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Liles v. Burkes Outlet Stores, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

May 1, 2015

SUSAN LILES
v.
BURKES OUTLET STORES, LLC

MEMORANDUM RULING

DONALD E. WALTER, District Judge.

Before the court is the motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), [Doc. #7], filed by defendant Burkes Outlet Stores, LLC ("defendant"). Plaintiff Susan Liles ("Liles") opposes the motion. [Doc. #15]. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Liles was employed at defendant's store located in DeRidder, Louisiana for almost six years, eventually attaining the position of store manager. [Doc. #2, p. 2]. In May 2013, Demetria Thorne ("Thorne") became the district manager with direct supervisory authority over Liles. Id. Liles is a white female; Thorne is a black female. Id.

Liles claims that, once Thorne became her district manager, Thorne assigned "monumental" tasks and set unreasonable deadlines for their completion. Id. at 3. In support of this claim, Liles attaches two "punch lists" which detail various changes, improvements, and procedures that Thorne wanted to see implemented at the DeRidder store. Id. at 3, 9-14. On August 5, 2013, Liles complained to Richard Picone ("Picone"), a Burkes regional manager and Thorne's direct superior. Id. at 3, 8. Liles told Picone that she felt she was not receiving the proper guidance as to how to comply with Thorne's new standards. Id. Liles also alerted Picone to a comment that Thorne allegedly made to Liles that "she was not sure about visiting my store because she was told that we are in a racist town." Id. at 8.

On August 7, 2013, Liles took a sick day in order to be with her son, who had apparently been hospitalized the night before. Id. at 4, 14-15. Liles briefly returned to work the following day, but she had to take a second sick day because she herself was suffering from a stomach virus. Id. at 4. The symptoms were apparently serious enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room.[1] Id. at 16-17. Liles was ordered to rest on the 8th and 9th, but was released to return to work August 10th. Id. at 16.

Liles was terminated as soon as she returned to work on the 10th. Id. at 4. Thorne informed Liles of her termination in person, and allegedly stated that her dismissal was based on "lack of progress" and "lowering employee morale." Id. at 4.

On October 21, 2013, Liles filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Id. at 4, 26. In her EEOC charge, Liles claimed that Thorne's stated bases for terminating Liles were a pretext, and that the termination was actually motivated by race. Id. at 26. Liles also alleged that she was terminated in retaliation for reporting Thorne's alleged comment regarding DeRidder being "a racist town." Id. After conducting an investigation, the EEOC dismissed Liles's claim and issued a right-to-sue letter. Id. at 27.

On October 3, 2014, Liles timely filed suit against defendant in the 36th Judicial District Court for Beauregard Parish, Louisiana.[2] [Doc. #2]. Her petition advanced four claims for relief, based on the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, La. R.S. §§ 23:301 et. seq ("LEDL"), and the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq. ("FMLA").

Defendant timely removed the matter to this court.[3] [Doc. #1]. In lieu of filing an answer, defendant filed the motion to dismiss now under consideration. [Doc. #7].

II. RULE 12(B)(6)

A motion filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure challenges the sufficiency of a plaintiff's allegations. When ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, the court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and views those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scanlan v. Tex. A&M Univ., 343 F.3d 533, 536 (5th Cir.2003).

To survive a motion to dismiss, "a 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. 652, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads the factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.... Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief... [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the court must accept as true all factual allegations set forth in the complaint, the same presumption does not extend to "conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions." Ferrer v. Chevron Corp., 484 F.3d 776, 780 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Plotkin v. IP Axess Inc., 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005)); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 664 ("While legal conclusions can provide the complaint's framework, they must be supported by factual allegations.").

In Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228 (5th Cir. 2009), the Fifth Circuit held that neither Twombly nor Ashcroft created a heightened pleading standard for complaints, and that these cases instead only "explicate" Rule 8(a)(2), particularly because Twombly recognized that pleading requirements could only be changed through amendment of the Federal Rules. Id. at 258-59 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569 n. 14). Accordingly, Rule 8(a)(2) continues to only require a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted). This standard is met by the "reasonable inference" the court must make, with or without discovery, that the facts set forth a ...


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