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Pedrioli v. Barry University, Inc.

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

January 24, 2018




         This cause comes before the Court without oral argument on Defendant Barry University, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for More Definite Statement (Doc. 15), filed August 3, 2017. Plaintiff responded in opposition on August 23, 2017. (Doc. 22). The parties have completed their briefing and the Court is otherwise fully advised on the premises. For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff, Carlo Pedrioli, brings this discrimination action against Defendant, Barry University, Inc. (“Barry”), pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and the Florida Civil Rights Act (“FCRA”), alleging gender discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliatory discharge. During the relevant time period, Plaintiff was employed as a professor at Barry School of Law. Plaintiff, who is male, observed that the vast majority of Barry law employees were female. While employed at Barry law, Plaintiff reported to a female supervisor, Dean Leticia Diaz, who “demonstrated discriminatory animus towards men.”

         Dean Diaz ended Plaintiff's tenure track relationship with the school when she presented Plaintiff with, and Plaintiff thereafter signed, a “terminal contract.” Plaintiff contends his signature on the terminal contract was obtained through deceit, misinformation, and trickery. When asked to justify Plaintiff's non-renewal, Dean Diaz simply stated that Plaintiff was “not a good fit” based on a performance review conducted by Professor Lee Schinasi. Plaintiff received no notice of serious performance concerns before being presented with the terminal contract. Because his prior performance reviews were consistently positive and he had recently been promoted, Plaintiff reasons that his termination was “clearly made for pretextual reasons.”

         Plaintiff points to several other factors that purportedly make clear Dean Diaz's discriminatory motive for Plaintiff's termination. First, at the meeting where Plaintiff received the terminal contract, Dean Diaz initially asked Plaintiff to resign, and suggested grounds he could cite in a resignation letter. Second, Plaintiff had a “stellar record of teaching, ” was a productive scholar, had completed extensive community service, and had recently received permission from Dean Diaz to take on a representation pro bono in a case before the District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Moreover, Professor Schinasi's recommendation was premised on a single observation of one of Plaintiff's classes. Finally, the class Professor Schinasi observed took place approximately three and a half months before Plaintiff's termination. Plaintiff asserts that these facts, taken together, demonstrate that the proffered reasons for his termination are pretextual, meant to conceal the true rationale: unlawful gender discrimination.

         In the “Fall of 2014, ” Plaintiff became aware of a similarly situated female professor who received different treatment, thereby alerting Plaintiff to discrimination. On November 4, 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Plaintiff's discrimination charges were cross-filed with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (“FCHR”). Plaintiff initiated this suit on April 3, 2017. The complaint is divided into two Counts: (1) gender discrimination pursuant to Title VII; and (2) gender discrimination pursuant to the FCRA. Both Counts incorporate the first twenty-seven paragraphs, and include vague allegations that Plaintiff was subjected to “discrimination, unequal treatment, an offensive and hostile work environment[, ] and a retaliatory discharge . . . .”


         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. To survive the motion, the complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible on its face when the plaintiff alleges enough facts to “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The mere recitation of the elements of a claim is not enough, and the district court need not give any credence to legal conclusions that are unsupported by sufficient factual material. Id. District courts must accept all well-pleaded allegations within the complaint and any documents attached thereto as true and must read the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hunnings v. Texaco, Inc., 29 F.3d 1480, 1484 (11th Cir. 1994) (per curiam).

         At the motion to dismiss stage, district courts must generally constrain their review to the “four corners of the complaint.” Keating v. City of Miami, 598 F.3d 753, 762 (11th Cir. 2010). A “document outside the four corners of the complaint may still be considered if it is central to the plaintiff's claims and is undisputed in terms of authenticity.” Maxcess, Inc. v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 433 F.3d 1337, 1340 n.3 (11th Cir. 2005).


         A. Motion to Dismiss as Untimely

         Defendant argues, in its Motion to Dismiss, that Plaintiff failed to timely exhaust his administrative remedies, thus precluding his claims. (Doc. 15, p. 3). Plaintiff responds that, under equitable tolling doctrine, his administrative charges were timely. (Doc. 22).

         Before bringing suit under Title VII or the Florida Civil Rights Act, potential plaintiffs must first exhaust their administrative remedies. Wilkerson v. Grinnell Corp., 270 F.3d 1314, 1317 (11th Cir. 2001); Fla. Stat. 760.11(1). First, a potential plaintiff must timely file a charge of discrimination with the appropriate agency. In Florida, a deferral state, Title VII requires charges of discrimination be filed with the EEOC within 300 days of the discriminatory act. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); Thomas v. Fla. Power & Light Co., 764 F.2d 768, 769-70 (11th Cir. 1985). The FCRA ...

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