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Robinson v. Shelby County Public Defender

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

June 21, 2018




         Before the Court is Defendants Shelby County Public Defender and Shelby County Government's Motion to Dismiss, filed on December 8, 2017. (ECF No. 16; see also ECF No. 16-1.) Plaintiff Patrina Robinson responded on January 12, 2018. (ECF No. 23.) Defendants replied on January 25, 2018. (ECF No. 24.)

         Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that Defendants: (1) discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of her race, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”); (2) subjected Plaintiff to a hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII; (3) retaliated against Plaintiff, in violation of Title VII; (4) discriminated and retaliated against Plaintiff, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (5) discriminated against Plaintiff, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., as amended by the ADA Amendment Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553 (2008) (“ADA”). (Id. at 13-16.)

         For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is an employee of Defendant Shelby County Public Defender. (ECF No. 1 at 2.)[1] Plaintiff alleges that in December 2014 she applied for a position as Case Coordinator, Social Worker, or Legal Assistant (the “Coordinator position”). (Id. at 3.) The Coordinator position would have raised Plaintiff's annual salary by $15, 000. (Id.) Plaintiff was interviewed for the Coordinator position, but was not hired. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that in March or April 2015[2] she “reported an attorney named Laurie Sansbury, a white female, for making threats against two African American female attorneys.” (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff alleges that in June 2015 Sansbury retaliated against Plaintiff by “harassing . . . [Plaintiff], including physically bumping into [Plaintiff] in a hostile manner during a staff seminar.” (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff also alleges that Sansbury harassed Plaintiff by “stand[ing] in front of [Plaintiff's] desk and glar[ing] at her while tapping her fingers on the desk” and “follow[ing] [Plaintiff] around the office and taunt[ing] her.” (Id.) Sansbury allegedly assigned Plaintiff an excessive workload, stalked and verbally harassed Plaintiff at work, and intentionally overlooked Plaintiff for promotions. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff alleges that, although she reported the harassment to management, no action was taken against Sansbury. (Id. at 6.) Instead, “[a]fter reporting the issues to management, management began harassing [Plaintiff]” by adding “extra work duties [] to her already full case workload.” (Id. at 8.)

         On May 20, 2015, Plaintiff was assigned to transcribe an interview. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff alleges that, as she was leaving for the day, another employee “blocked [Plaintiff] from exiting her cubicle and stated, ‘I need those transcripts today.'” (Id.) After Plaintiff said that she “would complete [the transcripts] as soon as she was able, ” the employee allegedly blocked Plaintiff from exiting her cubicle “for three to five minutes.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that in August 2015 she asked another employee about a Jail Release Coordinator position with Defendant Shelby County Public Defender. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff was later told that a white male had been selected for the Jail Release Coordinator position. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that in August 2015 she “received a reprimand for [] not properly signing out on the EIO board, ” although “it was general practice in her department to not use this signing out procedure.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that she was “the only employee who received a reprimand for this alleged failure.” (Id.)

         Also in August 2015, Plaintiff requested sick leave from August 19, 2015, through August 21, 2015. (Id. at 8.) A management employee asked Plaintiff to “bring her a doctor's note, despite the policy only requiring a doctor's note for more than four (4) days of sick leave.” (Id.) “When [Plaintiff] asked why she needed a doctor's note for less than four (4) days of sick leave, [the manager] stated that she is the office manager and she can do whatever she wanted.” (Id.)

         Beginning on June 1, 2016, Plaintiff took several months of leave to seek treatment for a major illness. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff alleges that, when she returned to work in January 2017, she was told she “was no longer an employee of [Defendant] Shelby County because [Plaintiff] had been on Long Term Disability[, ] which placed her on unemployed status.” (Id. at 12.) Plaintiff alleges that she is aware of several people who took leave “for extended periods of time (including for medical reasons) and returned to their same positions without having to reapply.” (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff concedes that she later received an email “that [she] was to report to duty on January 17, 2017 and that [Defendants] would pay for the days [Plaintiff] missed due to the errors that initially left [Plaintiff] in limbo.” (Id. at 12.) Plaintiff alleges that “she was pressured to work in a different area of [Defendants'] office.” (Id.)

         On October 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Complaint. (ECF No. 1.)

         II. Jurisdiction

         This Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal-law claims. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, United States district courts have original jurisdiction “of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” The Complaint alleges that Defendants discriminated and retaliated against Plaintiff in violation of Title VII, § 1983, and the ADA. (ECF No. 1 at 13-16.) Those claims arise under the laws of the United States.

         III. Standard of Review

         When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the complaint alleges “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard is met “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Although the complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of her entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted).

         The Court is required to “accept all of plaintiff's factual allegations as true and determine whether any set of facts consistent with the allegations would entitle the plaintiff to relief.” G.M. Eng'rs & Assoc., Inc. v. West Bloomfield Twp., 922 F.2d 328, 330 (6th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). However, the Court need not accept as true legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot be plausibly drawn from the facts, as alleged. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”); see also Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (noting that in reviewing a motion to dismiss, the district court “must take all the factual allegations in the complaint as true, ” but that the court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”). Rule 12(b)(6) “allows the Court to dismiss, on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, meritless cases which would otherwise waste judicial resources and result in unnecessary discovery.” Glassman, Edwards, Wade & Wyatt, P.C. v. Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, LLP, 601 F.Supp.2d 991, 997 (W.D. Tenn. Mar. 10, 2009).

         IV. Analysis

         A. Title VII Race ...

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