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Coto v. Cardinal Group Management & Advisory, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

June 7, 2017

KRISTIN COTO, Plaintiff,



         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant RealCo Capital Partners II, LLC's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Dkt. 10) and Plaintiff Kristin Coto's Response in Opposition (Dkt. 11). The Court, having reviewed the motion, response, and being otherwise advised in the premises, concludes that RealCo's motion should be denied.


         Plaintiff alleges pregnancy and gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Florida Civil Rights Act (“FCRA”) against both Defendants, Cardinal Group Management and Advisory, LLC and RealCo Capital Partners II, LLC. Plaintiff's amended complaint states that Defendants operated as her joint employer. Specifically, during the relevant time, Cardinal managed residential properties, including Campus Club USF LLC and College Court USF LLC (the “subject properties”) and RealCo was the owner of the subject properties. At all material times, Plaintiff was employed as a Community Manager for the subject properties.

         Plaintiff alleges that in 2016, RealCo informed Plaintiff that it planned on selling the properties she managed. RealCo requested that Plaintiff remain the Community Manager throughout the process of the sale because of her “hard work and her exceptional job with the properties.” Around this same time, Plaintiff advised Defendants that she was pregnant. On or about February 15, 2016, Cardinal's human resources employee sent Plaintiff an email outlining the procedures for a proposed maternity leave.

         In March 2016, Plaintiff received her first write up from Cardinal for an alleged failure to reach her leasing goals. This write up was received just days after Plaintiff had received an e-mail from Cardinal's National Trainer congratulating Plaintiff on receiving a 100 percent score on a work-related goal.

         After receiving the write up, Plaintiff reached out to her supervisors to determine how many write ups would result in her termination and to receive assistance with achieving her leasing goals. Defendants ignored Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants provided assistance to other Community Managers to help them achieve their leasing goals during the relevant time.

         On March 28, 2016, Plaintiff spoke to Thomas Holtman, RealCo's Director of Construction and Operations, and confided in him that she was concerned for her future employment with Defendants. During this conversation, Holtman informed Plaintiff that her maternity leave was “very bad timing.” That same day, Plaintiff received a second write up from Cardinal for her purported failure to reach her leasing goals.

         On March 30, 2016, Plaintiff's employment with Defendants was terminated. The reason stated was her failure to meet her leasing goals, for which she had received two write ups. Plaintiff claims that other Community Managers similarly failed to meet their leasing goals but were not terminated. Plaintiff alleges violations of Title VII and the FCRA because Defendants' real reason for terminating her was based on her pregnancy.

         The amended complaint states that, prior to filing this action, Plaintiff timely filed a written Charge of Discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), which was duly filed with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (“FCHR”). On or about January 3, 2017, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue. Plaintiff filed this action on March 27, 2017, less than ninety days after her receipt of the Notice of Right to Sue.

         RealCo moves to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. RealCo makes two arguments: (1) it was not a “joint employer” and (2) Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to RealCo.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a complaint to be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all factual allegations contained in the complaint as true, and view the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). However, unlike factual allegations, conclusions in a pleading “are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009). On the contrary, legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. Indeed, “conclusory allegations, ...

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