Wall v. Oneonta, Alabama, City of
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER re 6 Motion to Dismiss Complaint; Rodney Wall brings this action against the City of Oneonta for retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; For reasons stated fully within Oneonta's Motion to Dismiss, 6 , is GRANTED; Wall's complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 10/6/2017. (KBB)
2017 Oct-06 PM 02:31
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
THE CITY OF ONEONTA,
Civil Action Number
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Rodney Wall brings this action against the City of Oneonta for retaliation in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.
(“ADA”). Doc. 1. Oneonta has moved to dismiss the complaint, doc. 6, and the
motion is fully briefed, docs. 7, 14, and 19, and ripe for review. For the reasons
stated more fully below, the motion is due to be granted.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
“[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual
allegations,’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfullyharmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions”
or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does
a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.’” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 557).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “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, 556 U.S. at 678
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially
plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The complaint must establish “more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Bell
Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific
task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Oneonta employed Wall from November 1997 through July 17, 2014. Doc.
1 at 3. On December 2, 2014, Wall filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission alleging disability discrimination and
retaliation. Id. The parties ultimately resolved this charge by settlement. Id.
Allegedly, Oneonta retaliated against Wall for filing this EEOC charge by
engaging in the following conduct: (1) July 2015—deviating from city zoning
regulations to allow rental manufactured homes to occupy the lot next to Wall’s
property, causing his property to decrease in value, id. at 4-5; (2) December 7,
2015—discharging Wall’s spouse, Geneva Wall, from her position as Director of
Finance, id. at 5; (3) December 16, 2015—the city manager filed a criminal
complaint for harassment against Wall, which resulted in Wall’s arrest, id.; and (4)
February 2016—filing a breach of contract action against Wall for violating the
terms of the settlement agreement, id. at 5-6.
As a result of these allegedly retaliatory acts, on March 25, 2016, Wall filed
a second EEOC charge alleging retaliation. Id. at 2. Wall filed this lawsuit after
obtaining a right to sue letter. Id. at 2-3.
Oneonta has moved to dismiss, arguing primarily that Wall cannot establish
the necessary elements of his prima facie case. Doc. 7. To establish a prima facie
case of retaliation under the ADA, Wall must plausibly allege (1) statutorily
protected activity; (2) an adverse action; and (3) a causal link between the
protected expression and the adverse action. Stewart v. Happy Herman’s Cheshire
Bridge, Inc., 117 F.3d 1278, 1287 (11th Cir. 1997). Oneonta contends that Wall
cannot show causation because of the lack of temporal proximity between the first
EEOC charge, which Wall filed on December 14, 2014, and the alleged incidents
of retaliation, which occurred seven to fourteen months later. 1 Doc. 7 at 6-9.
Relevant here, based on the complaint, Wall’s retaliation claim rests solely
on circumstantial evidence. More specifically, he contends that Oneonta took the
four actions specified in his complaint in retaliation to his EEOC charge. The first
alleged retaliatory incident, the zoning variance, occurred in July 2015, seven
months after Wall filed his first EEOC charge. Doc. 7 at 7. The last alleged
retaliatory incident, the breach of contract suit, occurred over a year after the first
EEOC charge. Id. At issue here is whether, based on these allegations, Wall can
Wall contends that he has established causation by showing a “pattern of
antagonism” on Oneonta’s part through the four incidents of alleged retaliation
outlined in his complaint. Doc. 15 at 8-10. This contention is unavailing because
“[i]n the absence of close temporal proximity, a plaintiff may establish causation
by showing that her employer knew of a protected activity, and that a series of
Oneonta also contends that Wall cannot base his retaliation claim on the December 2014
zoning variance because Wall filed his second EEOC complaint more than 180 days after the
zoning variance. Doc. 7 at 3-4. Wall concedes this point, but asserts that he is not claiming that
the zoning variance constituted an adverse action, and that he listed it solely to outline the
evidence of Oneonta’s “retaliatory motives and pattern of retaliating at every opportunity
afforded to it.” Doc. 14 at 7 n.4.
adverse employment actions commenced shortly thereafter.” Entrekin v. City of
Panama City Florida, 376 F. App’x 987, 996 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Wideman v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 141 F.3d 1453, 1457 (11th Cir. 1998)) (emphasis added).
As the Eleventh Circuit has held, “[t]he burden of causation can be met by showing
close temporal proximity between the statutorily protected activity and the adverse
employment action. But mere temporal proximity, without more, must be ‘very
close.’ A three to four month disparity between the statutorily protected expression
and the adverse employment action is not enough.” Thomas v. Cooper Lighting,
Inc., 506 F.3d 1361, 1364 (11th Cir. 2007) (internal citations omitted). See also
Walker v. Sec’y, U.S. Dep’t of Air Force, 518 F. App’x 626, 628 (11th Cir. 2013);
Brown v. Alabama Dep’t of Transp., 597 F.3d 1160, 1182 (11th Cir. 2010); Higdon
v. Jackson, 393 F.3d 1211, 1221 (11th Cir. 2004). Unfortunately for Wall, under
this circuit’s precedent, alleged retaliatory acts occurring over six months after
protected activity, as is the case here, cannot prove causation as part of a series of
adverse employment actions. See Baroudi v. Sec’y, U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs,
616 F. App’x 899, 903 (11th Cir. 2015). Therefore, because Wall alleges no other
facts showing causation, his complaint is due to be dismissed.
IV. Conclusion and Order
For the reason’s stated above, Oneonta’s Motion to Dismiss, doc. 6, is
GRANTED. Wall’s complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
DONE the 6th day of October, 2017.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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