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Henderson v. City of Round Rock

United States District Court, W.D. Texas

September 27, 2019

ALLEN HENDERSON, Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF ROUND ROCK, TEXAS, Defendant

          THE HONORABLE LEE YEAKEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          SUSAN HIGHTOWER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before this Court are Defendant City of Round Rock's Motion and Brief to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, filed on June 3, 2019 (Dkt. No. 3); Plaintiff's Response, filed on June 10, 2019 (Dkt. No. 5); and Defendant's Reply, filed on June 17, 2019 (Dkt. No. 7). On July 17, 2019, the District Court referred the above motion to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, and Rule 1 of Appendix C of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas (“Local Rules”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Allen Henderson (“Plaintiff”) worked for the City of Round Rock, Texas (“Defendant”) as a “Human Resources Generalist” for about a year and half before he was terminated on February 16, 2018. Plaintiff alleges that he was “harassed, demoted, and ultimately fired in retaliation for reporting what he in good faith believed to be sexual harassment and sex discrimination.” Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 1. Plaintiff alleges that on December 18, 2017, a female employee reported to him that she had been a victim of sexual harassment and that the perpetrator was a male employee in the Defendant's Human Resources (“HR”) department. On that same day, Plaintiff asked his supervisors to investigate the complaint of sexual harassment. Ultimately, the alleged harasser resigned his employment with Defendant.

         Plaintiff alleges that after he requested the sexual harassment investigation to occur “he was treated much more hostilely by his supervisors.” Id. at ¶ 9. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that his supervisors began to micromanage his job duties “as if they were looking for reasons to terminate him.” Id. at ¶ 8. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that although his supervisor had previously approved his request to take a course for HR professionals from Cornell University, she denied his request after he sought the investigation. Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated on February 16, 2018, two months after he requested the investigation, for “false and pretextual” reasons. Id. at ¶ 9.

         On March 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit against Defendant, alleging (1) retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and (2) retaliation under Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code. On June 3, 2019, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiff's claim for retaliation based on his complaints of heightened job scrutiny and micromanagement should be dismissed because those actions are not adverse employment actions. Defendant also alleges that Plaintiff has failed to allege viable claims for employment discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court “accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the [nonmovant].” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Supreme Court has explained that a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the [nonmovant] pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the [movant] is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires 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 quotations and citations omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. The court's review is limited to 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).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Phantom Claims

         In its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to allege viable claims for employment discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment. Defendant's argument is misplaced, however, as Plaintiff has not alleged any claims of discrimination, harassment, or hostile work environment in this case. See Dkt. No. 5 (“To the extent that it is necessary, plaintiff hereby states that we plead only two claims (retaliation under Title VII and retaliation under Chapter 21). As the Court can see, the gist of defendant's motion is seeking to dismiss two (phantom) other claims that we never pleaded.”). Accordingly, the Court need not address Defendant's arguments for dismissal with regard to unpled “phantom” claims.

         B. The Law of Retaliation

         To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, the plaintiff must establish that: (1) he participated in an activity protected by Title VII; (2) his employer took an adverse employment action against him; and (3) a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. McCoy v. City of Shreveport, 492 ...


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