Riles v. Augusta-Richmond County Commission et al
ORDER granting 9 Motion to Dismiss; granting in part and denying in part 10 Motion to Dismiss and 11 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Chief Judge J. Randal Hall on 08/21/2017. (thb)
CIVIL ACTION NO.
Richmond County Commission,1 Joanie Smith, and Ronald Houck.
to dismiss purport to
seek dismissal of
address certain of Plaintiff's claims.
The motions have been
fully briefed and are ripe for consideration.
Through its motion to dismiss, Defendant Augusta-Richmond
County Commission states that it has been misidentified,
defendant. It appears from the complaint that Plaintiff is
suing his employer, the body politic - Augusta-Richmond
The Court will not change the caption or direct the
substitution of a party name except upon motion. For purposes
of the instant motion, however, the Court will refer to this
Defendant as "the County."
On December 27,
Plaintiff James D. Riles,
filed the instant employment discrimination case.
The complaint alleges that Plaintiff has been an employee of
(Compl., H 10.)
Plaintiff applied for
but was denied the position of Facilities Supervisor on or
about February 6, 2014.
(IcL 111 11-12.)
Plaintiff, a black
male, claims he was qualified for the position but was denied
because of his race.
(Id. UK 13-16,
On February 19,
2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Augusta-Richmond
(Id. % 29.)
County Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
Plaintiff further alleges that thereafter, he was denied other
Department because of his race and in retaliation for filing
the first EEO complaint.
further claims he was denied other positions in retaliation
for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission in June 2014.
(Id. UK 38-40.)
Upon these allegations, Plaintiff alleges a violation of
Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
in the introductory paragraph of the
complaint, Plaintiff cites not only to § 1983 and the Equal
Protection Clause but also "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, as amended,
§ 2000e et seq." and "Title I
of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 - 42 U.S.C. § 1981."
Through their motions to dismiss, Defendants seek to
dismiss any claims under Title I of the Civil Rights Act of
which is codified at 42 U.S.C.
Smith and Houck,
duplicative of the claims against the County,
and § 1981.2
and they seek
The Court will now resolve these issues.
A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) does not test whether the plaintiff will ultimately
Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 is codified at 42
is unclear from the complaint whether
Plaintiff was referring to § 1981a when he listed "Title I of
the Civil Rights Act of 1991 - 42 U.S.C. § 1981" or whether he
was referring to both § 1981a and § 1981.
See Olmstead v.
Taco Bell Corp.,
141 F.3d 1457, 1462
(11th Cir. 1998)
(acknowledging the potential for confusion in differentiating
between the amendments to Title VII embodied in § 1981a and
the cause of action created in § 1981).
have interpreted the language to state claims under § 1981a
and § 1981,
the Court will address both herein as well.
Of note, Plaintiff all but concedes that he does not have
an independent claim under either statute, stating that his
complaint is "based primarily upon Defendants' collective
violations of Title VII and the Fourteenth Amendment."
Resp. in Opp'n to Mots, to Dismiss, Doc. 16, at 2.)
prevail on the merits of the case.
sufficiency of the complaint.
Rather, it tests the legal
Scheur v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232,
court must accept as
facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Hoffman-Pugh v. Ramsey, 312 F.3d 1222, 1225 (11th Cir. 2002).
conclusions as true,
only its well-pled facts.
662, 677-79 (2009).
A complaint also must "contain sufficient factual matter,
plausible on its face.'"
Id. at 678
(citing Bell Atl.
required to plead "factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for
probability requirement at the pleading
(citing Durma Pharm.,
basis of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the
factual allegations of the complaint will support the cause of
Executive 100, Inc. v. Martin Cntv. , 922 F.2d 1536, 1539 (11th
Section 1981 provides that
u [a]11 persons
. . . shall
have the same right in every State and Territory to make and
enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens."
action against state actors.
Butts v. Cnty. of Volusia,
§ 1983 is
the exclusive federal remedy for violations by state actors of
the rights guaranteed by § 1981.
Bryant v. Jones,
1281, 1288 n.l (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Butts, 222 F.3d at 89495) .
Plaintiff's complaint sets forth a § 1983 claim wherein
he claims that Defendants have violated his equal protection
rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
Any § 1981 claim Plaintiff has attempted
motions to dismiss any § 1981 claim are hereby
successful Title VII litigants. See 42 U.S.C. § 1981a, 2000e-
It does not provide an independent cause of action.
2009 WL 1322341
(N.D. Ga. May 11,
motions to dismiss any § 1981a claim are hereby
Individual Capacity Claims
In this case,
it is unclear from the complaint whether
Defendants, Smith and Houck, in their individual capacities.
recoverable against government officials in their individual
See City of Newport v. Fact Concerts,
268-70 (1981); see also Scott v.
2d 1260, 1274 (M.D. Ala. 1999)
60 F. Supp.
(holding that county cannot be
the Court will presume that Plaintiff is suing
Smith and Houck in their official and individual capacities
under Title VII and §
individual capacity suits are inappropriate because the relief
violation of Title VII.
Cross v. Ala. Dep't of Mental Health
(holding liability under Title VII is limited to official
capacity claims); Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 772
Contrary to Title VII,
individual employees can be held
liable for discrimination under § 1983.
And at this point,
Defendants have presented no legal argument or authority to
dismiss Plaintiff's individual capacity claims under § 1983
for violation of his equal protection rights.
Upon the foregoing, Defendants Smith and Houck's motions
the individual capacity claims against them are
GRANTED with respect to
Plaintiff's Title VII claims.
individual capacity claims against Defendants Smith and Houck
under § 1983 remain.
Official Capacity Claims
Plaintiff's Title VII and § 1983 claims against them in their
against the County.
The Court agrees.
See Busby, 931 F.2d at
776 (holding that § 1983 suits against a municipal officer in
his official capacity are functionally equivalent to suits
against the municipality);
Owens v. Fulton Cnty.,
947, 951 n.5 (11th Cir. 1989) ("For liability purposes, a suit
represents."); M.R. v. Bd. of School Comm'rs of Mobile Cnty.,
2012 WL 2931263, *2 (S.D. Ala. July 18, 2012)
extensive authorities illustrate the well-entrenched principle
that suits against both an official in his or her official
capacity and the entity that official represents are redundant
(cited sources omitted).
relief in the form of reinstatement and front pay,
claims against Defendants Smith and Houck may stand.
is true that official capacity claims for prospective relief
are not treated as actions against the state for purposes of
Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S.
there is no rule that a court make a
distinction between the types of damages sought in assessing
whether a claim for relief is duplicative under Busby.
one would expect courts applying Busby to dismiss
only the money-damages claims against the government officials
in their official capacities, while allowing the injunctive
and declaratory claims to proceed to trial."
at *3 .
This is not the case however.
M.R., 2012 WL
Plaintiff's official capacity claims against Defendants Smith
and Houck are redundant of his claims against the County no
matter the damages sought.3
For this reason, Defendants Smith
and Houck's motions to dismiss Plaintiff's official capacity
claims against them under § 1983 are GRANTED.
as stated previously,
the relief granted under
Title VII is against the employer,
not individual employees
931 F.2d at 772.
i.e., the County.
Plaintiff named the employer,
Thus, official capacity claims against his
supervisors are unnecessary and duplicative.
v. United Techs.
916 F. Supp.
See, e.g., Lynn
Accordingly, Defendants Smith and Houck's motions to
Plaintiff's Title VII claims against them in their
official capacities are also GRANTED,
Upon the foregoing, Defendant County's motion to dismiss
cites Welch v.
1995), for the proposition that his official capacity claims
for injunctive relief should stand.
However, in Welch, the
entity that the individual defendants represented was not a
party to the lawsuit.
That is, the Welch plaintiff was able
to maintain his official capacity claims against the Sheriff
and the Chief Deputy Sheriff for injunctive relief because the
entity they represented was not a party.
Welch is inapposite as the County has
defendant in the instant action.
For this reason,
been named as a
Defendants Smith and Houck's motions to dismiss (doc.
specifically, Plaintiff's claims under § 1981a and § 1981 are
Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Smith and
individual capacity claims against them
Defendants Smith and Houck in their official capacities under
Title VII and § 1983 are dismissed.
Finally, the Court exercises its discretion to not award
attorney's fees and costs associated with filing the motions
to dismiss to Defendants as requested.
ORDER ENTERED at Augusta,
this C>< ** day of
J.^RM^fKL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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