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Irma Moten v. Broward County

November 23, 2011

IRMA MOTEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, DEFENDANT.



ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS COUNT III OF PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED COMPLAINT

THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendant Broward County's Motion to Dismiss Count III of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [DE 53] ("Motion"). The Court has considered the Motion, Plaintiff Irma Moten's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count III of the First Amended Complaint and Response to Order to Show Cause [DE's 58, 59] ("Response"), Defendant's Reply [DE 62], and the record in this case, and is otherwise fully advised in the premises.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant on December 9, 2010 [DE 1]. On April 4, 2011, she filed an Amended Complaint [DE 7]. The Amended Complaint brings the following three claims: race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Count I); race discrimination in violation of Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (Count II); and violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206 (Count III). In the instant Motion, Defendant seeks dismissal of Count III. The following are the relevant facts regarding Count III.

According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has worked at Defendant's Medical Examiner's Office as a Forensic Technician since 2001. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14, 15. In February 2009,*fn1 Defendant hired a white male, Patrick Karr, as a Forensic Technician. Id. ¶ 18. Despite the fact that Mr. Karr had less experience than Plaintiff, Defendant paid him 46 cents an hour more than Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 18, 19. Specifically, Mr. Karr began working for $17.0837 an hour while Plaintiff was earning only $16.6230. Declaration of Rita McManus [DE 53-1] ¶¶ 2, 6, 9. In October 2009, Plaintiff's hourly rate was increased to $17.1217, id. ¶ 7, and Mr. Karr's hourly rate was increased to $17.5962, id. ¶ 10. Then, on May 16, 2010, Plaintiff's hourly rate was increased to $17.9087. Id. ¶ 8.

Though Defendant "maintains and denies that it has committed any acts of gender or race discrimination," Mot. at 2, on November 4, 2011, Defendant paid Plaintiff $1,331.52 as "backpay" through direct deposit, and sent her a check for $1,331.52 in liquidated damages, see Payroll Receipt [DE 53-2 at 2] (for $1,331.52); Check [DE 53-2 at 3] (for $1,331.52). Defendant notes that this amount consists of (a) the hourly rate differential between Plaintiff and Mr. Karr from February 16, 2009 through May 16, 2010, when Plaintiff's rate was raised above Mr. Karr's rate, plus (b) an equal amount to represent liquidated damages that Plaintiff might have been able to cover if she were to prevail on her Equal Pay Act claim. See Declaration of Nicholas Polizos [DE 53-3]

(explaining calculations).

In its Motion, Defendant contends that Count III of the Amended Complaint is now moot because Defendant has tendered payment in the full amount of relief that Plaintiff could obtain on her Equal Pay Act claim. Mot. at 2 ¶ 7. Therefore, Defendant seeks an Order dismissing Count III. Plaintiff objects to dismissal, arguing that the Court retains jurisdiction over her claim.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See 13 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3522 (2d ed. 1984 & Supp. 2008). Article III of the Constitution specifically limits federal court jurisdiction to actual cases and controversies. See U.S. Const. Art. III § 2; see also Troiano v. Supervisor of Elections in Palm Beach Cnty., Fla., 382 F.3d 1276, 1281 (11th Cir. 2004). An action that does not present an active case or controversy is moot. Al Najjar v. Ashcroft, 273 F.3d 1330, 1336 (11th Cir. 2001).

If a claim is moot, a federal court lacks jurisdiction to evaluate the merits. Troiano, 382 F.3d at 1281, 1281 n.3. In such cases, dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). Subject matter jurisdiction challenges come in two forms-facial and factual. Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528-29 (11th Cir. 1990). The instant challenge is a factual challenge. See Mot. at 3.

In a factual challenge, the court may consider extrinsic evidence such as testimony and affidavits. Lawrence, 919 F.2d at 1529. The Court need not take the allegations in the complaint as true. Id. Instead, "the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case." Id. "In short, no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims." Id. Also, in a factual challenge, the plaintiff "has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the trial court does have subject matter jurisdiction." Paterson v. Weinberger, 644 F.2d 521, 523 (5th Cir. 1981).

III. ANALYSIS

In Count III of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff seeks relief under the Equal Pay Act. The Equal Pay Act provides, "Any employer who violates the provisions of [the Act] shall be liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime compensation, as the case may be, and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Equal Pay Act claim is moot because Defendant already tendered payment to Plaintiff for her claimed backpay and liquidated damages. See Mot. at 2 ¶ 8, 4-6; Payroll Receipt (for $1,331.52); Check (for $1,331.52); see also Mot. at 3 ¶ 9.

However, there is no evidence that Plaintiff ever accepted the check for liquidated damages. Defendant emphasizes that it sent Plaintiff the check via U.S. certified mail on November 4, 2011, and after attempting to deliver the check at 3:42 p.m. on November 7, 2011, the United States Postal Service left a notice. Declaration of Melissa McGhie [DE 63-1] ΒΆΒΆ 2, 3, 4; Certified Mail Receipt [DE 63-1 at 3]; United States Postal Service Track & Confirm Results [DE 63-1 at 5]. But Plaintiff maintains that she "has never received that check." Resp. ...


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