United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
ELOIS B. SMITH PLAINTIFF
MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY, et al. DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BrowncUNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Mississippi State University's motion to
dismiss, Doc. #9; Linda Mitchell, Reuben Moore, Juli Rester,
and Paula Threadgill's motion to dismiss, Doc. #8; and
Elois B. Smith's motion to amend her complaint, Doc. #21.
March 1, 2017, Elois B. Smith filed a complaint in this Court
against Mississippi State University (“MSU”),
Reuben Moore, Paula Threadgill, Linda Mitchell, and
Rester. Doc. #1. In her complaint, Smith alleges claims for
sex discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation in
violation of Title VII; and claims for violations of the
First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at
5-8. On these claims, Smith seeks to recover compensatory and
punitive damages. Id. at 8.
March 30, 2017, Moore, Threadgill, Mitchell, and Rester
(collectively, “Individual Defendants”) filed a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Doc. #8. The same day, MSU
filed a motion to dismiss Smith's § 1983 claims and
her demand for punitive damages pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1)
and 12(b)(6). Doc. #9. Smith timely responded in opposition
to both motions. Docs. #15, #17. MSU and the Individual
Defendants timely replied. Docs. #19, #20.
7, 2017, Smith filed a motion to amend her complaint. Doc.
#21. MSU and the Individual Defendants timely responded in
opposition. Docs. #24, #26. Smith did not reply.
to Dismiss Standards
motions filed by MSU and the Individual Defendants both seek
dismissal of Smith's claims under Rules 12(b)(1) and
filed under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure allow a party to challenge the subject matter
jurisdiction of the district court to hear a case.”
Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th
Cir. 2001). A court may dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction based on “(1) the complaint alone; (2) the
complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the
record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts
plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.”
Crane v. Johnson, 783 F.3d 244, 251 (5th Cir. 2015).
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint does
not need detailed factual allegations, but it must provide
the plaintiff's grounds for entitlement for
relief-including factual allegations that, when assumed to be
true, raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Ruiz v. Brennan, 851 F.3d 464, 468
(5th Cir. 2017). Under this standard, a court must
“accept all well-pleaded facts as true.” New
Orleans City v. Ambac Assurance Corp., 815 F.3d 196,
199-200 (5th Cir. 2016) (quotation marks omitted).
an African American woman, started working at MSU as a Family
Consumer Science Extension Agent on October 1, 2014. Doc. #1
at ¶ 10. Since beginning work at MSU, Smith experienced
“sexual harassment, hostility, and racial insensitivity
from her peers and superiors.” Id. at ¶
11. Additionally, Smith was subjected to “offensive
racial remarks and slurs” by the
“Defendants” and noticed that “a majority of
African-American employees were terminated.”
Id. at ¶ 12. At some point, Smith reported the
alleged sexual harassment to MSU's human resources
department and received a response
“approximately” two weeks later. Id. at
about January 6, 2016, Smith met with Threadgill and an
unidentified individual. Id. at ¶ 13. At this
meeting, Smith was informed that she engaged in
“unprofessional [behavior] towards a County Extension
Sponsor.” Id. As a result of this allegation,
Smith received a “write-up” and was placed on an
eight-week administrative leave. Id. Later, Smith
contacted the county sponsor toward whom she was allegedly
unprofessional, and the county sponsor “denied any
unprofessional behavior” on Smith's part.
Id. at ¶ 14.
Smith met with the “Defendants” regarding her
report of sexual harassment and was “advised that her
pay would increase as an incentive to cease all assertions
… of sexual harassment.” Id. at ¶
15. After this meeting, Smith was excluded from meetings
“directly related to her position” and “MSU
management employees” instructed Smith's coworkers
“not to associate with her.” Id.
about March 9, 2016, Smith attended a meeting with Moore,
Threadgill, Mitchell, and Rester. Id. at ¶ 17.
During this meeting, Smith's employment with MSU was
terminated and Moore instructed Smith that he “did not
want to hear anything [she] ha[d] to say, and [she] should
turn in any MSU property within [her] possession.”
Id. Smith's termination letter indicated that
she was terminated for unprofessional behavior. Id.
at ¶ 18.
Motion to Dismiss
motion to dismiss seeks dismissal of Smith's § 1983
claims and her demand for punitive damages.
§ 1983 Claims
brief accompanying its motion, MSU argues that it is entitled
to Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to Smith's
§ 1983 claims and that it is not a “person”
for the purposes of § 1983. In her response, Smith does
not address either ground for dismissal. Rather, she
discusses the elements of establishing an individual capacity
claim under § 1983. Smith also contends that Eleventh
Amendment immunity has been abrogated but only with respect
to claims arising under Title VII, id. at ¶ 8;
a statute not implicated by the motion to dismiss.
sovereign immunity deprives the [federal] court of
jurisdiction, … claims barred by sovereign immunity
can be dismissed only under Rule 12(b)(1) and not with
prejudice.” Warnock v. Pecos Cty., 88 F.3d
341, 343 (5th Cir. 1996). Generally, “[w]hen a Rule
12(b)(1) motion is filed in conjunction with other Rule 12
motions, the court should consider the Rule 12(b)(1) motion
jurisdictional attack before addressing any attack on the
merits.” Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161. However,
the Supreme Court has “routinely addressed
before the question whether the Eleventh Amendment
forbids a particular statutory cause of action to be asserted
against States, the question whether the statute itself
permits the cause of action it creates to be asserted against