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Wallace v. Board of Supervisors for University of Louisiana System

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

April 30, 2015

DAWN WALLACE,
v.
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA SYSTEM (SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA UNIVERSITY)

RULING

SHELLY D. DICK, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System's (hereinafter "Defendant" or "Board") Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue. [1] In response, Dawn Wallace (hereinafter "Plaintiff" or "Wallace") has filed a Memorandum in Opposition [2] to which the Board filed a Reply. [3] Wallace subsequently filed a Surreply. [4] For the following reasons, the Board's motion shall be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Throughout her tenure as a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University's ("Southeastern") College of Business ("COB"), Dr. Dawn Wallace contends that her employer has discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and has retaliated against her in violation of Title VII and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 ("EPA"). In support of her gender discrimination claims, Wallace alleges that as a female professor in the COB, her salary is much less than her male colleagues. Wallace also alleges that she experienced sexual harassment at the hands of her Dean, Randy Settoon. Wallace raised her concerns with Southeastern's EEO Compliance Officer, Gene Pregeant, by filing complaints of sexual harassment, gender, and wage discrimination. Wallace claims that as a direct result of filing her complaints, she has have been subjected to endless retaliatory actions at the hands of Settoon, Pregeant, and Dr. Antoinette Phillips.

After receiving her right to sue letter from U.S. Department of Justice, Wallace filed the pending lawsuit against Southeastern and the Board asserting Title VII claims for discrimination and retaliation and EPA claims. The Board contends that venue is improper in the Middle District in light of Title VII's specific venue provision that requires such actions be brought in the district where the alleged discriminatory actions occurred, which would be the Louisiana Eastern District. Therefore, the Board seeks either dismissal of Wallace's lawsuit under Rule 12(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or, that her lawsuit be transferred to the Eastern District under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The Board concedes that the Middle District is a court of proper venue over Wallace's EPA claim.

Wallace disagrees with the Board's position and submits that venue is, in fact, proper in the Middle District of Louisiana under Title VII's specific venue provision.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"Rule 12(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) provide for dismissal or transfer of an action that has been brought in an improper venue."[5] "Upon objection to venue, the burden is on the plaintiff to establish that venue is proper, but the Court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and resolve all conflicts in favor of the plaintiff."[6] Under Rule 12(b)(3) the court may also consider "evidence in the record beyond simply those facts alleged in the complaint and its proper attachments."[7] "A trial court has broad discretion in ruling on motions to transfer venue, and its decision will be upheld absent an abuse of discretion."[8]

Congress has adopted a special venue provision for Title VII cases that has displaced the general venue provision set out in 28 U.S.C. § 1391. "For Title VII claims, venue is proper in only those districts which comport with 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3)."[9] In Walters v. T.H. Hill, this Court discussed the scope of the specialized venue rule:

Section 2000e-5(f)(3) provides that venue is proper in all of the following: (1) any judicial district in the State in which the unlawful employment practice is alleged to have been committed; (2) the judicial district in which the employment records relevant to such practice are maintained and administered; and (3) the judicial district in which the aggrieved person would have worked but for the alleged unlawful employment practice. Additionally, if the respondent is not found within any of the abovementioned districts, § 2000e-5(f)(3) provides that venue is proper in the judicial district in which the respondent has its principal office.[10]

"Aside from § 2000e-5(f)(3), the general venue provisions under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1404(a) and 1406 are also applicable and should be considered in Title VII cases."[11]

In the event a case is filed in the wrong district, then pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406, the district court "shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought."[12] "If transfer is warranted, courts can consider similar factors to those connected to a traditional motion to transfer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)."[13]

"Section 1404(a) of Title 28 allows the Court in its discretion to transfer venue to another district or division, [f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, ' where the action might have been brought."[14] "When the movant demonstrates that the transferee venue is clearly more convenient' than the venue chosen by the plaintiff, it has shown good cause and the district court should grant the transfer.'"[15]

"In determining whether to transfer a case, the court must consider both private interest factors and public interest factors after first considering whether the judicial district to which transfer is sought would have been a district in which the claim could have been filed."[16] "These factors are not necessarily exhaustive or exclusive' and none can be said to be of dispositive weight.'"[17]

The private interest factors that a court must consider are: "(1) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (2) the availability of compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses; (3) the cost of attendance for willing witnesses; and (4) all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive."[18] The public factors to be considered are: "(1) the administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion; (2) the local interest in having localized interests decided at home; (3) the familiarity of the forum with the law that will govern the case; and (4) the avoidance of unnecessary problems of conflict of laws [or in] the application of foreign law."[19] "The Fifth Circuit has explained ...


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