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Goldsworthy v. District School Board of Collier County

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

July 23, 2018

BARBARA GOLDSWORTHY, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD OF COLLIER COUNTY, FLORIDA, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. STEELE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on review of defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. #8) filed on October 6, 2017. Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. #16) on November 16, 2017. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I.

         Plaintiff Barbara Goldsworthy (Plaintiff) filed a five-count Complaint (Doc. #1) against the District School Board of Collier County, Florida (Defendant) for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count I), negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count II), violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., (Count III), retaliation in violation of the ADEA (Count IV), and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12203 (Count V).

         According to the Complaint (Doc. #1): In March of 2012, Plaintiff worked as an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) teacher at Poinciana Elementary School (Poinciana). (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) Around that time, Poinciana's vice-principal informed Plaintiff that, due to ESE students' low test scores, all ESE teachers would not be placed in ESE teaching positions for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. (Id. ¶ 11.) As a result, Plaintiff searched for an ESE teaching position at another school but was unsuccessful. (Id. ¶¶ 19-24.)

         Poinciana's principal offered Plaintiff a position as a Modified Curriculum 1 (MC1) teacher for the 2012-2013 school year, which required teaching severely disabled students. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 43.) Upon receiving that job offer, Plaintiff observed multiple MC1 classrooms. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 30.) Plaintiff informed Poinciana's principal that, because Plaintiff suffers from “back impairment, ” she was unsure about whether she could safely supervise the “difficult to control” MC1 students. (Id. ¶¶ 27-32.) Plaintiff additionally notified Human Resources about her safety concerns as an MC1 teacher, to which a Human Resources official responded by stating, “[i]f you can't do this job, you can't do any job.” (Id. ¶¶ 29, 34.) Plaintiff then filed an EEOC charge against Defendant for disability and age discrimination. (Id. ¶ 36.)

         Plaintiff ultimately accepted the MC1 teaching position for the 2012-2013 school year. (Id. ¶¶ 39-42.) During the 2012-2013 school year, Plaintiff was injured three times while supervising MC1 students. (Id. ¶¶ 41, 44-45, 51-52.) Plaintiff was again assigned to the MC1 classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. (Id. ¶¶ 67-68.) In August of 2013, “Plaintiff was severely bitten by one of her [MC1] students.” (Id. ¶ 68.) Shortly thereafter, on or about August of 2013, Plaintiff agreed to drop her EEOC claims against Defendant in exchange for her being assigned to teach at North Naples Middle School (NNMS) as an ESE teacher for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year. (Id. ¶ 70.) Plaintiff also taught as an ESE teacher at NNMS for the 2014-2015 school year. (Id. ¶ 175.)

         On or about January 29, 2015, Plaintiff requested a contract extension under the Deferred Retirement Extension Program (DROP), which the NNMS principal denied. (Id. ¶¶ 176, 177.) The NNMS principal told Plaintiff her request was denied because there were not enough ESE students for the upcoming school year; NNMS retained the three other ESE teachers. (Id. ¶¶ 179, 180.) Of the three remaining ESE teachers, only one had more seniority than Plaintiff, and one “was several years younger than Plaintiff . . . .” (Id. ¶¶ 180, 181.) Plaintiff was unable to secure another teaching job for the 2015-2016 school year. (Id. ¶¶ 187, 188.) Plaintiff filed her Complaint on May 5, 2017. (Doc. #1.)

         Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. As to Plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, Defendant argues it should be dismissed because (1) it is time-barred; and (2) Plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege that Defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous. Defendant argues the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim should be dismissed because (1) it is time-barred; (2) Defendant is immune under Florida's Workers' Compensation Law; and (3) it is barred by Florida's impact rule. Defendant contends that Plaintiff's age discrimination claim should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to state a prima facie case under the ADEA. Lastly, Defendant argues Plaintiff's retaliation claims should be dismissed because Plaintiff has not alleged a causal link between Plaintiff's filing of her EEOC claim and her DROP extension being denied.

         II.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires a complaint to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion seeking to dismiss a complaint for failing to comply with Rule 8(a), the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and “construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Baloco ex rel. Tapia v. Drummond Co., 640 F.3d 1338, 1345 (11th Cir. 2011). However, mere “[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). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To do so requires “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. This plausibility pleading obligation demands “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555 (citation omitted); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”); Chaparro v. Carnival Corp., 693 F.3d 1333, 1337 (11th Cir. 2012) (“Factual allegations that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability fall short of being facially plausible.” (citation 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.

         III. A. The Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim (Count I)

         Count I asserts a claim against Defendant for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Specifically, it alleges that Defendant intentionally assigned Plaintiff to a dangerous MC1 classroom, despite being aware of her frail condition. Defendant argues Count I should be dismissed because (1) Plaintiff's claim is time-barred; and (2) the Complaint fails to adequately allege that Defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous.

         (1) Whether Count I is Barred by the Statute of Limitations

         The expiration of the relevant statute of limitations is an affirmative defense around which a plaintiff is not required to plead. La Grasta v. First Union Sec., Inc., 358 F.3d 840, 845 (11th Cir. 2004). Thus, dismissal of a cause of action because the defendant claims the statute of limitations has run is not warranted unless “it is ...


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