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Slabisak v. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

February 27, 2018

SARA SLABISAK, M.D.
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AT TYLER AND GOOD SHEPHERD MEDICAL CENTER.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler's (“UTHSC”) (Partial) Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint (Dkt. #38). After reviewing the relevant pleadings and motion, the Court finds Defendant's motion should be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         From on or about July 1, 2015, through January 13, 2016, Plaintiff Sara Slabisak worked as a medical resident at UTHSC and Good Shepherd Medical Center (“Good Shepherd”) in Longview, Texas. During her time as a resident, Plaintiff alleges she experienced continuous verbal, physical, and sexual harassment by Mohamad Makkouk (“Makkouk”), her supervising resident. During her six-month evaluation, Plaintiff reported the situation to the program director, Dr. Ifeanyi E. Eluenze (“Eluenze”). Additionally, Plaintiff met with David Conley, legal compliance officer and deputy coordinator in the human resources department at UTHSC, and his colleague, Donald Henry, deputy coordinator. Plaintiff further detailed Makkouk's alleged behavior in a letter she provided at the request of the human resources department. On or about January 13, 2016, Eluenze suspended Plaintiff indefinitely from the residency program.

         On August 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit against UTHSC and Good Shepherd. On December 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed her amended complaint alleging, among other things, that UTHSC violated her rights under Title VII and Title IX. Specifically, Plaintiff claims she was subjected to a hostile work environment, which UTHSC failed to address and correct. Moreover, Plaintiff avers UTHSC discriminated and retaliated against her when she informed them of the hostile work environment.

         On January 2, 2018, UTHSC filed their Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #38) arguing Title VII preempts Plaintiff's Title IX claims. Plaintiff filed her response (Dkt. #41) on January 16, 2018, and UTHSC filed its reply (Dkt. #46) on Janaury 23, 2018.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that each claim in a complaint include a “short and plain statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Each claim must include enough factual allegations “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550. U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion allows a party to move for dismissal of an action when the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true well-pleaded facts in plaintiff's complaint and view those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bowlby v. City of Aberdeen, 681 F.3d 215, 219 (5th Cir. 2012). The Court may consider “the complaint, any documents attached to the complaint, and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and referenced by the complaint.” Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010). The Court must then determine whether the complaint states a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Gonzalez v. Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the [C]ourt to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Thus, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         ANALYSIS

         UTHSC argues that Plaintiff's Title IX claims warrant dismissal for two reasons. First, Title VII preempts Plaintiff's Title IX claims. Second, even if not preempted, Plaintiff's complaint fails to allege plausible Title IX claims. The Court finds it is only necessary to address the former.

         In Lakoski v. James, the Fifth Circuit held that “Title VII provides the exclusive remedy for individuals alleging employment discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded educational institutions.” 66 F.3d 751, 753 (5th Cir. 1995). Two years later, the Fifth Circuit expanded on this rule in Lowery v. Tex. A&M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242 (5th Cir. 1997).

         In Lowery, Lowery worked as the head Women's Basketball Coach and later the Women's Athletic Coordinator. Id. at 244. Lowery brought suit against the university under Title IX alleging the university “was guilty of employment discrimination on the basis of sex and misallocation of resources among male and female athletes.” Id. Specifically, Lowery alleged that “as a consequence of her participation in complaints and investigations challenging noncompliance” with Title IX, the university “retaliated against her by denying her promotion to the post of Athletic Coordinator, removing her from the position of Women's Athletic Coordinator, and subjecting her and her team to continuing retaliation and harassment.” Id. Lowery argued that her retaliation ...


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