United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER 
POLSTER CHAPPELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant Immokalee Water & Sewage
District's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff John Short's
Amended Complaint. (Doc. 15). Short has not responded, and
the time to do so has expired. For the following reasons, the
Court grants Immokalee Water's motion.
an employment retaliation suit. Short sues Immokalee Water
for retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964. Short and Immokalee Water have had a troubled
relationship since Short started working there in 1989.
Immokalee Water first fired him in the early 1990s. Short
then sued for race discrimination, which ended with Immokalee
Water reinstating him in 2005. A decade later, Short filed a
charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against Immokalee
Water. The charge led to a federal lawsuit that the parties
settled in 2016.
nine months after the settlement, Immokalee Water again fired
Short “for allegedly failing to collect and send
ground-water sample reports to the Department of
Environmental Protection (D.E.P.).” (Doc. 12 at ¶
8). Short believes that his discharge is “retaliation
for him having engaged in protected activity regarding his
Title VII litigation in 2016.” (Doc. 12 at ¶ 9).
Short sees retaliation because he disagrees with why
Immokalee Water fired him. According to Short, his supervisor
told him in 2014 that he no longer needed to send the
ground-water sample reports to the DEA. So, for the next
three years, Short neither sent any reports nor was told that
he needed to do so. (Doc. 12 at ¶¶ 21-22, 25).
Short's work performance otherwise met Immokalee
Water's expectation. (Doc. 12 at ¶ 25).
Immokalee Water fired Short, he filed an EEOC charge for
retaliation. The agency later issued him a notice of right to
sue letter. (Doc. 1-2). Armed with that letter, Short filed
this suit. The Amended Complaint is the operative pleading.
As stated, he claims Immokalee Water fired him in retaliation
for his previous federal litigation, and not for his failure
to submit ground-water sample reports. (Doc. 12 at ¶ 9).
Immokalee Water now moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint.
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair
notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotations omitted). “[W]hile
notice pleading may not require that the pleader allege a
‘specific fact' to cover every element or allege
‘with precision' each element of a claim, ” a
complaint must still “‘contain either direct or
inferential allegations respecting all the material elements
necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal
theory.'” Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice,
Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683 (11th Cir. 2001) (citations and
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must
have factual matter sufficient to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face, if accepted as true.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). A plaintiff must assert more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of
action's elements will not do. Id. 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. Id. The
plausibility standard also demands “more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557
(internal quotation marks omitted)).
law makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an
employee “because he has made a charge, testified,
assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation,
proceeding, or hearing under [Title VII].” 42 U.S.C.A.
§ 2000e-3(a). A plaintiff may prove retaliation under
the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. The
framework's first step requires a plaintiff to present a
prima facie case of retaliation by showing that (1)
he engaged in statutorily protected activity; (2) he suffered
a materially adverse employment action; and (3) a casual link
between the protected activity and adverse action.
See Dixon v. The Hallmark Cos., Inc., 627
F.3d 849, 856 (11th Cir. 2010); see also Univ.
of Texas Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 133 S.Ct. 2517, 2533
(2013) (holding that “Title VII retaliation claims must
be proved according to traditional principles of but-for
causation”). Although the McDonnell Douglas
framework is an evidentiary standard, not a pleading
requirement, a complaint must still include enough factual
allegations to suggest unlawful retaliation to avoid
dismissal. See generally Swierkiewicz v. Sorema
N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 515 (2002); Castillo v. Allegro
Resort Mktg., 603 Fed.Appx. 913, 917 (11th Cir. 2015).
accepting the Amended Complaint's well-pleaded facts as
true and drawing all reasonable inferences in Short's
favor, he has not pled a plausible retaliation claim. The
crux of his claim is that Immokalee Water's reason for
firing him is perfunctory. But this alone is not enough.
Short must plead a connection between his discharge and prior
federal litigation. On this front, Short offers nothing
except conclusory assertions, sheer speculation, and
formulaic recitations that courts have long disregarded. And
the nine-month lapse between Short's previous litigation
and discharge without more does not “nudge” the
retaliation claim “across the line from conceivable to
plausive.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see
also Thomas v. Cooper Lighting, Inc., 506 F.3d
1361, 1364 (11th Cir. 2008) (“[M]ere temporal
proximity, without more, must be ‘very
close'” (citation omitted)).
bottom, the Amended Complaint lacks sufficient factual
allegations to state a claim of retaliation. The Court thus
grants Immokalee Water's motion to dismiss. But it ...