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Dyas v. City of Shreveport

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 10, 2018

CATHERINE DYAS, ET AL.
v.
CITY OF SHREVEPORT, ET AL.

          HORNSBY JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss [Record Document 68] filed by members of the Shreve Memorial Library Board of Control (collectively "Board Members"). Those Board Members are Josephine Babers Wade, Hope J. Batts, Julia H. Gahagan, Deloris Lynch, Dottie Howard Bell, Thomas M. Tebbe, Neil Johnson, II, and Shannon L. Hicks. Plaintiffs Catherine Dyas, Pamela Charles, and Tiffany Snyder allege that they were subjected to sexual harassment and racial discrimination creating a hostile work environment, and retaliated against for their attempts to report harassing and discriminatory conduct, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986, the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Louisiana Civil Code article 2315, and Louisiana Revised Statutes §§ 23:331 and 42:1169. Record Document 62.

         For the reasons discussed below, the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Board Members [Record Document 68] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. It is GRANTED as to Plaintiffs' claims against the Board Members under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1985, Louisiana Civil Code article 2315, La. R.S. § 42:1169, and as to any procedural due process claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It is further GRANTED as to Plaintiffs' claims against the Board Members in their individual capacities under Title VII and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, La. R.S. § 23:301 et sea. These claims are hereby DISMISSED. The motion is DENIED as to all other claims.

          I. Background

         Plaintiffs, all black women, are employees of the Shreve Memorial Library ("the Library"). Record Document 62. They all worked at the Hamilton/South Caddo Branch of the Library. Id., at 3. The Library is jointly funded by the City of Shreveport ("the City") and Caddo Parish ("the Parish"). Record Documents 62, pp. 3-5; La. R.S. § 25;2I5(A); § 25;2I7(B). Both the Mayor of Shreveport and the Caddo Parish Commission appoint members to the Board of Control, which governs the Library, and both the City and the Parish provide funding for the Library. Id; La. R.S. § 25:214; Record Document 31, pp. 1-7.

         Plaintiffs allege that over the course of several years, they were sexually harassed at work by the Hamilton/South Caddo Branch Manager, Chris Kirkley, who is white. Record Document 62, pp. 10-16. They also allege they were discriminated against because of their race, and that both the racial discrimination and the sexual harassment created a hostile work environment. Id. at 16. Further, they complain that when they attempted to report the harassment and discrimination to various individuals at the Library, they were retaliated against by being transferred to less desirable jobs within the Library system. Id. at 21-29. Based on these events, they brought claims against the Library, several individual Library employees, the City, the Parish, and members of the Shreve Memorial Library Board of Control.

         Plaintiffs' amended complaint alleges sexual harassment creating a hostile work environment, racial discrimination creating a hostile work environment, and retaliation for reporting these claims in violation of Title VII and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law (specifically, La. R.S. § 23:332). Plaintiffs also bring claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986, the Louisiana Code of Government Ethics Whistleblower Statute (La. R.S. § 42:1169), and Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.

         This Court previously issued a Memorandum Ruling [Record Document 58] on three motions to dismiss filed by the City, the Parish, the Library, and individual Library employees [Record Documents 15, 17, & 26]. The following claims remain after ruling on the motions: Plaintiffs' claims against the individual Library employees under §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 and Louisiana Civil Code article 2315; Plaintiffs' claims against the Library under Title VII, La. R.S. § 23:332, §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986, and Louisiana Civil Code article 2315; and all of Plaintiffs' claims against the Board Members.

         II. Discussion

         Eight Board Members move to dismiss all claims against them under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Record Document 68.

         A. Standard of Review

         In order to survive a motion to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "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." Id. at 663. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678. The court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint in determining whether a plaintiff has stated a plausible claim. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). However, a court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).

         B. Title VII and La. R.S. 55 23:332 and 42:1169

         The Board Members adopt the legal arguments made by the individual Library employees (John Tuggle, Jennie Paxton, Chris Kirkley, Bandana Mukherjee, and Deonci Sutton) in their motion to dismiss and associated briefing [Record Documents 26, 26-1] as it relates to Plaintiffs' claims under Title VII and La. R.S. §§ 23:332 and 42:1169. Record Document 68-2, pp. 11-13.

         i. Title VII

         Title VII permits suit by an employee against her employer for discrimination. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. "Only 'employers, ' not individuals acting in their individual capacity who do not otherwise meet the definition of "employers/ can be liable under title VII." Grant v. Lone Star Co., 21 F.3d 649, 652 (5th Cir. 1994). Plaintiffs appear to acknowledge that there is no individual liability for the Board Members under Title VII. See Record Document 56, p. 11 (quoting McKneely v. Zachary Police Dep't No. CIV.A. 12-354-SDD, 2013 WL 4585160, at *5 (M.D. La. Aug. 28, 2013)); see also Rhvce v. Martin, 173 F.Supp.2d 521, 528 (E.D. La. 2001). Thus, any liability under Title VII could only be through the Board Members' status as agents of the Board itself, as in their official capacity. See Huckabay v. Moore, 142 F.3d 233, 241 (5th Or. 1998). And while the definition of "employer" under Title VII includes "any agent" of an employer, this is merely intended to incorporate respondeat superior liability into Title VII. Id. (citing Miller v. Maxwell's Int'l Inc., 991 F.2d 583 (9th Cir. 1993)); Indest v. Freeman Decorating, Inc., 164 F.3d 258, 262 (5th Cir. 1999) (noting that "a Title VII suit against an employee is actually a suit against the corporation"). Accordingly, Plaintiffs' claims against the Board Members in their individual capacities under Title VII are appropriately DISMISSED, and the Court need only consider whether the Board Members in their official capacity as agents of the Board could be considered Plaintiffs' employer for Title VII purposes.

         The Board Members argue that Plaintiffs cannot state a claim against them under Title VII because they are not Plaintiffs' employer. See Record Document 26-1, pp. 5-6; 54, pp. 2-3; 57, pp. 2-3. Instead, the Board Members contend the Library is Plaintiffs' admitted employer.[1] See Record Document 25, p. 3. It is undisputed that Plaintiffs were employees of the Library; however, Plaintiffs also contend that the Board of Control is liable under Title VII as their employer. Similarly, in Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint they argue that the Board, as the entity that governs the Library and establishes policies, rules, and regulations for Library ...


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