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Jones v. City of Atlanta

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

February 18, 2015

DAVID W. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ATLANTA, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand's Non-Final Report and Recommendation [45] (R&R") recommending that Defendants Yvonne Cowser Yancy ("Yancy") and Kristi Matthews's ("Matthews") (together, "Movants") Motion to Dismiss [18] ("Motion") be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 12, 2013, Plaintiff David W. Jones ("Plaintiff') filed his Complaint [1] against the City of Atlanta ("Atlanta"), Mohammed Kasim Reed ("Reed"), the Mayor of Atlanta, Yancy, the Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources for Atlanta, and Matthews, the Labor Relations Director for Atlanta (together, "Defendants"), asserting claims of racial and age discrimination.[1] On April 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint [15] ("Amended Complaint").[2]

Plaintiff, in his Amended Complaint, alleges that he is a 60-year-old white male citizen of the United States who presently lives in Galesburg, Illinois. (Amended Complaint ¶ 3). On or about October 9, 2001, Plaintiff began working for Atlanta as a Labor Relations Specialist in the Department of Human Resources, and was continuously employed by Atlanta for over eleven years. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14). Plaintiff alleges that when he began his employment, the Department of Human Resources employed a racially diverse group of individuals, approximately 20% of whom were Caucasian and approximately 80% of whom were African American. (Id. ¶ 15). While he worked for Atlanta, Plaintiff was promoted several times to positions of progressive responsibility, and he received "Highly Effective" or "Outstanding" performance ratings in all but one year, and has no record of any disciplinary action during his entire tenure with Atlanta. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18).

Plaintiff alleges that, in or about April 2011, Reed appointed Yancy as Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources. (Id. ¶ 19). Shortly thereafter, Yancy terminated every senior employee over the age of 50. (Id. ¶ 20). In January 2012, Atlanta reorganized its reporting structure which resulted in Plaintiff being reassigned to the Department of Human Resources and having to report to Yancy. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32).

After being reassigned to Yancy, Plaintiff advised Yancy of concerns he had about the human resources reorganization and her publicly stated intention to utilize personnel paid by Atlanta's Water Revenue Fund to provide citywide training. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34). On or about February 13, 2012, Yancy placed Plaintiff on administrative leave with pay, pending the result of an investigation into anonymous complaints of misconduct by Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 35). Plaintiff alleges that, at Yancy's direction, Matthews authored and engineered a pretextual investigation regarding the anonymous complaints. (Id. ¶ 36).

On or about February 28, 2012, Plaintiff received a copy of the anonymous complaints, and the next day, he provided a written response to them, in which he denied all the allegations as being factually untrue. (Id. ¶ 38). He also identified individuals who could refute the allegations, but Matthews allegedly did not interview these individuals during the investigation. (Id. ¶ 41). Plaintiff alleges that the interviews Matthews conducted consisted of a series of specific questions that were crafted in a way to elicit the response that Plaintiff engaged in offensive behavior and unethical conduct, and that Matthews did not ask questions regarding Plaintiff's overall character or management style. (Id.).

The investigation concluded that Plaintiff wrongfully disclosed confidential information. (Id. at 42). Plaintiff asserts that this conclusion was not true and was fabricated because the salary paid to a public employee is not confidential information. (Id.). The investigation also concluded that Plaintiff engaged in offensive conduct. (Id. at 43). Plaintiff asserts that this conclusion was not true and was fabricated because the allegedly offensive conduct was only his paraphrasing of a joke told by the Corrections Chief, an African American department head, who was not disciplined for originally telling the same joke. (Id.).

On or about April 11, 2012, Plaintiff submitted a written request to take intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") for the treatment of a chronic serious health condition. (Id. ¶ 39). On or about April 13, 2012, Yancy informed Plaintiff that his employment would be terminated upon his return from FMLA leave. (Id. ¶ 44). Plaintiff alleges that Yancy's actions were taken after consultation with Matthews, and that his termination was pretextual including because it was based on an incomplete, result-oriented investigation, was not in accordance with the City Code's progressive disciplinary policy, did not consider Plaintiff's past performance as required, and that anonymous complaints have never before been used to terminate an Atlanta employee. (Id. ¶¶ 41, 44).

Plaintiff alleges that his predecessor was an African American male who earned more than Plaintiff, and his successor who was appointed to the position immediately upon Plaintiff's termination, was an African American female approximately 11 years younger than Plaintiff who was compensated at almost one and one half times more than Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 46).

Plaintiff further alleges that the restructured Department of Human Resources under Yancy, who is African American, has increased in size to approximately 100 employees, of whom approximately 5% are Caucasian, and the remaining 95% are African American. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 48). Plaintiff alleges that Atlanta in general and the Department of Human Resources in particular, under the direction of Yancy, is and has been engaged in a systematic effort to reduce the number of Caucasians working for the City. (Id. ¶ 49). Plaintiff asserts that the reduction in the number of Caucasian employees and increase in the percentage of African American employees in Atlanta reflects a significant underutilization of a protected class (Caucasian), while favoring another protected class (African American), in violation of public policy, the City Code of Ordinances, and federal law. (Id. ¶¶ 49-50). On or about May 9, 2012, Plaintiff was offered and accepted the position of Human Resources and Risk Manager for the City of Galesburg, Illinois. (Id. ¶ 51).

On or about April 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed a timely charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in which he alleged age and race discrimination. (Id. ¶ 10). Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies, and the EEOC issued him a Notice of Right to Sue letter for each charge. (Id.)

Plaintiff, in his Complaint, asserted four claims against Defendants. On May 23, 2014, Movants filed their Motion, seeking to dismiss only Plaintiff's claim against them in their individual capacity-Plaintiff's § 1983 claim asserting that Defendants violated his right under the Fourteenth Amendment to equal ...


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