) she is a member of a racial minority, (ii) she was subjected to adverse employment action, (iii) she was qualified for the job at issue, and (iv) her employer treated one or more employees outside her protected class more favorably, where such other employees were similarly situated in all material respects to the plaintiff. See Lewis v. City of Union City, Georgia, 918 F.3d 1213, 1220-1221, 1221-1226 (11th Cir. 2019). In her amended complaint, Plaintiff clearly alleges that she is “a member of a racial minority (African-American (Non-Hispanic)), ” and that she was “qualified for the job at issue, ” having worked at the company “since November 29, 2004, ” as “a team leader for more than six years.” Doc. 11 ¶ 3. However, the allegations in the amended complaint are insufficient to establish that Plaintiff was subjected to adverse employment action and that Defendant treated similarly situated employee(s) outside of Plaintiff's protected class more favorably than she.

         First, Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that she was subjected to adverse employment action. In fact, her amended complaint and supporting exhibits appear to establish the contrary. For instance, although Plaintiff alleges that, toward the end of her leave taken pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”) her “job title changed from Team Leader to Production Operator, ” Plaintiff also states that, “her pay did not change, ” she has “not been out of work since returning from FMLA”-and that, upon her written request, [3] she was reinstated to her previous role as Team Leader in the Production Department. Doc. 11 ¶¶ 5, 6. Plaintiff does allege that she worked under “less favorable conditions, ” such as “outside in the hot warehouse, ” during her five weeks as Production Operator. Id. ¶ 5. However, her amended complaint and supporting exhibits make clear that the position of Production Operator was not intended as a permanent modification to the terms and conditions of her employment, but was instead a temporary arrangement due to business necessity-e.g., the need for Defendant to have a replacement available for Plaintiff when she was on leave and absent. See Doc. 11 ¶¶ 5, 6; Doc. 11-1 at 2. Second, although Plaintiff alleges that Defendant treated one Caucasian employee who took FMLA leave more favorably than she, she has not alleged facts underlying that allegation with sufficient particularity to support the conclusion that Defendant treated non-minority employees more favorably, where such employees were similarly situated to Plaintiff in all material respects. Even accepting as true the unadorned allegation that Plaintiff's and the Caucasian employee's “roles and responsibilities are very similar, ” the amended complaint plainly establishes that Plaintiff “is a production team leader, ” whereas the comparator employee “is a maintenance team leader, ” and that employee's scope of duties is not alleged. Doc. 11 ¶ 4 (emphasis added). For these reasons, the court concludes that the amended complaint is insufficient to state a claim against Defendant for race discrimination under Title VII.

         2. Title ...

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