Harris v. Burnette et al

Filing 22

MEMORANDUM OPINION. See for complete details. Signed by District Judge Robert E. Payne on 01/20/2017. Clerk mailed copy to pro se Plaintiff. (nbrow)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA Richmond Division JAN 2 3 2017 BRYANTIE ANN HARRIS, CLERK, U.S. DISTRICT COURT RICHMOND, VA Plaintiff, v. Civil Case No. 3:16cv490 DR. ZENIA BURNETTE, et al., Defendants. MEMORANDUM OPINION This matter is before the Court on several motions to dismiss filed by the Defendants: a MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF No. 9) (Woody Mot. ) filed by Defendants Dr. Sarah Huggins Scarbrough and Sheriff C.T. Woody, Jr., appearing in his official capacity, and a MOTION TO DISMISS OF DEFENDANTS SCHOOL BOARD OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND AND DR. MICHELLE BOYD filed on behalf of the Richmond and Defendant (ECF No. 13) (Sch. Bd. Mot.) Defendant School Board of the City of Dr. Michelle Boyd. For the reasons set out below, the Defendants' motions will be granted. BACKGROUND A. Procedural Posture The Complaint (ECF No. 1) names Defendants Boyd, Zenia Burnette, Richmond Justice Center Jail, Richmond Public Schools, and Scarbrough as Defendants, and was filed timely, having been filed within sixty days of the right to sue letter issued to Harris by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") . (Compl. 2). At the direction of the Court, the City of Richmond School Board official "School capacity, Board" were and Sheriff substituted as C.T. the Woody, in properly his named defendants in place of Richmond Justice Center Jail and Richmond Public Schools ( ECF Nos. 12, 16) . A motion to dismiss ( ECF No. 9) was filed by Woody and Scarbrough. Boyd and the School Board later filed their own motion to dismiss. (ECF Nos 17, 18), and Woody Harris filed responses submitted a Harris filed a supplemental response reply (ECF No. 20). (ECF No. 16). The substance of the allegation is the same against each of these Defendants, and the facts favorable to at this stage must be viewed in the light most the Plaintiff; the Complaint must also be read liberally in light of Harris's status as a pro se litigant. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); see also Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 189 (4th Cir. 2010). B. Factual Background. Sometime in late August of 2015, School Board as ("the Jail") inmates. the Jail to a teacher assigned to provide educational Harris was hired by the the Richmond City Jail services to eligible Harris's employer remained the School Board; however, is operated by the Sheriff of the City of Richmond, 2 C.T. Woody ("Woody"). While assigned to teach at the Jail, Harris worked under the chain of command headed by Woody, apparently, the Sheriff's director." hired, Jail she reported to Scarbrough, Office who who was an employee of served as the "jail during became an concerned about emergency of stairs (which her ability to required that concern to Scarborough, Harris wrote that, the down six operational), and In Scarborough. "[d] ue exit walking if the elevators were not communicated to an health 3). available, The full because content Harris of the attached email to the email to issues, number of stairs that I can walk down is limited." Attach. program (Sch. Bd. Memo. at 2). Sometime shortly after she was Harris flights and and, the (ECF No. exchange Complaint is 1, not only a screenshot of her inbox, which shows only the first few words of each correspondence. Id. Scarbrough requesting a responded meeting that to Harris's day. At expressed that concerns meeting, by Scarbrough allegedly described Harris as a "liability" before requiring her to surrender her security access badge and keys to the office. (Compl. 3). Scarbrough also allegedly had deputies escort Harris back to her off ice belongings and leave. where she was required to pack up her Id. This action seems to have amounted to the effective termination of Harris' s 3 service as a teacher at the Jail, but the logistics remain opaque; however, it seems as if Harris's employment with the City was also terminated. As briefs, was best can be determined from the Complaint and the the particular educational program through which Harris employed is Sheriff's in the nature of a off ice and the joint venture between the School Board. The program organizationally falls under the umbrella of the School Board, but it serves inmates and is thus functionally dependent on the Sheriff's Office According to for Woody's access motion pursuant to Virginia law incarcerated individuals provided educational "the apparently incarcerated dismiss, under 18) had and (Woody Mot. meeting environment." Scarbrough to the this students. arrangement is (which mandates education for eligible between the two entities. Woody to Id. the the written agreement 4) . Under that agreement, space As a and security for the "jail program director," authority to deny access to Harris, an employee chosen by the School Board to teach in that program. However, there is no allegation that either Scarborough or Woody had the authority to hire or fire Harris. The Complaint provides that, the Jail by Scarbrough, through the Justice Center that, when Richmond were after being "[e]fforts Public School unsuccessful." Scarbrough "revoked" 4 her to forced to resolve [sic] (Compl. access and 3) . to this The matter Richmond Harris the leave states Jail, her employment was effectively terminated because the access that Scarbrough had revoked. current motions to dismiss, three months my employer, get Dr. Id. her job required In her reply to the Harris provides further that, "for Richmond Public Schools attempted to Scarbrough to meet with them to discuss how to get me back into the building to continue my position as Jail Teacher" and that Scarbrough responded by asking candidate to fill the position. further alleges that and her employer, "physical Public sent." when out provides for Id. Harris's actually terminated, filled for the name of a new (Harris Reply 2). Harris' s reply correspondence between Scarbrough Scarbrough indicated that there would be new requirements School indicate in this for the any new Neither Jail the employment Teacher Complaint with the that nor School Richmond the Reply Board was but the "Intake Questionnaire" that Harris EEOC, 11/10/2015 as which the is "Date attached to the Complaint, (Compl. Quit/Discharged." Attach. 1-1). Harris to Dr. maintains alleges that Scarbrough's that she her quasi-termination was perception is that "physically perform the duties of that position". tension with EEOC, how Harris filled out and Id. her I was disabled," mentally (Compl. Attach. 1-2). 5 qualified and to This statement is in questionnaire in which she checked the box indicating that, a disability." solely "due with "Yes, the I have In their Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9), Woody and terminated because " [she] Scarbrough confirm that Harris was presented a safety and security risk for the jail," while Harris continues seemingly to assert that she has no disability. (Harris Reply 1, ECF No. 21). However, Harris told Scarborough and the EEOC that she was disabled. The advice to the Complaint. dismiss, EEOC is Therefore, and in incorporated in, and attached to, for purposes of deciding the motions any future amended Complaint, Harris must the to be treated as alleging a disability. Based on these Scarbrough, Woody facts, (Scarbrough's (Harris' s employer). their roles Michelle "Intake immediate Boyd in Harris filed a timely suit against complaint, Zenia Questionnaire" supervisors. Harris Burnette with the (Compl. in (ECF No. her Attach. 5), must be dismissed on that ground. also EEOC longer employed by the School Board, served with process and School Board (Compl. 1). Although she has not specified her and employer), named Defendants Complaint, listed 1-1). them Burnette and her as her is no has not been successfully and the Complaint against her The Complaint also makes no discernable claim against Boyd. ANALYSIS AND LEGAL STANDARDS A. The Claims Against Scarbrough, Boyd, and Burnette Under any view of the facts, Boyd, the suits against Scarbrough, and Burnette must be dismissed. 6 Beyond the fact that the Complaint makes no discernible claims against Boyd or Burnette (and that the latter was never served) , indi victual supervisors are not liable under the ADA for the delegable decisions they make on behalf of their employers. Corp., Co., § 30 F.3d 507, 907 F. 510 (4th Cir. Supp. 169, Such delegable 12111 (2). discriminatory 172 conduct contained include in the allegedly Complaint, the See Stephens, is Kay Mgmt. 1995); see also 42 U.S.C. decisions ("After Birkbeck, there Marvel Lighting 1994); Stephens v. (E.D. Va. decisions to terminate employees. 173-74 Birkbeck v. no personal 907 F. i.e. Supp. at liability under either the ADEA or Title VII for individuals making a decision to terminate liability on employment.") . individual Because supervisors the ADA under does the not impose circumstances alleged in this case, further amending of the Complaint would be futile. The Complaint will therefore be dismissed with prejudice against Scarborough, Boyd, and Burnette. B. The Claims Against the School Board and Woody The Complaint must also be dismissed as to the School Board and Woody. only for "employer" As relevant to this case, the discriminatory the ADA imposes liability employment §§ But, as liberally, made by an (as provided in the def ini ti on of "covered entity") against an "employee." See 42 U.S.C. even decisions accepting Harris' s the actual Complaint employer was 7 12112(a), 12111(4)-(5). true the and School reading Board, it not Woody. by Moreover, Scarbrough, Harris. each Put an discriminatory action allegedly taken was employee together, entity. Board has the Because of Woody Harris's Harris but claims has not not the therefore alleged employer fail that against the taken any discriminatory action against her, of School she has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted against the School Board. Office And, because not Harris' s the under is ADA against (as presently alleged) employer, Woody she either. has not Thus, the Sheriff's stated the a claim Complaint must also be dismissed against the School Board and Woody. The dismissal against Woody and the School Board will be without prejudice and with leave to amend on the basis of the "joint employer" doctrine if, support such a theory. Inc., does 793 F.3d 404, not currently School Board, present facts and only if, See Butler v. 409 (4th Cir. state a there are facts that Drive Auto. Indus. of Am., 2015). Although the Complaint claim against either Woody or the it is conceivable that an amended complaint could indicating that the Sheriff's Office and the School Board should be treated as "joint employers" as provided by that doctrine. Therefore, the dismissal of the Complaint will be without prejudice as to Defendants Woody and the School Board. 8 CONCLUSION For the (ECF Nos. 9, reasons 13) set will forth be above, granted, the motions and the to action dismiss will be dismissed with prejudice as the individual Defendants Michelle Boyd, Sarah Huggins, and Zenia Burnette. The motions to dismiss will also be granted as to Woody and the School Board, but the matter will be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend on the basis of the joint employer doctrine if, and only if, there are facts that support such a theory. It is so ORDERED. Isl Robert E. Payne Senior United States District Judge Richmond, Virginia Date: January 1-1>, 2017 9

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