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Maranto v. Tri-Parish Contractors, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

February 21, 2018




         Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6) by Defendants Tri-Parish Contractors, Inc. and Felix Simoneaux, III. Plaintiff Troy Maranto did not file an opposition. For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6) is GRANTED IN PART, and this case is REMANDED to the 18th Judicial District Court, Parish of West Baton Rouge.

          I. BACKGROUND

         This case is about a bitter office love triangle. Plaintiff alleges that his wife had an affair with his boss, and then his boss harassed, threatened, and finally fired him. (Doc. 1-1 at p. 3-5, 39-42). Plaintiff alleges that he worked at Tri-Parish Contractors as a safety manager along with his wife who worked as an office manager. Id. at p. 39. He alleges that in December 2016, he and his wife separated because Felix Simoneaux, his boss, had an affair with his wife. Id. at p. 40. After he separated from his wife, Plaintiff alleges that Simoneaux barred Plaintiff from entering Tri-Parish's front office, and forbid him from using the office bathroom. Id. at 40. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that he had to walk to a different building to relieve himself. Id.

         In February 2017, Plaintiff alleges that Simoneaux reduced his pay by $200.00 a week. Id. A month later, Simoneaux allegedly called Plaintiff and "began threatening and harassing him" because Plaintiff spread rumors that Simoneaux was having an affair with his wife. Id. A few weeks later, Plaintiff alleges that he told Simoneaux that he would need to miss work to attend court for a divorce and custody hearing. Id. at p. 4. That day, Plaintiff missed three hours of work, and the next day Simoneaux called Plaintiff and yelled at him "in a profanity laced tirade" because he missed three hours of work. Id. at p. 41. About a week later, Plaintiff alleges that when he went to work, his wife and Simoneaux became irate, began yelling at him, and called the police. Id. at p. 41.

         Plaintiff alleges that while being interviewed by the police, Simoneaux fired him by text message. Id. at p. 42. Plaintiff alleges that he then began searching for a new job in early April, and he applied to Exxon-Mobil. Id. An Exxon-Mobil representative told Plaintiff, however, that Simoneaux and Tri-Parish informed Exxon that they fired Plaintiff for "f***ing things up." Id. Plaintiff alleges that Simoneaux had been trying to humiliate Plaintiff to appease his wife. Id. at p. 46.

         Plaintiff sued Defendants on June 5, 2017 in the 18th Judicial District Court, Parish of West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff filed an Amended Petition for Damages about three months later. Id. at p. 39. And twenty-five days after Plaintiff amended the Petition, Defendants removed the case, invoking the Court's federal question jurisdiction. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims Defendants are liable for: (1) intentional interference with a business relationship; (2) negligent interference with a business relationship; (3) defamation; (4); intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) wrongful termination; (6) violation of La. R.S. 22:1046, which governs group health insurance continuation; and (7) creating a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. (Doc. 1-1 at p. 6 and 46).


         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8, which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule 8(a)(2). "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)). "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." Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 679.


         A. Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants are liable under Title VII for creating a hostile work environment. (Doc. 1-1 at p. 45). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from " discriminating] against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Out of the gate, Plaintiffs claim against Simoneaux falls flat because Title VII applies only to employers and not supervisors or fellow employees. Foley v. Univ. of Houston Sys., 355 F.3d 333, 340 n.8 (5th Cir. 2003). The question then is whether Plaintiff states a hostile work environment claim against his employer, Tri-Parish Contractors.

         Plaintiffs alleging sex discrimination may recover on a theory of a hostile work environment. Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 73 (1986). The underlying policy is that employees should be afforded the right to be free from "discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult." Id. at 65. The Supreme Court has also construed Title VII to allow hostile work environment claims whether the harasser and the victim are the same gender or different genders. Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 82 (1998). In evaluating same-sex sexual harassment claims, courts follow a two-step inquiry. E.E.O.C. v. Boh Bros. Constr. Co., 731 F.3d 444, 453 (5th Cir. 2013). First, the court considers whether the harassment constitutes discrimination "because of sex." Id. Second, the court evaluates whether the conduct meets the standards for a hostile work environment claim. Id.

         When a plaintiff alleges same-sex sexual harassment, there are a few ways a plaintiff may prove that harassment is "because of sex. First, "a plaintiff may show that the harasser was homosexual and motivated by sexual desire[.]" Boh Bros., 731 F.3d at 455 (citing Oncale, 523 U.S. at 80-81. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has identified two types of evidence that can serve as "credible evidence of homosexuality." First, "evidence suggesting that the harasser intended to have some kind of sexual contact with the plaintiff rather than merely to humiliate him for reasons unrelated to sexual interest, " and second, "proof that the alleged harasser made same-sex sexual advances to others, especially to other employees." La Day v. Catalyst Tech., Inc.,302 F.3d 474, 480 (5th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff alleges no facts ...

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