Murray v. Austin Independent School District
ORDER GRANTING 39 Motion to Amend Complaint. Signed by Judge Andrew W. Austin. (dm, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
JEANNE RUTAN MURRAY
AUSTIN INDEP. SCH. DIST.
Before the Court is the Plaintiff Jeanne Murray’s Motion for Leave to File Second Amended
Complaint (Clerk’s Doc. No. 39); Defendant’s Response in Opposition to Motion (Clerk’s Doc. No.
40); and Plaintiff’s Reply (Clerk’s Doc. No. 41). The District Court referred the above-motion to
the undersigned Magistrate Judge for resolution pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b) and Rule 1(c) of
Appendix C of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas,
Local Rules for the Assignment of Duties to United States Magistrate Judges.
Murray filed her First Amended Complaint on October 3, 2011. Following Murray’s
amendments, AISD moved to dismiss her claims. Upon review, the Court declared that Murray had
sufficiently pleaded causes of action for: (1) a hostile work environment under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and (2) a hostile work environment claim under the
Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (“TCHRA”) and the Texas Labor Code § 21.051. It
denied Murray’s Whistleblower and Family Code Claims, on the grounds that she her pleadings
failed to state claims.
Murray now brings a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. She seeks to
assert five claims: (1) a hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964; (2) a hostile work environment claim under “other federal authority”; (3) a hostile work
environment claim under “similar State” authority; (4) a “constructive discharge claim” under Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any other authority; and (5) a claim that AISD deprived her
of her job without due process of law, in violation of her 14th Amendment rights.
AISD opposes Murray’s Motion for Leave to Amend, arguing that her motion should be
denied because her claims are either redundant (claims 1, 2, and 3) or futile (claims 4 and 5).
Standard of Review
“Leave to amend [a complaint] should be freely given, and outright refusal to grant leave to
amend without a justification . . . is considered an abuse of discretion.” United States ex rel. Adrian
v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 363 F.3d 398, 403 (5th Cir. 2004) (internal citation omitted).
However, a court may properly deny leave to amend a complaint if it determines that “the proposed
change clearly is frivolous or advances a claim or defense that is legally insufficient on its face.” 6
CHARLES A. WRIGHT , ARTHUR R. MILLER & MARY KAY KANE, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND
PROCEDURE § 1487 (2d ed. 1990); see also Ayers v. Johnson, 247 F. App’x 534, 535 (5th Cir. 2007)
(“[A] district court acts within its discretion when dismissing a motion to amend that is . . . futile.”)
(internal citation omitted). Thus, in deciding whether a proposed amendment would be futile, the
court may look to whether it would be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6).
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is “viewed with disfavor and . . . rarely granted.”
Fin. Acquisition Partners LP v. Blackwell, 440 F.3d 278, 286 (5th Cir. 2006). In reviewing the
motion, the court is to take all of the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true, viewing them in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369
F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004). For years, the long-standing rule had been that a court may not
dismiss a case under Rule 12(b)(6) “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no
set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 45-46 (1957). In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Supreme Court articulated
the standard differently, stating instead that the plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face,” and that “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are
true (even if doubtful in fact).” 550 U.S. at 570, 555. Subsequently, the Supreme Court has clarified
that this new standard applies to all case, not just to antitrust cases such as Twombly. See Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009).
Murray’s first three claims all assert that she was subjected to a hostile work environment
“under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal authority and the similar State
hostile work environment claim.” Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint at 2. AISD
opposes these claims as redundant because the Court determined in ruling on AISD’s motion to
dismiss that Murray has stated a hostile work environment claim under the ADEA and TCHRA.
AISD is correct. Title VII is not applicable, as Murray has only alleged age discrimination—not
discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, or sex. As the Court previously construed
Murray’s Amended Complaint to include hostile work environment claims under the ADEA and
TCHRA, to add them via a Second Amended Complaint would be redundant..
Murray also seeks to assert a claim for constructive discharge. To demonstrate constructive
discharge, Murray needs to establish that her “working conditions were so intolerable that a
reasonable employee would feel compelled to resign.” Brown v. Kinney Shoe Corp., 237 F.3d 556,
566 (5th Cir. 2001). AISD argues that this claim is futile as she has not plead sufficient facts to
support this claim. As noted by AISD, Murray did not attach a proposed Second Amended
Complaint to her motion, so the Court cannot determine whether Murray’s proposed amended
complaint contains sufficient factual allegations. Regardless, whether working conditions are
sufficiently “intolerable” is fact specific—the Fifth Circuit has listed seven factors courts should
consider in making that determination.
Id. Such a fact-specific claim is not one ordinarily
appropriately dismissed on a 12(b)(6) motion, and the Court declines to deny leave to amend on this
claim on that basis. If AISD believes sufficient facts are not pled once the amended complaint is on
file, it can certainly file a motion to dismiss at that time.
Murray’s final proposed claim is based on an alleged denial of due process under the 14th
Amendment. She asserts that AISD deprived her of her property interest in continued employment
without due process of law. Clerk’s Doc. No. 39 at 3. A person’s interest in a job may be a property
interest for due process concerns. E.g., Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 601 (1972). This is true
even if no formal job tenure system exists, provided there are rules or a mutual understanding that
support a claim of entitlement to the position that can be invoked at a hearing. Id. at 601–02.
According to Murray’s First Amended Complaint, she acknowledges that AISD had a
grievance policy and procedure, and participated in it. Clerk’s Doc. No. 5 ¶¶ 17–23. However,
before her Level IV Board Hearing, Murray resigned. Id. ¶ 20. Although public school teachers can
have a property right in their job, that is only one element of a 14th Amendment claim—there must
also be a deprivation of the job. Murray admits in her own pleadings she resigned. As noted above,
she can (and has) plead a constructive discharge claim, but that claim is incompatible with a due
process violation. She admits she participated in AISD’s due process system, but she quit before that
process was complete. Therefore, she cannot maintain a 14th Amendment claim.
Based on the above, the Court HEREBY GRANTS Murray’s Motion for Leave to File
Second Amended Complaint (Clerk’s Doc. No. 39). She may file a Second Amended Complaint
that includes a claim for constructive discharge. Thus, Murray is ORDERED to file a Second
Amended Complaint containing her original hostile environment claims, her new constructive
discharge claim, and sufficient factual allegations to support the claims, all no later than August
SIGNED this 1st day of August, 2012.
ANDREW W. AUSTIN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?