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Bryant v. Red River Entertainment of Shreveport, LLC

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

May 18, 2018


          HORNSBY JUDGE.



         Defendant Red River Entertainment of Shreveport, LLC d/b/a Sam's Town Shreveport ("Sam's Town") has moved to dismiss the sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims of Dennis Wayne Bryant ("Bryant"). Because the Court concludes that Bryant's sexual harassment claims are unexhausted and that his hostile work environment and retaliation claims are not actionable under Tide VII, Sam's Town's motion to dismiss [Record Document 13] is GRANTED. Bryant's sexual harassment claim is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for failure to exhaust. His remaining claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

         I. Background

         Bryant was a maintenance technician for Sam's Town where Donna Johnson ("Johnson") was his primary supervisor. [Record Document 1 at 4]. During their initial meeting, Johnson allegedly instructed Bryant not to "let his man down below think for him, " a comment that she allegedly repeated regularly during his term of employment. [Id.]. Bryant alleges that Johnson was a very difficult supervisor who assigned unpleasant tasks to employees with whom she was angry and who demanded near-instantaneous responses to her requests. [Id. at 4-5]. As a result of her abusive management style, many employees allegedly quit or transferred to different divisions of Sam's Town. [Id. at 5]. To escape what he characterizes as "workplace bullying/' Bryant prepared a letter of resignation. [Id.]. Sam's Town management, rather than lose Bryant, convinced him to accept a part-time schedule, something that allegedly angered Johnson. [Id.].

         In December 2016, another supervisor allegedly spoke with Johnson and requested that Bryant work some additional hours on the supervisor's shift. [Id. at 6]. In reaction, Johnson allegedly threatened Bryant with disciplinary action, criticized him publicly over an internal radio broadcast, wrote him up for a disciplinary infraction rather than giving him a first warning, and ordered him not to get anything to drink for two hours. [Id. at 6-8]. Feeling that he was being treated unfairly and that Johnson would continue her campaign of "retaliation, " Bryant submitted a letter of resignation around December 19, 2016. [Id. at 8]. After unsuccessfully applying for unemployment benefits, he initiated administrative proceedings before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). [Record Documents 1 at 8 and 1-2 at 2]. The EEOC determined that the results of its investigation did not establish any violation of federal anti-discrimination law and issued a right-to-sue letter. [Record Document 1-2 at 1]. After Bryant timely filed suit, Sam's Town moved to dismiss. [Record Documents 1 and 13]. The parties have filed an opposition and a reply, rendering the motion ripe for adjudication. [Record Documents 15-16].

         II. Law and Analyis

         A. Standard of Review

         In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiffs complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Lwombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In determining whether the plaintiff has stated a plausible claim, the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to her, see In re Great Lakes Dredge &Dock Co. LLC, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010), and accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations, see Lwombly, 550 U.S. at 555; In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2009). However, "[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 (citing Livombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Thus, the Court does not have to accept as true "conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions." Plotkin v. IP Axess Inc, 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005) (citing Southland Sec. Corp. v. INSpire Ins. Sols, Inc., 365 F.3d 353, 361 (5th Cir. 2004)).

         B. Bryant's Claims

         Because Bryant has filed his complaint pro se, the Court will construe his complaint liberally. See EEOC v. Simbaki, Ltd., 767 F.3d 475, 484 (5th Cir. 2014). He divides his complaint into four claims. The first, "Hostile Work Environment/Verbal Sexual Harassment, " describes Johnson's regular instruction to Bryant not to "let his man down below think for him." [Record Document 1 at 3-4]. The second, "Hostile Work Environment/Abusive Supervision/Workplace Bullying/' concerns Johnson's allegedly abusive management style. [Id. at 4-5]. Bryant entitles his third cause of action "Hostile Environment/5 but describes how he acquired his part-time schedule. [Id. at 5]. Finally, the section entitled "Retaliation" relates to Johnson's conduct after the other supervisor requested that Bryant work two extra hours. [Id. at 6-8].

         C. Hostile Work Environment and Retaliation Claims

         Bryant's second, third, and fourth claims allege facts that suggest a deeply unpleasant workplace environment. [Id. at 4-8]. Sam's Town argues that Bryant did not allege an unlawful motivation for Johnson's behavior and failed to identify any protected activity for which she retaliated. [Record Documents 13-1 at 15-18 and 16 at 1-2]. Bryant merely reiterates his complaint's allegations regarding johnson's sexually-charged comment and her abusive behavior. [Record Document 15 at 5-9].

         Title VII is not a "general civility code for the American workplace." Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc.,523 U.S. 75, 80 (1998). To demonstrate that sexual harassment creates a hostile work environment, a Title VII plaintiff must ultimately show: "(1) that the employee belongs to a protected class; (2) that the employee was subject to unwelcome sexual harassment; (3) that the harassment was based on sex; and (4) that the harassment affected a 'term, condition, or privilege' of employment." Stewart v. Miss. Transp. Comm'n,586 F.3d 321, 330 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Lauderdale v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice, Institutional Div.,512 F.3d 157, 163 (5th Cir. 2007)). Here, Bryant's second and third causes of action amply allege that Johnson engaged in harassment by "blow[ing] up in fits of rage, " refusing to listen to employees' concerns, and "assign[ing] harsher work assignments if she became upset with employees." [Record Document 1 at 4-5]. However, Bryant has not alleged that this harassment was sexual in nature or that it was done becaus ...

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