Allums v. Helix Systems, Inc
MEMORANDUM OPINION Signed by Judge William M Acker, Jr on 5/16/16. (SAC )
2016 May-16 PM 02:25
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
HELIX SYSTEMS, INC.,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
Plaintiff Kimberly Allums initiated this action on October 15,
2015. She contends that her former employer, Helix Systems, Inc.,
unlawfully terminated her in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981. She also asserts a COBRA violation, which is unrelated to
the issues discussed herein. Allums, an African-American woman,
alleges that Helix Systems terminated her purportedly because she
forwarded company information to her personal email account, even
though she did so only in order to work from home and other white
and/or male employees did the same without punishment. Allums also
previously complained that white and/or male employees generally
received preferential treatment from the company. Based on these
allegations, Allums asserts claims of race discrimination, sex
discrimination, and retaliation. (Doc. 1).
On April 15, 2016, the court notified the parties of its
intention to consider the entrance of partial summary judgment on
Allums’s claims because of her potential failure to satisfy the
requirements of “but-for” causation, as explained in several of the
court’s cited opinions. The court also noted that it has stayed
similar cases pending the outcome of the ongoing appeal in Savage
v. Secure First Credit Union, 11th Cir. No. 15-12704, a case that
provides the Eleventh Circuit with an opportunity to resolve the
questions surrounding “but-for” causation. Neither party responded
to the court’s order within the established deadline.
terminated her because of three separate invidious motives: her
race, her sex, and to retaliate against her for complaining about
race and sex discrimination. As explained by the Supreme Court in
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, 133 S.
Ct. 2517, 2523 (2013), a plaintiff who alleges discrimination based
on race or sex need only show “that the motive to discriminate was
one of the employer's motives,” even if it was not the but-for
cause of the termination. As to retaliation claims, however, the
Court held that the desire to retaliate must be “the but-for cause
of the challenged employment action” in order to be actionable.
Id. at 2528. In a series of cases, this court has found that “[i]f
a plaintiff wants to pursue a retaliation claim she must in her
complaint ‘indicate that retaliation was the “only,” or “but-for”
motive for her termination [and] must make it perfectly clear in
her pleading that there are no proscribed motivations other than an
intent to retaliate.’” Savage v. Secure First Credit Union, 107 F.
Supp. 3d 1212, 1216 (N.D. Ala. 2015) (quoting Montgomery v. Bd. of
Trs. of Univ. of Ala., No. 2:12-cv-2148-WMA, 2015 WL 1893471, at *5
(N.D. Ala. Apr. 27, 2015)).
Allums’s retaliation claim fails to satisfy the requirements
of but-for causation. Instead of alleging that Helix Systems’s
intent to retaliate against her was the sole, but-for cause of her
termination, she simultaneously alleges that she was terminated
because of an intent to discriminate against her based upon her
requirements of but-for causation and subject her retaliation claim
to dismissal. See Hendon v. Kamtek, Inc., 117 F. Supp. 3d 1325,
1333-34 (N.D. Ala. 2015); Thomas v. Kamtek, Inc., --- F. Supp. 3d
----, 2015 WL 6503672, at *7 (N.D. Ala. Oct. 28, 2015) (both cases
holding that plaintiffs cannot escape the requirements of pleading
but-for causation in the name of alternative pleading).
Accordingly, Allums’s retaliation claim will be dismissed by
DONE this 16th day of May, 2016.
WILLIAM M. ACKER, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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