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Ifill v. United States Sugar Corp.

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

June 13, 2019

JASON IFILL, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES SUGAR CORP., INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, Local Lodge 57, T. J. GRAHAM, individually, and MARK OSBORN, individually, Defendants.

          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 (Doc. #52) filed on March 19, 2019. Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. #55) on April 3, 2019. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

         I.

         This case arises out of the 2016 termination of Plaintiff Jason Ifill's (Plaintiff) employment as a dump operator for United States Sugar Corporation (U.S. Sugar). According to the Complaint (Doc. #1): In January of 2016, Plaintiff, an African-American, worked as a dump operator for U.S. Sugar in Clewiston, Florida. (Id. ¶ 18.) In or about January of 2016, Plaintiff complained that T. J. Graham (Graham), Plaintiff's white supervisor, was “gossiping” about Plaintiff's divorce.[1] (Id. ¶ 19.) On January 25, 2016, Graham confronted Plaintiff about his complaint and threatened to have Plaintiff fired if he filed a formal complaint with Human Resources. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 21.) After that confrontation, Plaintiff informed Human Resources about Graham's “intimidating behavior” and expressed to Human Resources that “he did not feel safe around” Graham. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         On February 1, 2016, Human Resources requested a meeting with Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 23.) At the meeting, a group of four white persons questioned Plaintiff “about his divorce, whether he was resigning, and whether he was moving, ” but did not question Plaintiff about Graham's behavior. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 24.) The Local Lodge 57 union steward “passive[ly] participat[ed]” in the meeting. (Id. ¶ 37.) Human Resources also “informed [Plaintiff] that he was eligible for three weeks of vacation and suggested that he take [the full three weeks]” to de-escalate the situation. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff ultimately took the three weeks of vacation. (Id.)

         While on vacation, Plaintiff “received a letter, dated February 2 . . . informing him that he had been terminated.” (Id. ¶ 26.) The letter asserted that Plaintiff was a “no-call, no-show employee for three days prior” to the February 1, 2016 meeting with Human Resources. (Id.) On December 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination against Local Lodge 57 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC). (Id. ¶ 9.) This lawsuit followed.

         II.

         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) (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.

         III.

         Plaintiff asserts claims against Local Lodge 57 for race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Count IV), race discrimination in violation of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (Count V), and race discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count VI).[2] Local Lodge 57 now moves to dismiss these claims because (1) Plaintiff failed to timely exhaust all administrative remedies before filing Counts IV and V; and (2) Plaintiff otherwise failed to state a legally sufficient cause of action against Local Lodge 57.

         A. Whether Plaintiff Failed to Timely Exhaust Administrative Remedies Before Filing Counts IV and V

         Before a plaintiff may file suit under Title VII, he must first exhaust certain administrative remedies. Wilkerson v. Grinnell Corp.,270 F.3d 1314, 1317 (11th Cir. 2001)(citation omitted). This process “is initiated by timely filing a charge of discrimination.” E.E.O.C. v. Joe's Stone Crabs, Inc.,296 F.3d 1265, 1271 (11th Cir. 2002)(citation omitted). To be timely “in a deferral state such as Florida, [the charge of discrimination] must be filed within 300 days of the last discriminatory act.” Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. ยง ...


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