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Ammons v. Brantley County Board of Commissioners

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division

February 6, 2017

BRITTANY AMMONS, Plaintiff,
v.
BRANTLEY COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS and LINDA MURRELL, in her individual and official capacities as Director of the Brantley County 911 Center; Defendants.

          ORDER

          LISA GODBEY WOOD, CHIEF JUDGE

         Giving a negative reference, with no details and no reason other than retaliation, can be an adverse employment action. Thus, Defendants Brantley County Board of Commissioners and Linda Murrell's motion to dismiss Plaintiff Brittany Ammons ("Ammons") Family and Medical Leave Act PFMLA") claim will be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         For the purpose of considering this motion, the Court assumes the truth of the facts alleged in Plaintiff Brittany Ammons' ("Ammons") complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). It also considers facts alleged in Ammons' complaint in an earlier case, because she attached it, refers to it, it is central to her claim, and its authenticity is not in dispute. See Graveling v. Castle Mortg. Co., 631 F.App'x 690, 693 (11th Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (citing Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002)).

         Defendants Fired Ammons after She Made FMLA Requests

         Ammons worked for Defendant Brantley County Board of Commissioners as a 911 dispatcher for nearly seven years, until December 19, 2012. Dkt. No. 14 ¶ 7. Defendant Murrell supervised her. Id. ¶ 6. Ammons was an excellent employee. Id. ¶¶ 41-45. She was granted FMLA leave for June 6-8, 2012, to care for her husband, Daniel. Dkt. No. 14-1 ¶¶ 16-17, 33-37. Daniel, a Brantley County sheriff's deputy, needed major surgery due to a bad auto accident. Id. ¶¶ 27, 29. His surgeon rescheduled to June 8, 2012 while Daniel and Ammons were headed to Savannah on June 4, 2012. Id. ¶ 35. Three days after the surgery, Ammons went back to work. Id.

         Meanwhile, Murrell had suspended her without pay. Id. ¶ 39. Ammons requested FMLA leave for June 12, 2012, but this was denied, leaving Daniel with no caregiver. Id. ¶¶ 41-43. That day, "the metal plate which had been inserted in his chest sprung loose, causing him excruciating pain, " and he later needed two more surgeries. Id. ¶¶ 44-45. Ammons did not seek FMLA leave to care for Daniel following these because she had been suspended for doing so before. Id. ¶¶ 4 6-47.

         Amnions appealed the suspension. Id. ¶ 49. The appeal was settled around September 2012. Id. ¶¶ 50-51. Two months later, on December 5, 2012, Murrell moved Ammons to day shift, even though Ammons had said this would interfere with childcare duties. Id. ¶¶ 59-60. The next day, Murrell had Ammons investigated for a security violation. Id. ¶ 53. Ammons was cleared of wrongdoing on July 5, 2013. Id. ¶ 55. But she had already been fired on December 19, 2012. Id. ¶ 62.

         Murrell Gives Negative Job References

         Ammons sued under FMLA in September 2013. Dkt. No. 14 ¶ 16. The case settled on October 9, 2014. Id. ¶ 18. Under the settlement contract, Defendants agreed to give Ammons a favorable job reference by October 16, 2014, and to "take no action which was intended, or would reasonably be expected, to harm or damage the reputation of [Ammons]." Id. ¶¶ 27-28. At the mediation's end, Murrell asked whether she "had to" shake Ammons' hand, then declined to do so. Id. ¶¶ 22-23.

         Ammons started looking for a job in October 2014, applying for two or three positions weekly (except in January 2016). IcL ¶¶ 30-31. She has only received one callback. Id. ¶ 32. In early 2015, two people told Ammons that when they called Murrell, she "stated emphatically that she would not hire [Ammons], nor . . . recommend her for employment." Id. ¶ 35. Ammons had a reference-check company make an inquiry. Id. ¶ 36. Murrell told it she would "[a]bsolutely not!" recommend Ammons. Id. ¶ 37; Dkt. No. 14-2 at 2. Ammons alleges Murrell "has supplied similar, or worse, negative employment references to other employers." Dkt. No. 14 ¶ 39.

         Ammons Brings the Present Suit and Defendants Move to Dismiss

         Ammons filed the present suit on September 8, 2016. Dkt. No. 1. She alleges retaliation under FMLA and breach of contract. Dkt. No. 14 ¶¶ 55-75. Defendants moved to dismiss, claiming Ammons failed to plead an adverse employment action. Dkt. No. 15 at 2. Ammons responded. Dkt. No. 20. Defendants did not reply. Their motion is ripe for disposition.

         LEGAL ...


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