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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. University of Miami

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

December 3, 2019

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff, & Louise Davidson-Schmich, Plaintiff Intervenor,
v.
University of Miami, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          ROBERT N. SCOLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Now before the Court are the Defendant University of Miami's motion to dismiss the complaint (ECF No. 12) and its motion to dismiss the intervenor's complaint (ECF No. 15). For the reasons set forth below, both motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 12, 15) are denied.

         1. Background

         The EEOC filed suit against the University of Miami (“UM”), alleging that the university pays a female professor, Louis Davidson-Schmich, less than her male counterpart in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act. (ECF No. 1.) The professor filed an intervenor complaint containing the same claims and nearly-identical allegations. (ECF No. 13.)

         Louise Davidson-Schmich and Gregory Kroger are both faculty at UM, a private research university, in the political science department. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 17, 19-20.) At UM, faculty are ranked as follows (from lowest to highest): lecturer, senior lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor. (Id. at ¶ 21.)

         UM hired Davidson-Schmich as a first-year assistant professor in August 2000 and paid her a salary of $50, 000. (Id. at ¶ 23.) After she worked as an assistant professor for six years, UM awarded her tenure and promoted her to an associate professor in the spring or summer of 2007. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.) Her pay increased to $72, 500. (Id. ¶ at 26.) UM hired Kroger as an assistant professor in the spring or summer of 2007 and paid him a salary of $81, 000. (Id. at ¶ 29.) At the time he was hired in 2007, Kroger had already acquired four years of experience teaching at the University of Montana. (Id. at ¶ 28.) The complaint alleges that Davidson-Schmich published more material than Kroger. Davidson-Schmich had published a book by 2007, and Kroger did not publish one until 2010. Davidson-Schmich published more articles than Kroger. (Id. at ¶¶ 30-31.)

         In December 2016, both Davidson-Schmich and Kroger were evaluated for a promotion to full professor based on the same qualification standards. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.) The committee recommended both candidates for promotion to full professor with a 5-0 committee vote. (Id. at ¶ 35.) Both professors received above average ratings for their teaching. (Id. at ¶ 39.)

         Davidson-Schmich earned $112, 400 for the 2017-2018 academic year. (Id. at ¶ 51.) In May of 2018, Davidson-Schmich learned that UM paid Kroger $137, 366 for the 2017-2018 academic year via an email inadvertently sent to her. (Id. at ¶ 51.) On June 4, 2018, Davidson-Schmich filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, complaining that she made almost $25, 000 less than her male counterpart. The EEOC issued a Letter of Determination, finding reasonable cause to believe that the EPA and Title VII were violated on March 5, 2019, and, after failing to secure a conciliation agreement, filed suit on July 29, 2019. (Id. at ¶14-15.)

         2. Legal Standard

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept all of 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 need 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). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation omitted). A plaintiff must articulate “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         “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. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. Thus, a pleading that offers mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not survive dismissal. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Yet, where the allegations “possess enough heft” to suggest a plausible entitlement to relief, the case may proceed. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557. “[T]he standard ‘simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' of the required element.” Rivell v. Private Health Care Sys., Inc., 520 F.3d 1308, 1309 (11th Cir. 2008). “And, of course, a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         3. Argument

         In order to make out an Equal Pay Act claim, a plaintiff must allege that “an employer pays different wages to employees of opposite sexes for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 195 (1974). While an Equal Pay Act complaint “need not allege facts establishing each element of a prima facie case of discrimination to survive a motion to dismiss, it must at a minimum assert nonconclusory factual matter sufficient to nudge its claims across the line from conceivable to plausible to proceed.” EEOC v. Port Authority of NY and NJ, 768 F.3d 247, 254 (2d Cir. 2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680.) The EEOC and Davidson-Schmich (collectively “Plaintiffs”) have alleged that Davidson-Schmich is paid nearly $25, 000 less ...


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