Hammond et al v. The City of Eufaula, Alabama et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 20 MOTION TO DISMISS; this action proceeds only as to plaintiffs' claims against defendant West; further ORDERING that plaintiffs' 23 motion to exclude exhibits purporting to support defendants motion to dismiss is DENIED as moot. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 9/20/12. (Attachments: # 1 civil appeals checklist)(djy, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JAMIE L. HAMMOND, formerly
Jamie L. Edmondson, and
THE CITY OF EUFAULA,
J. C. WEST, J.J. JAXON,
CARL WALLACE, and
CASE NO. 2:11-CV-1045-WKW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs bring this employment discrimination action against Defendants the
City of Eufaula Alabama; J. C. West, the former chief of police of the Eufaula Police
Department; J. J. Jaxon, the mayor of the City of Eufaula; Kelly Trawick, the director
of human resources for the City of Eufaula; Carl Wallace, the current chief of police
of the Eufaula Police Department; and Steve Watkins, a captain with the Eufaula
Police Department. All Defendants, with the exception of Mr. West, jointly filed a
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 20) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, which is currently before the court.1 The motion has been fully briefed
and is ready for disposition.
I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE
Subject matter jurisdiction is exercised pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1343, and 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Personal jurisdiction and venue are not contested, and
there are adequate allegations in support of both.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
When evaluating a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must
take “the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff.” Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th
Cir. 2008). However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations
contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129
S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Furthermore, the “complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Iqbal,
129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“[F]acial plausibility” exists “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
Defendant West filed an answer, denying the allegations contained in Plaintiffs’
complaint. (See Doc. # 8.)
alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The standard also “calls for enough
fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” of the
claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.
Both Plaintiffs are former employees of the Eufaula Police Department: Ms.
Hammond is a former police officer, and Ms. Hartsfield is a former dispatcher. The
complaint alleges multiple sexual encounters among the employees of the Eufaula
Police Department. Ms. Hammond alleges that, when she was a dispatcher, she
reluctantly entered into a consensual sexual relationship with former Police Chief
West. She further alleges that after she ended that relationship, she was treated more
harshly by her superiors and received disciplinary write-ups. Ms. Hartsfield alleges
that she observed sexual activity between on-duty police officers and dispatchers.
She alleges that she made oral and written complaints to her supervisors, but that
these complaints were not investigated. After she complained, Ms. Hartsfield alleges
she began receiving disciplinary write-ups.
In this lawsuit, Plaintiffs have brought a plethora of claims seeking relief for
retaliation, discrimination, and a hostile work environment pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended,
42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e. Plaintiffs also have alleged state law claims for negligent and
wanton supervision and retention, and false-light invasion of privacy.
Neither Plaintiff has alleged a set of facts that can survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss. Based upon careful consideration of the relevant law, the
arguments of counsel, and the applicable standard of review, Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss is due to be granted.
With respect to the hostile work environment claims, the Eleventh Circuit has
addressed the sufficiency of the pleadings post-Iqbal in the context of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981 and Title VII.2 See Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1300 (11th Cir.
2010). In Edwards, the Eleventh Circuit required the plaintiff to plead in more than
conclusory fashion the five elements for establishing a prima facie case in order to
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See id.; see also Henderson v. JP Morgan
Chase Bank, N.A., 436 F. App’x 935, 937 (11th Cir. 2011). Here, Plaintiffs have
failed to allege facts that plausibly show that there was any harassment that was
“objectively severe and pervasive,” Johnson v. Booker T. Wash. Broad. Serv. Inc.,
234 F.3d 501, 509 (11th Cir. 2000), or that the Eufaula Police Department was
The Eleventh Circuit has employed the same analytical framework as Title VII/§ 1981
for a § 1983 equal protection claim alleging a hostile work environment based upon alleged
sexual harassment. See Watkins v. Bowden, 105 F.3d 1344, 1355 (11th Cir. 1997).
“permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, that [was]
sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of [their] employment and
create an abusive working environment,” Rojas v. Florida, 285 F.3d 1339, 1344 (11th
Cir. 2002) (internal quotations omitted). Moreover, the Complaint does not include
plausible allegations that the harassment was based upon Plaintiffs’ sex. See Pipkins
v. City of Temple Terrace, 267 F.3d 1197, 1200 (11th Cir. 2001) (“[T]his court has
distinguished between actions based on discriminatory animus and those based on
personal animosity resulting from failed consensual relationships.”); cf. Elger v.
Martin Mem’l Health Sys., Inc., 6 F. Supp. 2d 1351, 1353 (S.D. Fla. 1998)
(“Generally, the law does not recognize a Title VII claim based on favoritism on
behalf of a consensual sexual partner.”); Alvarez v. Royal Atl. Developers, Inc., 610
F.3d 1253, 1266–67 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Wallace v. SMC Pneumatics, Inc., 103
F.3d 1394, 1399 (7th Cir. 1997), which notes that nonactionable circumstances under
Title VII include “the plaintiff’s being a whistleblower”).
With respect to the wrongful termination claims, Plaintiffs have failed to allege
facts that plausibly reveal that someone outside the protected class replaced them or
that they were “treated less favorably than a similarly-situated individual outside
[their] protected class.” Maynard v. Bd. of Regents, 342 F.3d 1281, 1289 (11th Cir.
2003); see Henderson, 436 F. App’x at 937 (observing that the plaintiff could have
met her pleading burden on a racial discrimination claim against a bank in relation to
her loan if she had alleged facts “that similarly-situated loan applicants outside her
racial class were offered more favorable loan terms”). The allegations on the
wrongful termination claims are wholly conclusory. At best, the broad allegations
consist of nothing more than a “formulaic recitation of the elements” of a genderbased wrongful termination claim, which is insufficient under Twombly and its
progeny. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
With respect to the retaliation and retaliatory termination claims, Plaintiffs have
failed to allege facts that plausibly show any statutorily protected conduct under Title
VII’s opposition clause, see Little v. United Techs., Carrier Transicold Div., 103 F.3d
956, 960 (11th Cir. 1997) (“It thus is not enough for a plaintiff to allege that his belief
in this regard was honest and bona fide; the allegations and record must also indicate
that the belief, though perhaps mistaken, was objectively reasonable.”), or any
protected participation under Title VII’s participation clause, see Wideman v. WalMart Stores, Inc., 141 F.3d 1453, 1454 (11th Cir. 1998). Plaintiffs also have failed
to establish an equal protection claim of retaliation.3 See Watkins v. Bowden, 105
The defense of qualified immunity need not be reached as Plaintiffs have failed to allege
violations of federal law.
F.3d 1344, 1354 (11th Cir. 1997) (“A pure or generic retaliation claim . . . simply
does not implicate the Equal Protection Clause.”).
This leaves the state law claims for negligent and wanton supervision and
retention against Defendants Jaxon and Trawick, and the false light invasion of
privacy claims against all Defendants. With respect to the negligent and wanton
supervision and retention claims, Defendants have cited two district court opinions
that concluded that Alabama law does not recognize claims against supervisory
employees for the supervision and retention of their subordinates. See Hamilton v.
City of Jackson, 508 F. Supp. 2d 1045, 1057–58 (S.D. Ala. 2007) (Dubose, J.); Ott
v. City of Mobile, 169 F. Supp. 2d 1301, 1315 (S.D. Ala. 2001) (Butler, J.). Plaintiffs
have made no argument or cited any authority that persuades the court to adopt a
position contrary to Hamilton and Ott.
With respect to the false light invasion of privacy claims against the City of
Eufaula, Plaintiffs have conceded that these claims are due to be dismissed based
upon their failure to comply with § 11-47-192 of the Alabama Code. (Doc. # 25,
at 12.) As to the individual Defendants who are named in their personal and official
capacities, the false light claims for monetary damages against them in their official
capacities are barred by Article I, Section 14 of the Alabama Constitution. See Key
v. City of Cullman, 826 So. 2d 151, 156 (Ala. Civ. App. 2001). Moreover,
Defendants have argued persuasively that the threadbare factual allegations do not
demonstrate plausibly that any individual Defendant committed this tort, and
Plaintiffs have failed to rebut these arguments. Based upon a review of the
Complaint, there is no factual matter establishing that Plaintiffs were placed in a false
light or that any false information was made public. See generally Butler v. Town of
Argo, 871 So. 2d 1, 12–13 (Ala. 2003).
Accordingly, it is ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 20)
is GRANTED. This action proceeds only as to Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendant
It is further ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion to Exclude Exhibits Purporting
to Support Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 23) is DENIED as moot.
DONE this 20th day of September, 2012.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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