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Edwards v. Mesquite Independent School District

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

May 20, 2019




         This Order addresses Defendant Mesquite Independent School District's ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 8]. For the reasons stated below, the Motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant hired Plaintiff Sonya Edwards ("Plaintiff) as a substitute teacher in August or September of 2006. Am. Compl. ¶9. From approximately January 2014 through May 19, 2017, Plaintiff worked exclusively at Defendant's Mesquite High School ("MHS") campus. Id. ¶ 11.

         On or about February 28, 2017, Plaintiff complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and Terri Craig, an employee of Defendant, about Cherri Lynn, MHS's school secretary. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff alleged that Lynn was inquiring as to Plaintiffs whereabouts when she was on duty. Id. When Plaintiff told Lynn that she was in a lounge at the school, Lynn purportedly replied, "No you were not. You people lie." Id. Plaintiff claims that "you people" was a reference to people who are black and/or African American. Id. After Plaintiff complained about this incident, Lynn allegedly began harassing Plaintiff almost daily by

asking Plaintiff where she was at all throughout the day (although she did not treat Caucasian employees the same); by forcing Plaintiff to clock-in as soon as she arrived at [MHS] (even though Caucasian employees were not required to do the same and the policies and procedures stated an employee can clock-in and clock-out at the end of the day before leaving work); by sending Plaintiff to the wrong classroom assignments in empty rooms without air conditioning and making her stay there until someone came to get her and tell her the correct classroom; by ignoring Plaintiff and excluding her from her peers; by scrutinizing Plaintiffs every move; and by falsely telling Defendant's Principal of [MHS] that the black/African American employees always "hang out" instead of working (even though Caucasian employees have been caught not working while on the clock and did not receive discipline), among other things.


         On or about March 1, 2017, Lynn allegedly told other employees of Defendant and MHS that Plaintiff "(1) does not stay where she is supposed to stay while at work; (2) clocks in and leaves the campus; (3) is untrustworthy; and (4) is undependable." Id. ¶ 13. On or about March 3, 2017, Plaintiff met with Defendant's administrator Kelly Long regarding these accusations. Id. ¶ 14. Long "told Plaintiff not to worry about the accusations and that Plaintiff is loved by the students and staff and to keep doing what she is doing and from this point forward there will be a fresh start." Id. When Plaintiff requested that Long conduct an investigation, Long "told Plaintiff there was no need to investigate and that everything was okay." Id.

         After this series of events, Plaintiff claims Lynn began harassing her more often. Id. ¶ 15. On or about May 19, 2017, Defendant informed Plaintiff that she was "blocked" from substitute teaching at MHS "based on a Substitute Evaluation Form that was false and inaccurate." Id. ¶ 16. Defendant moved Plaintiff to its Agnew Middle School ("Agnew") campus. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff claims that Agnew is much farther from Plaintiffs home, that "it is a new environment and Plaintiff had to start all over," and that Plaintiffs workload is more difficult at Agnew. Id.

         After being moved, Plaintiff repeatedly requested to be allowed to work at MHS again. Id. ¶ 19. In August of 2017, the Assistant Principal of MHS told her that she was not allowed to return to MHS. Id. Plaintiff attempted to return to MHS again on August 24, 2018. Id. ¶ 20. On September 19, 2018, the Principal of MHS told Plaintiff that he had investigated her claims and decided to "leave the block in place." Id.

         Based on the foregoing allegations, Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, alleging that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff because of her race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Defendant moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.


         To defeat a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell AH. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Reliable Consultants, Inc. v. Earle, 517 F.3d 738, 742 (5th Cir. 2008). To meet this "facial plausibility" standard, a plaintiff must "plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Plausibility does not require probability, but a plaintiff must establish "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. The court must accept well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Sonnier v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 509 F.3d 673, 675 (5th Cir. 2007). However, the court does not accept as true "conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions." Ferrer v. Chevron Corp., 484 F.3d 776, 780 (5th Cir. 2007). A plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. (internal citations omitted).

         The ultimate question is whether the complaint states a valid claim when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Great Plains Tr. Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F, 3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2002). At the motion to dismiss stage, the court does not evaluate the plaintiffs likelihood of success. It only determines whether the plaintiff has stated a ...

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