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Alvarez v. Lakeland Area Mass Transit District

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

July 3, 2019

BRENDA ALVAREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
LAKELAND AREA MASS TRANSIT DISTRICT, Defendant.

          ORDER

          VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on consideration of Defendant Lakeland Area Mass. Transit District's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (Doc. # 21), filed on June 11, 2019. Plaintiff Brenda Alvarez filed a response in opposition on July 2, 2019. (Doc. # 27). For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted.

         I. Background

         Alvarez worked for the District as a senior financial reporting analyst from May 31, 2016, to October 20, 2017. (Doc. # 16 at 2). She “is a member of protected classes due to her gender (female), her age (over 40), and because she reported [the District's] unlawful employment activities and was subject to retaliation thereafter.” (Id. at 1). Alvarez insists she was a satisfactory employee. (Id. at 2). Alvarez alleges “[t]he disparate treatment and retaliation came at the hands of specifically, but not limited to, David Persaud, [the District's] CFO; Steven Schaible, [the District's] human resources (‘HR') director; and Tom Phillips, [the District's] executive director.” (Id.).

         Persaud supervised Alvarez and “demeaned and ridiculed [her] repeatedly and publicly in multiple staff meetings, and in the presence of [her] professional colleagues” - allegedly because of Alvarez's gender and age. (Id. at 2). Persaud “micro-manage[d], intimidate[d] and bull[ied]” Alvarez; for example, he “glared menacingly and excessively at [Alvarez] when in proximity to her.” (Id. at 3). The Complaint also alleges that Persaud treated various male or younger female employees better than he treated Alvarez, even when those other employees did not perform satisfactorily. (Id. at 3-4).

         So, in July 2017, Alvarez made a formal complaint to Phillips in which she “addressed the hostile work environment [she] experienced due to Persaud's gender-based and age-based animus, and to Persaud's inappropriate, improper, and illegal actions and work-place conduct.” (Id. at 5). The next day, Alvarez met with Schaible - the HR director - to discuss the specifics of her formal complaint against Persaud. (Id. at 5).

         But “Persaud's hostile, improper and illegal conduct toward [Alvarez] continued and intensified, causing [her] to suffer severe anxiety and emotional distress.” (Id. at 5). Alvarez believes “Persaud's amplified post-Complaint hostile conduct toward [her] was in retaliation for [her] complaint and was intended to force [her] to resign.” (Id.). When Alvarez did not resign, “Persaud simply excluded [her] from staff and grant meetings, thereby interfering with [Alvarez's] ability to competently and successfully perform the essential duties and functions of her position, ” and committed other allegedly retaliatory conduct. (Id.).

         Additionally, according to the Complaint, the District's human resources department and internal equal employment investigator failed to properly investigate Alvarez's formal complaint against Persaud. (Id. at 6). Schaiable then “directed negative written evaluations of [Alvarez's] job performance.” (Id.). Alvarez was also “denied a promised increase in compensation.” (Id.).

         Alvarez's health began to suffer, allegedly as a result of the discriminatory and retaliatory actions she faced. (Id.). She was required “to submit leave requests for physician and other health care related appointments.” (Id.). But Alvarez “was the only salaried employee required to submit leave requests for these type appointments.” (Id.).

         In September 2017, Alvarez “submitted documentation for the second time notifying Schaible that she was filing for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits.” (Id. at 6-7). Schaible contacted Alvarez on October 13, 2017, “threaten[ing] to terminate [her] if she failed to provide additional documentation . . . by October 20, 2017.” (Id. at 7). Because of this, Alvarez quit, which she claims was a constructive termination. (Id.). Alvarez's replacement was a 41-year-old woman. (Id.).

         Alvarez initiated this action in state court on January 15, 2019. (Doc. # 4-1). The District removed the case to this Court on April 30, 2019. (Doc. # 4). When the District moved to dismiss the Complaint (Doc. # 6), Alvarez filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 16). The Amended Complaint contains six counts: Count I labelled “Gender-Based Disparate Treatment, ” under Title VII and Florida's Civil Rights Act (FCRA); Count II labelled “Age-Based Disparate Treatment, ” under the FCRA and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); Count III labelled “Constructive Discharge, ” under the FCRA, Title VII, and the ADEA; Count IV labelled “Retaliation, ” under the FCRA, Title VII, and the ADEA; Count V for FMLA interference; and Count VI for FMLA retaliation. (Doc. # 16).

         Now, the District moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 21). Alvarez has responded (Doc. # 27), and the Motion is ripe for review.

         II. Legal Standard

         On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), this Court accepts as true all the allegations in the complaint and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jackson v. Bellsouth Telecomms., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262 (11th Cir. 2004). Further, the Court favors the plaintiff with all reasonable inferences from the allegations in the ...


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