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Rios v. Westport Linen Services, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 26, 2019




         Before the Court is Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) (R. Doc. 14) filed by the Defendant, Westport Linen Services, LLC (“Westport”), seeking dismissal of Plaintiff’s lawsuit in its entirety, as the allegations set forth in the First Amended Complaint fail to state a viable claim or cause of action against Defendant Westport upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff Erick Rios (“Rios”) opposes the motion. R. Doc. 15. The Court heard this motion on the briefs.

         I. Factual Background

         A. Original Complaint

         On February 22, 2019, Rios filed this pro se employment discrimination complaint against Westport in the State of Louisiana Civil District Court for the Parish of New Orleans. R. Doc. 1-5, p. 3. On April 3, 2019, the action was removed to the United States District Court invoking the Court’s federal question jurisdiction. R. Doc. 1. Rios alleges that, on March 7, 2018 he was denied promotion to the position of maintenance chief because he is of Hispanic/Latino origin. Specifically, on March 16, 2018, Rios expressed an interest in a maintenance lead position, which he was denied purportedly due to his several tardy violations. R. Doc. 1-5, p. 6. As a result, of the denied promotion, Rios resigned from his job on May 17, 2018, which he contends constitutes constructive discharge. R. Doc. 1-5, p. 7-8.

         B. Charge of Discrimination

         On September 10, 2018, Rios filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights and the EEOC complaining that he was discriminated based upon his race. R. Doc. 1-5, p. 14. He neither specifically alleged harassment nor constructive termination. Id. He does, however, complain that in June 2017, despite his applying and interviewing for Maintenance Lead, he began working as a Maintenance Technician and throughout the entirety of his employment with Westport his manager, Paul Spitzer (“Spitzer”), refused to allow him to apply for promotions to the supervisory positions of Maintenance Lead and Maintenance Chief. Id. As for the discriminatory actions, Rios complains that his manager Spitzer tolerated and even condoned tardiness from Caucasian employees, such as his supervisor Jeremy Frye (“Frye”), by still considering Frye for the position of Maintenance Chief despite Spitzer’s refusal to consider him due to his tardy violations, the very same reason. Id.

         C. First Amended Complaint

         On July 25, 2019, Rios filed a First Amended Complaint and largely recalled the facts setting forth the reasons for his constructive discharge. R. Doc. 13. He also alleges that when he was hired, the Defendant hired workers through contracting agencies rather than traditional job postings. R. Doc. 13, ¶ 15. He complained that his boss Frye was hired without relevant experience or education. R. Doc. 13, ¶ 20. Rios contends that despite his training and experience that his manager Spitzer assigned him to the low skilled position of linen dryer/sheet puller work rather than maintenance work which was assigned to Frye. R. Doc. 13, ¶ 22. Rios complains that he was hired as a maintenance technician but assigned to linen work. R. Doc. 13, ¶ 17. He complains while his supervisor Frye recommended that Rios be designated as employee of the month that on the day of the recognition, Rios complains that Spitzer derisively and mockingly called out Rios’s name when the plaque actually had someone else’s name on it, and then Spitzer smirked and walked off. R. Doc. 13, ¶ 29.

         Rios also alleges that the Defendants created a hostile work environment and implemented racially selective and improper disciplinary scheme that targeted minority workers and resulted in the denial of promotions and pay raises. R. Doc. 13, ¶¶ 32-34. Specifically, he alleges that after close to one year of working for the company that he had enough experience to rise to the position of Chief of Maintenance, which had been vacant since August 2017. Despite his expression of interest in being promoted to the position and inquiry with the plant manager via text message, Westport ultimately advised Rios that it was not seeking to fill the position. R. Doc. 13, ¶36. Rios alleges that he was denied this promotion to a position that ceased to exist as of July 21, 2017 because of his Hispanic/Latino origin. R. Doc. 13, ¶38.

         At some point prior, Rios had also believed, due to his qualifications, he could be promoted to Maintenance Lead and inquired about whether there was anything he could do to advance a promotion. Id. Westport also rejected this promotion request citing to his excessive tardy violations. Id. Thereafter, he started showing up to work on time, followed company polices, and inquired as to the length of time required to elapse before he would be reconsidered for promotion. Id. Still, he was overlooked.

         Rios complains of disparate impact because Frye, his Caucasian supervisor, was also frequently tardy but still considered for promotion. R. Doc. 13, ¶¶ 39-41. Rios further alleges after repeated denials that he sought other employment because of the fear of retaliation and consequently suffered emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. R. Doc. 13, ¶43. On May 9, 2018, Rios lodged an official complaint with Westport’s Human Resources Department about management’s discriminatory practice who, after reviewing his complaint, found no discrimination. R. Doc. 13, ¶46. On May 17, 2018, Rios tendered his resignation from his position as Maintenance Technician after receiving additional workplace violations for tardiness. R. Doc. 13, ¶47.

         In addition to the Title VII claims, Rios complaint seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for the alleged race-based discrimination and retaliation which he experienced. R. Doc. 13, ¶¶52-55. Relying on the same facts, he seeks lost earnings, past and future, emotional distress and other equitable and compensatory damages allowed. R. Doc. 13, ¶57. Rios also seeks an award of punitive damages including front and back pay equitable relief, liquidated damages and attorney’s fees, costs and interest. Id.

         Westport contends that Rios’s claim fails to plead facts sufficient to establish two essential elements of his failure to promote discrimination claim; namely that (1) Rios has not alleged that he was qualified for the position he sought and (2) Rios has not alleged that after Rios was denied promotion, the positions remained open and Westport sought applicants for these positions. R. Doc. 14-1, p. 2. Westport further contends that Rios’s claim fails to plead facts sufficient to establish the essential elements of his constructive discharge claim by failing to allege that Westport deliberately made his working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person in his position would be forced ...

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