United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER & REASONS
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a
Claim (Rec. Doc. 6) filed by Defendants
Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, Clemont Griffin, and
Sheriff Marlin Gusman, and an opposition thereto (Rec. Doc.
7) filed by Plaintiff Christine Conner. Having considered the
motion and memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the
Court finds that the motion should be
GRANTED as explained more fully herein.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
is a former employee of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's
Office. While an employee, she began a sexual relationship
with Griffin, also an employee of the Sheriff's Office,
and became pregnant from that relationship. She attempted to
end the relationship during her pregnancy after the
relationship “became caustic.”Griffin then began
making threatening telephone calls to Plaintiff.
work, Plaintiff and Griffin had been assigned to the same
shift. Plaintiff alleges that one morning at work, Griffin
“committed an assault and battery upon
[her].” Plaintiff then asked her supervisor to
assign her to a different shift and “complained several
times to her supervisors about the sexual
harassment.” Her supervisors informed Griffin about the
complaints but otherwise did not take any action; instead, he
was promoted to sergeant. However, Plaintiff's
supervisors refused to assign her to a different shift and
“ma[de] excuses for Griffin's sexual harassment,
” and Plaintiff was demoted and had her pay
reduced. She also alleges she “was subjected to
unwelcomed sexual advances, verbal and physical harassment
and offensive remarks.” Plaintiff then quit and filed a
charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. She received a right to sue letter
dated October 30, 2018.
Plaintiff quit, Griffin continued to make threatening
telephone calls to her and to “post harassing
messages on social media.” Plaintiff eventually
obtained a restraining order against Griffin.
filed her original complaint on January 25, 2019, raising
claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983,
and 1985, and a state law tort claim for intentional
infliction of emotional distress (IIED) against Griffin and
the Sheriff's Office. She later filed an amended
complaint, which added Sheriff Gusman as a defendant and
raised additional claims under the Equal Protection Clause
and for “stalking, cyberstalking, sexual harassment,
assault, battery and unwanted touching.” All three
Defendants then filed the instant motion to dismiss, arguing
that the claims against the Sheriff's Office must be
dismissed because a Louisiana parish sheriff's office is
not a legal entity capable of being sued, and that Plaintiff
has failed to state a plausible claim for relief against
Griffin or Gusman.
to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint “must provide the
defendant with ‘fair notice of what the claim is and
the grounds upon which it rests.'” Dura Pharm.,
Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346 (2005) (citation
omitted). The factual allegations in the complaint
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “[D]etailed
factual allegations” are not required, but the pleading
must present “more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must
plead sufficient facts to “‘state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A
claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts
that allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. The court must accept all
well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S.
Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009). The
court is not, however, bound to accept as true legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. “‘[C]onclusory allegations or
legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will
not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.'”
Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378
(5th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted).
addressing the sufficiency of the allegations in
Plaintiff's pleadings, the Court will address some of
Plaintiff's assertions regarding the appropriate legal
standard. Plaintiff, through counsel, contends her complaint
is entitled to liberal construction and that it may not be
dismissed “‘unless it appears beyond doubt that
the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [her]
claim which would entitle [her] to relief, '”
quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46
“no set of facts” standard set forth in
Conley has, at this point, long been
“retire[d].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563.
“The phrase is best forgotten as an incomplete,
negative gloss on an accepted pleading standard: once a claim
has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing
any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the
complaint.” Id. In order to first adequately
state a claim, a plaintiff must plead enough facts to
“nudge [her] claims across the line from conceivable
to plausible.” Id. at 570. This standard
requires “more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are
‘merely consistent with' a defendant's
liability, it ‘stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of entitlement to
relief.'” Id. (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 557). In assessing whether a complaint should be
dismissed, a court may exclude from consideration all legal
conclusions not entitled to an assumption of truth, and then
consider whether the remaining well-pleaded factual
allegations plausibly, not just possibly, state a right to
relief. See Id. at 679.
the Court will only “liberally construe briefs of
pro se litigants and [will] apply less stringent
standards to parties proceeding pro se than to
parties represented by counsel.” Grant v.
Cuellar, 59 F.3d 523, 524 (5th Cir. 1995) (citing
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)).
Plaintiff, represented by counsel, is not entitled to this
less stringent pleading standard.
Claims Against the Sheriff's Office
well established that “a sheriff's office is not a
legal entity capable of being sued.” Cozzo v.
Tangipahoa Par. Council-President Gov't, 279 F.3d
273, 283 (5th Cir. 2002). Nevertheless, the Court treats
claims against a sheriff's office as one against the
sheriff in his official capacity. See Hudson v. City of
New Orleans, 174 F.3d 677, 680 (5th Cir. 1999). Because
Plaintiff added Sheriff Gusman as a named defendant in her
amended complaint, the Court finds dismissal of the Orleans
Parish Sheriff's Office proper.
Title VII and Louisiana Employment Discrimination
raises claims of hostile work environment, retaliation, and
constructive discharge under Title VII. Defendants first
assert that these claims against Griffin should be dismissed
because he was her coworker, not her employer.
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it “an
unlawful employment practice for an employer . . .
to discriminate against any individual with respect to [her]
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,
because of such individual's . . . sex.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-2(a)(1) (emphasis added). It goes on to define
“employer” to include “any agent” of
the employer. Id. § 2000e(b). The Fifth Circuit
has held that Title VII does not impose individual liability;
thus, “a Title VII suit against an employee is actually
a suit against the corporation, ” and “a party
may not maintain a suit against both an employer and its
agent under Title VII.” Indest v. Freeman
Decorating, Inc., 164 F.3d 258, 262 (5th Cir. 1999).
Accordingly, the Title VII claims against Griffin must be
dismissed. The fact that Griffin was promoted to a
supervisory position at some point during the alleged events
does not alter this conclusion, as he was still merely an
agent of the Sheriff and not Plaintiff's employer.
also argue that Plaintiff's claims against Griffin under
the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law
(“LEDL”) should also be dismissed for essentially
the same reason. See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §
23:332. However, other than the jurisdictional statement,
Plaintiff's Complaint and Amended Complaint do not
contain a single reference to the LEDL. Because Plaintiff
has not raised a claim under the LEDL, there is no claim for
the Court to dismiss.