United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND,
GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE
L. ROSENBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand
(DE 3) and Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue (DE 4).
Both motions are fully briefed with responses and replies.
The Court has considered the motions and the record, and is
otherwise fully advised in the premises. For the reasons that
follow, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is DENIED and
Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue is GRANTED.
Shayna Morales began working for Defendant DocRX
on March 19, 2018. She was diagnosed with breast cancer on
July 10, 2018. On August 18, 2018, Plaintiff provided notice
to her supervisor Karli Washburn of her chemotherapy
treatments to facilitate any necessary accommodations. On
August 24, 2018, Plaintiff was assigned to create a new
clinic. Plaintiff emailed Washburn on multiple occasions
asking for assistance with the project, but Washburn did not
respond. On August 30, 2018, Washburn and Catherine Hunter,
another employee of Defendant, called Plaintiff, explaining
that Plaintiff was required to always be available from 8:00
AM until 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. They further advised
that she was not eligible for leave under the Family Medical
Leave Act, that she was not guaranteed a job, and that she
should be able to handle her job with the amount of training
she had been provided. Plaintiff continued working over the
next four months to the best of her abilities, taking
occasional leave for chemotherapy treatments after providing
notice and completing appropriate forms. During this period,
Plaintiff participated with Washburn in a three-day training
session in Plaintiff's home.
December 27, 2018, Plaintiff notified Washburn on the phone
that she would have a surgery date in the near future. On
January 3, 2019, Plaintiff emailed Washburn a form for paid
time off, which indicated that Plaintiff's bilateral
mastectomy was scheduled for February 11, 2019. Plaintiff
sought five days of post-surgery recovery. On January 7,
2019, Hunter terminated Plaintiff over the phone, stating
that Plaintiff should have been further along in her ability
to do her job based on her experience and training.
filed the Complaint in state court on September 13, 2019,
under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992
(“FCRA”), Fla Stat. § 760.01 et
seq., alleging that Defendant discriminated against her
on the basis of a disability and that Defendant failed to
provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability.
Defendant removed the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332
on October 30, 2019. DE 1. Plaintiff moves for remand,
arguing that Defendant has failed to prove by a preponderance
that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, as required
for diversity jurisdiction. Defendant moves to transfer venue
to the Southern District of Alabama under 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a) pursuant to a forum selection clause in the
employment agreement between the parties.
courts have original jurisdiction over any civil case where
the amount in controversy “exceeds the sum or value of
$75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs” and the
parties' citizenship is diverse. 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Unlike when a plaintiff files a claim in federal court that
satisfies the amount in controversy requirement on its face,
removal statutes are construed narrowly. Burns, 31
F.3d at 1095. Where, as here, the complaint seeks an
unspecified amount of damages, Defendant must establish the
amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence.
Tapscott v. M.S. Dealer Service Corp., 77 F.3d 1353,
357 (11th Cir. 1996). However, “a removing defendant is
not required to prove the amount in controversy beyond all
doubt or to banish all uncertainty about it.”
Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744,
754 (11th Cir. 2010). Rather, a court is permitted to make
“reasonable deductions, reasonable inferences, or other
reasonable extrapolations.” Id.
of citizenship is not at issue here; Plaintiff is a Florida
citizen and Defendant is an Alabama citizen. DE 1
¶¶ 8-9. Rather, Plaintiff argues that Defendant has
not met its burden in establishing the amount in controversy.
Defendant asserts that the combination of four types of
relief place the amount in controversy above $75, 000: back
pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and
attorney's fees. As discussed below, the Court concludes
that back pay together with compensatory and punitive damages
satisfies the amount in controversy.
law authorizes the award of back pay in civil actions under
the FCRA. Fla. Stat. § 760.11(5). The parties agree that
Plaintiff's pay during her employment with Defendant was
approximately $1, 354.17 per week, and that $56, 875.14 of
back pay is in controversy from the date of Plaintiff's
termination on January 7, 2019, through the date of removal
on October 30, 2019. Defendant argues that the court should
consider back pay not only through the date of removal, but
through an estimated trial date. The Court need not address
this argument because the $56, 875.14 of back pay incurred
through the date of removal, combined with the value of
Plaintiff's compensatory and punitive damages, is more
likely than not in excess of $75, 000.
Compensatory and punitive damages
FCRA authorizes “compensatory damages, including but
not limited to, damages for mental anguish, loss of dignity,
and any other intangible injuries, ” along with
punitive damages up to a statutory cap of $100, 000. Fla.
Stat. § 760.11(5). Plaintiff seeks “all damages
recoverable” under the FCRA, “including punitive
damages.” DE 1-6 at 5. Defendant cites several
comparator cases involving disability discrimination against