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Ganheart v. Brown

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 11, 2017


         SECTION I



         Brenda Ganheart works in the library system for the City of New Orleans (“City”). According to Ganheart, over the past several years library personnel have taken certain actions against her that have violated her rights under both the U.S. Constitution and Title VII.

         The Court previously dismissed[1] Ganheart's complaint for failure to state a claim, but invited Ganheart to amend her complaint. Ganheart accepted the Court's invitation, and timely filed an amended complaint and supplementary materials (“amended complaint”).[2] The City now moves to dismiss[3] that amended complaint. Ganheart did not respond to or oppose the City's motion.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a defendant to seek dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The Court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Calhoun v. Hargrove, 312 F.3d 730, 733 (5th Cir. 2002).

         For the complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the facts taken as true must state a claim that is plausible on its face. Brand Coupon Network, L.L.C. v. Catalina Marketing Corp., 748 F.3d 631, 634 (5th Cir. 2014). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         “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.” Culbertson v. Lykos, 790 F.3d 608, 616 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted). “It is well-established that pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Clark, 312 F.3d at 733 (internal quotation marks omitted). However, even a pro se complaint is insufficient where it contains “only labels and conclusions, or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Whitley v. Hanna, 726 F.3d 631, 638 (5th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).


         In its previous Order and Reasons, the Court identified five claims in Ganheart's complaint.[4] The Court dismissed one claim-a retaliation claim relating to a 2014 reprimand and demotion-with prejudice.[5] That left Ganheart with four claims that the Court dismissed without prejudice: a retaliation claim related to a 2016 demotion; a retaliation claim related to a 2015 performance evaluation;[6] a hostile workplace claim; and a constitutional due process claim.[7] The Court discerns no additional claims in Ganheart's amended complaint.

         After reviewing the amended complaint, the Court concludes that dismissal of Ganheart's remaining claims is warranted.


         First, Ganheart continues to assert a claim related to her 2016 demotion.[8]However, as the Court informed Ganheart in its previous Order and Reasons, [9]“[e]mployment discrimination plaintiffs must exhaust administrative remedies before pursuing claims in federal court.” Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378-79 (5th Cir. 2002) (emphasis added). “Exhaustion occurs when the plaintiff files a timely charge with the EEOC and receives a statutory notice of right to sue.” Id. at 379. Ganheart has not demonstrated that she has exhausted her administrative remedies with respect to this claim and so the Court must dismiss this claim again.


         Moreover, Ganheart has still failed to plead sufficient facts to support a hostile work environment claim. “A plaintiff may establish a Title VII violation based on race discrimination creating a hostile work environment.” Ramsey v. Henderson, 286 F.3d 264, 268 (5th Cir. 2002). To do so, a plaintiff must show:

(1) she belongs to a protected group; (2) she was subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) the harassment complained of was based on race; (4) the harassment complained of affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment;[10] (5) the employer knew or should have known of the harassment in question and failed to take prompt remedial action.

Id. (emphasis added)

         Ganheart alleges that she was “micro-manage[d]” by her supervisors and “harassed and bullied by a co-worker who was previously a subordinate.”[11] With respect to the alleged harassment, Ganheart contends that her colleague “constantly interfered with my instructions to the staff regarding duties” and “constantly [told Ganheart] and other staff members that [she] could not tell them what to do because [she] was not their supervisor.”[12] Ganheart also contends that, on at least one occasion, her colleague “yelled at [her] several times and ordered [her] to the service desk.”[13]

         Even if liberally construed, these allegations are ultimately “job-related criticisms” that have nothing to do with Ganheart's race. Id. As such, Ganheart has fallen short of stating a viable hostile workplace environment claim. Cf. Kang v. Bd. of Supervisors of La. St. Univ., 75 Fed. App'x 974, 976 (5th Cir. 2003) (per curiam) (concluding that receiving a “poor performance evaluation, ” being “written up, ” and being publicly criticized in front of colleagues, id. at 975-76, does not rise to the level of showing a hostile work environment); Ramsey, 286 F.3d at 269 (“[The plaintiff] alleges that she ‘suffered ongoing racial harassment from black females, ' but points to no concrete examples.”).


         Ganheart also fails to adequately plead a constitutional-i.e., procedural-due process claim. The Court's previous Order and Reasons explained that this claim appears based on Ganheart's alleged denial of access to certain documents during an administrative appeal.[14] In her amended complaint, Ganheart renews her objection to the denial of access to these documents.[15] Ganheart also alleges that “defendant's policy [for addressing employee harassment claims] required that I utilize their manipulative and fraudulently communicated administrative process.”[16] These “threadbare allegations do not establish that [Ganheart's] constitutional rights were violated.”[17] See Meza v. Livingston, 607 F.3d 392, 402 (5th Cir. 2010) (discussing Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 334-35 (1976)). This claim is subject to dismissal.


         Lastly, Ganheart alleges a retaliation claim related to her 2015 performance evaluation, [18] which-despite Ganheart's reference to the year 2015-allegedly reflected her 2014 performance. The Court previously dismissed this claim for ...

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