United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
NAOMI J. FULTON PLAINTIFF
MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY; DR. PAULA THREADGILL; DR. LINDA MITCHELL; JULIE RESTER; BRETT HARVEY; and JAMES RANDALL NEVINS DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANTS' SEPARATE MOTIONS TO DISMISS
this court are three separate motions of the Defendants to
dismiss the Plaintiffs claims - one filed by the Defendant
Mississippi State University ("MSU"), one filed by
Individual Defendants Dr. Paula Threadgill and Dr. Linda
Mitchell, and one filed by Individual Defendants Julie
Rester, Brett Harvey, and James Randall Nevins - [Doc. Nos.
4, 6, 22]. Upon due consideration, the court finds that the
Individual Defendants' motions should be granted and that
MSU's motion should be granted in part and denied in
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
October 1, 2008, Plaintiff Naomi Fulton, an African-American
woman who resides in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, began her
employment with MSU as a salaried program assistant with
MSU's Extension Service office in Monroe County. Pl.
Comp. [Doc. No 1] at ¶¶ 1, 11. Plaintiff is still
employed with MSU, having been transferred to its Extension
Service office in Chickasaw County in November 2015.
Id., at ¶¶ 11, 24-28.
claims that, while she was stationed in the Monroe County
office, she endured racial discrimination and sex
discrimination at the hands of her co-workers and the
Individual Defendants, and was subjected to retaliation from
the Defendants for her association and interaction with an
African-American co-worker who alleged that she was subjected
to sexual advances by the Defendant Dr. Paula Threadgill.
Id. at ¶¶ 12-27. Plaintiff claims that
after reporting this alleged conduct to MSU, the Defendants
ignored her allegations and instead forced her in November
2015 to accept an involuntary lateral transfer to the
Extension Service's Chickasaw County office, where she
remains employed as a program assistant. Id. at
¶¶ 15, 19-27.
filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on January 1,
2016, asserting solely retaliation discrimination in
connection with her lateral transfer, alleging that the
transfer was in retaliation for her association with the
co-worker who complained of sexual harassment. Id.
at ¶ 31. She then timely filed her compliant in this
matter, complaining of her transfer and asserting claims
against MSU and the Individual Defendants for: (1) race
discrimination in violation of Title VII; (2) sex
discrimination in violation of Title VII; (3) retaliation in
violation of Title VII; and (4) for violations of 42 U.S.C.
§1983 in connection with her alleged "adverse and
hostile employment conditions at [MSU] due to the actions of
Defendants and agents and employees thereof."
Id. at ¶¶ 33-55. The Defendants have now
filed three separate motions to dismiss, arguing that
Plaintiffs claims for race and sex discrimination must be
dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and
because the Individual Defendants cannot be held liable under
Title VII, that Plaintiff has not stated a claim for Title
VII retaliation, and that Plaintiffs Section 1983 claims
should be dismissed due to Eleventh Amendment immunity.
STANDARD FOR DISMISSAL UNDER RULE 12(B)(6)
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
other words, "plaintiffs must allege facts that support
the elements of the cause of action in order to make out a
valid claim." Webb v. Morella, 522 P. App'x
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
Plaintiffs Claims against MSU
Title VII Claims for race and sex discrimination
Plaintiff asserts claims in her complaint that she was
subjected to race and sex discrimination in violation of
Title VII. [Doc. No 1 at ¶¶ 33-38, 45-50]. Before
an employee can pursue Title VII claims in a federal district
court, however, she must first exhaust her administrative
remedies with respect to those claims; exhaustion of
administrative remedies includes filing a charge of
discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission ("EEOC") to allow an investigation into
the allegations. McClain v. Lufkin Industries, Inc.,
519 F, 3d 264, 273 (5th Cir. 2008). Although a charge of
discrimination is liberally construed, lawsuits exceeding the
scope of what was contained in a plaintiffs charge should not
be condoned and any claims asserted in a complaint that were
not contained in the charge must be dismissed.
McClain, 519 F, 3d at 273.
case subjudice, in her EEOC Charge, Plaintiff solely
alleged that she was subjected to discrimination based on
retaliation and that she was "transferred / reassigned
... to another county in retaliation for [her] association
with a coworker who made a complaint about sexual
harassment." Plaintiffs EEOC Charge [Doc. No.
24].Plaintiff makes no mention whatsoever in
her Charge that she was ever subjected to discrimination on
the basis of race or sex. In addition, Plaintiff did not
check the boxes available for discrimination on the basis of
race or sex, and instead solely checked the retaliation box.
In fact, nowhere in her Charge does Plaintiff identify her
race or the race of anyone else, and the only indication of
sex is to the extent it can be inferred from her name. [Doc.
before the Plaintiff can proceed on her claims for Title VII
race and sex discrimination, the Court must find that an EEOC
investigation for those claims could "reasonably be
expected to grow out of the allegations of retaliation in her
Charge. McClain, 519 F.3d at 273-74. Plaintiffs
Charge, however, contains no reference whatsoever to her race
or sex, and otherwise contains no grievances that would
trigger an investigation by the EEOC into discrimination
based on those characteristics. Accordingly, the Court holds
that she cannot now pursue her claims for Title VII
discrimination on the basis of race or sex. See Castro v.
Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice, 541 Fed, App'x 374,
379 (5th Cir. 2013) (dismissing plaintiffs claims for race
and sex discrimination for failure to exhaust administrative
remedies where, in plaintiffs charge of discrimination,
plaintiff made no reference to race or sex or any incidents
of discrimination based on those ...