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Worth v. City of Sanibel

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

July 11, 2018

DUSTIN WORTH, an individual, Plaintiff,
CITY OF SANIBEL, FLORIDA, a political subdivision of the State of Florida, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively, Motion for a More Definite Statement (Doc. #10) filed on May 23, 2018. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. #11) on May 25, 2018. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a Complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This obligation “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). To survive dismissal, the factual allegations must be “plausible” and “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. See also Edwards v. Prime Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010). This requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), but “[l]egal conclusions without adequate factual support are entitled to no assumption of truth, ” Mamani v. Berzain, 654 F.3d 1148, 1153 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Factual allegations that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability fall short of being facially plausible.” Chaparro v. Carnival Corp., 693 F.3d 1333, 1337 (11th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Thus, the Court engages in a two-step approach: “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.


         Plaintiff Dustin Worth (plaintiff or “Worth”) initiated this action by filing a three-count Complaint (Doc. #1) against his former employer, the City of Sanibel, Florida (defendant or “the City”), alleging retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Id., ¶¶ 22-33), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) (Id., ¶¶ 34-44), Fla. Stat. § 760.10(7), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (Id., ¶¶ 45-54.) The City's police department employed Worth from December 28, 1988 to June 28, 2017, and he was a Senior Sergeant at the time of his separation from employment. (Id., ¶¶ 9, 20.) Worth claims that he was in good-standing with defendant until he objected to sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and took leave under the FMLA. (Id., ¶ 11.)

         The following events led to Worth's separation of employment: On June 8, 2016, a subordinate officer of plaintiff filed a complaint of sexual harassment against another coworker. (Doc. #1, ¶ 12.) The City interrogated Worth as part of its investigation into the matter. In his interrogation, plaintiff opposed the sexual harassment that his female subordinate experienced, and alleged that defendant was attempting to cover up the activity. (Id., ¶ 15.) Plaintiff also opposed defendant's offer of promoting the female subordinate to resolve her complaint, because it would result in the “disenfranchise[ment] [of] well-qualified male applicants eligible for the promotion through the Collective Bargaining Agreement.” (Id.)

         On October 20, 2016, plaintiff took 12 weeks of approved FMLA leave. (Doc. #1, ¶ 16.) On October 26, 2016, defendant concluded its investigation and found no wrongdoing by any officer except for Worth because of his failure to report the sexual harassment. (Id., ¶ 17.) Upon returning from FMLA leave on January 12, 2017, defendant issued plaintiff a 2-week suspension, rendering him ineligible for a promotion. (Id., ¶ 18.) Plaintiff alleges that retaliation continued thereafter in the form of shift alterations and denial of pay raises given to other similarly situated coworkers. (Id., ¶ 19.)

         Around May 9, 2017, defendant began another internal affairs investigation against plaintiff. (Doc. #1, ¶ 20.) On May 16, 2017, plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with both the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR), due to ongoing retaliation. (Doc. #11-1.) Plaintiff alleges that the City's internal affairs investigation ultimately caused his separation from employment on June 28, 2017. (Doc. #1, ¶ 20.) Plaintiff received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC (Doc. #1-1) on January 29, 2018. (Doc. #1, ¶ 8.) He filed this lawsuit on April 19, 2018. (Doc. #1.)


         Defendant first argues that the Title VII (Count I) and FCRA (Count II) claims are due to be dismissed because plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies. (Doc. #10, p. 2.) Second, defendant argues that the retaliation claims are “predicated upon an alleged change in work schedule” which “do not constitute an adverse employment action.” (Id.) Finally, in the alternative, defendant moves for a more definite statement, averring that the Complaint is intentionally vague and omits critical details, depriving the City a fair opportunity to respond adequately. (Id.)

         A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Worth filed his Charge of Discrimination on May 19, 2017 (without any subsequent amendments), prior to his separation from employment. Defendant argues that plaintiff's separation from employment is “a discrete act of retaliation which must be addressed in [an additional] ...

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