Daniels et al v. Pike County Commissioners et al
OPINION AND ORDER denying 4 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King on 6/19/2015. (pes)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
PAMELA J. DANIELS, et al.,
Case No. 2:15-cv-408
Magistrate Judge King
PIKE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS,
OPNION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs Pamela J. Daniels and Rachel Barron were employed by
the Pike County Prosecutor’s office and worked under the direct
supervision of the Pike County Prosecutor, defendant Robert Junk.
Complaint, ECF 1, ¶¶ 8-11.
Plaintiffs allege that they were harassed
and discriminated against by defendant Junk.
Daniels alleges that her employment was terminated on the basis of her
gender and in retaliation for reporting harassment; plaintiff Barron
alleges that she was constructively discharged.
claims of hostile work environment, sex discrimination, and
retaliation under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, and O.R.C. §
Plaintiffs also assert claims of intentional infliction of
The Complaint asserts claims for damages against
the Pike County Commissioners and defendant Junk in his individual and
This matter is now before the Court, with the consent of the
parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), on the motion of the Pike
County Commissioners to dismiss1 (“Defendants’ Motion”), ECF 4.
Defendants’ Motion seeks dismissal, for failure to state a claim, of
plaintiffs’ Title VII claims for hostile work environment, sex
discrimination, and retaliation.
The Pike County Commissioners argue
that they are not a proper party because they “do not oversee
Defendant Junk or the Pike County Prosecutor’s office” and “do not
participate in the hiring or firing in the Prosecutor’s office, and,
as an entity, do not oversee, manage, or direct the aforesaid office.”
Id. at p. 4.
Defendants argue that plaintiffs’ Title VII claims
should be dismissed because “the Pike County Prosecutor’s office is a
separate and distinct division [of Pike County], and to [defendants’]
counsel’s knowledge, does not employee [sic] fifteen or more people.”
Id. at p. 5.
Plaintiffs oppose Defendants’ Motion.
Contra Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (“Plaintiffs’ Response”), ECF 6.
Plaintiffs argue that the “Complaint properly states a claim against
Pike County by naming the Pike County Commissioners in the caption of
the complaint as the party-defendants.”
Id. at p. 1 (emphasis in
Plaintiffs argue that Pike County has more than 15
employees and that they “properly named the county as a defendant on a
theory of employer liability.”
Id. at pp. 3-4.
Defendants’ Motion represents that it was filed on behalf of the Pike County
Commissioners and defendant Junk. The Preliminary Pretrial Order clarifies
that the motion was filed on behalf of only the Pike County Commissioners.
See Preliminary Pretrial Order, ECF 9.
granted an extension of time to file a reply, Preliminary Pretrial
Order, ECF 9, but no reply has been filed.
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) attacks the legal
sufficiency of the complaint.
See Roth Steel Prods. v. Sharon Steel
Co., 705 F.2d 134, 155 (6th Cir. 1983).
In determining whether
dismissal on this basis is appropriate, a complaint must be construed
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all well-pleaded
facts must be accepted as true.
See Bower v. Fed. Express Corp., 96
F.3d 200, 203 (6th Cir. 1996); Misch v. Cmty. Mut. Ins. Co., 896 F.
Supp. 734, 738 (S.D. Ohio 1994).
The United States Supreme Court has
explained that, “once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be
supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations
in the complaint.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 546
However, a plaintiff’s claim for relief “requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of
a cause of action will not do.”
Id. at 555.
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
Accordingly, a complaint must be dismissed if it does
not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face.”
Id. at 570.
Defendants’ Motion seeks the dismissal of the Pike County
Commissioners on the basis that they are not a proper party.
appears from Plaintiffs’ Response that plaintiffs intend to assert
only official capacity claims against the Pike County Commissioners
and that they have joined the Commissioners as defendants in an effort
to state a claim against Pike County.
See Plaintiffs’ Response, pp. 1
(“Plaintiff’s Complaint properly states a claim against Pike County by
naming the Pike County Commissioners in the caption of the complaint
as the party-defendants.”) (emphasis in original), 2 (“Plaintiffs
properly stated claims against Pike County for direct and vicarious
employer liability.”), 2 (“In this instance, Robert Junk is the Pike
It is undisputed that he is an employee of the
Further, Mr. Junk serves in a high-level supervisory capacity
to the extent that he can, and did, in this case, take tangible
employment actions against the individual Plaintiffs, i.e. discharge
and constructive discharge.
For all intents and purposes, given his
high level of authority, Robert Junk’s actions are the county’s
actions, therefore the county can be held vicariously liable for his
actions.”)(emphasis in original), 3 (“Plaintiffs have plead sufficient
facts that, if taken as true, would create direct liability on the
part of Pike County as Robert Junk’s employer.”) (emphasis in
Plaintiffs argue that the Pike County Commissioners and
defendant Junk are employees of Pike County and that the official
capacity claims against these defendants are actually claims against
Pike County is not a named defendant.
Official capacity suits “‘generally represent only another way of
pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165–66 (1985) (quoting
Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)).
official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be
treated as a suit against the entity.”
469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985)).
Id. (citing Brandon v. Holt,
Here, the parties seem to disagree, for
these purposes, about the role of defendant Junk in Pike County.
discussed supra, plaintiffs argue that defendant Junk is an agent of
Plaintiffs’ Response, p. 2.
Plaintiffs allege, however,
that defendant Junk is an employee of the Pike County Commissioners.
Complaint, ¶ 8.
The defendant Commissioners argue that defendant Junk
is an employee of the Pike County Prosecutor’s Office, which “is a
separate and distinct division” of Pike County
Defendants’ Motion, p.
Neither plaintiffs nor defendants cite any authority in support of
It is also unclear whether plaintiffs intend to assert claims
against the Pike County Commissioners in their individual capacities.
Although Plaintiffs’ Response suggests that plaintiffs assert only
official capacity claims against the Pike County Commissioners, the
Complaint alleges that the defendant Commissioners “knew or should
have known that Defendant Junk was perpetrating unlawful
discrimination against Plaintiffs and either ratified this conduct
and/or failed to prevent such conduct.” Id. at ¶ 34.
Because of this ambiguity in the record, plaintiffs are ORDERED
to file, within fourteen days, an amended complaint that not only
names the defendants sued but also expressly states in what capacity
each defendant is sued.
Defendants’ Motion, ECF 4, is DENIED without prejudice to
renewal, if otherwise appropriate, following the filing of the
anticipated amended complaint.
June 19, 2015
s/Norah McCann King_______
Norah McCann King
United States Magistrate Judge
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