Haggerty v. Atlas Drilling LLC
ORDER granting defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings 28 with respect to plaintiffs' claims for retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress and denied with respect to their discrimination claims based on nation al origin under Title VII and the OADA; plaintiffs' request for leave to amend their complaint to add reverse discrimination claims based on their race is granted; plaintiffs are directed to file their amended complaint within 3 days. Signed by Honorable Joe Heaton on 11/9/2017. (cla)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
JOHN W. HAGGERTY JR.,
ATLAS DRILLING, LLC,
ATLAS DRILLING, LLC,
(Consolidated Case No.)
Plaintiffs in these consolidated cases sued their former employer, Atlas Drilling,
LLC (“Atlas”), asserting federal and state claims arising out of their termination by
defendant. Atlas has filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings with respect to the claims
asserted by plaintiffs Larry Beavers, James Cox, Bryan Cox, Timothy Sparks, Gary
Ledbetter, Donald Todd Sanders, Joshua Cunningham, John Robinett, and Alfred William
Ward. These plaintiffs have asserted reverse discrimination and retaliation claims based
on national origin against defendant under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act (“OADA”) and intentional infliction of emotional
distress claims under Oklahoma law.
The court reviews whether a plaintiff has stated a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P.12(c)
using the same standard that applies to Rule 12(b)(6) dismissals. Sanchez v. United States
Dep't of Energy, 870 F.3d 1185, 1199 (10th Cir. 2017). In other words, “to survive
judgment on the pleadings, [plaintiffs] must allege ‘a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.’” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The court examines the
elements of the particular claim and reviews whether a plaintiff has pleaded “factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged” to determine whether the claim is “plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. All well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint are
accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs. Sanchez, 870 F.3d at
1199. The court does not “accept mere labels and legal conclusions as true,” even though
it “construe[s] factual allegations as true.” Id.
In their response brief, plaintiffs state that they do not object to the dismissal of their
retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. 1 Those claims will be
That leaves for consideration the sufficiency of plaintiffs’ reverse
discrimination national origin claims under Title VII and OADA.
Plaintiffs allege in the complaint they are “all of non-Hispanic national origin” 2 and
were hired by defendant to work on Rig #3 with other employees who were of Hispanic
Plaintiffs state that they will, though, seek to recover for their emotional distress as an
element of damages of their Title VII claims.
Doc. #1, ¶37 [Case No.17-531-HE]. (Page references to documents and exhibits are to
the CM/ECF document and page number.)
and non-Hispanic origin. They allege that they were ahead of schedule in meeting a
deadline and had not been disciplined or notified of any problems with their job
performance when, around mid-July 2013, defendant’s vice-president, Jesse Vap, gave
them a warning. He allegedly told them that if they did not stop taking breaks and make
improvements he would replace them with “Mexicans.” Plaintiffs assert that later that
month, on July 29, 2013, Vap terminated all white, non-Hispanic employees who were
working on Rig #3. Plaintiffs claim that two Hispanic employees who had worked with
them were not discharged. Plaintiffs also allege that defendant segregated its employees
based on national origin by staffing certain rigs with only Hispanic employees and Rig#2
with mostly non-Hispanic employees.
“Generally stated, a prima facie case of discriminatory discharge under Title VII
requires plaintiff to demonstrate that [he] (1) belongs to a protected class; (2) was qualified
for [his] position; (3) was discharged; and (4) [his] position was not eliminated after [his]
discharge.” 3 Adamson v. Multi Cmty. Diversified Servs., Inc., 514 F.3d 1136, 1150 (10th
Cir. 2008). Instead of showing that he is a member of a protected class, a reverse
discrimination plaintiff 4 who seeks to obtain the benefit of the McDonnell Douglas 5
Because the standard is flexible, it “may vary depending on the context of the claim and
the nature of the adverse employment action alleged.” Adamson, 514 F.3d at 1150. “Thus, the
fact a plaintiff's job was or was not eliminated after [his] discharge is not necessarily conclusive
of [his] prima facie case.” Id. at 1150-51.
A reverse discrimination plaintiff generally is a plaintiff who belongs to a traditionally
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).
presumption must demonstrate “background circumstances that support an inference that
the defendant is one of those unusual employers who discriminates against the majority.”
Notari v. Denver Water Dep’t, 971 F.2d 585, 589 (10th Cir. 1992).
Defendant contends plaintiffs’ reverse discrimination claims are deficient because
plaintiffs allege Atlas discriminated against them based on their “non-Hispanic” national
origin, yet fail to provide “any factual detail regarding the distinct national origin of all
Defendant does not otherwise challenge plaintiffs’
Doc. #28, p. 9.
Plaintiffs respond that in the charges of discrimination they filed with the
clearly on notice that Plaintiffs were in fact identifying as being discriminated against
because they were ‘White.’” Doc. #40, p. 6. They then request leave to amend their
complaint “to more clearly articulate their claims based on race as well as national origin,
conforming with the Plaintiffs’ Charges of Discrimination.” Id. at p. 9.
While the complaint could and should have been more clearly drafted, the court
concludes it sufficiently states claims for reverse discrimination based on national origin,
despite plaintiffs’ failure to identify their country of origin. It is enough, under the
circumstances, for plaintiff to assert that they are “non-Hispanic.” The clear implication is
that they are from the United States. Regardless, because the court is granting plaintiffs
Atlas also challenges plaintiff’s reference in the complaint to language in the EEOC’s
determination letter which it asserts is “inadmissible and non-binding.” Doc. #28, p. 8. The
court has considered only the factual allegations plaintiffs incorporated from the text of the
determination letters, not the Commission’s findings.
leave to amend, as will be explained subsequently, plaintiffs are directed to supplement
their allegations pertaining to their national origin claims and specifically state their
The court also concludes plaintiffs’ request in their response brief for leave to amend
their complaint to allege discrimination claims based on race should be granted. Their
complaint includes allegations of race discrimination but does not assert a separate race
discrimination claim. Defendant acknowledges that “Plaintiffs each checked the ‘race’ box
in their respective EEOC Charges,” Doc. #41, p. 6, so it has been on notice of the possibility
of a race-based discrimination claim since the charges were filed with the EEOC. As
defendant notes, the court did not extend the time for amending pleadings when it recently
revised the parties’ scheduling order. However, the addition of race discrimination claims
is not a major change in these plaintiffs’ complaint. It should not necessitate much
additional discovery, unduly prejudice defendant or otherwise significantly affect the case,
especially when the plaintiffs in the other two consolidated cases have asserted race-based
Accordingly, defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings [Doc. #28] is
granted with respect to plaintiffs’ claims for retaliation and intentional infliction of
emotional distress. It is denied with respect to their discrimination claims based on national
origin under Title VII and the OADA. Plaintiffs’ request for leave to amend their complaint
to add reverse discrimination claims based on their race is granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15.
Plaintiffs are directed to file their amended complaint within three days.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated this 9th day of November, 2017.
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