Hardiman v. University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton
ORDER denying 11 Defendant's Motion to Dismiss; and denying 18 Defendant's Motion to Strike. Signed by Judge James M. Moody on 9/17/2012. (mcz)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
COMMUNITY COLLEGE AT MORRILTON
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS
Pending is the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff has responded to the motion. For
the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.
Plaintiff, a former admissions department employee of the Defendant, alleges that she was
harassed and terminated on the basis of her race by the Defendant in violation of Title VII.
Specifically, Plaintiff claims her supervisor, Susan, showed preferential treatment to Plaintiff’s
co-workers. Plaintiff seeks compensation for the alleged discrimination.
Standard Used for Rule 12(b)(6) Motion
The United States Supreme Court has clarified the standard to be applied when deciding a
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed. 2d 929 (2007). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to
provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions,
and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Id. at 1964-65 (internal
citations omitted). Although “[g]reat precision is not required of the pleadings,” the complaint
should state how, when, and where the cause of action occurred. Gregory v. Dillard’s Inc., 494
F.3d 694, 710 (8th Cir. 2007). “So, when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not
raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should . . . be exposed at the point of
minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at
1966 (internal citations omitted). “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ––– U.S. ––––,
129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). The plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to
show at the pleading stage that success on the merits is more than a “sheer possibility.” Id. It is
not, however, a “probability requirement.” Id.
After Plaintiff filed her Complaint, she was directed by the Court to file an amended
complaint which complied with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In response, Plaintiff filed
the Court’s Order with the words Amended Complaint written on the top with 250 pages of
emails, evaluations, and typed notes attached. This document does not comply with Rule 8 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as it does not contain ‘a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.’ The amended complaint is confusing,
ambiguous, redundant, and vague.
“While the principle of liberal construction must be limited by reasonableness, we
believe that reasonableness does not compel dismissal of this case. The formal requirements of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure exist to give the defendant fair notice of the charges so that
a meaningful response to the pleading may be filed.” Miles v. Ertl Co., 722 F.2d 434, 434 -435
(8th Cir. 1983). Although the Plaintiff’s amended complaint does not comply with Rule 8, the
Court finds that the Defendant has fair notice of the charges against them. Defendants have filed
a meaningful response. Therefore, the Court will not dismiss the amended complaint for failure
to abide by Rule 8.
Plaintiff has named the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton as the
sole defendant in this case. Defendant asserts that it is entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity because it is a part of the University of Arkansas, an institution of higher education
established under Arkansas law. (Ark.Code Ann. §§ 6–64–401 et seq.). Defendant argues that,
therefore, all allegations directed at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton
should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See AssaadFaltas v. UAMS, 708 F.Supp. 1026, 1029 (E.D. Ark. 1989).
The Defendant is likely correct. However, the court in Hadley v. North Arkansas Comm.
Tech. College, instructs us that “Arkansas community colleges also have elements of local
funding and control that require further analysis.” Hadley, 76 F.3d 1437, 1440 (8th Cir. 1996).
This issue cannot be decided on a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
The final question is whether the Plaintiff has stated a claim for discrimination under
Title VII. To establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination based upon a disparate
treatment theory, Plaintiff must show that she: (1) is in a protected group, (2) was qualified for
the position, (3) suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) was treated less favorably than
a similarly situated employee outside the protected group. Tatum v. City of Berkeley, 408 F.3d
543, 553 (8th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff is African-American. She was employed by the Defendant for
at least two years. She was terminated. According to Plaintiff, she was treated less favorably
than co-workers in her office. At this point in the litigation, that is all that Plaintiff is required to
show. Further, the Court is required to view Plaintiff’s statements as true. Therefore, the Court
will not dismiss Plaintiff’s amended complaint. Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss is denied.
The Court notes that Plaintiff will not be entitled to the same type of review of her
pleadings on a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment analysis:
To create an inference of racial discrimination based on disparate treatment of fellow
employees, the plaintiffs must show that they were treated differently than similarly
situated persons who are not members of the protected class. The test to determine
whether individuals are similarly situated is rigorous and requires that the other
employees be similarly situated in all relevant respects before the plaintiff can introduce
evidence comparing herself to the other employees. In a case involving allegations of
discriminatory disciplinary practices, for example, this court explained that to be
similarly situated, the comparable employees must have dealt with the same supervisor,
have been subject to the same standards, and engaged in the same conduct without any
mitigating or distinguishing circumstances.
Bennett v. Nucor Corp., 656 F.3d 802, 819 (8th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations omitted).
Plaintiff must show that her employer’s actions were taken based upon racial animus and must
provide more than conclusory allegations to prove her claims.
For the reasons set forth above, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (Docket # 11) is
DENIED. The Defendant’s Motion to Strike (Docket # 18) is also DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 17th day of September, 2012.
James M. Moody
United States District Judge
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