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Urban-Klohn v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

October 8, 2019

Monica Urban-Klohn, Plaintiff,
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Defendant.



         This case is an offshoot of the underlying complaint addressed by the United States Supreme Court in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338 (2011). In Dukes, the Supreme Court reversed the certification of a nationwide class of female Wal-Mart employees claiming gender discrimination. The Plaintiff here, Monica Urban-Klohn, after again seeking relief through a regional class action and then as a member of a 44-plaintiff complaint, now seeks redress individually. In her amended complaint (Am. Compl., ECF No. 3), Urban-Klohn lodges two counts under Title VII regarding her compensation: in count one she alleges disparate treatment and in count two she alleges disparate impact. Walmart contends Urban-Klohn does not plead specific, individualized facts showing that she, herself, was discriminated against, either through disparate treatment or impact; Urban-Klohn fails to establish standing; and Urban-Klohn's claims are all time-barred. After careful review, the Court agrees that Urban-Klohn fails to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and thus grants Wal-Mart's motion (ECF No. 7) and dismisses Urban-Klohn's complaint.

         1. Background[1]

         Urban-Klohn began working for Walmart in 1996, in its store number 1847. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 17.) Before working at store 1847, she had worked for Publix, McDonald's, a pet store, and another Walmart store in a different location. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Although it is not entirely clear, it appears Urban-Klohn first worked as a cashier and then in the pet department. (Id.) She learned all she could about the pet department and applied to be the pet department manager several times. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-20.) Each time, however, the position went to a male. (Id. at ¶ 20.) While working in the pet department, Urban-Klohn was asked to train her male colleagues. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Feeling that she was thus already performing the role of the department manager, Urban-Klohn asked her store manager, Larry Smith, why she was not being promoted into that position. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Although she does not recount how he answered her, she says that she learned from coworkers that Smith refused to put a woman in that position. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Lastly, Urban-Klohn also became aware that men in her same, or lower, position were making more money than she was. (Id. at ¶ 24.) She worked at Walmart until 2000.

         Urban-Klohn also provides an additional sixty paragraphs of background information regarding Walmart's organizational structure, the roles various salaried positions played in the organization regarding compensation and promotional decisions, and a number of policies and practices that guided these decisions. (E.g., id. at ¶¶ 25-85.) Urban-Klohn additionally sets forth facts showing that Walmart's management team was aware that, on average, female employees were paid less than men and many female employees experienced other disparities. (Id. at ¶¶ 43, 73-85).

         2. Legal Standard

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept all the complaint's allegations as true, construing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008). A pleading must only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In assessing the legal sufficiency of a complaint's allegations, the Court is bound to apply the pleading standard articulated in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, the complaint “must . . . contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1289 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “Dismissal is therefore permitted when on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the factual allegations will support the cause of action.” Glover v. Liggett Grp., Inc., 459 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir. 2006) (internal quotations omitted) (citing Marshall Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cnty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.

         3. Discussion

         A. Urban-Klohn fails to sufficiently allege that Walmart intentionally discriminated against her with respect to her pay.

         Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it is unlawful for an employer “to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's . . . sex.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). “[C]omplaints alleging discrimination . . . must meet the ‘plausibility standard' of Twombly and Iqbal.” Henderson v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 436 Fed. App'x 935, 937 (11th Cir. 2011). Thus, Urban-Klohn's complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter” to support a reasonable inference that Walmart engaged in intentional gender discrimination against her in relation to her compensation. Henderson, 436 Fed. App'x at 937. There are any number of ways Urban-Klohn can do this, including “alleging facts showing that similarly-situated [male employees] were offered more favorable [employment] terms, ” id., or direct evidence of discrimination, Wilson v. B/E Aerospace, Inc., 376 F.3d 1079, 1085 (11th Cir. 2004). After careful review, the Court agrees with Walmart and finds Urban-Klohn has not set forth sufficient factual allegations that would demonstrate, either directly or circumstantially, that she personally suffered any adverse employment consequences based on intentional gender discrimination regarding her compensation.

         Urban-Klohn challenges this conclusion, relying on Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002), and at the same time insisting she has met Twombly's plausibility standards by pleading “enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” of the defendant's liability. (Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 13, 12 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).) While the Court agrees that Swierkiewicz supports Urban-Klohn's position that she need not set forth evidence establishing a prima facie case under the McDonnell framework[2]in order to survive dismissal, the Court nonetheless disagrees that that case absolves her from alleging actual facts which support her claim of gender discrimination. See Pouyeh v. UAB Dept. of Ophthalmology, 625 Fed. App'x 495, 497 (11th Cir. 2015) (holding that a complaint must contain factual allegations demonstrating, either directly or circumstantially, that a defendant's actions were discriminatory); Henderson, 436 Fed. App'x at 938 (requiring a plaintiff to plead facts that “raise[] a plausible inference that [the defendant] discriminated against [the plaintiff]”). Ultimately, Urban-Klohn's allegations cannot carry her past dismissal.

         For example, in support of her insistence that she has set forth sufficient facts, Urban-Klohn points to her allegations that “she was paid less than similarly-situated male employees, ” and “review[ed] . . . male employee[s'] paystubs showing they were earning more than females.” (Pl.'s Resp. at 13.) But these allegations are nothing but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” and therefore “do not suffice.” Watts v. Ford Motor Co., 519 Fed. App'x 584, 586 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). And while the Court agrees with Urban-Klohn that “[s]he is not required to lay out every single detail of her employment in her Complaint” (Pl.'s Resp. at 13), she must nonetheless provide at least some “nonconclusory descriptions of specific, discrete facts of the who, what, when, and where variety” that plausibly show she is actually entitled to relief. Watts, 519 Fed. App'x at 587 (quoting Feliciano v. City of Miami Beach, 707 F.3d 1244, 1253 (11th Cir. 2013)). It is not enough, as Urban-Klohn adamantly maintains, for her to simply “identif[y] the store where she worked and the years she was employed by Wal-Mart.” (Pl.'s Resp. at 13.) There is nothing in these facts that would differentiate between an employee who experienced discrimination from one who did not. See Veale v. Florida Dept. of Health, 2:13-CV-77-FTM-38UAM, 2013 WL 5703577, at *5 (M.D. Fla. July 29, 2013) (requiring “allegations of specific facts to explain how the disparate treatment occurred” in order to properly plead Title VII discrimination).

         Nor can the allegations Urban-Klohn sets forth within her disparate treatment count, or elsewhere, save her, as she suggests. These allegations, too, all suffer from their threadbare and conclusory nature as shown, by example, in the following:

• “Wal-Mart violated Title VII by paying Plaintiff less than similarly-qualified or less-qualified male ...

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