United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
A. DOUGHTY Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Hayes United States Magistrate Judge
the undersigned Magistrate Judge, on reference from the
District Court, is a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted [doc. # 7] filed by
defendant, Bobby Cooper. For reasons explained below, it is
recommended that the motion be GRANTED.
29, 2018, Lacharmon Harris filed the instant complaint under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”) against his
former employer, Drax Biomass Incorporated
(“Drax”) and his former supervisor, Bobby Cooper.
See Complaint, doc. # 1. Plaintiff alleges that he
was subject to racial discrimination, including verbal
harassment, unfair treatment, and, ultimately, firing, by
Drax and its employees, including Cooper. See id.
27, 2018, Cooper filed the instant motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Cooper
contends that “there is no individual liability under
Title VII.” Memorandum, doc. # 7-12, p. 1. Plaintiff
filed his opposition memorandum on July 18, 2018 [doc. # 9];
Cooper filed his reply on July 23, 2018 [doc. # 12]. Thus,
the matter is ripe.
12(b)(6) Standard of Review
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sanction dismissal where the
plaintiff fails “to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To withstand 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct.
1955 (2007)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). A
claim is facially plausible when it contains sufficient
factual content for the court “to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. Plausibility does not
equate to possibility or probability; it
lies somewhere in between. See Iqbal, supra.
Plausibility simply calls for enough factual allegations to
raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence to support the elements of the claim. See
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. Although
the court must accept as true all factual allegations set
forth in the complaint, the same presumption does not extend
to legal conclusions. Iqbal, supra. A pleading
comprised of “labels and conclusions” or “a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action” does not satisfy Rule 8. Id.
“[P]laintiffs must allege facts that support the
elements of the cause of action in order to make out a valid
claim.” City of Clinton, Ark. v. Pilgrim's
Pride Corp., 632 F.3d 148, 155 (5th Cir.
2010). A court is compelled to dismiss an otherwise
well-pleaded claim if it is premised upon an invalid legal
theory. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 109 S.Ct.
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.” Iqbal, supra (citation omitted). A
well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes the
court that actual proof of the asserted facts is improbable,
and that recovery is unlikely. Twombly, supra.
Furthermore, “[t]he notice pleading requirements of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and case law do not require
an inordinate amount of detail or precision.”
Gilbert v. Outback Steakhouse of Florida Inc., 295
Fed.Appx. 710, 713 (5th Cir. Oct. 10, 2008)
(unpubl.) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
“Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need
only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . .
claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'”
Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007)
(quoting Bell Atl., 127 S.Ct. at 1958). The
complaint need not even “correctly specify the legal
theory” giving rise to the claim for relief.
Gilbert, supra. Even if a plaintiff fails to oppose a
12(b)(6) motion, the court still is obliged to assess the
legal sufficiency of the complaint. Servicios Azucareros
de Venezuela, C.A. v. John Deere Thibodeaux, Inc., 702
F.3d 794, 806 (5th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted).
considering a motion to dismiss, courts generally are limited
to the complaint and its proper attachments. Dorsey v.
Portfolio Equities, Inc., 540 F.3d 333, 338
(5th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). However,
courts may rely upon “documents incorporated into the
complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take
judicial notice” - including public records.
Dorsey, supra; Norris v. Hearst Trust, 500
F.3d 454, 461 n9 (5th Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted) (proper to take judicial notice of matters of public
record). Furthermore, as here, “[d]ocuments that a
defendant attaches to a motion to dismiss are considered part
of the pleadings if they are referred to in the
plaintiff's complaint and are central to her
claim.” Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter,
224 F.3d 496, 498-499 (5th Cir. 2000) (citations
and internal quotation marks omitted).
Cooper Is Not Subject To Personal Liability Under Title
contends that Plaintiff fails to state a claim against him
because he is not subject to individual liability under Title
VII. See Memorandum, doc. # 7-1, p. 1. Liability
under Title VII is limited to “employers.”
Muthukumar v. Kiel, 478 Fed.Appx. 156, 158 (5th Cir.
2012). Title VII defines an “employer” as
“a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who
has fifteen or more employees . . ., and any agent of
such a person . . .” Id. (citing 42
U.S.C. § 2000e(b)) (emphasis added). “[A]ny
agent, ” is interpreted liberally,  but not
literally; rather, the phrase conveys Congress's intent
to “import respondeat superior liability into
Title VII.” Smith v. Amedisys, Inc., 298 F.3d
434, 449 (5th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).
Circuit precedent is clear that individual employees are not
subject to personal liability under Title VII. Muthukumar
v. Kiel, 478 Fed.Appx. 156, 158 (5th Cir. 2012)
(“[T]here is no individual liability for employees
under Title VII.” (quoting Smith v. Amedisys
Inc., 298 F.3d 434, 448 (5th Cir.2002)); Payne v.
Univ. of S. Mississippi, 681 Fed.Appx. 384, 389 (5th
Cir. 2017) (Upholding an award of attorneys' fees based
on frivolous Title VII claims because “individuals are
not liable under Title VII unless they are
employers.”). Although, under certain circumstances,
immediate supervisor may be considered an “agent”
and therefore an “employer” under Title VII, the
supervisor faces liability solely in her official, not
individual, capacity. Harvey, supra; Grant v. Lone Star
Co., 21 F.3d 649, 652-53 (5th Cir. 1994).
Thus, a Title VII suit against a supervisor, who is not an
“employer”in her own right - is actually a suit
against the employing corporation. Indest v. Freeman
Decorating, Inc., 164, F.3d 258, 262 (5thCir.
1999). A plaintiff, ...