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Williams v. Shelby County School System

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

May 2, 2018


         JURY DEMAND



         Plaintiffs sued alleging mainly that their supervisor at Shelby County School System, Defendant Marjorie N. Douglas (“Ms. Douglas”), discriminated against them at work. Ms. Douglas filed a Motion to Dismiss (“Motion”) all of Plaintiffs' claims against her in her individual capacity. (ECF No 42.) Plaintiffs Katoria S. Williams (“Ms. Williams”) and Demetri M. Faulkner (“Ms. Faulkner, ” and collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed a Response (ECF No. 44-1), to which Ms. Douglas filed a Reply. (ECF No. 49.) For the following reasons, Ms. Douglas' Motion is well-taken and is GRANTED.


         The standard of review for ruling on the Motion to Dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6) requires the Court to accept all factual allegations in the Third Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 37), as true.

         Plaintiffs are African American females who were employees of Defendant Shelby County School System (“SCS”) and its legacy system, Memphis City School System (“MCS”), before it merged with SCS. (Id. at PageID 382.) Ms. Williams was employed by SCS from September 2008 through December 2013, during which time she worked as a teacher and later as a Federal Program Advisor (“FPA”), allegedly on a yearly contract. Ms. Faulkner worked for MCS and then SCS beginning in 2002. (Id. at PageID 393.) Ms. Faulkner became an FPA in July 2013 after the SCS/MCS merger. (Id. at PageID 394.) Ms. Williams was terminated from her FPA contract position in December 2013, (id. at PageID 391), but she claims in her Response to the Motion that she taught for SCS during the 2014-2015 school year. (ECF No. 44-1 at PageID 481.) Although less clear on the face of the Third Amended Complaint, Ms. Faulkner asserts that she was terminated from her FPA contract position in June 2014, but she did not leave SCS until 2017. (Id. at PageID 481-82.)

         Ms. Douglas was Plaintiffs' supervisor, and Plaintiffs paint a grim picture of her alleged conduct during that time.

         Ms. Williams' Allegations

         Plaintiffs allege Ms. Douglas improperly kept a “shit list” or a “black list” (the “List”) of only black employees. Co-workers warned Ms. Williams that her name was on the List. (Id. at PageID 385.) Plus, Ms. Williams alleges that Ms. Douglas took her desk away from her and gave it to a white co-worker, gave business cards to white employees but not to her or other black employees on the List, ensured that white employees in the same position were paid more, unjustifiably withheld Ms. Williams' mileage reimbursements, and ultimately terminated or “excessed” Ms. Williams from her FPA position in December 2013. (Id. at Page ID 387-91.) Ms. Williams claims that when she tried to meet with Ms. Douglas about her termination, Ms. Douglas slammed her office door in Ms. Williams' face. (Id. at PageID 391.) Despite telling Ms. Williams that her FPA position was being excessed, or eliminated due to budget constraints, Ms. Douglas hired a white female for an FPA position at a high salary shortly before Ms. Williams' termination. (Id. at PageID 391.) When Ms. Williams complained about Ms. Douglas's conduct to her superiors, allegedly, her complaints were repeatedly ignored. (Id. at PageID 389-91.) Ms. Douglas was terminated or excessed from SCS in December 2013. (Id. at PageID 391.) She filed discrimination charges with the Tennessee Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in January 2014, and the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue letter, she received on March 1, 2017. (Id. at PageID 383-84.)

         Ms. Faulkner's Allegations

          Ms. Faulkner also alleges that Ms. Douglas mistreated her at work because of her race. She claims that Ms. Douglas gave a white co-worker hired at the same time as Ms. Faulkner a higher salary and that Ms. Douglas gave another less-qualified co-worker a raise after learning that Ms. Faulkner was earning more than the co-worker. (Id. at ECF No. 395-96.) Ms. Faulkner claims that she too did not receive business cards because she was on Ms. Douglas's List, and that Ms. Douglas threatened her with negative performance reviews. (Id.) When SCS did nothing in response to Ms. Faulkner's complaints about Ms. Douglas, she filed two EEOC charges, one in May 2014 and another in July 2014. (Id. at PageID 397-98.) When budget talks threatened to eliminate Ms. Faulkner's FPA position, Ms. Faulkner argues that Ms. Douglas could have released Ms. Faulkner from her contract and allowed her to seek another position, but Ms. Douglas allegedly refused to release her. (Id.) While the Third Amended Complaint is silent about when exactly Ms. Faulkner was terminated from her FPA position, there are no allegations of misconduct by Ms. Douglas occurring after 2014. Plus, Ms. Faulkner's Response suggests that she was reassigned to a teaching position for the 2014- 2015 school year. (ECF No. 44-1 at PageID 489.) Ms. Faulkner received the EEOC's Notice of Right to Sue letter on January 27, 2017. (ECF No. 37 at PageID 393.)

         In addition to the discrimination claims against the SCS Defendants, Plaintiffs assert claims against Ms. Douglas under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating due process, equal protection, and freedom of speech under the U.S. Constitution, and state law claims for “emotional distress, ” inducement to breach contract (brought by Williams), and wrongful termination of a tenured teacher (brought by Faulkner).


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleasure is entitled to relief.” Although this standard does not require “detailed factual allegations, ” it requires more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         A motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations by arguing the allegations establish no claim for which relief can be granted. A court considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) must “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” DIRECTV, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). A court need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual ...

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