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Griner v. City of Sanibel

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

August 31, 2017

KERRY GRINER, an individual Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SANIBEL, FLORIDA, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          SHERI POLSTER CHAPPELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant City of Sanibel, Florida's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 14), which Plaintiff Kerry Griner opposes (Doc. 17). For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion with leave to amend.

         BACKGROUND[2]

         This case arises from Griner's former employment for the City of Sanibel's Police Department. Sometime last year, Griner complained to his superiors, Lieutenants Thompson and Dalton (collectively, the “Lieutenants”), that a fellow female officer was sexually harassed. (Doc. 10 at ¶¶ 12-14). An alleged sham investigation ensued that resulted in the Lieutenants finding no harassment. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-19). The Lieutenants then met with Griner and the female officer. The Lieutenants allegedly accused Griner of “inflaming and fabricating the entire series of events that led to the [harassment] complaint, ” and they questioned his “integrity, honesty, and judgment.” (Id. at ¶¶ 20-21). After the meeting, Griner worked the night shift alongside “the female officer and the male officer accused of the harassment.” (Id. at ¶ 24).

         Griner thereafter resigned because “[t]he disparaging verbal discipline created a hostile work environment and began to unreasonably interfere with [his] ability to perform within the confines of the department.” (Id. at ¶ 28; Doc. 10-3). He also believed the Lieutenants disliked him because he reported the alleged harassment. And based on his prior experience, the Lieutenants “pushed out” people they did not like. (Doc. 10 at ¶¶ 25-26). To protect his professional reputation, Griner was allegedly forced to resign. (Id. at ¶ 29).

         A few days after his resignation, Griner filed a charge of discrimination with the requisite federal and state agencies. (Doc. 10-4). He thereafter timely filed this suit. (Doc. 10; Doc. 10-2). He brings this four-count action for retaliation and constructive discharge under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (“FCRA”). The City now moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, a plaintiff is required to provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing entitlement to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although the complaint need not make detailed factual allegations, it must provide more than labels, conclusions, and formulaic recitations of the elements of the cause of action. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         At the pleading stage, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 is read in conjunction with Rule 12(b)(6). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the reviewing court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). But this preferential standard of review does not permit all pleadings adorned with facts to survive to the next stage of litigation. The Supreme Court has been clear on this point - a district court should dismiss a claim where a party fails to plead facts that make the claim facially plausible. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A claim is facially plausible when the court can draw a reasonable inference, based on the facts pled, that the opposing party is liable for the alleged misconduct. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. This plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). Conclusory allegations do not “unlock the doors of discovery” for a plaintiff. Id. at 678-79. “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s] devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         DISCUSSION

         Griner brings two counts of retaliation under Title VII and the FCRA and two counts of constructive discharge under the same statutes. The City moves to dismiss all counts for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 14). The Court will address the City's arguments in turn.

         A. Counts I and II: Retaliation

         Title VII prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee “because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice . . . or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3.[3] A prima facie case of retaliation under Title VII requires the plaintiff to show that (1) he engaged in statutorily protected activity; (2) he suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) a causal link exists between the adverse employment action and the protected activity. See Bryant v. Jones, 575 F.3d 1281, 1307-08 (11th Cir. 2009); see also McCullough v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. Sys. of Ga., 623 F. App'x 980, 982 (11th Cir. 2015) (stating, “[e]ven if a plaintiff need not plead a prima facie case to survive dismissal, the complaint must satisfy Iqbal's ‘plausible on its face' standard, and the allegations must be sufficient to ‘raise a right to relieve above the speculative level' under Twombly” (citations omitted)).

         Here, the City argues that Griner fails to allege an adverse employment action. “[I]n the context of a Title VII retaliation claim, a materially adverse action ‘means it well might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.'” Crawford v. Carroll,529 F.3d 961, 974 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. & White,548 U.S. 53, 68 (2006)). “[P]etty slights, minor annoyances, and simple lack of good manners” in the ...


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