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Cammack v. Louisiana Department of Health

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 28, 2018

JERELD CAMMACK
v.
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL.

         SECTION: “F” (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MICHAEL B. NORTH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is “Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)” filed by Defendants, Bruce Boyea, DeAnn Gruber and Beth Scalco. (Rec. doc. 17). The motion is opposed by Plaintiff, Jereld Cammack. (Rec. doc. 23). The Court held oral argument on the motion (rec. doc. 27) and, after due consideration of the pleadings, the law and the argument of counsel, rules as follows.

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff is an HIV-positive, gay man who was formerly employed by the Louisiana Department of Health (“LDH”). He initiated this action by filing a “Petition for Damages” on April 5, 2018. (Rec doc. 1). In that “Petition, ”[1] Plaintiff sued LDH for damages (both compensatory and punitive), injunctive relief and attorneys' fees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq.; and Louisiana state law. (Id.).

         Under the ADA, Plaintiff claimed that LDH discriminated against him because of his HIV-positive status. (Id.). Under Title VII, Plaintiff claimed LDH discriminated against him based on his sexual orientation and retaliated against him when he complained to human resources that his manager openly berated him and negatively implicated his sexual orientation. (Id.). He also made a claim for violation of the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, La. Rev. Stat. 23:301 et seq., alleging that he was terminated due to his HIV-positive status. (Id.).

         On May 16, 2018, the State filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, arguing that, because the LDH is, as a state agency, the “alter ego” of the State of Louisiana, it was immune to Plaintiff's ADA claim under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Rec. doc. 4). The State also argued that any claims brought under state law are also barred under the Eleventh Amendment. (Id.). Finally, the State argued that the Plaintiff failed to state a cause of action under Title VII because, under longstanding Fifth Circuit precedent, “sexual orientation is not a protected characteristic as defined by Title VII.” (Id.).

         In response to Defendant's motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed his first amended “Petition, ” making a number of notable changes to his case. He named the current individual Defendants for the first time while simultaneously removing as a Defendant the LDH - the state agency that actually employed him. (Rec. doc. 8). Plaintiff also removed all claims for damages along with his state-law claims, praying only for injunctive relief and attorneys' fees and costs, and praying for a jury trial. (Id.). Shortly thereafter, the parties consented to have the case tried before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Rec. doc. 21).

         The parties appeared before this Court for oral argument on the then-pending motion to dismiss. (Rec. doc. 12). At the hearing, the Court dismissed the motion as moot, having been brought by an entity - the State Department of Health - that was no longer a party to the case. (Id.). Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff filed yet another amended complaint, excising his ADA claim and proceeding solely under Title VII for injunctive relief against the individual Defendants. (Rec. doc. 13). The pending motion seeks dismissal of that claim.

         II. The Parties' Positions

         The Defendants make numerous arguments as to why the second amended complaint should be dismissed in its entirety. First, Defendants argue that Plaintiff fails to state a claim under Title VII because binding Fifth Circuit precedent holds that homosexuality is not a protected class under Title VII. Similarly, they argue that Plaintiff fails to state a cause of action for retaliation under Title VII because, even if he reported to human resources that his supervisor mistreated him because of his sexual orientation, that is not considered a protected activity in the Fifth Circuit.

         Defendants also argue that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because, with the removal of his former employer, the LDH, as a party, Plaintiff cannot maintain a Title VII case against the individual Defendants. They argue that the individual Defendants can only be held liable under Title VII in their official capacities under a theory of respondeat superior. Because they were not sued in such a capacity and because the principal - LDH - is not a party, they cannot be liable for Plaintiff's claims.

         Defendants go on to argue that any Title VII claims against the individual Defendants have prescribed because Cammack failed to bring a charge of discrimination within 300 days from his termination. Indeed, Plaintiff never brought a claim of discrimination against these Defendants with the EEOC, although he did bring one against his employer, the LDH. Defendants maintain that even if that EEOC charge was sufficient to put them on notice personally, because they were not sued personally within 90 days of the issuance of a right- to-sue letter issued by EEOC and because LDH is no longer a party, the complaint against them cannot relate back and is prescribed.

         Finally, Defendants insist that, because they were never made part of or party to any charge of discrimination brought with the EEOC, Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative ...


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