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Jones v. Board of Supervisors of The University of Louisiana System

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 27, 2015

ANGELA JONES, ET AL.,
v.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA SYSTEM, ET AL

ORDER & REASONS

KAREN WELLS ROBY, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6) for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief can be Granted, and/or Pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(1) for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (R. Doc. 5), filed by Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, Michael Prescott, Kevin Knudsen, Kevin Brady, Carmen Bray, and Mike McGill (collectively "Defendants"). The motion is opposed. See R. Doc. 8. The motion was decided on the briefs.

I. Background

This is an employment discrimination case filed pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et, 5 U.S.C. § 2302, and 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). Plaintiffs, Angela Jones and Rasheda Gandolfo, filed this action against their former employer, the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System ("Board"), for wrongful termination, retaliation, and sexual harassment. The Plaintiffs also filed this action against their former supervisors and co-workers, Michael Prescott, Kevin Knudsen, Kevin Brady, Carmen Bray, and Mike McGill, for conspiring to intentionally create a hostile work environment in violation of § 1985(3).

In the complaint the Plaintiffs, two African American women, allege that they were subjected to unfair treatment and harassment based on race and gender.[1] Jones alleges that various employees of Southeastern Louisiana University ("SLU") used racial epithets and related terminology to harass her based on her race.[2] She alleges that she was subjected to an unwarranted investigation, repeated suspensions, and was terminated for poor performance but was not given the option to resign as was provided to similarly situated white employees.[3]

Gandolfo alleges that she was exposed to sexually inappropriate comments and behavior by her co-worker, Dennis Elzey.[4] Gandolfo alleges that Elzey would make sexual comments about her clothing and once stated that she should pose for Playboy because she has a nice body and figure.[5] Gandolfo alleges that she informed the SLU EEOC Compliance Officer, Eugene Prejean, but Elzey was not properly disciplined for his conduct.[6] Gandolfo alleges that after she filed her grievance against Elzey, he would continue to follow her even though he was told by his supervisors to not communicate with her.[7] Gandolfo further alleges that her position was reassigned and that she was eventually terminated for low leave balances but similarly situated white employees were not terminated for the same offense.[8]

In the instant motion, the Defendants seek to dismiss the Plaintiffs' complaint contending that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim under federal law and have failed to establish jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.[9] Defendants filed the subject motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and pursuant to 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[10]

II. Standard of Review

Under Rule 12(b)(1) and (6), the Court may dismiss a complaint if it lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter or for failure to state a claim upon which any relief may be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), (6). The same standard is applied for a motion to dismiss brought under either Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of jurisdiction or under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. Benton v. United States, 960 F.2d 19, 21 (5th Cir. 1992).

"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. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010); Guidry v. Am. Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512 F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007).

The Supreme Court, however, has declared that "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal citation omitted). Moreover, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " and "[t]he plaintiff must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Guidry v. Am. Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512 F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks omitted). The United States Supreme Court has explained:

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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement, " but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and quotation marks omitted).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim that is plausible on its face, the Court "draw[s] on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Thus, as mentioned above, to avoid dismissal, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In order for a claim to be plausible at the pleading stage, the complaint need not strike the reviewing court as probably meritorious, but it must raise "more than a sheer possibility" that the defendant has violated the law as alleged. See Id.

III. Analysis

Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs' only assertion of jurisdiction are general statements and that the Plaintiffs do not set forth facts and necessary elements establishing federal law causes of action.[11] Defendants contend that the general statements are naked asserts devoid of further factual enhancement and are prohibited under the pleading standards in Iqbal. [12] Defendants aver that the Plaintiffs have an obligation to provide the grounds for their entitlement to relief, which requires more than labels and conclusions.[13] Defendants contend that the Plaintiffs' failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted results in a failure to establish jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.[14]

Plaintiffs assert that they have set forth, in plain and simple language, a host of claims upon which relief can be granted.[15] The Plaintiffs cite to Rule 8 and argue that they are only required to set forth a short and plain statement of the claim showing they are entitled to relief and that the Rules require no technical form of pleading.[16] Plaintiffs aver that their complaint goes beyond the basic pleading requirements and sufficiently alleges facts of discriminatory treatment on the basis of race and gender that violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VII.[17]

Plaintiffs further aver that their complaint directly states the basis for the Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 pursuant to Title VII, which states that each United States district court shall have jurisdiction over actions brought pursuant to Title VII.[18] Additionally, Plaintiffs contend that they specifically notified the Court of their compliance with administrative prerequisites incorporated within Title VII, including the ...


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