Haugabrook v. Cason et al

Filing 43

ORDER granting 23 Motion to Dismiss; granting 24 Motion to Dismiss; denying 25 Motion to Dismiss. Ordered by Judge Hugh Lawson on November 22, 2010. (mbh)

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Haugabrook v. Cason et al Doc. 43 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA V AL D O S TA DIVISION AR TR IC E D. HAUGABROOK P la in t if f, v. W IL L IAM O. CASON, in his official c a p a c ity as Superintendent of the V a ld o s ta City Schools, et al., : : : : : : : : : C ivil Action No. 7 :1 0-C V -6 0 (HL) : : D e fe n d a n ts . _______________________________ : ORDER B e fo re the Court are motions to dismiss (Docs. 23, 24, and 25). For the fo llo w in g reasons, the motions are granted in part and denied in part. The motion to d is m is s filed by the Valdosta City School Board (Doc. 23) is granted. The motion to d is m is s filed by the individual Defendants of the Valdosta City School Board (Doc. 2 4 ) is granted. The motion to dismiss filed by all the Defendants (Doc. 25) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is denied. I. B AC K G R O U N D P la in tiff Dr. Artrice Haugabrook ("Dr. Haugabrook") claims that the Defendants h a ve refused to hire her for three school administrative positions because of her race a n d sex. Dr. Haugabrook filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Opportunity E m p lo ym e n t Commission ("EEOC") on July 8, 2010 claiming violations of Title VII o f the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). The following day she filed a petition in Dockets.Justia.com this Court for injunctive and declaratory relief. The petition alleged violations of Title V II, the Fourteenth Amendment, and state law. The Court held an emergency hearing on the petition for preliminary injunctive r e lie f in Valdosta, Georgia on July 16, 2010. At the conclusion of the hearing, the C o u rt issued an oral ruling denying Dr. Haugabrook's request for preliminary in ju n c tive relief. On July 21, 2010, the Court entered an order setting forth in writing th e reasons given at the hearing. T h e Defendants have now moved to dismiss Dr. Haugabrook's Title VII claims a n d all claims against the Defendant Valdosta City School Board, the individual D e fe n d a n t members of the Valdosta City School Board, and Defendant W illia m C ason. II. D IS C U S S IO N A. M o tio n to Dismiss for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies (D o c . 25) T h e Defendants move to dismiss Dr. Haugabrook's Title VII claims on the b a s is that she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies before filing suit. Before beginning a Title VII action in federal district court a plaintiff must file a n EEOC charge against the discriminating offenders and receive statutory notice fro m the EEOC of the plaintiff's right to sue the offenders named in the charge. Forehand v. Florida State Hosp. at Chattahoochee, 89 F.3d 1562, 1567 (11th Cir. 1 9 9 6 ). If, after 180 days, the EEOC charge has not been dismissed or no action has 2 been taken by the EEOC on the charge, then the EEOC is required to notify the p la in tiff and the plaintiff may bring suit within 90 days after receipt of her right to sue n o tic e . Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(f)(1)). Receipt of a right to sue notice is not a jurisdictional prerequisite to filing suit. Instead, it is a condition precedent subject to equitable modification. Id. The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff to show it is e n title d to equitable modification. Id. at 1571. Dr. Haugabrook filed suit before she re c e ive d her right to sue notice from the EEOC. She must therefore show that she is entitled to equitable relief. E q u ita b le modification may not be appropriate "if a claimant attempts to fru s tra te investigation or conciliation by the EEOC." Id. at 1570. It may also not be a p p ro p ria te if the defendant has claimed it was prejudiced by the premature filing. R o lin v. Escambia Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 752 F. Supp. 1020, 1022 (S.D. Ala. 1990). H e re , there is no evidence that Dr. Haugabrook attempted or intended to thwart the a d m in is tra tiv e process or the EEOC's investigation by filing a complaint before re c e ivin g a right to sue notice. The Defendants have not contended that they have b e e n prejudiced by the premature filing. Instead, there are reasons in this case that warrant equitable modification. Dr. H a u g a b ro o k had no choice but to file her complaint at the time she did because she s o u g h t preliminary and injunctive relief as well as other traditional remedies available to Title VII plaintiffs. She has indicated that she will amend her complaint after she re c e ive s her right to sue notice. The right to sue notice should be issued no later 3 than the beginning of January 2011, 180 days after she filed her EEOC charge in J u ly 2010. It would be a waste of judicial resources to dismiss this action at this time o n ly to have Dr. Haugabrook refile the same action less than two months later. This case meets the standard for equitable modification. The motion to d is m is s for failure to exhaust administrative remedies (Doc. 25) is denied. Dr. H a u g a b ro o k 's case will remain in federal court even though she has not received a rig h t to sue notice from the EEOC. She is ordered to amend her complaint to in c lu d e the right to sue notice within one week of its receipt. B. V a ld o s ta City School Board's Capacity to Be Sued (Doc. 23) T h e Defendant Valdosta City School Board moves for dismissal on the basis th a t it is not a legal entity subject to suit. The "capacity to sue or be sued shall be d e te rm in e d by the law of the state in which the district court is held." Fed.R.Civ.P. 1 7 (b )(3 ). Under Georgia law, a county school board does not have the capacity to s u e or be sued. Cook v. Colquitt Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 261 Ga. 841, 841, 412 S.E.2d 8 2 8 , 828 (Ga. 1992) (citations omitted). The exception to the rule, which does not a p p ly here, "is where the legislature creates a school board by an act which gives th a t board the capacity to sue or be sued." Id. (citation omitted). The Valdosta City School Board is accordingly dismissed from this action b e c a u s e it lacks the capacity to be sued. The case shall proceed against the V a ld o s ta City Schools District because the school district is capable of being sued. S e e Id. (explaining a school district is subject to suit, but not a county school board). 4 C. In d ivid u a l Defendants Sued in Their Official Capacity (Doc. 24) T h e individual Defendants sued by Dr. Haugabrook are sued in their official c a p a c it ie s only. These Defendants move for dismissal on the basis that official c a p a c ity suits are suits against the Valdosta City Schools District and are redundant s in c e the Valdosta City Schools District is a Defendant in the case. The Eleventh Circuit has held that "when an officer is sued . . . in his or her o ffic ia l capacity, the suit is simply another way of pleading an action against an entity o f which an officer is an agent." Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 776 (11th C ir. 1991) (citations and quotations omitted). It would be redundant to name m e m b e rs of the Valdosta City School Board and the Superintendent in their official c a p a c itie s when the same claims are asserted against their employer, the Valdosta C ity Schools District. Accordingly, W illia m Cason, Annie Fisher, Vanessa Flucas, W a rre n Lee, Dean Rexroth, Trey Sherwood, Bill Love, Jeana Beeland, Debra Bell, a n d Kelly W ils o n are dismissed from this action. The motion to dismiss filed by the Valdosta City School Board (Doc. 23) is g ra n te d . The motion to dismiss filed by the individual Defendants (Doc. 24) is g r a n te d . The motion to dismiss filed by all the Defendants for failure to exhaust a d m in is tra tive remedies (Doc. 25) is denied. S O ORDERED, this the 22nd day of November, 2010. / s / Hugh Lawson HUGH LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE lm c 5

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