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Mullet v. Touro Infirmary

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 3, 2019


         SECTION “A” (3)



         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 7) filed by the Defendant Frances Riley pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 12(b)(6).[1] The Plaintiff Karen Mullet opposes the motion, (Rec. Doc. 10), and Riley replied. (Rec. Doc 17). The motion, set for submission on October 30, 2019, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mullet began working for Touro Infirmary on May 25, 2015 as a cardiac echo-tech. (Rec. Doc. 14, p. 3, Mullet's Amended Complaint). In 2017, Riley, one of Mullet's co-workers and a co-Defendant in this suit, received a promotion and became one of Mullet's supervisors. Id. After this promotion, Mullet says she witnessed Riley systemically terminating or forcing the resignation of numerous employees who were mainly Caucasian. Id. Mullet also claims that Riley used her authority as a supervisor to establish a system of preferential treatment in favor of African-American employees to the detriment of the Caucasian employees. Id.

         Although Riley initially did not target Mullet, this changed when Mullet caught her altering Mullet's time and payroll records. Id. at 4. Mullet even reported this conduct to management, but no action was ever taken. Id. Things further escalated between them in May 2018 when Riley saw Mullet having an epileptic seizure and said “[w]e can't be having this happen at work.” Id. 4-5. Riley then refused to implement an emergency call system for Mullet, even though she installed one in an African-American's office who had a similar condition. Id. at 5.

         Ultimately, things came to a head on September 21, 2018 when she was terminated by Touro Infirmary's Human Resource Manager for falsifying her time entry from the prior day. Id. at 6. More particularly, Riley said she had surveillance video showing Mullet leaving work five minutes before the time Mullet reported on her “punch-out” card. Id. As a result, “[Mullet's] termination was [] deemed a ‘Do Not Rehire' which preclude[d] her employment at any of the other Touro facilities in the Southeast Louisiana area.” Id. “[Mullet] further contends that Touro[, ] through members of its management staff[, ] have purposely ‘black balled' [Mullet] and in violation of law given defamatory employment references which have deprived her of employment positions for which she is qualified.” Id. 6-7.

         Thus, in her complaint, Mullet makes the followings claims against Riley: (1) race and disability discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, and the Louisiana Whistleblower Law, (2) defamation, (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), and (4) punitive damages. Riley opposes all four of these claims in her 12(b)(6) motion. The Court will address each of Mullet's four claims in order.


         FRCP 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a complaint when a plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “To survive 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.'” Iqbal v. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The factual matter contained in the complaint must allege actual facts, not mere legal conclusions portrayed as facts. Id. at 667 (“Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we 'are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'”) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Additionally, the factual allegations of a complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. Id. A complaint states a “plausible claim for relief” when the factual allegations contained therein, taken as true, necessarily demonstrate actual misconduct on the part of the defendant, not a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Id.; see also Jacquez v. Procunier, 801 F.2d 789, 791-92 (5th Cir.1986). Lastly, the Court “will not look beyond the face of the pleadings to determine whether relief should be granted based on the alleged facts[.]” Spivey v. Robertson, 197 F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999).


         A. Claim One - Race and Disability Discrimination

         i. Title VII

         The Fifth Circuit has consistently held that there is no individual liability for employees under Title VII. See Smith v. Amedisys Inc., 298 F.3d 434, 448 (5th Cir.2002) (citing Indest v. Freeman Decorating, Inc., 164 F.3d 258, 262 (5th Cir.1999)). “While Title VII's definition of the term employer includes ‘any agent' of an employer, Congress's purpose was merely to import respondeat superior liability into Title VII.” Id. (citing Indest, 164 F.3d at 262). Thus, an employee or supervisor faces liability solely in his official capacity. See Dixon v. Primary Health Servs. Ctr., No.10-1490, 2011 WL 1326841, at *2 (W.D.La. Mar. 3, 2011) (citing Harvey v. Blake,913 F.2d 226, 227 (5th Cir.1990)). Because an official-capacity suit against a supervisor or other individual is actually a suit against the employing corporation, Indest, 164 F.3d at 262, a plaintiff may not maintain a Title VII action against both an employer and its agent in an ...

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