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Bennings v. UT Southwestern Medical Center

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

May 16, 2019

LATONYA RACHELLE BENNINGS, Plaintiff,
v.
UT SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          DAVID L. HORAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff LaTonya Rachelle Bennings filed a pro se complaint against her former employer, Defendant University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (“UT Southwestern”), see Dkt. Nos. 3 & 8, which, after screening and her filing an amended complaint, was ordered served, see Dkt. Nos. 7, 9, & 10.

         UT Southwestern moved to dismiss Bennings's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see Dkt. Nos. 15 & 16. And United States District Judge Sam A. Lindsay referred the motion to the undersigned United States magistrate judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) for findings and recommendations. See Dkt. No. 17. Bennings filed a court-allowed out-of-time response. See Dkt. Nos. 18 & 19. And UT Southwestern filed a reply brief. See Dkt. No. 20.

         The undersigned enters these findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation that the Court should grant the motion to dismiss and dismiss Bennings's complaint as amended without prejudice to her filing a second amended complaint.

         Applicable Background

         Liberally construing Bennings's complaint as amended, see Dkt. Nos. 3 & 8, she alleges retaliation, sex-based hostile work environment, and discrimination based on race.

         Bennings alleges that she contacted a human resources representative on or about December 8, 2017 to complain that she was “sexually assaulted” by a co-worker and that, separately, her supervisor subjected her to “racist treatment.” Dkt. No. 3 at 3. The sexual assault alleged consisted of the co-worker rubbing her leg on August 9, 2016; “grabb[ing] and squeez[ing her] behind” on August 30, 2016; and massaging her shoulders and grabbing her breast on September 26, 2016. Id. at 4.

         The first incident alleged against the supervisor that could plausibly implicate racial discrimination occurred on October 12, 2015, when he asked another of Bennings's co-workers, in Bennings's presence, “what is the difference from a dark skin, light skin and brown skin black person?” and, after some discussion, the following exchange occurred:

Then he says I understand why you don't like to get in the pool, because your hair will get as big as Michael Jackson afro but why are you worried about getting darker from the pool? What is the big deal Josh says? Then Jaclyn says we just don't want to be darker. Joshua sniggle a little then Joshua says, I use to be a waiter and every time I served a black family they would ask for a flavored drink like strawberry, or a grape drink. Why not Pepsi, Coke or Sprite? Then he said why are black people so scared to tell their family members how much money they spend on their dogs? Joshua proceeds to say your pets are like family members so why is it a big deal?

Id. at 6.

         The next alleged incident involving the supervisor plausibly implicating race, occurring on June 17, 2016, was his asking Bennings her thoughts on a line from an O.J. Simpson documentary:

Just as I was giving Eric the information on the doctor. Joshua starts talking about how he was watching OJ Simpson's documentary the night before. I didn't respond and Eric didn't either but then Joshua says OJ asked one of his friends “why are those N's with er on the end not N's with an a on the end in my backyard?[”] I tried to talk over him by saying well I hope you guys have a good weekend. But then Joshua turns and ask me what do I think about that? I said to him I don't think about it at all because I don't care and don't think about OJ Simpson point blank!! Then I walked out!

Id. at 6-7.

         Next, on June 30, 2016, during a meeting regarding Bennings's evaluation, the supervisor related to Bennings that an employee who used to work for him “was a black lady that wore shoes and jewelry that matched her wardrobe and all of that, (no importance at all) he told me that Wanda was still working for UT but works in a different department and maybe I should call her to see if she knows about any openings since she didn't fit there either.” Id. at 7. Bennings also alleges that, after that meeting, the supervisor referred to her as “home girl/sister girl repeatedly.” Id.

         Then, on September 17, 2017, the supervisor asked Bennings who her favorite rapper was and then insisted that she sing a Tupac song with him. See Id. at 7-8.

         Following Bennings's December 8, 2017 meeting with HR, UT Southwestern emailed her, on January 12, 2018, the results of its internal investigation of her equal opportunity complaint - that it “was able to substantiate sufficient evidence to indicate that [the co-worker's] behavior rose to the level of ‘sexual misconduct'” but that it was “unable to determine [that the supervisor's] behavior rose to the level of discrimination or harassment as defined within [its] Institutional policies.” Id. at 10.

         Bennings filed two complaints with the EEOC. The first asserts race and sex discrimination and was filed on December 22, 2017. See Id. at 11-12. The second, complaining of retaliation, but further repeating her allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a co-worker and subjected to racist treatment by her supervisor, alleges harm from December 8, 2017 to April 11, 2018 and was filed on September 13, 2018. See Id. at 3.

         Legal ...


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