United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division
CLAUDIA M. ACUNA, Plaintiff,
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS COUNT I
FEDERICO A. MORENO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Claudia Acuna is over 40 years of age and worked for
Defendant City of Miami Beach as a planner from January 12,
2015 to March 3, 2017. Plaintiff alleges she was
discriminated against because of her age, and her rights were
violated under the Family and Medical leave Act because of
her mother's medical condition. Plaintiff states that all
of the planners working for Defendant, besides herself, were
under the age of 35. Therefore, she argues that because she
was the only planner above the age of 40, she would
experience disparate treatment.
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts a claim for age
discrimination in violation of the Florida Civil Rights Act
(Count I), a claim for retaliation in violation of the
Florida Civil Rights Act (Count II), a claim for interference
with her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (Count
III), and a claim for retaliation under the Family and
Medical Leave Act (Count IV). Defendant moves to dismiss
Counts I and II of the Amended Complaint, however in its
reply, it concedes that Count II should survive the motion to
dismiss stage. Consequently, the only count at issue in this
Motion to Dismiss is Count I, and the Court concludes that
the Motion should be Granted.
February 16, 2017, Plaintiff alleges that she approached
human resources with her concerns for advancement. She
explained to human resources that other younger employees
were getting promoted, but that she was not provided equal
opportunity for advancement. On March 3, 2017, Plaintiff was
terminated by Human Resources Director Michael Smith,
Planning Director Thomas Mooney, and Deputy Director Carmen
Sanchez. Plaintiff was allegedly told that her termination
was due to problems with supervision, her reviews, and
concerns with others. Previously, Thomas Mooney allegedly had
signed an employee evaluation where Plaintiff received a high
score of 90%.
also alleges in her Amended Complaint that she was treated
differently in the following ways: (1) other planners were
not bothered when they had a doctor's appointment or had
other appointments to keep; (2) Plaintiff did not have the
opportunity to assist with the new signage ordinance, attend
Planning Board Meetings, or was asked to attend conferences;
(3) Plaintiff was told to cover the counter while others
attended meetings or conferences that provided them the
opportunity to grow and gain promotions; (4) Principal
Planner Steven Williams and Deputy Director Carmen Sanchez
continuously spoke disrespectfully to Plaintiff; (5)
Plaintiff suggested weekly training sessions, and then was
belittled and told that she would be the only one needing
training; (6) throughout the employment, Carmen Sanchez would
harass Plaintiff and on two occasions would not allow her to
leave work until she finished her reviews; and (7) Plaintiff
would work from 7 AM to 8 PM, and would not get paid overtime
for these hours.
pleading that states a claim for relief 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).
When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must view the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and
accept the plaintiffs well-pleaded facts as true. See St.
Joseph's Hosp., Inc. v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 795 F.2d
948, 954 (11th Cir. 1986). To survive a motion to dismiss, a
"complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Detailed factual
allegations are not required, but a pleading must offer more
than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic
recitation of the elements of the cause of action."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Jackson v. BellSouth
Telecomm., 372 F.3d 1250, 1263 (11th Cir. 2004)
("To survive a motion to dismiss, plaintiffs must do
more than merely state legal conclusions; they are required
to allege some specific factual bases for those conclusions
or face dismissal of their claims."). In short, the
complaint must not merely allege misconduct, but must
demonstrate that the pleader is "entitled to
relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78.
Count I, Plaintiff asserts a claim for age discrimination in
violation of the Florida Civil Rights Act. The Florida Civil
Rights Act makes it unlawful for an employer to
"discharge ... any individual, or otherwise to
discriminate against any individual with respect to
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,
because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex,
national origin, age, handicap, or marital status." Fla.
Stat. § 760.10(1)(a); Verna v. Pub. Health Tr. of
Miami-Dade Cty., 539 F.Supp.2d 1340, 1352 (S.D. Fla.
2008). The Florida Civil Rights Act is modeled after its
federal counterparts, Title VII and the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act, therefore, Florida Civil Rights Act age
discrimination claims are analyzed under the same framework
as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII
claims. See Verna, 539 F.Supp.2d at 1352. Federal
case law interpreting the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act and Title VII are applicable to Plaintiffs Florida Civil
Rights Act claim. See Harper v. Blockbuster Entm't
Corp., 139 F.3d 1385, 1387 (11th Cir. 1998); Soliman
v. Hillsborough Sch. Dist. No. 806-CV-1811-T-30MSS, 2008
WL 1995001, at *3 (M.D. Fla. May 8, 2008); Kara v. Fla.
Pub. Utilities Co., No. 3:06-CV-572J32MCR, 2008 WL
345590, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 6, 2008). Thus, the McDonnell
Douglas framework that applies to Title VII and Age
Discrimination in Employment Act claims will also apply to
Plaintiffs Florida Civil Rights Act claim. See McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973); Cofield
v. Goldkist, Inc., 267 F.3d 1264, 1267 (11th Cir. 2001);
Soliman, 2008 WL 1995001 at *3.
well settled that "[a] plaintiff may establish a
prima facie case of disparate treatment under Title VII
by one of three methods: (1) direct evidence of
discriminatory intent, (2) statistical proof of disparate
treatment, or (3) circumstantial evidence that meets the test
set forth in McDonnell Douglas." Dyett v.
N. Broward Hosp. Dist., No. 03-60804 CIV, 2004 WL
5320812, at *4 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 17, 2004); see also Aurel
v. School Bd. of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, 261
F.Supp., 2d 1375, 1377 (S.D. Fla. 2003). Plaintiff has failed
to set forth any direct evidence of discrimination nor any
statistical proof in support of her claims. Thus, her claim
must rely on circumstantial evidence.
Eleventh Circuit employs the framework established in
McDonnell Douglas, to evaluate Age Discrimination in
Employment Act claims that are based upon circumstantial
evidence of discrimination. See Chapman v. AI
Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1024 (11th Cir. 2000); Combs
v. Plantation Patterns, 106 F.3d 1519, 1527-28 (11th
Cir. 1997). Under this framework, Plaintiff must first
establish a prima facie case of discrimination.
See id. In an age discrimination claim, a plaintiff
must prove: "(1) that she was a member of the protected
group of persons between the ages of forty and seventy; (2)
that she was subject to adverse employment action; (3) that a
substantially younger person filled the position that she
sought or from which she was discharged; and (4) that she was
qualified to do the job for which she was rejected." See
Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1024 (11th
Cir. 2000); Damon v. Fleming Supermarkets of Fla.,
Inc., 196 F.3d 1354, 1359 (11th Cir. 1999); see also
Zaben v. Air Prods. & Chems., 129 F.3d 1453, 1455 n.
2 (11th Cir. 1997) ("Age discrimination claims brought
under the [Florida Civil Rights Act] have been considered
within the same framework used to decide actions brought
pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.").
The employer may rebut the resulting presumption of
discrimination by articulating at least one legitimate
nondiscriminatory reason for its action. Mitchell v. City
of LaFavette., 504 Fed.Appx. 867, 870 (11th Cir. 2013).
Once the employer articulates a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason for its action, the burden shifts back to the
plaintiff to produce evidence that the employer's
proffered reason is a pretext for discrimination. See
Mitchell, 504 Fed.Appx. at 870.; Sutton v. Advanced
Corr. Healthcare, Inc., No. 2:12-CV-3864-VEH, 2014 WL
948361, at *14 (N.D. Ala. Mar. 11, 2014).
the McDonnell Douglas framework is an evidentiary
standard, not a pleading requirement. See Henderson v.
Dade Cty. Police Benev. Ass'n, Inc., No.
14-20321-CIV-MORENO, 2014 WL 3591600, at *6 (S.D. Fla. July
18, 2014). Thus, a Title VII complaint need not allege facts
sufficient to make out a classic McDonnell Douglasprima facie case, but must provide enough factual
matter (taken as true) to suggest intentional discrimination.
See Id. Therefore, even where a plaintiff satisfies
or fails to satisfy ...