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Darnell v. Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

January 23, 2018



         Before this court is the Defendant Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 7]. Upon due consideration, the court finds that the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.


         Plaintiff Joshua Darnell, who is white, alleges that from October 2015 until February 2016, he was employed by Defendant Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation as a factory worker. PI. Comp. [Doc. No 1] at ¶ 4. In December 2015, Plaintiff told his manager, who was black, that productivity was down because some of his co-workers, all of whom were black, were under the influence of marijuana. Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiff later told a human resources representative, who was also black, the same thing. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that after reporting on his co-workers' alleged marijuana use, the coworkers began harassing him by "calling him derogatory names, and accusing him of being gay." Id. at ¶ 8. He also claims that those co-workers told management that Plaintiff was harassing the co-workers. Id.

         Defendant terminated Plaintiff in March 2016, "apparently on the false grounds that he had threatened his co-workers." Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges the Defendant subsequently hired a black employee to replace him. Id. at ¶ 12.

         After his termination, Plaintiff filed an EEOC discrimination charge, and he received a Notice of Right to Sue on April 20, 2017. EEOC Notice of Right to Sue [Doc. No. 1-2]. He timely filed his compliant in this matter, claiming that Defendant had racially discriminated against him by firing him because of his race and creating a hostile work environment, and that Defendant had fired him for reporting illegal activity. Defendant has now filed this 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss arguing that Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently plead his race discrimination claims, and that the court should refuse to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. Plaintiff has responded. The matter is ripe for review.


         Motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) "are viewed with disfavor and are rarely granted." Kocurek v. Cuna Mut. Ins. Soc'y, 459 Fed.Appx. 371, 373 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Gregson v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., 322 F.3d 883, 885 (5th Cir. 2003)). When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court is limited to the allegations set forth in the complaint and any documents attached to the complaint. Walker v. Webco Indus., Inc., 562 Fed.Appx. 215, 216-17 (5th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (citing Kennedy v. Chase Manhattan Bank USA, NA, 369 F.3d 833, 839 (5th Cir. 2004)).

         "[A plaintiffs] complaint therefore 'must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." ' " Phillips v. City of Dallas, Tex., 781 F.3d 772, 775-76 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007))). A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "[P]laintiffs must allege facts that support the elements of the cause of action in order to make out a valid claim." Webb v. Morella, 522 Fed.Appx. 238, 241 (5th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (quoting City of Clinton, Ark v. Pilgrim 's Pride Corp., 632 F.3d 148, 152-53 (5th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "[C]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss." Id. (quoting Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "Dismissal is appropriate when the plaintiff has not alleged 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face' and has failed to 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level.' " Emesowum v. Hous. Police Dep't, 561 Fed.Appx. 372, 372 (5th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Wrongful Termination under Title VII and Section 1981

         Plaintiff claims that his race was a motivating factor in Defendant's decision to fire him, in violation of Title VII and Section 1981. "The analysis of discrimination claims under § 1981 is identical of analysis of Title VII claims." Body by Cook, Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins., 869 F.3d 381, 386 (5th Cir. 2Ol7)(citing Jones v. Robinson Prop. Grp. L.P., 714 F.3d 987, 992 *5th Cir. 2005)). To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, a plaintiff must show that he (1) is a member of a protected group; (2) was qualified for the position at issue; (3) was discharged or suffered some adverse employment action by the employer; and (4) was replaced by someone outside his protected group or was treated less favorably than other similarly situated employees outside the protected group. Morris v. Town oflndep., 827 F.3d 396, 400 (5th Cir. 2016).

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to plead the fourth element because he has not, in his complaint, alleged that he was treated less favorably than similarly situated black employees. Plaintiff argues that he has pled the fourth element by alleging that he did not commit the rule violation for which the Defendant terminated him, and alleging that he was replaced by a black employee.

         It is not necessary for a plaintiff to "make out a prima facie case of discrimination in order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss." Raj v. La. State Univ.,714 F.3d 322, 331 (5th Cir. 2013.) "[T]he prima facie case should not be transposed into a rigid pleading standard for discrimination" cases. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A.,534 U.S. 506, 507, 122 S.Ct. 992, 995, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002). However, "[a] negations related to that prima facie inquiry may nonetheless be helpful in satisfying the general Iqbal plausibility standard." Haskett v. Cont'l Land Res., L.L.C.,668 Fed.Appx. 133, 134 (5th Cir. 2O\6)(Leal v. McHugh,731 F.3d 405, 413 (5th Cir. 2013)). Thus, were the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs claim because he did not identify similarly situated employees of a different race who were treated differently, it would err "by ...

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