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White Glove Staffing, Inc. v. Methodist Hospitals of Dallas

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

September 7, 2017

WHITE GLOVE STAFFING, INC., and CAROLYN CLAY, Individually, and on Behalf of a Class of Similarly Situated Individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
METHODIST HOSPITALS OF DALLAS, and DALLAS METHODIST HOSPITALS FOUNDATION, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ED KINKEADE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Claims in Plaintiffs' First Amended Class Action Complaint and Brief in Support (Doc. No. 18). Plaintiffs White Glove Staffing, Inc., and Carolyn Clay brought this employment discrimination and retaliation suit against Defendants Methodist Hospitals of Dallas and Dallas Methodist Hospitals Foundation. Methodist argues White Glove lacks standing to bring discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination and retaliation claims under Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), and a discrimination claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

         After carefully considering the motions, White Glove's response to Methodist's motion to dismiss, Methodist's reply to White Glove's response to the motion to dismiss, supporting briefs, and the applicable law, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Claims in Plaintiffs' First Amended Class Action Complaint and Brief in Support. Plaintiff White Glove's Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims, TCHRA discrimination and retaliation claims, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 discrimination claim are dismissed.

         I. Factual Background

         White Glove, a staffing agency, began contract negotiations to provide servers, prep cooks, dishwashers, and set-up crews for Methodist. During these initial negotiations, Methodist allegedly informed White Glove that the head chef preferred Hispanic employees. Before entering a contract, Methodist asked White Glove to provide Methodist with a prep cook. White Glove sent Plaintiff Carolyn Clay. Clay is African American. Clay worked for Methodist for only a few days before Methodist told White Glove that Clay was not working out and asked White Glove to send someone else. The next day, White Glove sent Clay back to Methodist because White Glove could not find another prep cook on short notice. Methodist asked Clay to leave. Methodist contacted White Glove and allegedly stated the head chef only wanted Hispanic employees. Later that day, Methodist ended contract negotiations and informed White Glove that it would not enter any contracts with White Glove.

         II. Legal Standard for 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to challenge the plaintiff's complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. To withstand a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must state the grounds upon which the plaintiff is entitled to relief such that the right to relief is not merely speculative but “plausible.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). To meet this plausibility standard, the complaint must include sufficient facts to support the claim and not conclusory statements “devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). When considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all facts alleged in the complaint as true and consider the complaint as a whole. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).

         III. Analysis of White Glove's Standing

         Methodist contends White Glove does not have standing to bring the discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII and TCHRA and the discrimination claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Methodist argues White Glove did not have an employment relationship with Methodist and, therefore, does not have standing to bring Title VII claims and TCHRA claims. Methodist also argues White Glove, as a corporation, lacks the racial identity to have standing to bring a § 1981 discrimination claim.

         a. Because White Glove and Methodist Do Not Have an Employment Relationship, White Glove Lacks Standing to Bring the Title VII Claims.

         An employer unlawfully discriminates against an individual under Title VII when the employer “fails or refuses to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e- 2(a). To allege a retaliation claim under Title VII, a plaintiff must show: “(1) he engaged in an activity protected by Title VII; (2) he was subjected to an adverse employment action; and (3) a causal link exists between the protected activity and the adverse employment action.” Davis v. Dall. Area Rapid Transit, 383 F.3d 309, 319 (5th Cir. 2004).

         A plaintiff must not only have Article III standing to bring a Title VII claim but also Title VII standing. Thompson v. N. Am. Stainless, LP, 562 U.S. 170, 177-78 (2011). A party has standing under Title VII when the injured person “falls within the ‘zone of interests' sought to be protected by the statutory provision whose violation forms the legal basis for his complaint.” Id. In determining whether a plaintiff falls within this “zone of interests, ” courts examine the employment relationship between the parties. Id. Title VII claims “necessarily involve an employment relationship.” Diggs v. Harris Hosp.- Methodist, Inc., 847 F.2d 270, 272 (5th Cir. 1988). To determine whether a plaintiff is an employee for Title VII purposes, courts apply the hybrid economic realities/common law control test. Id. This test considers “the economic realities of the work relationship, ” and the amount of control the principal has over how the work is performed as well as other factors. Id. at 272-73. Independent contractors lack the employee-employer relationship required by Title VII claims. Broussard v. L.H. Bossier, Inc., 789 F.2d 1158, 1160 (5th Cir. 1986).

         Here, White Glove is a corporation, not an individual. White Glove was not an employee of Methodist but was negotiating a staffing contract with Methodist. Before completing negotiations, White Glove provided a prep cook per Methodist's request. In providing the prep cook, White Glove acted as an independent contractor. The facts indicate White Glove and Methodist were negotiating a contract in which White Glove would act as an independent contractor. As an independent contractor, White Glove did not have an employment relationship with Methodist and, thus, lacks standing to bring Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims.

         b. Because White Glove and Methodist Did Not Have an Employment Relationship, White Glove Lacks ...


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