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Funches v. Mississippi Development Authority

United States District Court, Southern District of Mississippi, Northern Division

February 27, 2015

ANDRE FUNCHES PLAINTIFF
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY AND BRENT CHRISTENSEN, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY DEFENDANTS

ORDER

DANIEL P. JORDAN III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This employment dispute is before the Court on Defendant Brent Christensen’s motion to dismiss [19] filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and Defendant Mississippi Development Authority’s motion for summary judgment [21] pursuant to Rule 56. Plaintiff Andre Funches has responded in opposition to both motions. For the reasons that follow, Defendants’ motions are GRANTED.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Funches brings this suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for alleged discrimination suffered in the course of his employment with the Mississippi Development Authority (“MDA”). Compl. [1] ¶¶ 5–11. Funches claims he was subjected to sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and retaliation. He names as defendants MDA and Brent Christensen, individually, and seeks injunctive relief and damages.

II. Applicable Standards

A. Rule 12(b)(6)

In considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the “court accepts ‘all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.’” Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dall. Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999)). To overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “Factual 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).” Id. at 555 (citations and footnote omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). It follows that “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]’-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Id. at 1950 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “This standard ‘simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of’ the necessary claims or elements.” In re S. Scrap Material Co., LLC, 541 F.3d 584, 587 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

B. Rule 56

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. The nonmoving party must then “go beyond the pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Id. at 324 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, “but only when . . . both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When such contradictory facts exist, the court may “not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments have never constituted an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075; SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993).

III. Analysis

A. Christensen’s Motion to Dismiss

As stated, Funches brings this suit against MDA and Brent Christensen, individually, under Title VII for alleged discrimination. But as Christensen notes in his motion to dismiss, “[o]nly ‘employers, ’ not individuals acting in their individual capacity who do not otherwise meet the definition of ‘employers, ’ can be liable under [T]itle VII.” Grant v. Lone Star Co., 21 F.3d 649, 652 (5th Cir. 1994); see also Ackel v. Nat’l Commc’ns, Inc., 339 F.3d 376, 388 (5th Cir. 2003) (“Individuals are not liable under Title VII in either their individual or official capacities.”) (citing Smith v. Amedisys Inc., 298 F.3d 434, 448-49 (5th Cir. 2002)). Here, Funches states in his Complaint that MDA is his employer and that Christensen is its executive director. Compl. [1] ¶¶ 4, 5. So as pleaded, Christensen is not an “employer” under Title VII. See Oden v. Oktibbeha Cnty., Miss., 246 F.3d 458, 464 (5th Cir. 2001) (holding that governmental officers acting in official capacity are not “employers” under Title VII).

Funches responds to Christensen’s motion by asserting that a jury must decide the claim. Pl.’s Resp. [23] at 1. But he fails to substantively meet Christensen’s legal authority. The Court concludes that the Complaint fails to state a claim against Christensen ...


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